Tim Armstrong, Google Ad VP, Pushes $5 Content Recycling


Is it ok for Google's VPs to create low quality content and buy links to spam Google?

ClickZ ran an article titled Bottom Slurping for Google Juice, about Associated Content, a content business with Google's Tim Armstrong on the board.

The "content producers" are taught to write keyword-heavy content, and they're paid according to the amount of traffic their creations will drive. Surprise, surprise -- Associated employs an algorithm that estimates the number of unique visitors that will be driven to that content in coming months, and pays writers upfront accordingly.

I spoke with Associated's Andrew Boer, who told me the firm's content producers are pumping out 2,000 "articles" each day, and there are around 200,000 in the site's library. "Partners," or companies/sites that pay for the rights-managed content, can buy pre-existing stuff or commission new works (the Medicis of affiliate marketing?).

The Associated Content model consists of:

  • Few employees and limited editorial enforcement.
  • AdSense top and to the left.
  • Noise everywhere. (Try to find the content on an article.)
  • Automated internal navigation.
  • Content recycling and syndication.

Until recently they were also buying a lot of text link ads, too.

This is how Google's ad executives are moonlighting? In a market that corrupt (where Googlers own many brands, pay third world rates, and do not follow their own advice), what chance is left for the average webmaster or freelance copywriter, especially if they mistakenly trust Googlers?


looks like "Bringing the company into disrepute" to me

Good job for him I am not Larry or Sergy or his ass would be so fired.

And Id be having some stiff words with Eric about his outside director ships.

I am not a full time HR profesional but I am not a Civilain either wonder what Googles contract says about employees having outside directorships.

the article, politely

the article, politely fuming, supplies a nice sample of the content these people are pouring into the sewer engines. In an article about new car dealers:

New car dealers provide the public with new model cars for sale. New car dealers employ salespersons who work with potential car consumers and arrange financing of that car at a reasonable monthly payment and low percentage rate. New car dealers often accept trade-ins for their new cars to be used as part of a down payment.


...sick burnnnn.

But seriously, maybe he was just doing market research to see how easily it could be done?

Or maybe it's just "Good to be the king!"

Will we ever know for sure? Probably not, but we'll have fun bickering about it in the meantime.

Little lies

My name is Andrew Boer. I was interviewed for the original article.

Paul Krugman wrote a great article last week about "little lies" -- small untruths that get recycled along until they have the semblance of credibility.


That is exactly what is happening here. AC never wrote the arguably "google spam" automobile content that bluecorn quotes here. It simply wasn't ours--not one word. The reporter retracted this, and there was frankly no "there there" to the fabricated scandal/story. There is no connection between Mr. Armstrong and the content cited in this article whatsoever. In fact, we haven't even begun to syndicate our content -- when we do it will always be attributed to AC, and much of it is pretty good.

I did notice that ClickZ/SearchEngineWatch is re-covering (or should I say recycling) this particular story by "covering the coverage" on this page:

And so these "little lies" keep propagating...Doesn't anyone else find this offensive? To make an admittedly hyperbolic analogy, this is precisely the kind of "repeat the lie" journalism that made people think that Saddam Hussein started September 11.

I urge anyone who is really interested in the truth to go to Associated Content and see for yourself what we are trying to do: to allow the people (who are experts in their fields) to create quality content for the public, and be compensated for it.

If you still feel there is a story here, by all means lets discuss it. But perhaps the better discussion is why we are still discussing (and why ClickZ is still promoting) a story that had an inherently false premise to begin with.

Welcome to TW Andrew So is

Welcome to TW Andrew

So is this part inaccurate?

The "content producers" are taught to write keyword-heavy content

What about the link buying?

Your questions

To my knowledge, I don't believe we have ever bought links. Certainly not in the past two months I have been here.

We did use Text Link Ads previously to rent links as Danny Sullivan pointed out in his blog, but we do not do that at present.

Per the SEO/keyword issue: I'd rather you don't take my word for it. May I suggest you write an article at http://www.AssociatedContent.com and report your findings here. You can report for yourself what we do and do not encourage.

Okay so lets discuss

Associated content is publishing content with Adsense - Fact.

Tim Armstrong, Google Ad VP is on the board - not disputed yet.

Associated content is using a large Adsense block high in their page, usually an indicator of low quality content. Which usually leads to pages being 'penalised' in Google.

If Associated Content has never actually syndicated any of your content then use of it 'Google Spam' may well be in copyright breach.

However the fact remains that Associated Content is a content accumulating organisation and as we know unique content performs well in Google (at the moment)

A Google VP being on the board of Associated Content (a content publishing company) is very newsworthy in its own right. Especially since he is the VP of advertising and Associateed Content is using Google Advertisements.
Other shareholders of Associated Content may wish to ask whether performance comparisons between Adsense and YPN have been carried out within the organisation that they own part of.

