Thursday, March 31, 2005

Garbage In, Garbage Out

Almost everything about the web has become easier over the last couple of years. It is easier to buy and register a domain. It is easier to build a website. It is easier to fill it with "content".

Generally this has meant the proliferation of garbage sites which are thrown up like the proverbial mud thrown against the wall. Most will just fall to the ground. But maybe some will stick. Not likely, but maybe.

I have especially noticed this in two areas -- link exchange and "content" creation. Virtually anybody can setup an automated link exchange program that will do the work for you. The tedium of trading links -- of actually having to contact people and ask them to look at your site, etc. -- is all but eliminated by link exchange software and automated exchanges.

The fact that most of these exchanges are worthless is only relevant if you actually CARE about the quality of your site. Most garbage sitemasters do not care. They are just throwing mud against the wall. So part of this pointless exercise involves having hundreds of links from other garbage sites.

Same goes for creating content. The garbage sitemaster does not create content. He just copies it from somewhere else. The result is just more garbage.

Surprisingly, one welcome exception to this trend is in the area of blogs. Since a blog requires regular injections of (unique?) content, it is a bit more difficult to automate an effective blog. Garbage sitemasters are lazy and do not think in terms of regular updates. They just want to throw up their site and forget about it. A blog requires regular attention, so garbage sitemasters are not likely to be interested in blogging.

On the other hand, if it is not already available, I'm sure there will soon be automated blogging software. Programs that copy or steal "content" from other sources, rearrange it slightly, and then post it to your very own blog.

Or maybe not. It could be that not enough people are interested in blog-style publishing to make this kind of software worth writing. And the ones who are interested in blogs tend to be self-righteous people like me who think the quality of one's content is important.

We'll see.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Insider's Secrets to Marketing

Here's what Robin Araoz says about Cory Rudl's product "The Insider's Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet -- Version 2004".

"Listen, I'll be the first to admit that I was hesitant when I first decided to buy "The Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet -- Version 2004." But when it arrived on my doorstep (only 3 days later!), I was literally blown away by what I had received."


"Would you like to start a home based Internet business and work from the comfort of your home?

"If you've been searching for information about how to sell products or services online, then you've probably come across Corey Rudl's name at least a few times. And, if you're like me, you've probably wondered what the story is behind his best-selling marketing course.

"Well, here's the truth: This course is the real deal."

For more information, check out Insider's Secrets

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Visit Yosemite National Park for trip of a lifetime

The next time you're hankerin for a trip to Yosemite National Park head on over to Yosemite Pines RV Park and Campground. You won't believe the superb lodging and camping just a few miles away from all the fantastic attractions in Yosemite National Park.


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Monday, March 21, 2005

99% is Not Good Enough

Just about every website hosting company advertises that they provide 99% uptime. Stop and think about that for a minute. That means your site can be down for 15 minutes every day and still (almost) squeak in under the 99% "gurantee".

That's pretty sad, don't you think. I have a friend who works for IBM servicing major accounts and he says if their service goes down for more than a few seconds at any time they scream and holler bloody murder. None of this 99% stuff. Most businesses who operate a critical function cannot afford any down time at all. These guys demand 100% uptime!

Actually I find that most of the hosting companies I have dealt with cannot even make the 99% "guarantee". I currently have reseller accounts with four different hosts, and every one of them seems to be down for some part of the day every day. Of course it is very difficult to put your finger on this. They say they monitor their up time and will blame their problems on intermediate bandwidth providers, your "last mile" connection, or whatever.

The truth is, like the cell phone systems we all put up with, the public ip networks used by most hosts are just barely adequate for the job they are called upon to perform. This is probably because there is not enough at stake to spend the money to make them more reliable. If you want or need something really reliable then you go talk to the IBMs of the world and pay about 30 times as much for the service.

As we speak I am trying to backup one of my sites. It is hosted by one of the (supposely) top ranked hosts in the US. The service has been up and down all morning, I can't access my control panel or support "help desk" to report the problem, and my backup has been sitting there spinning at about 10% complete for the last 15 minutes.

I'm sure glad I have that 99% guarantee.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Content Wars and the Search Engines

Creating "content" for websites can be a challenge. I suspect that usually what happens with website builders (like me) is that we have an idea for a website, we register a domain or five, we throw up a half-baked temporary home page, and then about three months later we might actually get back to trying to make something out of it.

