spam

Voyage Of A Domain

I think my work is insanely interesting, but I wouldn’t say people typically agree. But occasionally, I have something so random come to me that I get to do detective work and find a really interesting story.
A month ago, I got a call from Frank, who owned a domain ten years ago. On this domain was a blog about him and a crew circumnavigating the globe on a schooner. The site was originally set up to be a way for friends and family to check in on progress of the trip or for the crew to connect with people on the journey… but then it got big. When Frank told me it got millions of hits, I was really impressed… and sad to find the domain had expired.
The first question (for the actual work) was could we find his old blog posts?
But a second question showed up as we started digging: Where had this domain gone since it left Frank’s possession 5ish years ago?
The first thing to do was to go to the current website. I won’t link to the domain name because, surprise, it’s now a porn site. (If you really want to go look at it, the domain is written in the screenshots of non-porn versions of the website below. Don’t say I didn’t warn you). But what happened to this site during the time between being an innocent schooner blog and a not-so-innocent adult video website?
I decided to see what I could uncover. Knowing that a website with this traffic would have been archived by the Way Back Machine automatically, I went to web.archive.org , typed in the URL and started going back in time. Come on this fantastical journey with me…
First the domain was as schooner blog. Here is what the site looked like from 2008 to 2010:
Then it got hacked.
I know what you’re thinking: doesn’t that just look like the old website? And it does, but if we look closer at the text, we see evidence of the hack:
Further evidence of how deep this hack went happens when you click on any link on the site that isn’t the homepage:

 

Ah, remember what hacks looked like in 2013?

 

Once the domain expired and it wasn’t renewed within the 30 day grace period, it went on the market. In 2016, it was bought by someone and became a spammy looking information site about diabetes:

You may wonder why this happened. A common tactic people use to get their site ranked more quickly is to buy high traffic domains and link to their low traffic domains from them (or redirect the URLs to their websites directly) to give them a little boost. This is just my theory but it explains why 0% effort went into the design and the content seems pretty generic (i.e. like a site pretending to be a real website).
In the same year, this domain became something else even more random: a song lyric website:
I know, random! But notice the “earnings disclaimer” in the menu. Typically if you are going to put up a website that makes money off mainly display ads, it only makes real money if you are getting high traffic. And since song lyrics are a universally appealing topic and something that people frequently Google, bonus.
Then in the past year, it became a porn site. And who knows when it’ll become something else.
The great news is Frank’s blog posts are archived in the Way Back Machine and it’ll be a matter of copying and pasting to get them on his new domain. And in addition to that, now Frank and I have a fun story we didn’t expect from the experience of the domain name’s identity crisis.
The Schooner Maggie B went on an interesting journey but so did its domain name. Because the internet, like the open ocean, was built for adventure.

Getting Rid Of Spam Cell Phone Calls

I swear if one more person calls to offer me $500,000 for my business, I’m going to scream.

It used to be as cell phone owners, we were free from telemarketing calls. Now none of us are immune.

What can you do to make your phone a telemarketer free refuge? (Non-profits are still allowed to call you, my college certainly does.) Here are a few things you can do.

Download a call blocking app.

It didn’t occur to me an app could do this until one of my friends mentioned it. I have one on my phone and it actually says ‘Spam’ on it when I go to answer!

Here are the call blocker apps for Android and here are the call blocker apps for iPhone. Try the free ones but honestly, to get your life back it’s probably worth a couple bucks.



Ask to be placed on the ‘Do Not Call” list…. or wait until the end of the recording to take yourself off it.

So if you get a real live human on the other end of the line, you can be asked to put on their do not call list. You can also add yourself to the main government list here: https://www.donotcall.gov/

What about robocalls? If you wait until the end of the pitch, you’ll hear a brief “… or press 2 to be placed on our do not call list”. I actually did this about ten times and seem to have gotten a lot less calls.

(Kassie Note: I recently received an automated phone call from a telemarketer about credit cards, and there was no “do not call list” prompt after staying on the line. So I pressed “1” to go through the “talk to a representative” motion, and just asked the person I got on the line to take me off the list. After said representative declared “You are obviously unhappy with your current credit provider” I think he realized his mistake and took me off the list. In other words, it may take a few extra minutes but you can usually find a workaround).

Send spam calls directly to voicemail.

This doesn’t exactly solve the issue but will cut down significantly on your annoyance. Most phones will allow you to send people not in your contacts list directly to voicemail.



Get Google Voice.

We recently switched to Google Voice for Anchorspace calls and it has been great. Voicemails are transcribed, and I get an email when I miss a call. I even get to have a sweet cordless phone on my desk to answer calls (P.S. you can also have these go to your cell phone; I just like that mine don’t). Much like Google is good at filtering email, it’s pretty good at filtering voice spam, too.

Escalate to your phone carrier or the FCC.

Most phone carriers have a process you can go through to get rid of unlawful calls; Verizon’s is here. Remember chances are if you’re getting harassed by a person or company, others are as well. If you aren’t the kind of person who complains on your own behalf, complain for those other people.

