Just How Dangerous are Link Networks? - Coop Ad Network

77 comments
Thread Title:
Digital Point's Cooperative Ad Network
Thread Description:

Aaron Wall of SEOBook.com has a nice write up threadlinked above, of Shawn from DigitalPoint's Coop Ad Network where members post code to their pages that display links to other members of the network's sites.

It's a little more complex than just that of course, here's a snippet from Aarons post:

Coop Ad Network Rating as Currency:
The Coop Ad Network rating is actually becoming a currency...

Where there is Value...
When other people sign up under your account you gain added network credits. Some people are sending out affiliate link embedded emails recommending the coop ad network.

Now, i know the network is working well becuase i read over at dp quite a bit, time permitting, but in an amazing coincidence glengara over at SEW posts a warning (apparently out of the goodness of his heart..) about the network just an hour or so later.

I have to say that such a network would indeed worry me. So the questions are:

  • Is the COOP Ad Network potentially dangerous with regard to Google/Yahoo! link scheme penalties?
  • Are all such networks to be avoided?
  • Is it a great idea that benefits everyone?

Tell us what you think of ad networks in general and specifically the COOP Network...

Comments

SEW link not working

Did they remove the thread?

With a quick read of the DP faq on this, it sounds very similar to the old Link Exchange ad network (which Microsoft now owns and I believe is still in place). It's been around since the mid 90's. It's not a search engine scheme, just a traffic/ad network.

I'm not sure how the DP one differs from the LE one.

Nope

But it's been reposted minus the link to the network here:
http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=3405

There's no way to be certain, but bearing in mind that i dont normally allow hearsay, rumour or downright falsehoods to inhibit my posting at TW (hehe!) i'd guess that glengara has a stake in the scheme and is negatively promoting it.

One of the mods, most likely Marcia as she probably has the most experince (paranoia?) on modding this kind of thing has thought it a promo, much like I did and asked him to repost without the specifics...

Seeing as i've been deleted in the thread i'd guess i'm due a pm so i'll let you know...

SEW link not working

I think the poster may have had his knuckles rapped [rightly so, imho] and has reposted a sainitised version.

http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/showthread.php?t=3405

Well

That nails it, as rc said the other day "2 debbies dont make a wrong" - or something to that effect lol..

i'd guess that glengara has a stake in the scheme

I very much doubt it, his main hobby seems to be trashing other peoples biz models/opinions.

Ahhh...

I said in the thread that it seemed odd for someone to post a "warning" without any kind of interest in it...

Now i see. I know he has a bit of a rep but we've had few encounters so i'll take your word for it...

Now, back on topic:

Is the COOP Ad Network a risk?

I think any scheme bears some kind of risk but i hear almost nothing but good reports from the boys and girls involved over at dp...

>2 debbies Drastic said: "

>2 debbies

Drastic said: "2 debbies are never wrong." (And we'll leave the rest of the world to figure out who these debbies are.)

Risk

I took a look at the network and here's my impression:

1.) Members and sites are anonymous (unless they disclose their identity in the forum).

2.) Two files are required on the domain, both of which can be renamed and still work.

3.) Link data is fetched server-side before a given page is presented and displayed as standard text link(s) (I'm not sure about image links).

4.) Since there appears to be no footprint, how could there be detection by the SEs?

5.) I don't see why the SEs would have a problem with this system. It appears to simply be an automated method of sharing rotated reciprocal links. As webmasters we have the right to link out to any sites we wish.

6.) I don't see any Google or Yahoo TOC violations. Does anyone else?

Great Idea - Bad Implementation

Guy, lets be honest here...

Here are some problems with te network:

1) Totally unreleated link exchanges.
2) No quality control by the webmaster of each site.
3) Links are right inside the closing body tag is if to signfy it's only for search engines, not users.
4) No Quality control over where links are placed. For instance, I saw some pages just by accident that were complete junk that had the coop ad network on it.

