Rand just put up a post about The Vast Ocean Between Shoemoney & SEOmoz and Why You Should Be Able To Trust Blog Links. Other than the fact that he singled me out in it, I think it’s a great post. I started to write this post as a comment on SEOmoz, but it just got way too long. If you want to read about this topic, read Rand’s post, and then come back to this one.
I do think there is a balance between the time you invest in blogging and content development, and making a living.
When I look at SEOmoz, I see a CEO, and a company, committed to reputation building through offering a wealth of free information offered up with nothing asked for in return. I know of no one who has shared more about their company. Reference SEOmoz’s sharing of it’s 2006 financials (in detail) and more data, such as this post: More SEOmoz stats than you can shake a stick at.
This level of openness builds an enormous amount of trust, and deservedly so. I can tell you from my personal experience that this openness is something that is quite evident when dealing with Rand in person.
Ultimately, that reputation and trust should help SEOmoz build up its premium subscriber base, and, it’s ability to get high value clients. But speaking for myself, I can tell you that I don’t regret a single penny that SEOmoz makes, and I was personally dissappointed that SEOmoz did not make more than they reported in 2006.
So now, the other side of the coin. Lack of disclosure and lack of openness builds mistrust. You become unsure about how to value the information you are receiving. You get uncomfortable with a person when you know they are not telling you something. This is not somewhere you want to be in this social web of ours.
The social web is far too efficient at spreading this type of reputation and trust information around. And, it gets more efficient every day, so this trend is going to continue for the forseeable future. In other words, the genie is out of the bottle, and has no intention of going back in.
So I agree wholeheartedly with Rand’s positioning that bloggers should be open about how they are being compensated (saying “I’m getting paid”, for example, is enough detail), and that readers deserve that, but I also think that it’s in the blogger’s self interest to be open. There is a BIG difference (should I say vast ocean?) between being paid to write a review, and getting compensated for your efforts in the way that SEOmoz does.
FYI – all of the content development efforts of STC are uncompensated (in the direct sense). This includes answering questions in comments, and in emails I receive from people, without there ever being a chance of getting a penny out of it. I really enjoy doing it (that’s compensation too!), and we do have companies that have become clients as a result of our efforts.