Tag Archives: small business

Selling Fake Social Media Clicks

It Nice to be Liked

It’s Nice to be Liked

Check this story out.  It deserves more attention than it has received. http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-click-farms-20140106,0,4665586.story#axzz2pma5Opkr

 In you own a business, especially if it’s small or nascent, you have likely been solicited by companies, many small or nascent themselves, who guarantee they can make you visible everywhere on the internet; with heavy emphasis on “everywhere.”   

They are selling you likes, clicks, hits, views, visits – anything which may indicate someone is paying attention. Economic success, they tell you, will flow from that.  They ask you to pay for a certain number of guaranteed eyeballs a month; plus extra fees for any additional attention your business receives. 

You are paying for their (supposed) familiarity with what it takes to be noticed on Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, Google Searches, not for actual customer queries and contacts, much less sales.  You are not paying for outcomes, but for milestones which may, if you’re lucky, lead to tangible results,  That’s a problem in itself.  But when, as the Associated Press reports, even the delivery of the milestones involves fakery, you have real problems.   Lots of money is being paid, by large and small organizations alike, for these services.  

Yes, for the right amount of money and with the most knowledgeable social networking and search engine gurus, you can make great strides.  But, many of the companies out there selling these services are providing false hopes.   One false inducement not mentioned in this story, but seen in commercials all the time (ad nauseum),  is the claim that for a modest initial fee and twenty bucks a month after that, “we will make sure your website is in all the major search engines.”   What this really means is the company will help you register with Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.,  and make sure your site map is updated with them periodically.  That’s trivial.  By itself, it will get you nowhere, rather than seen everywhere. And besides, your ten year old kid can figure out how to do that for his allowance.

The larger implication of this story is that, not only hasn’t the Internet leveled the playing field for small business, as promised, but it’s given larger businesses, with the resources to hire the best consultants, a real advantage on the web.

Hiring the best consultants, and doing what’s really needed to generate contacts and sales,  is time consuming.  And it costs a lot on an ongoing basis.  Just staying abreast with changes in algorithms Google uses to “rank sites” – i.e., whether you show up on page one or page one thousand of a search  – is a big job in itself.   Unless you are a small business person with great aptitude for internet marketing, and the time to devote to it,  or have a family member who can do it well, you are at a considerable disadvantage. 

On the other hand, if it makes you happy to accumulate “likes” on your Facebook business page, even if they are fake, then who am I, or the Associated Press, to dissuade you. Enjoy!


Google Punishes “Rap Genius” for Gaming Search Engine Rankings

greg_band3Check out this story in December 26th N.Y. Times.  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/26/business/media/google-penalizes-rap-genius-for-gaming-search-rank.html?rref=technology&_r=0

The N.Y. Times reported “Google has punished a provocative music-lyrics website after learning it had unscrupulously tried to improve its search rankings.” (From the NY Times story).

This story wasn’t exactly buried.  While it was not front page news, it appeared in the business pages of all the major newspapers and was discussed in many media and business blogs.

The most consequential implications of the story were missed, because it is commonplace for Google to make, (constantly) revise, and police the rules governing where sites get ranked on its pages. So, in many respects it was not really news.

Rap Genius was apparently caught by Google using “unscrupulous” methods to boost the number of links to its website.  One of the mainstay factors in Google’s ever changing and mysterious algorithm for ranking websites, is the number of links to a site.   A large number of links suggests, to Google, that the site is important and  merits  appearance on the first few pages of a search.  Where a commercial website ranks can of course make or break a business.

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of “search engine optimization” (SEO) tries to “game” the system in some manner by accumulating links to its site.   Some methods, such as creating hundreds of phantom blogs or sites and then linking them to one’s main website,  are clearly unscrupulous.  Other approaches, such as using social networking to increase awareness of your site, are clearly appropriate, encouraged by all the SEO gurus, and advised by Google.

Many methods fall in a gray area.  Rap Genius apparently induced music bloggers to link to its site by rewarding them with mentions and favorable treatment on its social media accounts, like Twitter and Facebook.

It is not abundantly clear to me how this method is materially different from other, approved SEO activities.  Or that Rap Genius’  efforts were especially tricky or uncommon.  But Google chose to make an example of the provocative service.  The result: Rap Genius, for now, is removed from the front pages of Google searches.  That could kill the business.

The most significant implications of this story are the potent reminders that…..

1) Google has enormous power to make or break a business.

2) Google’s methods and rules are opaque; understood only by businesses with the money to hire the best and brightest SEO experts. 

3) Small business is at a distinct disadvantage in mastering Google.

4) The Internet has not leveled the playing field, as promised; to the contrary it has given bigger businesses a greater advantage; and….

5)  Small businesses are preyed upon all the time by unscrupulous “SEO experts” who promise to make them “show up on all the search engines” for a “small” monthly fee, which (most often)  means not much more than getting the company “registered” with Google and a few other search engines. First page?  Fogettaaboutit, unless you have the money to game Google, in which case you could get punished. .

Another issue raised by this story is the willingness of many to entrust a private operator, like Google or Regence Blue Shield with decisions that can make or break a business or a human life, but scream at the idea of government performing the same functions.  

I’m not advocating for a government agency to take over search engine rankings, but I would appreciate an articulation of why its OK for Google to have all this power, but not an agency run (albeit) by a “bureaucrat,” who has been appointed by someone actually elected by many people?  Am genuinely interested in a good answer to that question.  One possible answer is:  Better to have multiple tyrants, each in their own sphere, rather than one tyrant dominating many spheres.   Their ought to be a solution somewhere in between Google and the Federal Government.