I posted that I would ask my rep at Google, and I did. He finally replied to me, but he said that he didn't know. He then forwarded me a "standard" Google canned response. But at the end he said," I would use your own judgement Shawn".

I think Shawn (DigitalPoint) should make it better (which I'm sure he will). He should figure out how to address the concerns above. The main ones being the unrelated ads on the bottom of the pages.

Many people have posted things like, there is no way that Google could ever penalize anyone for..eg there is no way they would find out. Well, I promise you that's not true.

Just a couple examples: Shawn advertises his Ebay page on the network, and that page is shown on almost 90% of pageviews it seems. So they can just track that page's backlinks and boom, they'll find the participants. And let's be honest, eBay is one Google's leading advertisers, let's just say people see things.

Secondly they can ping each website for a file name of ad_network_ads.txt and see a ton of the sites that participate in it. As you can see, there are quite a few security holes in it.

Ps, sorry it took me so long to stop by Nick :)

How is it different...

Than Microsoft's Link Exchange program which has been going on since the mid 90's? (Changed to Bcentral, now apparently called Microsoft Small Business Banner Advertising.)

Look at #3 of my above post:

Look at #3 of my above post:

3) Links are right inside the closing body tag is if to signify it's only for search engines, not users.

This is one of the biggest problems with the network. Links especially ones with targeted anchor text to unrelated websites (some of which are very shady) that appear in the footer of a site in size -1 font size is usually not meant for humans.

That's what different about it.

I was just thinking about this.

Didn't we just cover the hazards of not checking whether who you're linking to is spam over in this thread? For example, this Polish site has decided to implement their links using hidden text

Seems like a very ill-advised program to me, because it's quite likely that as spam creeps into this link network, it will greatly affect the reputation of the people that link to the spam. Just my hunch though.

AdSense Without Context

I would strongly recommend reading why the network was built at http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/ad-network/history.html

Trust me, I know Shawn from Digital Point for a long time now. If Google told him to shut it down, he would. He did not build it to manipulate Google's rankings. He built it in order to allow advertisers publish ads at the rate AdSense works, but without the JavaScript requirement. It is not yet contextual, but it is something he is looking to add to the network. It just doesn't pay at the moment.

Please read the history at the link above, as it says "The bottom line is I've done what I set out to acheive. An advertising network that is free, can't be disabled on the client-side and drives real user traffic that converts into actual sales. Now I need something new to experiment with." Again, Google, feel free to contact Shawn directly and let him know your concerns. Trust me, he will work with you to ward off any concerns you might have when it comes to linking within bad neighborhoods.

Adsense..

I agree that in *theory* the network sounds awesome. But, why static links with anchor text on the very bottom of the page? If they want to emulate Google Adsense, then make the ads in the content where people click them, not just where the search engines can see them. Wouldn't you agree.

Unsafe, so ineffective long-term

Shawn:

A webmaster can place the ads in any location on a page they wish, not just the bottom of the page. Placement of links is a factor, but not a deal breaker in my view.

As I mentioned, the webmaster can change the name of the two network files, so this is a moot point.

Tracking advertisers by watching his eBay pages makes Google into The U.S. Department of Homeland Security. With 8 billion pages to manage, it seems to me that the bulk of their quality control work would be algorithmic.

There is a low probability of contextual/thematic/topical link-to-site matching, so the benefit IBLs provide is PR and most likely not Link Reputation. However, this isn't penalty territory.

I think your, and GoogleGuy's, points of potentially linking out to bad neighborhoods is "the difference that makes the difference" and will definitely keep me from recommending the network.

rustybrick: I don't think Shawn's (of DigitalPoint) intent or vision is relevant to the core issues. Let's just assume his purpose is positive and that he's a good guy. The real issue is whether this method is both *effective* and *safe* (it's free, besides a little outbound PR, so *cost* isn't a factor). From my perspective, it seems to be very effective--especially for large sites--but does not seem safe. Therefore, since it's not safe, it's only effective in the short-term. Thus, it's free and ineffective long-term.

