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Scottie's Spamming and McDonald's Analogy
Posted 12 August 2005 - 05:26 PM
Posted 12 August 2005 - 07:43 PM
If that was true then slavery would have never been abolished, to use a US historical example. Every single bad law that has ever been overturned and made better was done so because of people doing what is right, not what is law.
The fact that most laws reflect what is right does not mean they dictate it.
I'll agree with Leanne that comparing terrorism to spam is a bit over the top. There are several types of spammers, but I don't think "killer" is one of them
I do think that sometimes it is necessary to outline certain standards of acceptable behavior. I have no reason to believe that every single child is born knowing all the rules and expectations of their society automatically, and no reason to believe that every single parent does a complete or effective job at teaching them. I also don't beleive that you can use logic alone to figure them out.
Sometimes people need guidance. Sometimes even people who would normally know better need a swift kick in the pants to remind them. You can get so focused on the ends that the means don't matter anymore unless someone reminds you.
I think there should be certain standards of behavior for search marketing. Certain examples of "this is good", and "this is bad". I don't think it would be helpful to set impossible goals or to expect perfection from everyone, but some basic guidelines would be good.
The problem I see is that the search engines, in order to combat spam, have abdicated their responsibility in educating about the rules. They know that if you give a certain specific line that should not be crossed, then almost every single person in the crowd will run right up to the edge as close as they can go. So they keep it vague.
That sounds good in theory, but in practice it's a bad idea.
Can you imagine if, to use a religious analogy, Moses brought down a tablet that just said "Don't be evil"? Golly, thanks for the guidance, boss....
If you enforce rules, you should communicate them. The whole "do things for users, not search engines" concept only works on people who think like that anyway. They were doing that before the rule came out anyway - it's not news to them, it's logic.
Can you imagine a legal system that was based on "do unto others as you would have them do to you" and then left it at that?
What a mess. Terrorists and sadists would have a field day with that ("but I *want* to die and go to heaven, therefore I should do that unto you...").
You can't expect people to interpret philosophical statements according to your philosophy - they will do so according to *theirs*.
A clear philosophy is not the same thing as a clear set of rules. As long as the search engines refuse to acknowledge that, then they will continue to be stuck in a never ending cycle of spam.
My personal opinion, as usual,
Posted 13 August 2005 - 12:08 AM
After all, in Denver it is unlawful to lend your vacuum cleaner to your next-door neighbor. If I lived in Denver, I would have been a law-breaker last week...
In Los Angeles, a man is legally entitled to beat his wife with a leather belt or strap, but the belt can't be wider than 2 inches, unless he has his wife's consent to beat her with a wider strap. (I read it on the Internet, so that means it must be true!) That doesn't make it right.
Answer me this... who reading this has never and I mean never exceeded the speed limit? Hands? Let's see 'em. A little higher please...
Laws are made by legislators and often are sadly out of date by the time they are adopted and often serve no useful purpose. Some laws are meant for the good of society (speeding can kill people) and yet almost no one sticks to them- they adjust to the conditions of the road. Going too slow in a crowd of cars that are speeding can cause more accidents than just going with the flow!
When it comes back to using tricks to get ahead in the engines, I still stick to my original theory... most people who spam aren't innocent victims who didn't have enough sense to know better. There is plenty of good information out there and plenty of support for doing things the right way. It's a choice. Not a good one, not one I support but a choice nonetheless.
They think they are better, smarter, and going to get results faster as long as they don't get caught. They probably cheat on their taxes just a little and other "everyone-was-doing-it" minor infractions in life.
Until there are consequences for doing it, it will be done. Whether that consequence is a legal fine, jail time, or simply getting dropped from the engines, the odds of getting slapped at this point are pretty slim (depending on your particular brand of .
Posted 13 August 2005 - 04:43 AM
If, in a world of information overload, people continue to choose dreadful sources for their information, we can't be held responsible. There are more astrologers in the USA than astronomers, the psychic hotline is in no danger of going bust and, as crazy as it seems to me, some people rely on psychics for financial advice over legit sources.
IMHO, the point of Scotties article was that some people want to do bad despite all the information in the world. They don't want to be "saved". Some people will take heroin, smoke ciggies, gamble, have unprotected sex and commit crimes, sometimes all at once!
Likewise, some people will choose the admittedly less dramatic option of chasing SEO for $19.95 and the no work, no effort approach it offers over a hard work, long term results approach. I rarely see newbie posts that say "can someone tell me how to create a long term business that takes significant time and/or money, and adds something to society". Many want a short cut, the "secret" that "smart marketers" know, that will make them millions. Oh, and it has to be shared for free or very little
The sales pitch "It will cost $X,000 and will take effort and time" is simply not something that works on some people, and neither is "but spam is bad for society" an argument many people care about.