Would you care to publish the full share ownership of the company? And answer the question as to whether Google Ads have been comparison tested with other suppliers by Associated Content?

Some of the problems I see with a Google VP being associated with a content publishing company are as follows:

1. Page Layout with regard to placement of Google Ads - Associated content may have insider information regarding content score algorithms within Google.

2. If a Google VP is effectively endorsing a business model, others will copy it, potentially lowering the value of Associated Content shares - information that other shareholders should know.

3. Associated content 'MAY' (and I sincerely hope that this is a 'MAY' rahterh than a 'HAS') be able to gain insider information about Google's natural search ranking allowing it to gain an unfair advantage over competitors.

Finally I hope that you find these tough, but fair, questions worthy of further discussion and an indication that Threadwatch members are not just interested in shallow sensationalism.

Adsense Position Related To Penalties?

Associated content is using a large Adsense block high in their page, usually an indicator of low quality content. Which usually leads to pages being 'penalised' in Google.

Are you trying to say Adsense Ad positions are leading to penalties? Sorry but I find that really hard to swallow.

valid post

replace tne "usually" with "sometimes" ... and move on. The rest of Kali's post is solid.


I was saying that low quality content is likely to get you penalised. Personally I think that adsense position/size does have some bearing on the landing page quality score, but it does need to be looked at in context of the site. This doesn't alter the fact that Associated Content could well have insider information about quality scoring.

Our discussion


You raise a number of questions here. Let me respond where appropriate.

Both Mr. Armstrong ( VP at Google) and Mr Hippeau (board member at Yahoo) sit on the Associated Content board. This information has been public and transparent since they became involved. No secrets here. Like every company with a board of directors, AC has directors who are somehow affiliated with other companies. This relationship always has to be transparent and directors have to advise their various companies without compromising their ethical and fiduciary responsibilities. Mr. Armstrong and Mr. Hippeau both sit on more than one board and know this - as does any professional who sits on multiple boards.

Both Mr. Armstrong and Mr Hippeau have high-profile roles in public companies, and do not share insider information about SEO, Ad placements, or anything else with us that is non-public information. Neither Mr. Armstrong nor Mr. Hippeau are involved in the day to day operations of Associated Content.

Consider the potential personal and professional downside to an AC board member if they did any of the things you are alleging. These people take their public roles and reputations very seriously.

Because Associated Content is an online media company that relies partially on advertising revenue, we choose our ad placements the old fashioned way...we try them out in different places and see how well they do. We aren't married to Google, Yahoo, Tribal Fusion, TACODA, or any other past or present advertising partner. Instead, we try to choose the most effective ads and pass revenue on to our Content Producers who feed the AC ecosystem. As I write, we are testing several different networks, including Yahoo Publishing Network. Today, Google seems to perform well for us when combined with other display ads, but this may change.

Associated Content is a privately held company, so that should allay your concerns about our shareholders.

If you have further questions, please feel free to contact me directly at aboer at associatedcontent.com. The lines of communication to AC's leadership are wide open.


Headlines are beyond ridiculous these days...

in the quest to "nail" Google or its employees

This sort of moonlighting is pervasive EVERYWHERE in capitalism and the corporate world, and (especially when you stretch, like this one) "possible conflicts of interest" are also extremely common, and, most often, completely legal



Andy_H - Yes, conflicts of interest and multiple directorships are pervasive, however ignoring them is not the answer.

Private Eye, in the UK, has based their entire publication on stories of conflicts of interest, corruption, profligate public spending and insider trading.

Potential conflicts of

Potential conflicts of interest should be disclosed, every time. Usually they are. That doesn't make them go away, prove they are real, or lessen the importance. It just makes everyone aware.

strange to find google

associated with such a rubbishy site.

The world through the eyes of mental grade sixers.

Finally replacing the mass media with one even duller than the original.

A metaweblog with AdSense revenue sharing.

The world's biggest AdSense spam site.

Argh...this is the sort of content free for all tripe that Google should be working to boot out of the network. Certainly not something to encourage.

Associated Content makes the Wikipedia look like Modern Classics bookshelf.

Now I can see why people are trying to invent a new internet. If this is the future, the past is starting to look very good.

The continual

The continual sensationalistic headhunting for google from the man who runs this site is a real turn off. This place is now like watching fat nerdy junior high boys bad mouth the popular attractive girl because she doesn't put out. It was distasteful then, it is now as well.

I could excuse this kind of behavior if it was just a random poster, but when the sensationalistic bs comes from the site owner? bye bye.

SteveMarks - Spot On.

And lets not forget the Dave Pasternack witch hunt and all the other pointless personal abuse.


Valid questions and good answers, thats what I saw in this thread.

Valid concerns were raised and good responsible answers were given, from what I see.

Steve Marks I hope that "bye bye" promise from you is kept. Negative comments about the owner of this site (you know the guy that allows you post your opinion for others to read for free) are really out of place and in bad taste IMO, if you don't like it here... leave... go away... don't come back...

