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Does Grassroots SEO Even Work?

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, October 19 2010

Photo credit: Stuck in Customs

Writing for Politico, Sarah Lai Stirland covers Chris Bowers' "grassroots SEO" tactics, where the Daily Kos organizer is asking progressives to go crazy clicking links that reflect badly on Republicans. At least one digital expert quoted by Stirland affirms the ideas internal logic, but Wellesley computer science professor Panagiotis Takis Metaxas is skeptical that manipulating Google is possible:

"What this will do will probably get Daily Kos participants more excited about the races themselves rather than changing the Google results," he told POLITICO.

Maybe. It's difficult to know without actually testing the tactic. Google's a black box on this sort of thing, other than generic and predictable statements like, "we try very hard to protect the integrity of our results." But we do know that Google mixes relative popularity into its special sauce. Is clicking on a few negative links going to raise the profile of negative stories about Sarah Palin? Or even Christine O'Donnell? Probably not. But it's a different story when you're talking about, say, Randy Altschuler, a first-time Republican candidate in Long Island's first district. The web doesn't know a tremendous amount about him, and it's not inconceivable that a concerted effort to shine a spotlight on the negative stuff out there would drive it into higher prominence.