The FCC also has a way for you to complain about harassing calls (well, all harassing communications really): https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us

Maybe it’s never occurred to you that you can stop annoying calls to your cell phone, but think about it: if you even save yourself fifteen minutes a week, that’s fifteen minutes you could be doing something else. Take back your time, and your phone.



Why Directory Websites Are Probably A Waste Of Your Time

When I started my blog in 2007, I took any free listing I could get. This did a couple of things:

whydirectorywebsitesareawasteoftime1) Connect me with people who were looking for blogs to read about certain topics.
2) Put my link on a new domain.

Did I really think posting my blog link on blogorama.com was going to catapult me to fame? Not so much but when you have, like, ten people visiting your site per day, you might be a tad overexcited about an extra two visitors. Plus way back then (sixish years ago), all links were good links.

The rules, my friends, have changed.

Here’s the thing, while search engines really like links coming into your website, not all links are created equal.

The following factors matter in varying degrees (Skip bullets if you are not a nerd or don’t care):

  • Domain age. I’ve owned this domain since 2009 and, at that time, I bought it for like five years in a row. A domain being owned and used for a long time means the website is less likely to be sketchy. And Google likes non-sketchy and rewards domain age. http://rapidwebseo.com/matt-cutts-does-domain-age-really-matter.php
  • Google Page Rank. Not all websites are equal. Google Page Rank, which ranks web pages between 1 and 10 (9 being Amazon.com, 10 being Google.com, 3 being the website you are on right now). A link off a higher ranked website is worth more (here’s how you can check your page rank: http://www.prchecker.info/check_page_rank.php)
  • Keywords that are linked. When people do a search, they use words. (You know, since Google can’t yet read our mind.) If someone writes about ‘social media marketing’ and links the words ‘social media marketing’ to this website, Google takes it as this website must know something about social media marketing. Over time, the words used to link to your website give search engines an idea of what other websites think your site is about, versus what you say you’re about. This is called ‘anchor text’ and if you want to know more: http://moz.com/learn/seo/anchor-text
  • Pages that are linked to. Linking to a homepage of a website is cool but linking to other pages means there is useful info deeper in. More pages mean your website is better indexed by search engines and more links from other sites to internal pages means your site is a trusted source.

Throwing up your link in a fly-by-night seeming online directory, as you can probably tell, is kind of like casting your fishing pole in the middle of the ocean. Sure you could catch something but you probably won’t. Best to cast your fishing line in a part of the water where you hear that other people are getting fish… which brings me to.

Most directories have no track record.

If some new directory has sprung up and is asking you to pay money monthly for your website to be listed, ask to see their data. Total number visitors is not impressive. Trust me, you can make numbers look pretty flattering when people don’t understand what they are.

What you want to see in terms of stats from an online directory is how many eyeballs 1) use the directory (how many people landed on that part of the site, how long they spent there, and how many pages they looked at.) and 2) clicks to business listings on that directory. If the directory owner actually gives you examples of #2, they are likely the best performers they’ve got so assume lower results for you.

And to top all this off, some links are actually bad links.

That’s right, in a Google update, some have found that having spammy links coming into their site actually hurt their search ranking. In other words, that sketchy directory website (or spammy looking blog) linking to your site could actually be hurting you. So not only are you casting your fishing line into unproductive waters, you might find  sharks in those waters that are eating your boat.

Get out of that water and head to safer waters, my fisherman friend!

So what can you do to prevent this nonsense from adversely effecting your life?

1) If you are really gung ho to spend some money on a not proven directory, agree to pay per click, not for a listing… and agree to a trial period of a couple months to evaluate.

A click to your website is a potential customer and worth A LOT more than eyeballs on an ad. PPC (pay per click) might be a cheaper (and higher quality) way to evaluate an advertising prospect.

2) Ask businesses outside your industry what is working for them.

I say outside your industry because I think those people will be more candid with you. For example, in actually talking to people a couple years ago I could have saved myself $200 and not bought a Better Business Bureau online directory listing (which I stopped paying two years ago yet is miraculously still online). See, I fall for this crap too. In case you were wondering, I got exactly 0 referrals from it and so have a few other businesses I’ve talked to.

Ask people in your industry too, maybe just people outside your geographic region or otherwise not in direct competition with you.

3) Write to webmasters who have spammy links connecting to your site and ask that they be removed. If you noticed your website traffic tank around mid-May 2013 (or you’ve gotten a notification from Google), you might be being penalized for bad links. Here’s what you should do in that case: http://www.weidert.com/whole_brain_marketing_blog/bid/116515/Google-Penguin-Penalties-How-to-Remove-Harmful-Inbound-Links

4) See who owns a website. Directory listing with a downtown association or your local chamber of commerce? That is legit. But thebestbusinessdirectoryonline.com? How do you know what wizard is behind that curtain?

You can do a WhoIs lookup on the domain to see who owns it and begin Googling with the information you get. Can’t find out? It’s probably not because it’s a good secret. Go with your gut on this one. Any business transaction is about people and if you are getting a ‘sketchball’ vibe from someone, steer clear. There will be other marketing opportunities for you.

Am I saying all directory websites are bad? Of course not! I am saying it’s worth taking the time to evaluate a directory to see if it’s right for your business… and planning on where you cast that fishing line is more important than ever.