Local Paid Inclusion fiasco; see for yourself

For those that hadn’t caught the latest drama-du-jour in the search world, it is what my good pal Steve is alling LPIgate (lip-ee-gate). As the story goes, Bruce Clay released a new program to get pages ranking in local organic spaces. Yes, ya heard it right, paid organic listings. Here let the pics do some talking….

First, Bruce brings it to light…

Bruce Clay speaks

And had a nifty landing page with stuff like this…

the sales pitch

more pitch

And a pop up that said…

the pop up

It was even indexed in Google, cause Bruce is an awesome SEO…

Google SERP

Now from there? The story just gets stranger. In short everyone started running for the exits with the engines (Google and Bing) denying all knowledge of it and a bunch of confused signals from the apprent BCI partner, UBL (Universal Business Listings) whom eventually also denied it, (but one staff member did confirm apparently, with Search Engine Watch). Whew… what a ride.

How this will eventually play out is anyone’s guess, BCI for their part has said their posting a statement in the morning. We’ll add more to this as it happens. For now, I just thought I’d share what we’ve collected so far. 2012 certainly has started with a bang huh? No shortage of drama that’s for sure…

(can also see Danny’s coverage here)

 

Updates to the Story

Ok, so a day has passed and so far UBL has pretty much thrown BCI under the bus saying that,

(…) there is absolutely no discussion under way with Google, nor have we ever represented it so. Furthermore, it would be a massive leap and hyperbole to describe any of this as “paid inclusion” which we would understand to imply preferential placement or ranking."

Uhm wtf? You guys are working with BCI on a program called ‘Local Paid Inclusion’ and it’s ‘hyperbole’ to call it ‘paid inclusion’? Whatcha smokin over there boys? And what about the staffer that told SEW, "Using Google as an example, a local business in the ‘organic places’ area can pay a small monthly fee and this program moves them to the top area of the Places results." and “It’s a really exciting program, when we’re ready we’ll start talking about it,”.

Today of course BCI finally snuck out from behind the bushes and released a statement. Here are a few highlights;

Bruce Clay, Inc. has ceased to engage in Local Paid Inclusion while we dig into confusing and contradicting statements."

and

We announced what we believed to be a legitimate program where Bruce Clay, Inc. was going to be one of several distributors of this service. Our understanding of this service was that it impacted the sequence of entries within the Places or local results in search engines."

Seriously? To a person, anyone that we showed the site to yesterday thought to themselves, "this can’t be – no freakn way". But the entire staff at BCI managed to go along with this to the point of launching the site and nobody thought to question the statements being made?

There was misinterpretation of the information surrounding this service; mainly that it would impact the organic search results, instead of only the local results. We take responsibility for an unclear message being announced in an untimely manner, where specifics of the program were not disclosed and the messaging was jumbled."

Right. Uhm… and the bits about it being approved by Google/Yahoo/Bing? I am pretty sure there was a bit of a ‘misinterpretation’ there as well no? To date they claim to have no knowledge of this program what-so-ever. I seriously have my doubts about this and the simple retraction made doesn’t really answer the real question. Was UBL misrepresenting the service to BCI? Or was BCI just grossly neglegent in the due-diligence. This is a massive screw up… not a slight one at al.

And while we’re at it

I was (fortunate enough to be?) part of this early on as I mentioned. I (may or may not hehe) have some insight into some of the ‘off the record’ comments made by the parties early on. Which of course makes some statements to date ridiculous. But one that kinda seemed baffling were some implied ones from Danny in the comments of his post that SEW had somehow done shoddy reporting. I can again say that the early statements made by some of the parties were in stark contrast to what eventually came out publicly.

In talking with Danny he has assured me this isn’t the case;

“I meant no implication that there was something wrong with the SEW coverage. I certainly didn’t think anyone would read my article that way. I was simply looking at what was on the Bruce Clay site and question directly whether that was likely a real program or not.”

Ok, fine. I had a good talk with Danny and I was probably over-protective of Miranda because she, for my own transparency, is a SEO Dojo member and I was just tired and frustrated from the days events.

This reaction from Rand in the comments on BCI’s retraction was certainly odd, seemed like the OBC (old boys club) was circling the wagons;

Rand's comment

Uhm Rand? It wasn’t ‘leaked’ Bruce launched it and started pimping it. They had a preso ready for SMX. This is clearly a case of some extremely bad judgement and should be called as it is. I too feel bad for BC, but believe there is far more going on that meets the eye do to confidentiality agreements in place. So let’s not start taking this latest statement verbatim and give them a pass. At very least it was poor management of this endeavour.

