or Dare? The Use of Deceptive Site Content
We've all felt frustrated when we've arrived at
a web site only to find our browser is all but taken
hostage by the underlying code. Web enthusiast Rosemarie
Wise takes us through some of the techniques webmasters
use to keep the search engines hooked and their
affiliate sales high, before arriving at the inescapable
conclusion that good content is the key to online
online advertising industry has never looked fitter.
Gone are the days when it was possible to squeeze
a living out of a homepage that people rarely visited
and was stuffed to the back teeth full of banner
The free money once earned from the Internet advertising
cash cow has all but dried up. Advertisers have
since learned that visitors become blind to the
typical banner sizes and locations, and that just
because they appear to click a link doesn't mean
to say they will buy whatever is on offer. It is
getting increasingly difficult to make a living
from the few advertisers that still pay per thousand
impressions or offer a few pennies per click. As
the advertisers work on increasing their return
on investment, the number of cost per action affiliate
schemes is on the increase.
The face of online advertising is changing. Both
the advertisers and the webmasters whose sites they
advertise are getting more and more creative. Some
individual webmasters are even using their skills
to master a new art - the art of deception.
Art of Deception
In their desperate attempts to get people to come
and visit their site, some site owners have resorted
to tricking the search engines into thinking that
it is about something that its not. It is very easy
to use server side technologies to make an educated
guess if the software used to access a page is in
use by a real person or not. Looking for patterns
in the USER_AGENT string can help to identify bots,
as they are more likely to contain a URL or email
address; teaming this guess with a reverse DNS lookup
on the IP address will produce more accurate results.
Once a visitor has been singled out as a bot they
can then add extra information such as highly targeted
meta tags and fake content, although normally invisible
to the user, they have historically had significant
influence on search engine rankings and descriptions.
Thankfully the search engines have taken steps to
combat the pollution that results from the abuse
of the meta tags, and so they are not as important
in search engine rankings as they once were.
Cloaking your content in this manner might seem
like a useful way to reduce your data transfer costs.
After all, if the visitor can't see your meta tags,
why should you waste your money and their time sending
that information to them? But they are frowned upon
by many and could lead to you being banned from
search engines because of the potential for abuse.
If you do decide to take the risk and use server
side technologies to serve different pages depending
on the browser or type of visitor, take steps not
to damage any search engine rankings that you do
have by keeping changes purely presentational. Don't
be tempted to stuff pages viewed by the search engines
with fake content, even if it is related to your
topic as it will be viewed as spamming.
Another tactic that webmasters have resorted to
is to hide the real location of the links that they
use; this is known as blind linking, and can be
extremely frustrating when they are not expected.
Blind linking was made popular (if not always allowed
by the terms and conditions of affiliate programs)
when affiliates started offering pay per click programs
in an effort to cut their advertising costs.
Most savvy web surfers will recognize an affiliate
link when they see one; and if given a choice, most
will opt to follow a non-affiliate link unless it
will benefit someone they know or someone they feel
deserves it. One of the most common ways to achieve
the OnMouseOver event to edit the browser's status
Speaking as a visitor, I do not tend to trust a
link that puts up a description rather than a URL
in the status bar. If I want to follow a link that
I suspect will take me to another site via an affiliate
then I will view the source of the page to try and
find out where it will take me.
One of the most annoying types of blink link is
one that disguises affiliate links with a URL that
looks like any other on that same page. Visitors
think they are going to a page within the site about
something that interests them, so imagine their
surprise when the page that opens up looks nothing
like the site they just came from. Talk about disorientating!
What's A Visitor Worth?
Getting web traffic to your site can be hard enough,
so once you get your visitors to it you should really
take care of them so that they feel like they want
to come back again and again. However I know that
there are sites out there trying to make as much
money out of their visitors as possible. Some of
the tactics that some of these webmasters use to
get a few extra pennies is quite unbelievable.
Undoubtedly all the tactics used by site owners
'milking it' will annoy the visitor, and the more
annoyances they have, the sooner they will want
to get off the site and never visit it again. Spawning
pop-ups and pop-unders, blind links, clickless links,
setting the homepage without consent and obvious
deception or lack of content are all ways to make
your visitor wish they never came across your site.
If like me, your feel your visitors are more important
to you, then you will want to avoid annoying them.
Put some real content on your site, that way they
at least have something to look at when they stop
by. You may also find it more rewarding if you are
open and honest about what links and visitor actions
will earn you a reward or bonus.
Don't forget that word of mouth advertising is the
best way to drive new traffic to your site... bad
news travels faster than good!
The author, Rosemarie Wise, is a self proclaimed
'web enthusiast' who set up her site, Web
Site Owner to share her experiences of being
a site owner.
has produced a great resource for anyone who'd
like to learn about, or develop their skills
in web design...
Although our contents are free to browse, copyright
resides with the originators of all works accessed
at AbleStable®, and unauthorised copying
or publication of our site contents is strictly
AbleStable © 2002-2007