Warning: Strong Language. Why I hate cybersquatters and Google cloggers!

Cybersquatters - the shadowy players online (Photo: Smath via Flickr)

Cybersquatters - the shadowy players online (Photo: Smath via Flickr)

There are two things that make me angry about so-called ‘web entrepreneurs’ – they treat this medium like a shady, seedy, sideshow alley where business is all about trickery, distraction and junky trinkets.

The people I refer to do one of two things:

  • They pull together junky sites with a content ‘scraped’ from proper websites to fool Google, gain a good ranking and then flog tacky ads at unsuspecting visitors
  • They buy domain names with popular keywords and squat on them until someone buys them

But today we can celebrate another win against them.

Portal or affiliate sites

The first type of offender has been dealt a savage blow by Google this year.

Some very clever and long overdue changes to the formula Google uses when compiling search results has banished many of these low quality sites out of harm’s way.

What I hated about these sites is best described by example.

Earlier this year I researched places to stay and things to do in Darwin for an April visit with my family.

I have worked with hundreds of Top End businesses and advised them on how to structure and populate their websites with content that is both helpful to visitors and understandable to Google (in that order).

And yet the top of the Google search results was ‘polluted’ with sites that had pooled babble from various sources together using all the keywords that are popular, strewn across pages that were put together in an amateur way, littered with those ugly Google line ads stuffed between paragraphs and next to images.

The sites were appalling. The content was useless and pushed well crafted sites further down the rankings.

The operators of these sites often had no passion for their topics, just a maniacal devotion to stuffing keywords that would draw in unsuspecting web users in the hope these victims would mistake some of the ads for content and click on them, thus yielding the owners a few cents in affiliate earnings.

I often described them like shady characters running rigged sideshows in dark alleys, preying on first-timers and luring them to ‘try their luck’ to win the unwinnable stuffed toys on display.

While we do exist in a free market economy, these ‘types’ added no value to the world and just clogged the system making it harder for genuine prospects to connect with genuine businesses.

Today is a different story. Do a search on those topics today and you will see some well-established national sites along with a slew of local sites.

It looks like Google’s super-powered Vitual Vermin Remover has done a good job – at least for now.

Cybersquatters

The other curse of the free market has been people who research popular keyword combinations and then buy domain names that use those words so that they can later sell them to genuine businesses in such categories for exaggerated prices. This is not quite ‘cybersquatting’ – which is more to do with grabbing trademarks and company names before the rightful owner can – but it is just as frustrating for

While companies today can use legal devices to strike back against cybersquatting, we had success today with a small operator by using some trickery of our own.

The small husband and wife team (I will protect their identities) have a new business and had started it before I’d had a chance to counsel them on names and domain names.

To cut a long story short, the .com version of a strategically important domain name was being squatted by speculator who wanted many thousands of dollars for something that cost him about $30.

My strategy when trying to negotiate in these situations has been to play dumb, play small and play curious rather than desperate.

It worked.

This husband and wife team now has an important and potentially valuable domain name for $1000, which is less than any legal fees might have been and eradicates some risks in the marketplace for them in the future as they grow.

So there we have it. Google is cleaning up its neighbourhood (which should give some hope to small business operators in the Northern Territory that their honest marketing communication efforts have a fair chance of thriving) and a little bit of storytelling and courage to ‘ask’ has wrested a domain back into the hands of people who will use it to promote useful, helpful content, not internet pollution!

PS If you were looking for the bad language, sorry, I took deep breaths instead.

 

 

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