The difference between SEO and Spam…

There’s occasionally some confusion and complaints about SEO as being the cause of spam on the internet with irrelevant content being returned in search results because of unethical techniques. The problem is that within any industry you’ll get good, ethical people who work hard at what they do, and bad, unethical people who use tricks to get quick results and run with the cash.

But if you’re still concerned about spammy SEO and you should be optimising what you do, a new video by Google’s Head of Web Spam Team, Matt Cutts should help:

Good SEO takes time, effort and skill to ensure that relevant content and products are correctly returned for relevant search terms. Bad SEO promises to get you to #1 on Google by using every trick in the book.

And I’ll always practise and recommend good, ethical ‘white hat’ SEO practices for one simple reason – they give better, more cost effective and longterm results. By following the best practice recommendations of search engines, you don’t have to worry about getting found out, or getting your spam technique negated by an update, and having everything wiped out or penalised overnight. You’ll also have a solid foundation to build your business on, and as part of the work you’ll be improving the content and results in related areas, such as conversion rates and social media engagement.

And if you ever need advice, feel free to get in touch!

New Twitter spam attack

Just picked up on a warning via Mashable that 1000s of Twitter profiles appear to have been compromised in the latest attack of spam messages on the microblogging platform.

The attacks seem to be producing waves of spam messages, with hundreds of tweets, and then stopping for a while before starting again. The cause hasn’t been identified and the Twitter team have been informed.

Luckily in this case, the url in question hasn’t been masked with a shortening service, so don’t go to high-profits.org unless you fancy risking your account.

If your account has been compromised, change your password immediately etc…

And finally, think about how you might be affected – is the risk of spam and phishing scams a natural balance to adding 1000s of follows and followers that you don’t know, in order to boost your popularity?

Do you RT without checking links first? Click on links from people you haven’t established any reputation with?

I’m not saying close contacts can’t make a mistake and have their account hacked or phished – it’s happened to several friends with online email accounts – but commons sense and building trusted relationships will definitely lessen the odds of you being affected…

Twitter starts filtering links to malware

As more and more people use Twitter, so the number of spam/porn messages has increased – partly due to users succumbing to the numbers game and blindly following and re-tweeting anything they see.

So it’s a good move for Twitter to start blocking malware, as spotted by the F-Secure blog earlier today – making the service a little safer for the less-savvy.

It seems that the filtering itself comes via Bit.ly, checking against spam filters SURBL and Google Safe Browsing, and then adding a warning, as shown in the screen below from F-Secure (Obviously I don’t know any dodgy sites!):

fsecurescreen

Why we fall for ‘Don’t Click This’

A recent spam attack on Twitter was entirely based around spreading a link with the words ‘Don’t click this’ – which of course, plenty of people did.

It led quite a lot of people to ask why anyone would click on a link which says ‘Don’t Click This’.

And that reminded me of a programme by Derren Brown on this very subject, with his usual mix of psychology, illusion and trickery.

Annoying Channel 4 in it’s infinite wisdom has disabled embedding of the very clip I wanted to share.

So ‘Don’t Click’ this link to view a video Channel 4 would rather people didn’t see, spread, share and use to promote the television series they paid to commission. Sadly the whole show isn’t available, including the later demonstrations with adults, and more explanation of how exactly he puts the ideas into the subject’s head in the most suggestive way.

I’m sure there are more clinical examples in the psychology field – which reminds me why Rich Millington recommended some psychology reading and blogs in his Online Community Building Manifesto.

So make sure you don’t subscribe to my RSS feed, don’t recommend this post via Stumbleupon, Digg, or Delicious, and don’t retweet it!

Twitter phishing attack – the implications

Twitter has been hit by the first major effort to ‘phish‘ account details and spam users with links to a fake login page by Direct Messages from comprimised accounts.

The Twitter team has responded with a warning on the main web access page, and a warning on the Twitter blog. You can see the uproar it’s causing on Twitter via Twitter Search.

Currently the DMs are enticing people with:

  • Here’s a funny blog about you
  • Your picture is on this blog
  • You’ve won a free iphone

Luckily the phishers are at least sticking to the grand tradition of email spamming by either trying to entice you with a blatantly ‘too good to be true’ offer, or something personal with the link to a fake Twitter log-in page displayed in full, so hopefully the word has spread to most people.

However, this is likely to be just the start. As Pete Cashmore pointed out at Mashable, this is a sign Twitter has reached a big enough size to be a viable target for scams – a positive sign for Twitter’s growth perhaps, but also a sign that the scammers and spammers are coming, with pretty big implications for Twitter users.

Shortened urls:

For starters, we were all lucky in some ways that the bloggers obviously aren’t familiar with Twitter culture, and were displaying the full url of the fake website, meaning that even if the DM came from someone we absolutely trusted, we had a warning before clicking.

But given that the character limit of Twitter means that shortened urls are the norm, it will make it almost impossible to detect whether a link is likely to be fake before at least visiting it – meaning an urgent need for preview functionality of shortened urls at the bare minimum.

Warning systems:

A lot of Twitter users picked up on the scam emails via friends, and stayed up to date with information via the #phishing hash tag etc – Twitter responded promptly with a warning on the website and blog. But what about the many, many people using a client to access Twitter and their Direct Messages? And those using mobiles to access the service?

Will everyone get a warning via each client and application? Unlikely at the moment, unless there is a type of ‘emergency signal’ which could be broadcast across all clients and apps.

