Dark Underbelly of Internet Business

by SMD 

In the last few days I’ve seen three examples of the shadiness that exists in the world of online business that I felt compelled to pass along for your entertainment and enlightenment.

The first is from Wired magazine and was about a criminal attack on a competitor’s website. The guy is, in essence, the online equivalent of a hit man.

An Ohio computer hacker who served as a digital button man for a shady internet hosting company faces prison time after admitting he carried out one of a series of crippling denial-of-service attacks ordered by a wealthy businessman against his competitors.

These are the same type of attacks that took my sites down for 8 days last month and they can do considerable damage. Not only the immediate loss of sales, but damaged reputation of reliability and the damage to search engine positioning – site uptime can affect search engine ranking. Overall the opportunity to do serious damage to your competitors online with relatively simple techniques, is very real.

On that topic I came across this site which has coined a new phrase called “Google Bowling“. The name comes from the idea that if your site is #6 on the Google results page, you just bowl down the top 5 and voila, you’re in the big money. The stats I’ve seen indicate that the #1 spot in Google gets about 70% of the clicks, with #2 getting about 10%, #3 getting %5 and the rest on down from there. You can see that to get to the #1 spot can be the equivalent to winning the lottery for some businesses.

The practice is like proper search engine optimization, turned on its head and aimed at your competition. Essentially you break every rule in Google’s webmaster guidelines and make it look like your competition did it. You do it enough and eventually you will trigger one of Google’s punitive filters and get your target’s site banned from the Google index.

I even saw these guys who offer their services as Google Bowlers for hire [despite their leanings towards the dark side, their site does have some pretty good info]. According to their blurb it will cost you about $10,000 to take out 4 or 5 above you on Google, but don’t worry they have presented a complete business analysis which clearly demonstrates, with facts and calculations, why that is money well spent. You gotta love covert operators who are also marketing pros!

The last shade of grey for tonight is basically an automated program that allows you to create massive numbers of inbound links to your site [in its simplest form the number of backlinks it the leading determination of your position on the search engine results pages]. This program [BlogSubmitter] allows you to set up automated scripts that will go out and spam blog comments in order for you to get enough keyword targeted backlinks to get you on top of the search engines.

The first of the three “techniques” for getting ahead in online business is illegal and will land you in jail, but the other two are certainly not illegal, but probably immoral at the very least.

Although, I have to say, that there have been plenty of times that I have thought of the internet as just this big video game where anything goes but if these practices become more common it could create a pretty wild environment to do business in.

Since they are the ones in power, it all comes down to Google and the other major search engines, to not create rules that can be used in these ways.  As Google becomes more and more interested in dictating policy on the web, I fear that loopholes which “encourage” these kinds of strategies will become more common.

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4 Responses to “Dark Underbelly of Internet Business”

  1. YoungMiser on June 12th, 2007 4:17 pm

    Let us not forgot the endless flaming that can take place on the internet about a business. Anybody can say any amount of negitive false information they want without any consequences. Then of course, these flames (depending on how determined the person is) can get these flames to show up on google when the company name is inserted into a good search. nice huh?

  2. Nikki on June 12th, 2007 4:17 pm

    The big “G” is methodically going after blog spammers, starting in their own backyard. Legislation is so far behind the cyber world. Even if it were to catch up, what I do in Malysia is still not punishable in the US or the Cayman Islands.

  3. Jon on June 12th, 2007 4:18 pm

    Nikki, I agree that Google is going after spam on blogger, but what has always intrigued me is why don’t they just pull the AdSense from the sites that the spam is promoting? That is the motivatoin for the spam, so without any profit source, there would be no reason for the spam.

  4. Nikki on June 12th, 2007 4:18 pm

    Most of the time it’s PPC industries doing comment spam: porn, pills, and casinos. They are relentless. I was away for a week and my personal journal is getting about 5-10 spam comments a day. It’s ridiculous. These folks don’t make the bulk of their money from AdSense. They get big affiliate checks. What Google has been doing is removing them from the rankings, but they are like roaches. They multiply at ridiculous rates.

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