And the same goes for you cabbage head, I get really tired of reading you trash Aaron on his own forum. Show a little class, for a change.

Sorry for hijacking the thread folks, But I just had to get this out of my system.

Free Speech lots0

With free speech comes responsibilities, and truth and justice figure high on the list. The tabloid trash headlines and subsequent denunciation, frequently with very little evidence about particular high achieving individuals is often far from fair or reasonable.
If Aaron doesn’t like it he can always ban me but to date he's just removed a few of my posts. I'm sure he's tough enough to take just a little criticism from time to time especially when its justified (and I bought his book in support, not even opened it yet - did you?)
Whilst passing, CabbageHead is a guy who posts on WMW - not me.

The tabloid trash headlines

The tabloid trash headlines and subsequent denunciation, frequently with very little evidence about particular high achieving individuals is often far from fair or reasonable.

Most of the headlines that you deem as trash, etc. are associated with things that I define as blatant hypocrisy.

Keep in mind that I am a Google shareholder, so to some extent I believe in that company, but sometimes I think there is no better way to keep them honest than through clear writing.

And lets not forget the Dave Pasternack witch hunt and all the other pointless personal abuse.

It ended his weekly self aggrandizing spewing of misinformation trashing SEO in DMNews, so I think it was a good thing for the industry as a whole.

Interestingly - in threads like this one...

.. tabloid trash headlines can work.

It got me to read the thread, and although the sensationalist part of the headline wasn't true - there was a real story lurking below.

On the other hand I think that real story could have been done more justice with a well crafted though less sensationalist headline, especially when targetting the story to industry insiders.

Unfortumately at the moment we have a situation where 'Link Bait' headlines rule the roost in Google and Aaron is just keeping up with the times by using them.

I can feel sympathy for the points of view put forward by both SteveMarks and cabbagelooking, both have a valid point regarding the sensationalism, but if the Google algo promotes sensationalism, thats what it is going to get in spades.

Personally I wuld like to see Steve Marks and cabbagelooking reconsider their contribution to this site as if we lose too many members who have the ability to know when the site steps over the line, it will just create a spiralling out of control.

Yawn. Whis is more boring...

Yawn. Whis is more boring... talking about sensationalistic headlines or talking about talking about sensationalistic headlines?

Many of the sensationalistic headlines on TW are satire. Satire is a rather high level form of art. It requires wit (wisdom and knowledge) to write, recognize, and interpret satire. One should not be surprised when satire is missed, mis-interpreted, or accused of mis-representation. To quote a master,

"Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody's face but their own"--Jonathan Swift

According to the wikipedia*, satire has intent behind it (emphasis added):

Satire (from Latin satira, "medley, dish of colourful fruits") is an artistic form, chiefly literary and dramatic, in which human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other methods, sometimes with an intent to bring about improvement.[1] It is used in graphic arts and performing arts as well. Although satire is usually witty, and often very funny, the purpose of satire is not primarily humour but criticism of an event, an individual or a group in a clever manner...Satire usually has a definite target, which may be a person or group of people, an idea or attitude, an institution or a social practice. It is found in many artistic forms of expression, including literature, plays, commentary, and media such as song lyrics. Often the target is examined by being held up for ridicule, typically in the hope of shaming it into reform. A very common, almost defining feature of satire is a strong vein of irony or sarcasm. Also, parody, burlesque, exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre are devices frequently used in satirical speech and writing

May I suggest that if you don't enjoy reading the literary works of Aaron Wall and his associates, you simply choose another site?

*Note: I couldn't tell where wikipedia got this from, so I didn't reference the source.

Thank You...

Thank you, now I understand.
Accidental satire is a good occasional excuse for sensational tabloid trash headlines even if they werent intended that way.
Much clearer to me now.
Seems like ratification for a free for all for crap and inaccurate headline writing.
Truth and Justice...yeah sure.

hah hah "One should not be

hah hah "One should not be surprised when satire is missed, mis-interpreted, or accused of mis-representation."

seobook et al - expert satirists?

John, I thought only drowning men clutched at straws.

cabage is what makes salads intolerable

You know, I just had a jasmine tea boba drink. You wouldn't believe how thick those straws are.

Google ass-kissing sites a dime a dozen

If cabbagelooking, Steve Marks and Andy Hagans want another round of Google ass-kissing, there are plenty of sites offering that.

Go and visit MattCutts.com and lap up the comments there. You may find the reformed Matt Mullenweg's latest posts (after the
WordPress Viagra/Casino link farm debacle
) to your taste as well.

Keep up the good work Aaron, exposing these hypocrites where they blather.

And the straight talk is what keeps a lot of us coming back.

Frankly under Nick these guys wouldn't have dared attempt their intimidation tactics or if they did Nick would have sent them off crying for their mommies with some additional investigative reporting. Alas you are too busy to apply pesticide and the roaches multiply.

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