Watch your CMS – it could be getting you into trouble

Graywolf blogged about some Disney Blog getting  de-indexed for hidden text.

Seems that some blogging platforms/cms’s have issues that could get your site removed  for web spamming by inserting text  that is hidden.

One commenter there had this to say:

Some freely available WordPress templates (specifically from hidden links from the designer linking to certain cancer websites. I am sure most people do not see that as it is kind of sneaky.

I do wonder why they don’t just ignore  such aspects for ranking purposes. If its identified as hidden algorithmically then it can be ignored as a ranking factor too…no? Or am I missing some bigger picture here.


Say no to splogging and yes to blogging

Say yes to Blogging

So, Ive blogged now for a little over a week. Ok, so Ive blogged in the past on other topics, but not as consitently or comprehensively; at least in the sense of making posts longer than 20 or 30 words and posting everyday writing unique and semi compelling stuff!

Why am I so surprised that I’m actually enjoying writing about things I find interesting, amusing and entertaining? I haven’t got any huge audience or anything like that, and to be frank I’m not too bothered. I’m just enjoying the process. Its cathartic even, its good to talk.

As Ive said previously. I have blogged before. Some of the stuff I blogged on was kinda personal. I blogged about my divorce for example, it was an excellent vehicle that helped deal with a shitty time in my life. Ive blogged about my everyday life – its ups and its downs, mostly just sporadic moans and rants.

Ive also tried to blog on random stuff too. In my silliness, I once said, I know, I’ll blog on anything and everything, cobblers to focus, who needs that! So was born my first splog.

Say no to Splogging

So I built this site, it was a combination of a blogging module and a mishmash of other stuff I’d coded and plugged in. I didn’t see it that way at the time, but in retrospect I had created a splog. Not just any old splog mind. It was a well crafted juicy splog that when viewed 1st hand, looked nothing like a splog. The whole thing was really just an exercise in intellectual curiosity.

I had a domain name that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do with, I’d been fannying with Drupal, I’d seen a few community blog type sites grow pretty quickly and wanted to have a little play about to explore some of the issues and get a feel for what it could and couldn’t do. I justed wanted to stick the modules up and play about with it and stick things on to the front and the back and the side, like some Blue Peter toy made out of cardboard tubes and coloured paper almost. I wanted to see how quick I could get it spidered, how deeply it would be crawled, how often, by whom, how well it would rank, how quickly, how people reacted to ad placement and all manner of other things that simply unavailable through any other route. You can’t read about this stuff, you have to go through the curve and experience it.

The home page had real posts from real people. Heck I even had people sign up and post their pics and write stuff about their lives and all that. I also had a database with 20 odd thousand keywords. I plugged these words into a template and let the spiders do the rest. I fed in RSS search feeds to supplement the ‘content’, I used the tagging systems pumped out by things like and Flickr to give each page a unique look and feel. I mixed things up and varied the layouts and KW densities based on the length of the url or sector it pertained to or some other random variable, I did everything I could to push the envelop as far as I could and to see where it would go, hell I even took the piss on the domain name, using a well known spamming term. At the time, the way I saw it there was no harm done. Search engine spiders lapped it all up, I got visitors and some signed up and participated. Those who didn’t sign up to the program, clicked on ads relative to the keywords – win win, they got what they wanted , I got paid a few cents for their efforts and advertisers got on target searchers in kw focused search mode.

Eventually, as was inevitable. The site got pulled from the SE db’s. What had taken me a little over a week to code and set up, at its peak had 50k pages in the SE databases and received around 1500 visitors per day at its peak, with most of them coming from MSN and Y!, Google at least was considerably smarter, but still gave me long tail referals.

Was there a point, why even?

Was it worth it? Yes, as an exercise in education and observation, absolutely.

If I’m honest there have been times when Ive said to myself I could have put in a little more effort at the outset and actually made something worth having long term even; ok thats an understatement I could have put in a whole lot more effort, but that would have required real work and effort outside of playing about with a bit of PHP and SQL, I’d have had to involved other humans :-0 built a little community thing even, generated a little buzz and excitement, made something useful.

Easy to game search engines?

It does kinda beg the question of how it was that easy to get 100k visitors in such a short period of time for something of such little use and value, taking next to no time to develop which was nothing other really than an ugly keyword splog!

See the way I see it, my big pile of poo shouldn’t really have been able to rank for anything, cos really it was saying nothing at all. It offered very little that was original. It basically rehashed and spewed out that which already exists out there already. I still have the scripts and the database, so could always stick it all up on another database and see…but I won’t, I can’t be bothered, it served its purpose, to do so would feel unkarmic.