For those people, there is nothing we can do to save or help them.
But we can reach some people, and the question is how, and is there anything more we can do?
Some people advocate censorship; that any mention of spam is bad. Personally, I don't believe that is valid. To understand spam we need to know how it works, and there needs to be a discussion of spam techniques like the recent 302 redirect issue in order to identify flaws that need fixing for the benefit of all.
But the biggest problem with censorship is that it allows views to go unchallenged. Let spammers have their say, let them argue their position, and then point out the flaws. For example, spamming can lead to the loss of all traffic. If an increase in traffic is good for a business, then traffic is worth protecting. Risking it all for a % increase is pure folly.
That is an argument that is persuasive. Saying "spamming == bad, I hate spammers, they shouldn't be allowed to live/puiblish/speak" is not persuasive.
So we come to what more I think needs doing, and that is: absolutely nothing. Seriously, I really don't think there is much more that needs doing. IMHO, the SEM community does a great job, and is as close to the ideal knowledge sharing industry as is possible. SEM does an excellent job of providing good, useful knowledge, usually for free, and offers many places to ask for help, like the many forums. How many other industries have industry professionals offering free advice that retails for many thousands? Ask Julie if she got much out of forums, or Caissa oevr @ Cre8.
Despite what you may read, the amount of spamming information on the web is negligible compared to the amount of spam free, white hat advice. In fact, a search for what is cloaking reveals a page full of good resources, and not a fantomaster in sight
Our best response is to be beacons of light, a candle in the darkness to quote Sagan, and not people on a crusade. By continuing to correct misinformation, promote good practice and argue against spamming using arguments that are persuasive and well reasoned, we are standing for something more tangible than fly-by-night practices, and we are doing something productive and continuing to help the newbies that want to be influenced.
IMHO, as individuals, some need to actually do less. Like stop the bellyaching, carrying on and calling for censorship that acheives nothing, and instead gives the other side of the argument ammunition and a better reception from "the masses" they try so desperatly to reach.
We have to accept that some people want to and will spam despite our best intentions, and, As Scottie said in the article,
Posted 13 August 2005 - 01:04 PM
They're told you have to do this, that and the other thing, and because they are trusting people, they do it.
Since there is so much good info out there on good/bad methods, I have never really felt sorry for these people. Sometimes I think it is used more as an excuse for people who really would rather push the envelope a bit. This way they can cry and say that they just didn't know.
BTW, I've been saying the same thing for years regarding SEO education being the key:
From June 2002:
It was true then and it's still true now.
Posted 15 August 2005 - 02:07 PM
I am suspicious of the "public good" and "social engineering." Someone has to decide what fits and what doesn't and even if elected to do part of the job, do you want them to make those decisions about your life.
While spamming SEs is shameful, and causes problems for everyone on the net/web, it just may be the price we pay for being able to say what we want to say, a freedom enshrined for Americans in the First Amendment.
I have a somewhat different take on all this. First, please understand that I have four sites that engage in ecommerce, each with a different product category. For one of the sites, I come up first or second on Google for my preferred category search terms. I have another site that is much weaker in SERP for its category search terms. Often preceded by duplicate listings for competitors or by "directories," which in my opinion are simply duplicating what people go to Google for it the first place.
I have two other sites that don't even show up on the Google planet for their category terms. I know competitive activity for some terms is more rabid than for others. But when sites that are lacking the content that I offer come up on the first three pages and I am somewhere out beyond Saturn, I wonder why.
I have never spammed the SEs, at least not consciously. I have built sites that I consider content rich with category information and scores of legitimate items for sale. I have analyzed the site that emerges high vs. the ones that do not. I can't for the life of me see any difference.
So, if I knew how to spam, I might be tempted to, as a matter a) of survival and of puzzlement. Which brings me to my point (long-windedly, I know). I suspect that some spamming is done by people who don't understand how the SEs work, (in fact, not in theory). Saying the secret is "content" doesn't reveal very much, as my case illustrates. Without the knowledge of how to score within the rules of the game, players make up their own rules.
So, I pose the question, "Does all the secrecy surrounding SE algorhythms actually encourage spamming as the only alternative when playing with rules that are not clear? Would we be better off with full disclosure and transparency?'
Posted 15 August 2005 - 05:14 PM
It's certainly worthy of thought, but there is a catch (there is ALWAYS a catch )
Lets say that a search engine said that if you do X,Y, and Z precisely, then you will be considered relevant. What would you do? Why, X,Y,Z of course!