Jill: Regarding comparisons to Microsoft Small Business Banner Advertising--I know very little about the service--my question is, does Microsoft engage in any kind of quality control? That is, do they screen participating sites in any useful ways?

Aloha,
Kirk out

Automated reciprocal link exchanges.

rustybrick, I'm sure that LinksToYou or LinkTopics might have had good intentions too. But I'm saying that participation in a program that leads one to link to a site with pages
(or the hidden text links I mentioned earlier) can directly impact the reputation of one's own site. If people realize that and want to take that risk, that's their choice of course.

Forums

GG makes some interesting comments

I run a forum on my site - people of course post all sorts of information and just one post may contain a link to a bad neighbourhood that the admin doesnt catch.

Seem that the site could get penalised for that as well ?

links

Hi leeds1, Welcome to Threadwatch, do introduce yourself

I can't tell you how Google look at that but I can give you my thoughts :)

If you run a forum and you allow live links then it's *your* responsibility to ensure that the links being posted adhere to your guidelines - That being said, it's perfectly reasonable to expect some links that do fit your rules to be pointing to "bad neighborhoods" isn't it?

Im of the opinion that you shouldn't worry too much about it. I'll be damned if im going to go scope out every site that gets linked to here *and* it's network to ensure it's a good neiborhood so the general thought goes like this: If the links adhere to your guidelines and add genuine value to the thread, they're good links - If the links are good for users and add value, but Google decides in it's infinite wisdom that you should be in some way slapped for linking to those sites then there is somthing wrong at Google, i'll let them sort it out.

Thinking of links in terms of your users and the value they add to a thread *should* ensure minimal bad links and one would hope that Google is sensible enough not to hand out slaps for providing quality information.

Does that make sense? Im only on my 2nd cup of coffee and already it's been a busy day at TW heh...

great site

I will introduce myself later

I was thinking more of the signature files - I check the thread itself very carefully but never check sigs

I know google doesnt give much weight to sigs these days so maybe they simply filter them out

With the DP thing - perhaps nothing is taken from forums these days for ranking/ serps/ PR purposes, so ads at the bottom of a forum maybe OK ?

Who knows ?!!

sigs

>>but never check sigs

Them maybe you should start :-)

Ooops

and welcome Shawn also! Please do likewise in the intro thread linked above :) nice to see you in here m8!

You know, this is when we need Jill's input on "for users" - her and I disagree on many issues but as far as avoiding bad neighborhoods go i think we sing from the same hym sheet do we not Jill?

...and she explains it better than I - practice makes perfect heh...

You can place them Wherever you like!

Just wanted to clear this small point up... People seem to be saying that the links always appear at the bottom of the page - in fact you can place the advert text/banner wherever you like.
It seems to be working for me anyway ;)

In general terms

These type of services all seem to suffer the same fundemental flaw, this is from BT's now defunct Buddy Links program:

"You must ask yourself why sites would join BL in the
first place? Because they couldn't get listed in the
search engines. That left us at times 'bottom'
feeding."

http://www.searchengineworld.com/links/

>different from Microsoft's Link Exchange

I believe that is a banner exchange service, the words "static text links" aren't used as a feature, AFAIK.

Such cynicism...

Sorry to disappoint you Nick/NFFC, but I have no interest/involvement with that or any competing links wheeze ;-)

Strange as it may appear to some, it was a genuine warning, mostly to counter some of the positive spin I've read from network members, and I'm glad to see at least some agree.

*his main hobby seems to be trashing other peoples biz models/opinions*

Only when warranted NFFC, and never for pleasure ;-)

The Co-op network is a great

The Co-op network is a great idea - certainly on a small scale - but ideally it's going to have to focus on setting up relevant connections between related-topic sites. The sooner that users are able to filter what sort of topic links they want to use, the better.

As it gets bigger the risks are going to increase - namely because it's only a matter of time before some rather nasty practices start to creep in at the commercial level.

