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The Search For Position 29 November 2001 Edition
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Yesterday's news links included a story revealing that the search engine Google was planning to implement a user-feedback system so as to better rank websites according to their quality.

As anyone who's ever checked their webserver's logfile will tell you, search engines are one of the leading sources of traffic and good placement on popular engines can make the difference between success and failure.

Unfortunately, a lot of scamsters and idiots also realise this, and they go to inordinate lengths to cheat their way to the top by fooling the algorithms used by those search engines.

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Getting your site located in the first page of a search engine's results used to be a fairly trivial task -- often requiring little more than just copying the meta-tags of the site that was already number one.

The ranking methods used to be very simplistic and easy to trick -- but these days they're a whole lot more complex and the amount of skill required to get yourself near the top of the list is correspondingly higher.

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I could give you a long list of methods I've discovered which help you boost your search-engine ranking -- but then I'd have to beg for my dinner because such stuff is valuable information with a strong commercial value.

Indeed -- I'm surprised that more commercial websites aren't investing in the services of those who have such skills. After all, why spend thousands of dollars every month on advertising (which is often ineffective) when you can spend less and get a whole lot more by increasing your visibility at Google, Yahoo, Altavista or other prime locations?

Maybe it's because many people have been burnt by "experts" who regularly advertise that they'll get you up there in the top ten of search results returned. Clearly these "experts" must ensure that they don't accept more than 10 clients for any particular search term eh?

Of course it's not as simple or easy as these "experts" might suggest.

It *is* easy to get any website listed in the top 10 results if you're prepared to accept an obtuse or unlikely search term as your criteria -- but where's the value in that?

And, as I've said on previous occasions -- don't waste your dollars on those paid search-engine submission services. There are only a handful of search engines or directories worth being listed on and you're better off spending that money ensuring that your ranking on those sites is as good as you can get it.

Newsgroups Under Surveillance
Those interested in illegal activities or material such as warez, pirated MP3s and kiddy-porn have been given notice this morning that newsgroups are no longer a safe place to play.

As reported by just about every news agency on the planet, UK police have been covertly monitoring the online activities of those who accessed the newsgroups at Demon Internet for several months. After building up a list of those who were most active in the numerous child pornography areas, they carried out a global swoop -- rounding up the offenders.

Of course I doubt that anyone in their right mind will be too concerned that a bunch of paedophiles have been dealt to -- would we be quite so happy if the same tactic had been taken to identify and nab those who swap MP3 files through the growing list of newsgroups to which pirated music is regularly posted?

Imagine the cops rolling up at 4am to arrest your teenage son and confiscate his computer because he'd been discovered downloading an ACDC album from a newsgroup?

As anyone who has browsed the list of available newsgroups will confirm, they cover just about every conceivable subject -- and a whole lot that are just totally inconceivable. Will authorities decide that newsgroups related to drug use are a good place to round up suspects?

Is this level of snooping a good thing or a bad thing -- what do you think?

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