And what, pray tell, would your 1.6 million competitors all do? Uhh.. X,Y, and Z, naturally.
The SE told you to do something specific, you did it, and (because you can't have a 1.6 million way tie) you probably are not in a position you want to be. It would be like winning a lottery - if everyone does exactly what they are told to do, then the only thing left is to pick sites at random - which still won't make people happy.
Unfortunately, being specific about what makes a good site would not work. However, I think they could be specific about what makes a *bad* site - which actually would be a good thing.
The only issue with that is, many people assume that as long as they are not doing something bad, that they must be doing something *good* - and that's not necessarily true.
I hear people say "I have a clean site and no rankings, therefore Google sucks" all the time. It's a no-win scenario for a search engine, but I think that outlining some specific "thou shalt nots" would be the path of most benifit for everyone.
If you are damned either way, then all you can to is choose the method that does the least harm and most good. And live with the fact that lots of people will still hate you anyway.
Finally, I think that they could be more clear on what is bad, but I also understand that if they say something really specific like - "if you have 183 or more links from a variety of sites with a PR of 1 or lower, then we will flag you for potentially engaging in link farms" then what will happen is that all the spammers will run out and get exactly 182 links! So you have to keep some things secret or vague.
Spammers are known to follow algos and try to maximize their gains based on the information they are given, so witholding information is a valid anti-spam tactic.
It's just that sometimes the search engines throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater...
Posted 15 August 2005 - 05:39 PM
Good post and good questions!
Freedom of speech doesn't actually mean that you get to do or say anything you want to say at any time in any place. I believe it's more along the lines that you can speak out against our government without the fear of getting locked up for it. (I'm pretty sure Ian has a post with more info on freedom of speech somewhere on the forum from years back!)
Then you have never spammed the search engines. Spam, by it's very nature has to do with deception. And deception generally involves some intent. Perhaps if you didn't know that attempting to deceive a search engine was spamming, then you might spam without knowing it consciously. But you would have known that you purposely set out to deceive the engine. (It's really a question of what you wish to label the deception as.)
Perhaps. I think that they're not interested in how they work, however, and instead believe that "everyone is doing it" and that deception is what is necessary to get ahead.
They may think this even more when they do try to analyze the top sites and try to emulate them and still have no luck with the engines. They may then assume that they do indeed need to deceive.
But they would be wrong. And they should either hire a professional company who knows how to get results, or they should seek out education regarding SEO. All it takes is a few searches at Google using "search engine optimization" type keywords to find plenty of info explaining exactly how to optmize a site without spamming. And no, it's not just "add content" -- you're right -- that's not very helpful to someone just learning is it?!
If you read this forum and the articles at this site, as well some others out there, you'll see that there is plenty of in-depth info on how to do SEO that works, and doesn't set out to deceive. Some of this info is free, some costs money. But the info and also good companies ARE out there.
That's why I feel there's no excuse for spamming, unless you just would really prefer to, for whatever reason. (Just like the McDonald's article stated.)
Posted 15 August 2005 - 06:45 PM
I think blanket statements, like this one I am making now, are usually wrong in at least some cases.
I know a guy that spams for a living. He goes to church, donates time and money to a charity he cares passionately about, has a new baby and is probably a better man than I. He also makes an incredible pile of money spamming. He, more than most, knows how the SEs work, because he survives out of the bits where they don't quite work.
He also works hard, between 18 and 24 hours at a stretch, 3 to 4 times a week. Sometimes he makes a years salary in a day, some months he makes little. He takes massive risks, has huge pay days and lean months. That is how he lives.
Now, to say to a man that bought his house with cash, all generated from spamming over 24 months, that he is stupid and doesn't understand SEs, that he is lazy (when he works 60-100 a week) and doesn't know what he is doing is, well, wrong is too light a word.
I think that covers about every propogandist lie told about spammers, but if there is something I missed, please point it out
Thing is though, that isn't to say he is right. Some of he stuff he does is simply illegal, as copyright theft using scraper sites is (that I am pretty sure he does). Right and wrong are not the synonyms of smart and stoopid. Forrest Gump was dumb as pig , but he was portrayed as a good man. The leaders of Haliburton and Enron were smart, but they weren't good or right.
When talking about spam, as Scotties article disucussed, we have to remember that some people choose to spam. Not because they lack information, but because they see easy gains. Drug dealers also make big bucks, as do arms dealers, and some people choose those IMHO far worse professions than spamming.
The options to stop spam are to either convince people it isn't needed, which for most legit sites it isn't, or to providing compelling evidence not to spam.
