The dark side of Twitter lists

The dark side of Twitter lists

twitterlistMichael Gray, a social media and search engine optimization consultant, conducted an interesting experiment:

The question he tried to answer: Understanding that Google’s page rank algorithm incorporates the value of site A linking to site B, could the fact that’s new list feature lets users create arbitrary lists with free text descriptions expose the potential to damage somebody’s reputation?

Given that enjoys an extremely high page rank value, what would happen, if e.g. one creates a list titled “people who bought links” and just put a randomly selected Twitter user on it?

Well, that’s exactly what Michael did.

The list he created is here. Now, if you do a Google search for “people who bought links” his list shows up as the very first result revealing Matt Cutts, the poor Twitter user who ended up being on that list. It took only two days for Michael’s list to the top of Google’s results.

We’d like to reemphasize that Matt Cutts never bought links, though, as Michael clearly outlines in his related blog post.

Gray provides a list of recommendations you might want to follow, if you’re an avid Twitter user:

  • Monitor what lists you are on regularly. If something bad pops up, take steps to correct it before it’s too late.
  • If you see this being abused, let a search engine representative know. Don’t expect them to take it down, but the sooner they see it being abused the sooner they will work to combat it.
  • If you run a site that facilitates user generated content, be on the lookout for how people can abuse your system. The last thing you want is to end up with a  squidoo spam problem and have the search engines take action against you.

Have you checked lists you’re on?

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