As a small network of usually non-commercial forums, looking to raise their profile a little - it's a great idea. But as it grows larger it would absolutely need to adapt to ensure that it can keep to original intentions.

Editors

It is a shame there are those that would abuse the system. What would you all recommend to Digital Point in order to lock down this network?

- Editors?
- Black lists?
- No linking out to PR0 sites?

Ideas?

by the way

I never did get a pm about being deleted, just a bad rep point for "to sarcastic" - are we losing our manners at SEW?

Welcome to Threadwatch glengara, do introduce yourself

pulled thread

Thread was pulled for mentioning the network by name, getting more like WMW by the day...

*do introduce yourself*

Thought you guys had already done a good job of it ;-)

Thread

I am pretty sure the thread is under review until the super mods get back.

So am i..

My bad rep link led to the private forum lol....

If a thread is removed though, regardless of whether it may reappear (which in this case is unlikely seeing as a sanitized version was put in it's place) then i do think it bad manners not to inform the parties involved dont you?

Sensitive

Your comments make you sound like your a bit sensitive.

Nick, before I talk, let me look into the issue. I really do not know the whole situation. For all I know, it can be a duplicate content issue.

For the users...?

Nick asked:

Quote:
You know, this is when we need Jill's input on "for users" - her and I disagree on many issues but as far as avoiding bad neighborhoods go i think we sing from the same hym sheet do we not Jill?

Seems to me that if you join this network because you want to advertise your site on other sites (which is exactly like MS's banner program previously mentioned), then this looks like an interesting program.

Of course, it's in competition with Google Adwords and Overture, so they may not like it just for that. But who cares if they like it or not? The search engines don't (shouldn't) tell you how to design your site and who you advertise with.

If the network looks good to you and you want to advertise your site on other sites that are in it, plus show ads on your own sites (all for free) then you should do it.

I'd definitely worry about "bad" sites getting into the network, as GoogleGuy suggested. Not because it might be a problem with Google, but because who wants crappy sites advertised on theirs? That will be the biggest hurdle for this network, especially if they are not doing contextual ads, but just random ones.

Personally, I'd much rather run contextual ads on my sites than random ads about just anything. It's doubtful they'll get many clicks if they're not relevant to the site they're on.

getting more like WMW by the day...

Quote:
If a thread is removed though, regardless of whether it may reappear (which in this case is unlikely seeing as a sanitized version was put in it's place) then i do think it bad manners not to inform the parties involved dont you?

I tend to think that this form of bad manners leads any forum onto the wrong part of the Bell Shaped Curve, as posters just give up on that forum.

Mind you, having said that, I am not sure that Americans are as sensitive to this lack of manners than us thin skinned Europeans.

Thanks Jill

Great, thankyou Jill!

>sensitive

Not at all, im rather glad the thread was pulled and really dont mind not being notified, however, regardless of whether it bothers me or not, bad manners is just bad manners and as cornwall rightly said - it can thow a forum into the bell-shaped-curve early...

Now, dont go to any bother on my account Barry, i really dont need an explanation as we've discussed it to death right here anyway - but you might pass on my point about manners and bells heh..

Jill, where's my xmas card! :)

Respect and Manners

I will bother, but thanks Nick for encouraging me not to.

So who are these links for?

As Shawn mentioned, try adding /ad_network_ads.txt to some of the member sites, here's what I got for one.

bunch of keywords...

bandwidth problem?

*bunch of keywords... *

Well it doesn't quite have the dramatic effect of the edited out list of hundreds of unrelated links, but if brevity is the soul of wit.....

As per the guidelines

..you can talk to me about edits in pm glengara - you'll find you have one waiting for you already.

http://www.threadwatch.org/guidelines

thanks.

Now..

Would anyone like to bring this back on topic with something about link networks?

On a personal note, I've spoken to Shawn a couple of times and he seems like a very decent chap. I'd like to see his network succeed and progress to the next level which as Brian points out it's going to have to gear up a notch to cope with it's growing popularity...

