I have a prediction to make:
Within the next couple days, a lot of businesses are going to post blogs about CEOs.
Actually, that’s too easy. Let’s get even more specific.
Today, a lot of businesses are going to post blogs about Hewlett-Packard CEO, Meg Whitman.
How can I be so sure?
HubSpot is a lead nurturing software provider with a very popular blog. They sort of invented the whole inbound marketing thing that’s so popular these days. Their most recent Agency blog post sets out to accomplish something honorable; to get an image of Meg Whitman to the first position in the Google Image results for the keyword “CEO”.
If you go do an image search for “CEO” now, you’ll see a thousand pictures of men in suits. That’s right, men. The first woman that shows up is CEO Barbie.
That sounds like the punchline to a bad joke, but it isn’t.
HubSpot is setting out to shake things up by moving Meg Whitman to the top of the results.
I think the idea of promoting women in business is great, and I think HubSpot’s plan is great. I think a lot of other marketers will think it’s great, too. But that’s not the only reason you’re going to see so many posts about Meg Whitman.
In their blog post, HubSpot asked marketers to publish blog posts linking to their image. (Our link in the 4th line of this post is the one they asked for). You see, inbound links affect an image’s ranking. So their image of Ms. Whitman can only move to first place if it gets linked to. A lot.
However, that’s also not the main reason I think you’ll see so many blog posts about Meg Whitman.
HubSpot sweetened the deal with a promise to share every post that links to their image.
This probably means a social share. If so, HubSpot has over 730k followers on Facebook and 485k followers on Twitter. Free visibility like that could mean a lot of free traffic, increasing brand awareness.
HubSpot also encouraged marketers to post links to their blog posts in the comments. These will probably be flagged as “nofollow”, but a marketer can dream…
Now, I absolutely agree that this is a noble cause. Don’t get me wrong. But as soon as I read about this idea, I thought, “What is Google going to think about that?”
Google has strict rules about link schemes. Does this kind of manipulation of the Google ranking algorithm risk breaking the rules?
Here’s the language straight from Google itself:
“Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”
HubSpot isn’t offering anything more than a share for each link that helps them achieve their goal, but Google could choose to see that exchange as part of a link scheme. If it does, Google could implement a penalty that would make it impossible for HubSpot’s image of Ms. Whitman to rank at all.
I hope that’s not the case, but the white hat SEO in me has some concerns.
Good luck, HubSpot. Your heart’s in the right place.