?"> As an open-source blog-publishing tool, WordPress is supported largely through donations from users and supporters. The project, which celebrated 100,000 downloads of WordPress 1.5 earlier this month, also has begun researching the creation of a foundation to support and operate it. Jonas Luster, a WordPress user who is leading the foundation effort, said he agrees that Mullenweg made a mistake in using the articles as a way of generating revenue for the project. "Matt [Mullenweg] was and is trying to do right by the community," Luster said. "Has he chosen the right way? Im not happy about it either. [But] were all entitled to make one or two mistakes."While the articles on WordPress.org discussed legitimate topics, they appeared to have little to do with blogging or with WordPress as an open-source project, Sullivan said. More troubling, he said, is the fact that the home page of WordPress.org contains links to the articles that are viewable to the search-engine crawler but do not display in modern Web browsers. "The articles may be perfectly fine, but why are you carrying them?" Sullivan asked of WordPress. "You do not intend for people to find them from the home page, and thats the thing that makes this stand out." At least in Google, WordPress.org carries a high rank because it is a site widely linked to by bloggers using the tool, search-engine experts said. By showing search crawlers links to content for terms such as "mortgages," "asbestos" and "debt consolidation," WordPress also can help boost the relevancy of its article pages for those terms. For instance, in one example viewed by eWEEK.com, WordPress article pages appeared as the 26th and 29th top results in a Yahoo search for "pet insurance" before Yahoo stopped displaying WordPress article results. Some of the targeted terms also are associated with Google AdSense ads that carry high prices for clicks. Click here to read more about the expansion of sponsored listings. "It is documented that [WordPress.org] was targeting keywords like asbestos, mesothelioma, insurance, debt consolidation, diabetes and mortgages," said Barry Schwartz, president of RustyBrick Inc., a Web development and search optimization company. "Those keywords are known to cost up to $100 per click." Schwartz, who wrote about the issue in his Search Engine Roundtable blog, said he considers the tactics used on the WordPress site to be search spam. Sites fighting for top search-engine positions in areas such as online gambling and pornography often use similar techniques, though most would hide home-page links using less obvious approaches, he said. As for the impact of the search-gaming controversy on the larger WordPress community, Luster made a distinction between the WordPress.org Web site and the project developer and blogs using the WordPress software. "WordPress.org is a site that is maintained by Matt [Mullenweg] and not the WordPress community," he said. "Just because one thing happened [there] doesnt mean the tool or developers or the community has lost credibility." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on enterprise search technology.
Luster said he expects to discuss the search-engine gaming issue with Mullenweg and to try to rectify any ill will in the WordPress community about it. He also cautioned against calling the technique "spam," saying that while he opposes the attempt to game search engines, it is not the same as filling e-mail inboxes or blog comment sections with unwanted messages.