Shawn Seems to be Away

I'll get him over here as soon as possible.

One thing he is, is honest and very good person.

Site A, B, and C Power Site X - Pros and Cons

GG mentioned that LINKING to spam can be detrimental. Even though this sounds like a bit of a warning shot, on that front I think this network is fairly safe.

2 positive factors -
1-Quality control - from the impression I got, all ads are approved manually, which means if the QC is high, which I would guess that it is, the spam sites shouldn't get through. This is not to say that the sites themselves might not be modified at a later time in a "bait and switch", but I think this ongoing and scalable QC will play a large part in how well the network holds up.

2- Unless the advertiser WANTS to there is no reciprocal linking. You can place the ads on site A, B, and C, and only have incoming links to your other site that you are actively promoting - site X - by GG's logic, this would place sites A, B, and C at risk, but site X is in the clear. Maybe this turns out to be a good option for those sites that are not completely reliant on SE traffic but still have a strong user base (forums?)? The network places weight based on G information, so banned sites would not garner much weight anyhow, and would not place them on others sites, unless the advertiser are willing to throw in their "clean" sites as sites A, B, and C and put their "dark" site in as site X which may or may not get approved anyhow. In a way using the G information (while this may be flawed due to the backlinks issues), is a fairly self policing method of keeping low quality sites in the network to a minimum.

2 negative factors:

1-Not contextually relevant - but does everything ALWAYS have to be?

2-Also as mentioned, the downfalls of this and any automated link exchange is the high possibility and likelihood for manipulation. If this gets large, it's easiest for Y and G to wash out the sites involved which may not exactly be "fair", but it is most like the reality of the situation. Keeping a handle on network manipulation is quite a challenge and somewhat unlikely.

Well..

I pointed out one network member using hidden text and another with keyword stuffed doorway pages in the next post. Wait, I see. NickW edited my posts and snipped the urls I mentioned. The edits don't make it very clear that I was pointing out spammy sites that were already in the network. No wonder people weren't understanding what I said about the real risk of hurting one's reputation, even today.

This is quite a conundrum. SEW snipped NickW's mention of the program name, then NickW snipped my examples of spam in the program already. My head hurts. :)

(NickW, I understand your policy; it just makes it hard to discuss the pros and cons of the program fully if people assume that everyone in the program is innocent now.)

>It is a shame there are thos

>It is a shame there are those that would abuse the system. What would you all recommend to Digital Point in order to lock down this network?

some of the links are for stuff like meso or debt and whatnot...lots of the sites are in there to make bank. you cant judge the quality of a person or how they will change over time by doing a quick site review.

>- Editors?
- Black lists?
- No linking out to PR0 sites?

PR penalties only show after the site is penalized, so checking by pagerank might be after the fact.

all sites in one way or another eventually link into low quality sites. how many bloggers look through their archives to see if domains they linked to in the past were purchased by other people with commercial intent? how many .edu sites have a ton of broken, bad, or outdated links?

the thing that seperates the network from most sites is that it can drive a ton more value...and thus will attract more bad stuff than the average site. since there is lots of value and virtually no cost this network will become exceptionally appealing to many high margin websites.

From contact I have had with Shawn he has been nothing but a great guy, but I think over time the network will have a ton more stresses placed upon it. I think in the long term there might need to be two tiers to the program (paid for added benefit or free) or donations or something that can help pay for its administration.

You have just...

put that to rights :-)

Not my intention to distort the meaning of posts but im glad you understand the policy.

Actually, since you last came in, there's been much talk of bad sites getting into the network, in fact, it's been the prime concern i'd say...

Digital Point Bans Those who Hide Links

When digitalpoint detects that someone is cloaking or hiding these links, he bans them outright from the network. Of course things fall through, he goes through the links on a regular basis by hand. So at any time, someone might be abusing the system, but in due time the will be banned from the ad network.

