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Email Interception: Good or Bad? 25 July 2000 Edition
Previous Edition

Legislation that will give courts the power to allow police to intercept and monitor email is about to be introduced into parliament and there's the usual hoo-ha going on as to whether this is an infringement of personal rights, etc.

Once side argues that since the courts already have the power to authorise the interception and monitoring of regular mail and phone calls -- why shouldn't email be included. The other side says that it's a massive breach of privacy and the rights of the individual.

My opinion is -- who cares?

Let's face it, the smart criminals, terrorists and others that the state might want to keep an eye on will simply use strong encryption to protect their email. The only people that will be incriminated by having their email intercepted are the those who are so stupid that they deserve to get caught anyway.

However, where such a system will become invaluable is in obtaining evidence to successfully prosecute those who might use the Net for stalking or predating young children. The nature of these communications means that they won't be using encryption anyway.

So, just a word to the courts and the police -- don't expect such powers to provide a bonanza of evidence in cases of hard crime -- it won't. However, at least our women and children may be a little safer from those who sit at their keyboards wearing a PVC raincoat.

What do you think?

Marketing Your Website Part 4
At this stage we should have done all the homework to ensure that our site is set up to be highly ranked on the top five or six search engines -- but just a note -- don't forget to include one or two search engines that are specific to your own geographical region. In New Zealand I'd be sure to include 4 Search NZ because it's the best, plus one or two others such as 4 NZ Pages and 4 Access NZ.

Most search engines take from two to six weeks before a newly added site appears in their database so make a note in your diary to check up at regular intervals and spot when your site appears and how it's ranked.

It's also worth remembering that thousands of new sites are being added every day so although you're ranked right up there today, tomorrow you may get pushed off the first page by new additions. This will require you to review your pages in an attempt to recover your ranking. You should make entries in your diary to check your position at least once a month.

Banner Exchanges
I'm going to mention banner exchanges now because many of the options in this area are such a very bad idea.

Perhaps the most popular of all the banner exchanges is 4 Link Exchange -- and, in my opinion, it's the epitome of everything that's bad about such systems.

Unfortunately the basic model on which the banner exchange system is based is fatally flawed if you're a new site trying to generate traffic.

The theory behind such systems is that you give piece of your webpage to the exchange network and they display banner ads for other sites in that spot. Each time another site is advertised on your site, you earn a credit that is put towards displaying your banner on other sites. Sounds pretty good doesn't it?

However -- if your site currently has little traffic, the banner network isn't going to be delivering many ads through your pages -- hence you won't be earning many credits towards having your own banner displayed.

What's worse, many, many sites carrying these banners tend to place them in low-value areas of their own site -- such as hidden away at the bottom of a page or, in some cases, on a page that is built solely to display a whole lot of banners from various exchange networks. This means that if your banner is lucky enough to be shown on someone else's site, chances are that it will be completely ignored.

About two years ago I experimented by advertising my 7am.com News Ticker and Java Clock on Link Exchange. I placed a Link Exchange banner on a high traffic area of the 7am.com site which got several thousand visitors a day. Over a period of some six months, the link exchange banner network delivered around 1-2 visitors per day. That means I had to display as many as 2,000 banner ads for the Link Exchange network just to earn a single visitor to my site.

To prove that it wasn't just a really bad banner ad, the same banner placed on the 7am.com front-page achieved a click-through rate of more than 10 percent.

So, in my opinion, banner exchanges do little but make your site look cheap and are best avoided.

Tomorrow I'll discuss two far superior options to banner exchanges -- web rings and complementary linking.

Continued tomorrow...

As always, your feedback is welcomed.

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