You know, that is why I always recommend the complete opposite of current wisdom. Algorithms change, so doing what they require today only leaves you exposed tomorrow. Get the basic rights, understand the value today of what you do, and also understand that change is inevitable, and that differentiation is the key.
Posted 16 August 2005 - 07:32 AM
My previous comments, incidentally, were not referring to the professional spammers, many of whom masquerade as the very SEO firms that some seem to refer to as "helpful". (When I get those email messages or phone calls about how the company cant take me to the top of the SERPs, I ask which SEs and which keywords are they talking about and will they guarantee that I get on the top half of the first page of Google for my most important keywords? Guess what? There are no guarantees. So they don't know anymore about what works than I do. It seems all they really want me to do is pay them to toss the dice for me.)
Those are bad guys. If they do enough of that to make a living than they probably do enough to be highly visible. High visibility of that activity makes it easier to police, especially in this age of effective trackability.
No. I'm talking about the poor mom & pop Web site owners who are trying to make a modest living by selling stuff on the Web. If they don't get an occasional high SERP, they could die on the vine. So it is a matter of survival.
By the way, there are millions of them. So, while they may be small individually, they can be a substantial critical mass as a class.
Now, if someone tells me that I must play by the rules but won't tell me what the rules are, and my survival hangs in the balance, what do you think I am going to do? Be a nice guy and starve for the benefit of society?
As far as everyone doing X, Y & Z, what is wrong with that? At least I would know that X, Y and Z are what is required to get into the race. If, after that, I am not fast enough or smart enough to get out of the pack, that is MY problem.
It is the perception that I don't even know where to check in for the starting line, and the race officials won't tell me other than to say, "It is over there somewhere," that leads me to look for a short-cut in order some way to get to the finish line. (Please excuse the tortured metaphor, but it sorta works, and it expresses the frustration that I feel a lot of the casual SE spammers must feel.)
Oh yes, I also realize that there may be a zillion sites that would serve any given search term equally well. In that case, maybe all we are seeing is that bean jar gets shaken and different beans rise to the top. But, because that would not be considered "scientific", it could not possibly be admitted as true. It woul dmake sense though. And it would be easier to accept than the apparent voodoo of
If we are going have any effect on SE spamming, let's "lock up" the habitual, big time, offenders and remove the incentive for the little guys by being more open and helpful about what it takes to be in the race.
Posted 16 August 2005 - 08:29 AM
I realize this will sound harsh to you, but if mom and pop are depending on free results to run their business, they deserve to go under. They need a real marketing plan that includes marketing that they purchase and therefore control, that they can measure the effectiveness of.
No one ever promised mom and pop a free business.
If an online business owner is starving, it's not society's fault. They need to get a job working for someone else if they don't understand running a business on the web.
You can whine about how it is soooo unfair and the big companies have an unfair advantage, but the truth of the matter is the playing field has never been so level for small companies and big. When competing in search marketing, uniqueness, creativity and solid work mean ANYONE can be visible if they are willing to work at it.
That doesn't mean being handed a formula so that you can make your site just like the 1000 other sites who read the formula. It means having a reason for your business, having features and information that are useful and original, and having such a cool site people link to it because they want to.
The basics of search marketing are pretty simple- make sure your technology is crawlable, use your desired keyword phrase frequently on the page, and get lots of quality incoming links. That's the formula.
It's how you go about creating your content and marketing your site for links that makes your site stand out from the others and rise to the top.
Posted 16 August 2005 - 09:20 AM
It is true that the engines don't explain the rules, but just look around this site...everything one needs to know to make their site be the best it can be for the search engines and their users is right here. Anyone can easily find this site and spend the months it would take to read and absorb it all then implement it on their site.
If they don't have that time, they can also hire someone.
But to insist that the information on doing things the right way isn't out there, is simply untrue. It may have been true pre-2000, but not today. There are no excuses for choosing spamming over non-spamming other than it's what they want to do, for whatever reason.
Posted 16 August 2005 - 09:59 AM
When I first started on the web, I did not know what a forum was, I did not know that they existed, I knew nothing about optimization, or that there was such a thing. I just thought you build it and they will come, and actually they did. I would have to say that I was inspired in my site design. My original site has not changed much over the years. I started out in April of 1999.
As I started, I would look at the sites at the top of the listings and find out what worked for them, then I would apply those principals to my site. I had a lot of top 10 listings, and still do today. Did I spam, yes at first I am sure I did a little, but I did not know what spamming was, or that it even existed. I did what I thought it took to get to the top of the listings.
Soon I found Jill and Heather's newsletter, not sure what I searched on, but anyways I subscribed and looked forward to each issue. I always enjoyed learning and found the information in them to be very similar to what I was doing so I knew it must be sound or close to it. I also subscribed to a few other newsletters. Slowly I began to learn to read between the lines and figure out what was good advice and what was not. After a few months it was the only one that I read.
