rand.jpgRecently, a controversy has raged about whether Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz should be added to the blacklist of the Quick Buck Crew.  The Quick Buck Crew is a site established to out the wost scoundrels of the web – people who scam, cheat and steal from hardworking webmasters like you and me.

The logic behind adding Rand to this list is that he has taken his pagestrength tool, which used to be free, and limited it to one query per day.  If you want to make more than one query, you need to pay to become a premium member, which costs $39 per month.

Well, it should go without saying, but frankly the position taken by the Quick Buck crew is asinine.  It’s Rand’s tool and Rand’s site – he is free to do whatever he wants with it, even offer cheating wives and upskirt videos.  We are fortunate to live in a free country where people have freedom to control their own websties.  However, this does need to be said, as currently a poll about this on Digitalpoint shows 11-15 that SEOMoz should be considered a member of the Quick Buck Crew.

However, I think the Quick Buck Crew missed a much more important point, and that is by making people pay to use this tool, Rand has effectively killed the popularity of the tool. When the tool came out, a lot of people, including myself, evangelized the tool and espoused the benefits of using it.  I worked hard to make it popular in the directory community and help get it used as a standard in measuring the quality of a directory. I have to admit a certain feeling of betrayal.

Now that the tool is no longer free, new people are not going to be using it.  My guess is that in a year’s time, hardly anyone outside the SEOMoz community will even know of its existence. Who’s going to bother paying just to find out what the page strength of a site is?

As well, the tool was excellent linkbait. All around I saw people proudly supporting the SEOMoz tool with a link on their site to SEOMoz proclaiming what their page strength is.  However, really – who is now going to pay for the privilege of linking to SEOMoz?  badge7_5.gif

I can imagine that the tool was a resource hog and that may have been one of the larger considerations in requiring premium membership to use it.  I would like to think that there would be ways around this.  Perhaps Rand could have made the tool open source.  Then, many people would have set up sites like seomozpagestrength.avivadirectory.com – reducing the server load and giving SEOmoz further backlinks.

If Google charged for people to find out their pagerank, would PR really be popular today?  In fact, PR has become part of the vocabulary of everyday webmasters and plays a large role across the webmaster forums and blogosphere. By defining the language, you control it. While I don’t think that page strength would ever have become as popular as pagerank, coming from a credibile operation like SEOMoz gave it a lot of clout and popularity. But that’s gone now.

I’ve even seen people list the pagestrength of their site when they sell it, along with PR and Alexa.  In my opinion, that was a pretty major accomplishment.  I think that will disappear though, which is sad because it is such a good metric. 

Just to be absolutely clear: it’s not the $39 per month that bothers me. It’s the fact that by charging for the tool, Rand has effectively destroyed the popularity of one of the best metrics around.