The two minor practical problems that make "instant websites" impossible to achieve are:

1. design
2. content

Both of these things take thought, imagination, and work. You cannot make them happen by snapping your fingers. Unless you have either an instant website machine, or a staff of five or six people, building websites invariably takes time.

This sometimes leads people like me to consider using a content generating program like Search Engine Cloaker or Article Bot. Both of these programs try to kill two birds with one stone. They create as much content as you want by spitting out machine-generated pages. If you want thousands of pages they will give you thousands of pages. At the same time they make your new "content" search engine friendly by building in "relevant" text, keywords, and links.

On the face of it, this seems like serious "cheating". If nothing else it is intended to deceive the Search Engines -- especially Google. Like so many other web marketing techniques, it is another attempt to get "something for nothing" -- ranking for content that really does not deserve it. But there is more to the story.

The morality of website content

This brings me to one of my pet topics: the legitimacy or what I call the "morality" of content. I have argued elsewhere that by setting themselves up as the Content Police the self-righteous people at Google have exposed themselves as hypocrites.

Why? Because on the one hand they proclaim that a website's search ranking must be based on "relevance". And according to their rules this relevance must be earned on the basis of the quality and importance of the site's content -- what we might call "merit". Meanwhile they are prepared to sell ranking to the highest bidder with Adwords (or Overture in the case of Yahoo). There is a pretty serious conflict between Plan A (ranking by merit) and Plan B (ranking by purchase).

This issue should not be oversimplified. Just because Google is willing to sell ranking it does not automatically follow that Plan A (ranking by merit) should be pitched. But it certainly makes one wonder if diligent rule followers are being played for suckers.

The problem is that Google has "moralized" the issue by bringing preconceived notions of Relevance and Importance and the Purpose-of-the-Web to their ranking scheme. In other media we more or less let people decide what they will watch, listen to, or read. We (usually) do not have some self-righteous body pre-determining the Purpose of Television or the Correct Role of Radio. Except in the case of national broadcasters like the BBC or CBC, it is generally assumed that "the market" will determine what thrives and what perishes.

Google's moralizing of the web leads directly to manipulative techniques like "Search Engine Optimization". In what other communication media does such an anal activity exist? Radio, television, magazines, billboards, movies, printed materials...? Not likely.

In our zealous struggle to gain the favour of Google, it is easy to lose site of the fact that Google themselves have turned the normal relationship between content and (mere) indexer of content upside down. Because of the perception that the Search Engines can determine our success or failure, we stop creating our content for people and start making it for Google -- the Great Indexer.

This is the only reason that content generating programs like Search Engine Cloaker and Article Bot exist. Nobody actually wants thousands of pages of "optimized" nonsense, or hundreds of variations of your award winning article.

Only the Search Engines.

So even though they seem to pervert "the purpose of the web", there may be some justification for such programs. Large corporate websites like can spit out virtually limitless amounts of "relevant content", and since the Search Engines have declared that "content is king", these corporate websites will invariably dominate the rankings.

Given this kind of domination-based-on-quantity, the only serious way of combating it is to create quantity of your own. In other words, if you know how to machine-generate content that meets the Google "relevance" criteria, then why should you not just go ahead and do it?

The reason, I humbly suggest, is not that it is evil or contrary to the law of the Great Google God. The reason is that it is stupid and a waste of time. Garbage content can only generate garbage traffic. But chasing after the attention of the Search Engines blinds us to this fact. What is the point of having thousands of pages of garbage content? People come to your site and they find...nothing! Or what is the point of having thousands of links pointing to your site if nobody ever looks at them?

As I have suggested elsewhere, the way out of this pointless quest is to think of content as something worth reading -- in other words, leave it to "the market" to decide what is good or bad and basically forget about trying to please Google.

The other conclusion is that for all its warts and imperfections, the advertising model is a more honest way of determining "merit" than the Google-as-God model. Links should be viewed as methods of impressing the SEs only in the short term. More importantly, they should be seen as advertisements which you buy or trade for.

Questioning the Use of Content by the Search Engines

Another important side issue is the use of other peoples' content by the Search Engines themselves. Both Google and Yahoo have "news" features which it is tempting to think of as real news services. But they are not real news services. The fact is that the SEs -- Google, Yahoo and MSN -- are simply bundling search results as a news service. One might argue -- and I am sure some already have -- that they are simply stealing this content and labelling it as their own.

