Apologies to Google: CyberBuzz Is Not Pay-Per-Post (so they say)

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After top Japanese online tech news sites CNET Japan, ITMedia and Internet Watch reported Google Japan’s ambiguous apology, CyberBuzz (the agency hired by Google Japan to have bloggers place links to Google Japan’s blog widget campaign) announced a press release on February 12th.
In the release, CyberBuzz states, contradicting what’s been reported, that their CyberBuzz program is NOT PAY-PER-POST, as they are running it under the following policies:

  • They do not offer to pay cash as compensation for bloggers to write blog articles.
  • They do not provide a paid-link program for the purpose of raising positions on SERP and PageRank.

Money transactions with their member bloggers only happens for:

  • Travel costs when they attend client events
  • Advertising fees when they put widgets/movies on their blogs for a limited period (ie. sidebar, header, etc., but not in the blog post itself)

Further, they do not force bloggers to update articles, or limit what bloggers write about, or arbitrarily request posts, nor is there money involved aside from the above.

If their definition of pay-per-post is true, and if Google penalized their Japanese office for using pay-per-post, I must apologize for my first report.
On the same day, blogger wackyhope pointed out that Google’s cached version of CyberBuzz’s FAQ is different from the one they currently show. In the cache, the following can be seen:

Q: How much money can we get as a reward?
A: From a couple hundred yen to thousands of yen ($1-$100 USD) depending on the campaign and your Buzz-level (akky: like karma points)
Q: What do I have to do to get a reward?
A: (snip) Registered members are paid when they write up a blog entry related to the product/service.

After this was pointed out, the FAQ page displayed a caution message, also pointed out by wackyhope:

There was an incorrect explanation which did not match with the current (since October 2007) service so we updated this FAQ on February 13th at around 11 a.m.

It is not the first time

There are also some bloggers who write that this was not the first example of this type of advertisement, but that Google was involved in another case in April 2008. This refers to the “iGoogle Art Cafe”. (Google Blog Search, 1, 2)
So it is not a one-time careless mistake caused by a non-reviewed agency but rather a consistent business habit of Google Japan.
# We covered the cafe news, too. But we were not contacted by Google Japan nor paid for our coverage. 🙂
Cyber Agent, the parent company of CyberBuzz, was penalized for using a link farm by Google in March 2006, and put the same announcement on their site.

Pay-per-post in Japan

Pay-per-post itself is a web promotion activity, and although I do not know whether the FTC restricts it in the U.S., it is not illegal in Japan (besides having poor business ethics).
Actually, CyberBuzz is (if it is counted as pay-per-post) one of the best (among the worst) agencies who, at least, asks bloggers to write that it is part of an advertising campaign, while there are many other agencies who ask to hide that fact, and instead ask bloggers to state that their blog posts are voluntarily and paid by no one.

Google Japan might buy links directly, too

This trouble was originally caused by Google Japan, not clearly defining what pay-per-post is, and more essentially, not stating what is okay and what would incur penalties. (*1 updated. see bottom.)
Besides Google Japan’s top-page’s PageRank decreasing from 9 to 5, there are almost no observable effects on Google’s search results page in Japanese.
And the blog article-like advertisement on Gigazine [J] stays as is, from whom Google Japan seemed to buy links directly and not via the agency, and to whom they provided a specially-customized Google-colored logo, which just disappeared from the site after this news.
(Proofread by Sean O’Hagan)
[Update 2009.02.18] (*1) Google Japan gave another apology [J], which is more detailed than the first one. It also refers to a new blog entry about paid link.

See Also:

CyberBuzz Press Release: “Tousha Service ‘CyberBuzz’ ni Taisuru Ichibu Houdou ni Tsuite” (About some news reporeted on our service ‘CyberBuzz’) [J]
Tatsuwo no Changelog – Google paying bloggers to write ads is against their policy [J] – link list to related news/blogs in Japanese

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