Verified App Store:

Which brings me to the next possible implication – a few people have suggested that the fake log in page is in fact working as a Twitter application to utilise the stolen accounts and passwords.

It’s long been a matter of contention for users and app developers that any 3rd party application which requires a certain level of functionality has to ask for usernames and passwords – but now the 3rd party developers could be hit by a huge loss of trust from users.

So could this be an opportunity for a verified and approved Twitter application resource? Possibly monetised by charging a fee for consumers (unlikely), or for developers to have their application tested and approved (more likely)?

This could have implications for the speed and amount of Twitter applications and clients being produced, and also move such development away from bedroom coders depending on the fees for such services.

It certainly means that there could be a move for more users to utilise more than one Twitter account to allow them to test applications and clients etc without comprimising their main account.

So what other implications do you think the arrival of large scale phishing attacks could have on Twitter – and what suggestions do you have for other Tweeple – and Twitter itself, to try to minimise the damage of future attacks?

How NOT to do social media – The Motorola Mishap

Found on CrunchGear, and originally on Boing Boing Gadgets is a great example of one or more people spamming the comments of everywhere they can find to promote a new phone by Motorola. One comment on Boing Boing demonstrates how much hard work this individual has been doing to shoehorn his stock comment into completely bizarre and irrelevant posts – just look at the posts.

Incidentally, from May 26, 2008, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 came into force.

This includes measures to prevent companies or marketing agencies posting on online forums and social networks to advertise goods or services in a way which implies they’re a normal consumer.

Part 2: Banned Practices: (22)
“Falsely claiming or creating the impression that the trader is not acting for purposes relating to his trade, business, craft or profession, or falsely representing oneself as a consumer.
A second-hand car dealership puts a used car on a nearby road and displays a handwritten advertisement reading ‘One careful owner. Good family run-around. £2000 or nearest offer. Call Jack on 01234 56789’. The sign gives the impression that the seller is not selling as a trader and hence this would breach CPR”  See more, here.

2 great productive solutions – Other Inbox and Remember the Milk for Gmail

I’ve been spending a lot of time hypothesizing about various things, so I’ll redress the balance with two practical tools I’m using which have really helped me recently.

Signing up for so many services for both work and pleasure put a real strain on my email inbox. So much so, that i was starting to dread the next time I had to enter my email address into a signup box to figure out whether a service was any good or not. Thankfully, something in my memory suddenly kicked into gear and I remembered a friend (Thanks, Tim) had invited me to OtherInbox.

I’ve started using it today, and it’s a simple and brilliant solution. When you sign up for a new service, simply used servicename@username.otherinbox.com. Then, all registration emails, updates and any spam is sent to Other Inbox, and automatically filed into folders for each service.

So I can easily find my login details, or check which services might have led to spam emails, without having to set up 101 fake email addresses!

The other huge productivity boon comes from my final acceptance that Googlemail really is awesome – particularly with Google labs opening up to Gadgets. I already inserted Google Docs into my email account, which is useful, but then I found out Task Management service Remember the Milk now has a Google Gadget! That means I now have my email, documents I’m working on, and my task list in one place to keep track.

Combine that with using OtherInbox for better filtering, and suddenly Googlemail is becoming a personal hub for my online life and reinvigorating my waning interest in ever using email.

I can already see myself with 3 hubs for my entire life.

  1. One for my external publishing on blogs etc,
  2. One for managing my personal profiles,
  3. One for my personal communication and productivity.

Google is already taking care of 3. And various Twitter and blog uploading applications are competing for my attention. Meanwhile OpenSocial and Facebook Connect are working towards solving 2.

The inverse proportionality of Facebook applications to friendship…

As with any social network a pattern has emerged for me on Facebook.

The people closest to me, send the least application requests – and when they do, they’re pretty relevant and either useful or entertaining.

The people right on the very fringes on my network are the ones most likely to have sent me 20 pointless applications requests one after the other, meaning I’m going to delete all without even paying much attention.

At a time when I’m finding ways for a major company to choose quality over quantity for relevant communication, it’s ironic individuals, and in some cases, the users of that company’s products, are so prone to spamming without seemingly realising.

Even the industries you think get Web 2.0 can miss…

When you imagine the markets which should be embracing the internet, communities, and engagement, you’d imagine marketing, PR, and media would be all clamouring to be at the forefront of the list.

So it was a bit of a shock when I noticed a distant Facebook friend had been banned from using the social network whilst at work. At a PR firm…

In a world where the broadcast model of traditional PR and media will become less and less effective, I’d be making sure my employees knew Facebook, and their business contacts, incredibly well. Rather than emailing 400 journalists with one stock message, why not spend time looking at their profiles, their interests, and their hobbies. Find out what makes them tick away from work, and use all that information to invidually target the most receptive journalists and outlets…

And increasingly you’ll be needing to reach an army of bloggers, and amateur writers. How will you even find them without building a network now?

Or you could just send out a mass email and hope it isn’t caught in a spam filter or deleted…

Social networking site angers users…

It seems like Twitter and the blogosphere is full of complaints about new social networking site Quechup. Just look at a quick Google search.

Lots of sites now offer to search your online and offline email and IM clients for people you know who might be using the same service. And most will then let you select who you might wish to invite.

But it seems Quechup indiscriminately emails everyone from any address book you list.

Bad, bad Quechup.

It’s stopped me signing up to find out if they’re doing anything different, especially as the homepage suggests not. Without a compelling reason to risk spamming all my friends, I’ll let everyone else try it out!