Category Archives: Internet

“Legitimizing” Spam?

How many times have I talked about spam? Well, let’s see. I talked about dealing with >Russian spam>. I talked about spam that seemed to be coming out of the wood works when I was talking about Compete Rank, and I talked about it a week ago when I talked about hating spam.

Luc De Leeuw via Compfight

I still hate spam, but now I’m seeing a different kind of spam, and if I’m seeing it, I know you’re seeing it also.

I’m talking about a specialized spam that’s advertising software that will send out comment spam. Talk about being bold and upfront about what you are! I even decided to visit a couple of these sites, putting the name of the company into Google first just to make sure they weren’t sites whose purpose was to drop drive-by malware onto my system.

Nope; in their own way, they’re attempting to be “legitimate” businesses by actually having safe domain names, without much contact information of course, and some of them are one page sites where you can click to purchase the software. Most of the sites actually said “send messages to millions of blogs at the same time”; no sir, that can’t be good for anyone.

This left me with many questions that maybe someone else can help me with.

One, uhhh, isn’t spam illegal?

Two, how the heck can the “regular” people who might think to try this stuff actually get away with it more than once, since their ISP would have to catch on? I mean, does the software actually know how to get around that one?

Three, if there’s software that helps explain all the spam we presently get, didn’t anyone deign to teach those who are using it a little bit of proper grammar. I mean, most spam is written quite poorly.

I’m not alone in writing about the topic of spam these days. Most stories are the one surrounding the ISP that got shut down and supposedly reduced the amount of spam by 70%; I didn’t see that. There was even one study that was done by scientists through a seized part of a spammer’s network, where they were able to send out 469 million pieces of spam and only got 28 “attempted sales” (they didn’t actually sell the product since it was a study, so all sales requests were rejected. So, the conclusion was that spammers have to work really hard to make sales, which is why they exist; anyone feeling sympathy for these folks yet?

I like the idea I came up with while talking to someone on Twitter about this yesterday. Let’s find out who they are, and take some sledgehammers, break down the doors, and destroy all of their computers. It might not stop anything, but it would sure feel good for a little while.

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Hating Spam

I’m starting to feel like a success with this blog. It’s not the subscribers, although I want to thank all of you. It’s not the money that’s rolling in (said tongue in cheek). It’s not how I’m moving up on Technorati or Alexa.

Spam ... it's what's for dinner!
Wandering Magpie
via Compfight

It’s the spam count. I’ve always felt that the amount of spam one receives is directly related to how much activity and prominence your blog must be gaining. I’m not sure if that’s totally true or not, but I can honestly say that I’ve never had more spam than I’m having lately. And it’s a great test of the Akismet plugin, which has been fantastic.

True, it wasn’t all that good on the Russian spam, but I don’t think that any of the spam filters could have caught that stuff initially. And yesterday, myself and a lot of people throughout the blogosphere started receiving some interesting spam that was making it through. However, what I did was start flagging it as spam, rather than just deleting it, and within a couple of hours Akismet had figured it out and no more of those messages got through to my posts. I’m very impressed by that, I must say.

Now, someone needs to explain some of this spam to me. I actually understand the advertisement spam; those folks are hoping that we’ll stupidly buy their spam program, which actually sends your messages and therefore recreates the spam we’re all trying to hide from. I weirdly understand the spam that comes through with multiple links to pharmaceuticals, porn, etc, because those folks also are hoping that enough of their ads will stay on some of those blogs that are defunct, to help them with perceived link juice; suckers.

But the one line Russian spam, along with the one line “I am happily agree with your post; I will come again” posts, or the posts without any real words,… do people really believe all that nonsensical stuff really gets them links on the back end, or that anyone will possibly click on their ads?

I found it really ironic in the wake of yesterday’s new about the shutdown of an internet hosting site known for sending out tons of spam, and how we should have seen it decrease, when exactly the opposite happened. And, it seems there’s really a big economic impact of spam, and not the way we usually think of it. Bruce Schneier wrote in his blog about the economics of spam, where a study was done that determined that, based on volume, even at 0.00001% a spammer could be making at least between $7,500 and $9,000 a day, because it seems there’s always someone who clicks on, then buys, one of these products; wow!

Well, I refuse to be pushed around by any amount of spam that comes this way. Akismet has been my blogging hero for a long time, and I’ll trust it to continue working on my behalf. For those of you who still don’t see spam as being as big an issue as it is (yeah, like there’s anyone out there who doesn’t get it), here’s a little video for your enjoyment:

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Medical Billing Answers

Today I thought I’d highlight one of my niche sites, the type that many people talk about when they say that it’s another way for us to make money online. Oddly enough, I was just online listening to Lynn Terry’s weekly seminar, and she was saying how she stopped telling people about her niche sites and where they were and what they were because people would go by and copy exactly what she had as their own. Well, I’m thinking that, with this niche, there could only be so much copying, and if someone decides to steal the layout and colors; more power to you.