Of course it is true that web information is public, and that simply putting something on the web makes it susceptible to being viewed and used by others. But it does not follow from this that anybody can just take someone else's content and package it to make money from it -- for instance, by using it as the anchor for Adwords or Overture advertising.

Nor can it be argued that using content in this manner is like someone placing an RSS feed on their website. The fact is that the "syndicator" of the feed gives implicit permission for others to use it by the very act of "syndicating" it. If I "syndicate" my content that means I want others to see my feeds and click on the links that bring them to my website.

No such implicit permission is given when search results include some of my content. The Search Engines just take it and use it -- usually to make money by enveloping it in advertising. But there is something inherently dishonest about packaging other people's content and identifying it as "Yahoo News", "Google News" or "MSN News".

But please don't tell them I said any of this...

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Why Do Blog Spammers Waste Their Time?

Occasionally one of my blogs will be bombarded by comments and trackbacks from someone looking for free linkbacks. They will make posts that have no relationship at all to the subject matter of the blog, and often they are quotations or pearls of wisdom like

"Life goes on no matter what we do or say."

Messages like this indicate that your typical spammer is not only being deceptive, but is also pretty stupid to boot. Anybody with half a brain would realize that you could create a generic "comment" that would sound relevant to almost any blog post, and would not be immediately rejected by the blogmaster. For example...

"Good point. This is a very interesting topic and I hope you write more about it in the future."


"I really found your post interesting. I'll watch for more in the future."

or even

"Thanks for the insight. Homer Simpson made a similar point in the famous ice cream cone episode."

But no. Spammers start out with a mental deficit, and it is unlikely that they will actually do something that makes sense. Invariably blog spam comments are planted by poker, gambling, or porn sites. And also invariably they are new sites with no history, traffic, Alexa rating, or PR. Somebody has told these webmasters (I use the term lightly) that there is traffic and ranking to be gained by spamming blogs with meaningless comments, and so they dutifully spam blogs.

It is pretty amazing to me that people actually do this. They must not be aware that most, if not all, blogging software comes with anti-spam features that allow you to filter out posts and comments like these. As soon as they are entered, an email message is sent to the blogmaster and the comment or backtrack is dealt with. Any serious blogger will watch his or her comments carefully. And there is no point in having comments in non-serious blogs. So it is a pointless exercise.

What's worse for the offending parties is that they get put on a blacklist that gets referenced by all the major blogging sites, and to which most bloggers will be connected by default. So now "", a poker site which has been spamming a few of my blogs over the last couple of days, is blacklisted and on the master list of banned keywords. It is right there along with all the standard XXX, penis enlargement and "cheap drugs" keywords. Nice company to be in...

This is really no different from other types of spam such as mass email, FFA link/classified ad sites, traffic exchanges or "I'll give you 10,000 hits for $10". They are all attempts to get something for nothing. They are all examples of how playing a "numbers game" can sound good in theory, but be completely pointless in reality.

Why don't these people spend their time doing something more useful? I guess that would be too much to ask.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Justice for the World is Aim of Website

Millions of people are subject to various forms of suppression and torture each day and it is vital that the truth about innocent people being persecuted and various forms of violations of human rights all over the world is told and recognized and that it shall be discussed.

Justice FTW International, also called Justice For The World, is an independent, artistic, nonprofit human rights organization founded in The Netherlands on March 2, 2004 whose mission it is to protect human rights and help reestablish justice and morality in the world. Justice FTW uses nonviolent ways exclusively to draw attention to the severe and constant violations of human rights throughout the world.

The primary aim of Justice FTW is to get the truth out into the open and to raise awareness and morality.

Justice FTW features extensive articles and commentary on a broad range of issues including:

- Child Traffic throughout the world
- Anti-Semitism
- Forced Abortions
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Persecution of Falun Gong in China
- Widespread human rights violations in China
- many more justice and human rights issues uses music, photography and other types of artistic expression to give artists a vehicle for speaking out against world injustice. If you are a writer, musician or artist or an individual with talent and want to contribute your talent, you can do so by sending a demo (tape, dvd or cd), script, essay, drawing, painting or photograph.