Today, I doubt the same approach woulld work. The SE’s are whole lot smarter. They are learning from all of these other social media metrics. They are looking at what is getting buzz, who is talking about what in which space and why, they are actually applying these factors to their algos. They realise that its simply not good enough to rely on factors that given a little effort, are so relatively easy to manipulate. They are looking at how people vote with their fingers and mice, studying the demographic and seeing where they go. Google reader, feedburner, delicious, toolbars, youtube, myspace, blogging platforms and all manner of other popular services enable them to glean so much more than they once did.

Sympathy for the devil

It must be damn hard to be a SE engineer these days, constantly firefighting, tweaking, playing. In fairness to them, they are doing a pretty good job, but still have a way to go of course, its the nature of the beast they’ll always be playing catchup of one form or another. Web Spammers or people just looking to rank well for their topics and interests will go to exceptional lengths to get to where they or their clients need to be. Most of us are natural born problem solvers, its what we relish. Search engine algos are just another problem to be figured out and solved. It is certainly a whole lot harder to rank for something worth ranking for. Domains do get filtered/penalised every day, just go and have a read up over on any SEO forum to see examples of people screaming and wailing. It really is getting to be about content content content.

Can you still spam your way to the top using splogs or other well known spamming practices and methods? Well, you’d like to think not or yes even, dependant upon your view. If the SE’s know a method exists then they’ll look at ways of minimising its efficacy, thats for sure. The trick really is to just work hard on something of value and the rest will follow naturally. I’m seriously of the opinion that heavy duty old style spamming just isn’t worth the effort. You may as well plough those very same efforts into something worth building and growing.

IMHO of course 🙂

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Pay to Blog what’s the big deal?

I was just over at tech crunch reading some of the broohah about some deal that fell through regarding performancing and payperpost and was kinda surpised at the level of snorting and derision being applied there. There is this guy named Ted, who like most people trying to get things off of the floor in life has managed to obtain $3 million dollars in funding for an idea, which he feels might just fly. So far he has managed to stir up a bit of controversy, with various high profile people like Matt Cutts coming out against the idea in general.

So ok, I can see why a search engine might have an issue with squillions of bloggers being paid to promote and talk about things using keyword rich anchor text to distort the search landscape but thats just tough I guess, they’ll find a way to deal with it, or mightn’t bother even, hardly the end of the world for mfa sites adsense now is it. Besides what with all this talk about mature algos and whatnot, I doubt it’ll make a huge difference anyways, a storm in a teacup even? Perhaps, or maybe some might see it as the thin end of a wedge. The lines get a little blurred when you think ahead and envisage a SERP full of results containing blogs that have been written on the basis of some monetary consideration. In those scenarios, where would the distinction between paid ads and paid ads masquerading as free serps be drawn? Should the search engine be held accountable for its editorial decisions?

Google or any other search engine for that matter  wants their free SERPs to be full of stuff that is diverse and in some cases ‘untainted’ by the dirty grubby mits of commerce. Its probably why we haven’t yet seen paid inclusion rolled out yet,  its full of issues pertaining to disclosure and ads. Y! for example once had a program that enabled you to appear in their results, provided you paid – it was soon dropped amid a wail of criticism.
Washington Post article discussing word-of-mouth-marketing references a petition from Commercial Alert, an advertising and marketing watchdog group based in Portland Oregon and the response from the FTC associate director.

 “The petition to us did raise a question about compliance with the FTC act,” said Mary K. Engle, FTC associate director for advertising practices. “We wanted to make clear . . . if you’re being paid, you should disclose that.”

So ok, no harm done then, if you are going to blog and get paid for your posts then you should disclose that somewhere – isn’t that what tinytext and footers are for :D.

I haven’t looked too intently at either ReviewMe or PayPerPost so have no idea whether or not they enforce disclosure in any toc’s. That said, the FTC is just an American governmental organisation with no jurasdiction or enforcement powers outide of the USA. The web is a big place full of other people from different countries  and nome de plumes, and aliases. Gambling is still alive and kicking on the net even after a ban , some things just can’t be legislated away.

When people like  Guy Kawasaki talk about how he made a paltry $3k adsense revenue from 2,436,117 page views then its hardly surprising when people not half as financially astute   look for better earning opportunities. If you are one of these people who write about stuff daily on a topic close to your heart then goodluck to you if you can earn from it too.

The way I see it is that people will soon see through any posts that extol the virtues of some commercial lot of tosh. Try it yourself – try and get enthused on a daily basis for stuff that you don’t really believe in or want to talk about, see how long it takes people to switch off from what you are saying.

I think thats where reviewme could make a difference. I think they say to the bloggers, “here is so and so a company, they want you to write about them, they’ll pay you too, and you can say what you like as well” wheres the harm?

SE Reps to the back of the room please. 🙂