Anyway, this particular niche site is called Medical Billing Answers. Luckily, this is something I know a lot about as a health care finance consultant. I oversaw the billing operation of many hospitals before I went out on my own, and I’ve consulted at hospitals regarding billing and other revenue cycle issues ever since.

The initial issue for this site was trying to write it so that it didn’t overwhelm people. One can sometimes get too technical in their own niche to a point that they can’t communicate with those who aren’t in the field. So, if you go through any of the initial page categories, you’ll find that I haven’t written anything too deep, but hopefully it gets across what these things are.

Where the meat of this site is, though, is in the articles and the answered questions areas. Both of those areas give me the opportunity to add new content on a regular basis, which actually has worked out for me. Not as much for the articles, but people will send me questions, and I can answer them, and if it looks like I can get at least 200 words out of it, then it becomes another article. What it will also allow me to do at some point is make it a part of my consulting business, because I obviously can’t allow one person to dominate my time without getting paid for it eventually, right?

Now, here’s the big thing. This site, out of all my sites, makes the most money in Adsense revenue. Because it’s a niche site, the targeted traffic that this site gets means that I get paid more money if someone clicks on one of the ads than I get on any of my other sites. Supposedly, that’s what niche sites are all about, concentrating on one topic, then hammering that topic to death.

And here’s the neat thing. The world of medical billing online is pretty big, so getting to the top of the search engines isn’t the easiest thing in the world. No, I’m not in the top spot, unfortunately. But here’s where I rank for my top 3 search terms:

Medical Billing Questions Answered:

Google – 51
Yahoo – 12
MSN – 253

Medical Billing Questions:

Google – 149
Yahoo – 43
MSN – none

Medical Billing Answers:

Google – 2
Yahoo – 3
MSN – none

I don’t know what’s up with MSN, but I’m not worried about it. I launched this site at the end of May, so it’s just over 5 months old, still in its relative infancy, and it’s got a lot of room to grow. There’s some people who believe that one shouldn’t launch a website unless you have at least 100 pages of information, and others who believe you need even more. However, I was talking to one of my friends who works for We Build Pages, and his take on it was that if you believe what you have to say can be done in even 5 to 10 pages, then go to it, as long as the page is well optimized. I tend to agree with him on that one, plus I see so many people never start anything or never show anything because they can’t finish, at least in their minds. Think about Microsoft, people; they’ve been messing up for years, but do you think we’d have all this stuff if they had waited around for perfection?

Oh, on the site I also list different books concerning medical billing in some fashion. Many of those are a specific affiliate group I belong to that only deals with medical billing books, so the affiliate payout rate is higher. However, no one has purchased any of those books yet, but they’ll come; I know they’ll come!

Anyway, there’s my one big niche site. I may end up with more if this one succeeds in the way that I’m hoping it will. I’ll just have to think about what niche to talk about next; details, details,…

Virtual Greetings

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Is Facebook Becoming Bloated?

Facebook has been going through some mega changes lately, and most of them seem to be falling flat in the minds of many users. Personally, I’ve noticed that I’m not on Facebook as often as I was just months ago, and I hadn’t made the connection to it being allied with changes until very recently.

Of course, I’ve talked about Facebook before. The first time I wondered if it was truly a site for social networking because many people create groups that don’t have any real conversations, though there are pictures aplenty. The next time I wrote about them, I was actually introducing one of their major changes, that being eliminating what were called network pages, which were how most people were introduced into Facebook, by being assigned a region where they were from in some fashion. It was their attempt to open it up so that people didn’t have to search for an area to belong to, but it also hurt because now people didn’t even have a regional area, where they may know some people to get started, to join.

These days, the changes come fast and heavy. We now have another new look, as they’ve moved some things around. We have this stupid little bar at the bottom that has a chat feature and also indicates new notifications, which is actually elsewhere, along with any group or activities one might like to participate in; those are also in other areas on the site. One thing I keep having problems finding is what’s known as The Wall on each person’s page; I can’t figure out where it is on my page anymore, and that’s not a good thing.

Of course, we still have to deal with this concept of people deciding to add an application to their page and then sending a request to every person that happens to be in their friend list to join; the one thing Facebook did add was a way to block an application so you can only be asked once about something that you never want to add (people kept sending me this one application about “buying me”; you just don’t keep sending that to a black man in America). Facebook has never been the fastest loading page in the world, and some of the games they have slow things down further. Now there’s even talk that they’re thinking about adding music; the “MySpace”-ification of Facebook is underway. No sir, that’s not a good thing.

I’m not alone in my consternation. Here’s a link to Chris Pirillo’s site where he’s having a discussion with a long time Facebook user. In any case, I’m not ready to give up Facebook just yet. There’s always the possibility that one of these groups will step up to the plate and actually make it a business networking site that’s useful in some fashion, or even a site where you can manage your activities easier. I’m hopeful for Facebook.