I was fortunate enough to have a fair amount of time to devote to placement techniques and was able to quickly sort out the "garbage" or bad information. I would optimize as needed, remove any "bad techniques" or spam.
I did some of the goofy stuff like submitting to the search engines & FFA sites monthly. I had good navigation from the beginning, the site was and still is simple. If provides the information that the customers are looking for and it is written for them.
I have a friend who is an engineer and has a site very similar to mine, he spent very little time on optimization, and did not understand it. He (unknowingly) chose one of the optimization companies that spam the search engines. They told him what would work. He made the changes, put them his site, and boom it was banned. He finally dropped the company and is showing up again.
He was not trying to spam, just increase his business as many others are. I am not sure if he was contacted by phone or e-mail, but he felt comfortable otherwise he would not have done it. The problem is that some of us just are not web savvy enough in the beginning and fall prey the con-artists.
Many of the older generation (50+ which I fall into) did not grow up with computers or the internet. Their skills and knowledge of what to do are almost non-existent. They rely on others to be their sources of information, and unfortunately a lot of them are contacted by con-artists saying how they can help increase their business and get them to the top. I am not saying that all spammers are innocent or old, just that not are website owners know that they are spamming.
Many of us in this forum understand what spam is and how and why to avoid it, but how many of us had the same knowledge the first time on the internet, or when we first decided to put up a site as we do today. Learning is an on going process and we have to start somewhere. I am so glad there are forums like this one and a few of the other good ones where we can learn and help others to learn how to do the job better.
Thanks to all those that actively participate in helping others.
Posted 16 August 2005 - 11:15 AM
I think everyone does go through certain stages when learning SEO, which is what my Evolution of a Search Marketer article is all about!
Posted 16 August 2005 - 07:47 PM
I would have thought the answer was obvious: learn the rules! It really ain't that hard, and if people expect to be given all the expertise on SEO in point form on one peice of paper, they are dreaming. As Jill said, there is plenty of free info online, and professionals of varying costs to implement it if you want to save time.
I really don't get what SEO is being compared to. Where are the rules for deceptive advertising, and how many people know the definition of that, or even look for one? Not man, if any (to quote scribe) because most assume they know it, and it is "common sense". How is SEO not common sense?
Surely, we all know what spam is. If not, I will tell you right here, right now: if a human doesn't see, with their eyes, what a search engine sees, it is spam. That makes hidden text, redirects, stuffed alt tags, hidden divs etc etc all spam.
If a person is too dumb to understand what deception is, online or offline, they need to hand their keys to business ownership back, and go get employed!
With the rise of Blogs, that really is easier than ever.
Amen!!! There are so many businesses that compete in the same market, why use company XYZ? Offline, many Mum & Pop operations compete in only one way: location. I don't go to the corner store because their range is good, or their prices cheap, I go there because they are there, right in front of me. Same reason I don't go to Madrid corner store, and how most people choose Mechanics, Dentists, and Doctors.
Online, location simply is not a benefit. Merely existing in a suburb of a major city is no longer good enough. Being in a major shopping centre is not an online advantage (although it can help).
Online, your truly business needs to stand out against all the competitors in the world or at least in your whole country / city. That stand out can be on a number of fronts, including price, quality, range, service, ease of use of the site, convenience or, if you are smart, on a truly unique product range, but it must exist.
1. Range - Amazon. Their business is built on having more of everything.
2. Convenience - Dell. Buy computer online, delivery to your door. No going out, no mucking about.
3. Price - eBay. Sure, they sell nothing, but on eBay you can always find a bargain. eBay also provides a great service that benefits their users. As a seller, you can almost always find a buyer, and buyers can find bargains in virtually any sphere of interest.
4. Uniqueness - www.classicstyle.com.au, a truly excellent product range (if poor site) that caters to a niche market that few serve, and that truly stands out for its product offerrings.
Online is a tough world, because the competition is broader and teh requirements for "greatness" exagerated. It is also a truly unique opportunity, as it allows a business to survive with a truly minute fraction of public interest.
As an example, if I sell a product that one in 5 million people are interested in, that is one sale in Sydney, 4 in London, 5 in Mexico city etc. Unless the margins are huge, I would probably go under. Take that same business model online, with access to close to a billion people, and all of a sudden there are 200 people world wide interested.
For some people, with niche hobbies, the Internet is a Godsend. For some small businesses with nothing unique to offer, it is a marketing tool that offers marginal marketing benefit when compared to offline advertising.
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