Anyway, getting off point… the politics in this industry can do that to a fella.

Last Update;

Ok…so, at the risk of making this article completely irrelevant, some more additions.

For starters I have edited some of the above original post to reflect a conversation I had with Danny about the comments he made on the SEL post.

Secondly, we took down the copy of the site as there’s been just about enough drama on this. Bruce had asked (nicely?) that we not fan the flames and that some aspects of it were proprietary. Sure, I could have stripped out the brand elements and kept the text, but again, it is MY decision not to cause further grief. For a guy that has long advocated more brotherhood and less cliques in this industry, I may have betrayed myself with some things I had done in this post towards Danny, Bruce and others, (Rand’s comment is still kinda silly… so leaving that).

Am I caving? Selling out? Ya know what you can do with that $#&% nuts.

It’s all fun in games til someone loses an eye. Not only is it bad form on my part to further the expand the gap of clique-ism, more than trying to bridge it, but I remembered that our words have consequences. That people may lose jobs. People that have families to support. That is more important than a few tweets, likes and "great post" comments. I was also brought something yesterday that to a normal reporter would have been gold. But I chose to talk to someone behind closed doors to resolve it instead of the initial reaction to run off and publish it. Again I was reminded of the fact there are implications and reactions to my words.

No matter what one does, whether one’s deeds serve virtue or vice, nothing lacks importance. All actions bear a kind of fruit” – Buddha

I guess, at the end of the day, I am a writer, not a reporter.

14 comments

  • 😮 ohnoez! all parties claiming “it’s not our doing”, Bruce’s dialogue about the concept from yesterday has been deleted from the Facebook SEO group, and someone’s going to have to be thrown under the bus.

    Will it be a human, or a faked intern who never existed in the first place? And will Bruce still present at the various search conferences on his new business model, that he claimed was a “prediction” about the concept?

    I’m sure curious to see how this plays out. So far all I’ve done is ranted on Twitter as I’ve done some forensic work and reached out to various (not provided) sources. I’ve got screen shots, trace routes, reverse IP look-ups as well, just waiting in the wings for an article. I wonder if Jeev Trika might want to comment on this…

  • I see it as dying a fast death. From the knowledge I have of it from the days events, seems indeed UBL is throwing BCI under the bus. Should be interesting to see what becomes of it… me? This is about all I care to get into at this point. Obviously a big screw up somewhere, but doesn’t seem there was ever an agreement with the engines to do this… THAT is the realy story, and it seems to be nothing more than smoke..

  • Glad I could give it a name #LPIGate 😉

  • The idea that Google, Yahoo, *or* Bing would offer such a service–as it was described–is unrealistic.

    The idea that they would *all* release the service in collaboration is nonsensical.

    The idea that they’d make Bruce Clay Inc. the exclusive distribution channel for this service is BAT SHIT FUCKING LUDICROUS.

    I bet this whole fiasco is the result of Bruce’s hearing aid malfunctioning during a conference call or something.

  • I want this service NOW.

    I am giong to contact Bruce directly.

  • Yeah, it is sad that some folks get duped so easily. Glad McGee shared this article on G+. Let’s see how this plays out eh?

  • I too have had some dialogue with people that have more information in the past 24 hours. On the one hand, I at least appreciate Bruce making an actual “official” public statement, and partial apology. Yet I’ve got a lot of questions (some of which I posted in a couple comments on BCI’s statement page.

    This should not be left to die, only to be resurrected without the mis-step fanfare.

  • web design ventura

    nice blog. it was a pleasure reading it.

  • [quote name=”web design ventura”]nice blog. it was a pleasure reading it.[/quote]

    hahahaha that has got to be the best comment yet on this subject!

  • Didn’t there used to be a link in your post to a handful of pages you managed to salvage from that Local Paid Inclusion website before they took it down? What happened to them?

  • @Barry,

    Yeah I just commented on Wordstreams post saying there 5 page website was here.

    I guess they took them off or something.

  • Yea boys… see latest update to the story.

  • Ah ok, got it!

  • Happy to see this update Dave! Jumping to conclusions is often hard to avoid – but I think it’s great that if you can (and do) reach out directly to someone to get their feedback or perspective – to get things clarified – it’s not only best for the story being written about, but for the community as a whole. We need cooler heads and fewer pitchforks in SEO 🙂

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