Send demos, or request more information from:
PO Box 2118,2800 BG Gouda
The Netherlands

Or contact
Edwin van Boxel: 031-652408418 on Central European Time

US Media:
Roger Koumans: 626 399 9509 on Pacific Standard Time

Get Your Own Product Page on 30 Sites

Here is another advertising and link generating opportunity from Linknet. I have developed a series of "product pages" and placed them on 35 sites.* You can have one of these product pages all to yourself for just $49/year. That means you get a unique page of your own that is dedicated to your product or site, and has no outbound links (other than navigation).

For a limited time I will even throw in a listing in Business Webs - a feed that runs on 25 high visibility pages. These ads generate traffic direct to your site, and they give you another 25 or so links. Your listing is guaranteed to be live for at least a month.

For more information, and to see a sample of the product pages go to Linknet Product Pages.

*The number of sites should be up to about 50 within two weeks. I am expanding the Real Estate and Health Products sections of Linknet.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Finding Good Link Exchange Software

As part of the Linknet Services I offer, one of my objectives is to get the PR, traffic, and SE ranking of all my Linknet websites as high as possible. As you can tell from the subject matter of this blog, I consider getting inbound links an important part of my traffic and rank building strategy.

As I have outlined in various places, I try to pursue a "three tier linking strategy", with the first tier being Reciprocal Link Exchange. I consider reciprocal links of only marginal value, but as I have said in other places, exchanging links with other webmasters has other side benefits that are hard to quantify.

The bottom line is that it would be foolish not to develop an intelligent and efficient link exchange system for any site you want to enhance. Having said that, the important question is "What system?".

On some of my sites I have a manual entry system. Someone requests an exchange and I just enter it into the appropriate page. On several others I have been using LinkMachine. This software has some good points, but the biggest problem with LinkMachine is that the developer is completely uncommunicative. This is not unusual for software developers. But in this case I had some very specific questions about using the software on multiple sites.

In at least three emails I asked the developer to clarify his very unclear policy on this matter, and his response was complete silence. Now, six months later, after setting up numerous installations on the assumption that a reasonable licensing arrangement would be forthcoming, many of my installations have been shut down because I do not have sufficient licensing to go around. No notice. No email telling me what is going on. Just a page telling me I can't continue using the software until I license it properly. I have no idea if I have been properly credited for the licenses I have already purchased. Somehow I doubt it.

This is particularly aggravating considering the basic program is now being given away FREE, and the free version contains all the features I want. So because the developer has changed his licensing policy I assume I will have to uninstall the paid version and reinstall the free one, risking the loss of my previously constructed directories. Is there a way to just downgrade my current installations? I don't know, and I'm not interested in waiting another six months for a reply from the developer.

There are other problems with LinkMachine too. The biggest one is that it is too slow. Saving time is one of the advantages of an automated system over a manual one. But I often think my manual systems are quicker than the automated ones. Another problem is that LinkMachine installations seem to be fairly tightly integrated with the developer's own site -- at least for licensing and updating. This means you are at his mercy. Given the history of independent software developers, this is not terribly reassuring.

Is Link Management Assistant too good to be true?

I had put this entire issue on hold for a week or so, but since the link exchange requests continue to pour in and I cannot access many of my old directories using Linkmachine, I thought I'd better look for alternatives.

It did not take long to latch onto Link Management Assistant created by Duncan Carver of Wow! A developer who actually has a name!

After a couple of installations I think I like this program. It is very straightforward and seems to be pretty fast. A word of warning though: you will need access to a MySQL database, and you may find the installation procedure a bit mysterious. It comes with a number of simple templates which are fairly easy to modify to give you a site directory that integrates nicely with your own site's look and feel. The two installations I have up and running are here:

Neither of these are finalized yet, but they will give you an idea of two completely different looks. You can also go ahead and enter your site's URL, to get an idea of how it works.

Another feature of Link Management Assistant is its ability to import whole categories of sites from DMOZ. Say you want to develop a directory of "Business Opportunity" sites. According to the documentation you should be able to import the entire relevant category structure (along with all the links of course) from DMOZ. Not only does this give you a valuable directory of potential interest to your website visitors, but it gives you a fruitful base of potential link exchange partners. The program also contains instructions for exporting the link information and emailing potential partners with a request for a reciprocal link.

Best of all, this interesting little program is FREE