What Will You Do To Get More Traffic?

A few years ago, I did something that I couldn’t conceive of doing again, but I figured it was worth a shot. I paid a company for traffic. It said it would be targeted traffic, and though I wondered how they would know, since I had a feeling they wouldn’t even be able to determine what my traffic would be, I went ahead and paid for it.

I've Been Out Walkin'
Thomas Hawk via Compfight

I believe it was around $13 for a guaranteed 10,000 visits, which sounded good to me. After I paid my money, the company wrote and said that I’d purchased during a special period, and that I’d earned another 5,000 visits.

I tracked the traffic for the month, and I didn’t quite get to 15,000; as a matter of fact, I didn’t get to 10,000 visitors for the money. I did get an increase, though, of about 8,000, and I figured that wasn’t bad.

However, I didn’t get any business from it. No one called to ask any questions. No one purchased any products. No one booked me for any speaking engagements.

This was back before Google Analytics, so I didn’t even get a sense of which pages anyone was visiting when they came to the site. Truthfully, I’m not even sure there were actual visitors. My ISP reports traffic statistics that say I’m averaging over 18,000 hits a month, but Google Analytics doesn’t come anywhere close to that number. My thinking is that most of it comes from a source that kind of “pings” your site, like the search engines do, only this is more deliberate, to throw off your stats.

I don’t remember the name of that company, and I’d pretty much forgotten about it until the last couple of days. The first one is that I came across a website that now does what that one did back in the day. It’s called Get Web Traffic Here, and for as little as $14.34 a month (I wonder how they came to that figure), you can get upwards of 200 visitors a day of “targeted” traffic. The best package, price-wise, will run you $154.95 for 2,500 visitors a day, plus a bonus of some kind.

It all sounds good, as far as getting visitors, but is it effective?

Well, if you research online and read articles on the subject, it would seem so, but everyone writing the articles has a vested interest in your possibly buying from them. Nope, can’t quite trust that, can we? One guy did make an interesting point, that being that if you purchase the traffic and make some sales, it may help build your confidence up and motivate you to try harder. That would be a more compelling argument if it had worked for me on my other sites a few years ago. Just a couple of sales would have gotten me there, I believe.

As I said, the big question on this is just how targeted the traffic can be. One example I read was a travel site looking for traffic geared towards that industry. What the article said is that companies often just purchase old domains that get some type of traffic, and then point those visitors your way. But they’re not as targeted as you might hope they would be, because, based on the numbers, it would be inconceivable for some businesses to be able to attain the type of traffic numbers for that particular field. So, some niches will work better than others.

Of course, there are some other ways to do it for free. Ben Pei of Make Money Online had this particular post that gave a list of free traffic exchanges, which was a pretty nice list, but to tell you the truth I’m not into that either. I’ve done it a few times, where you sign up with a site and basically trade visits. You visit so many pages and build up points, then people will visit your site. However, if you’re not interested in their stuff and they’re not interested in yours, then you’ve wasted your time and theirs; it’s not targeted traffic once again. Still, give it a look and see what else is there, because you might find something you like.

So then, what else do we do for more traffic? Blog commenting seems to be working fairly well lately for me, as well as mentioning my new posts on Twitter. I couldn’t tell you if I’m getting any new traffic from Facebook, and based on the fact that you have to “friend” people before they can view your site, I’d doubt it’s getting me far.

There is always commenting on forums to see if that drives more traffic, but that takes time. I also had a brief interaction with Lynn Terry (man, she’s real people; gotta love her!), getting her thoughts on article writing to drive traffic, and she says that, plus good SEO for your site, would work very well.

And, of course, there’s always your own bits of advertising through services like Adwords or purchasing other advertising. Link exchanges are always good, as well as getting listed on someone else’s blogroll if you’re writing a blog, which of course I am here.

For a website, something you might want to think about is SiteSell’s Value-Exchange program. Basically, you go in, give information about your site with your keywords, and if they approve your site, then they’ll send you webpages from time to that that seem to be a match for your site, and you get the opportunity to review them to see if you believe they’re a match, and then you can choose to contact them, whereas they’ll also get a chance to take a look back at you. Of course, you have to have a valid links page, and in my mind, if your links pages are hidden and hard to find, I’m not exchanging with you because it’s inherently unfair. But the program itself is great, and it’s free.

So, what am I going to do? I think, for now, that I’m not going to pay for more traffic, but I’m going to continue my posting on other blogs and getting back into forums, which I was doing a lot for awhile, but I’ve gotten out of it lately. I’ve enjoyed commenting on blogs, though, and having people come by for a visit is invigorating in its own way. I’m also thinking about starting two more pages on this site, which might help bring more traffic to the site eventually. Stay tuned for that, though; I don’t want to give it away just yet. 🙂

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