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 de.li.ci.o.us 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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