The individual webmasters who

The individual webmasters who participate in the forums have zero control over what ads get shown. Moreover, what if your competitor wanted to sign up? Now you're linking to your competetion.

The Coop Ad Network is an easy, quick fix for getting genuine link popularity. And as the old saying goes.. "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is".

An Example of Why Specifics Suck

Quote:
how many .edu sites have a ton of broken, bad, or outdated links?

Or even *cough* sponsored text links on them?

Quote:
I pointed out one network member using hidden text and another with keyword stuffed doorway pages

I think we could point out a fair share of those in even the top SE's though as well, no?

Quote:
When digitalpoint detects that someone is cloaking or hiding these links, he bans them outright from the network.

Sounds kinda like the SE's to me.

This is a prime example of why specifics suck. It would be cool to discuss this if we KNEW that G wouldn't be banning the network a few weeks later. No matter if the network is a good way to advertise or not...simple fact is it is direct competition for G's prime revenue source, and a way to get better rankings (gaming the results), so why would they let it stand unless it provided a revolutionary new service to their users? Methinks the days of the coop are now probably numbered. As soon as something like this goes "above the radar" it is sunk. You heard GG's warning shot. If you're brave enough to use this now, at least change the default filenames.

No Control

I want full control of all outbound links on all of my sites. I display AdSense, but the links are redirected through Google.

DP could approve a site/page, and then the webmaster could just change the content. Bait and switch. I don't know who approves sites at DP, their skill level, or their selection/rejection criterion. Relying on DP network admins to maintain quality control is a tall order. For me, the risk isn't worth the reward.

rustybrick mentioned:

Quote:
One thing he is, is honest and very good person.

Again, Shawn's (DP) positive intent and personality is irrelevant to whether this Ad Network in specific, or this concept in general, is 1.) Safe; 2.) Effective.

Jill mentioned:

Quote:
But who cares if they like it or not? The search engines don't (shouldn't) tell you how to design your site and who you advertise with.

But the search engines--at least Google--apparently *do* tell us with whom it's OK to advertise. It's not personal, it's an algorithm (mostly). It's their search engine, not mine. I'm want my pages in their index. I want them to send me traffic. They're a for-profit company and I (apparently) cannot lobby and do not get a vote. So, what I think they should or should not do doesn't seem to matter much. I have to play their game if I want to benefit from their resource, whether I like it or not. Of course, I could boycott Google out of protest... ;-)

By the way, this same Ad Network concept could be very powerful in a vote-based closed system of participating webmasters. Only existing members could invite new webmasters. All domains would have to be approved by 100% of the members (no majority rule). A cap would be placed on the number of domains, since too large a network would become unwieldy to manage.

>All domains would have to be

>All domains would have to be approved by 100% of the members

that would amount to a good old boys club there, which would undermine the point of the network. I think the point of the network is to make link advertising affordable and widespread. It would not be widespread if all needed to approve.

I think a better solution might be sending out daily notifications of new sites in the network and allowing you to block ads which would otherwise point at whichever sites you do not like. That or let you opt in on sites that you think are relevant to yours.

Good Old Girls

Quote:
that would amount to a good old boys club there, which would undermine the point of the network.

No, not necessarily. There are closed systems and there are open systems. Neither is either bad or good. Both models have benefits and limitations. I assume the home in which you live is a closed system. That is, you don't live in a commune and that you decide explicitly who comes into your house. I don't think that you expressing your preference of living in a closed system makes your home a good old boy's club.

Quote:
I think the point of the network is to make link advertising affordable and widespread. It would not be widespread if all needed to approve.

Yes, the point of *their* network, not networks in general. I like the affordable aspect. I think the widespread aspect is the weakness.

Quote:
I think a better solution might be sending out daily notifications of new sites in the network and allowing you to block ads which would otherwise point at whichever sites you do not like.

Perhaps different, not better. A weakness in your suggestion is that the ad isn't the core issue. It's the page to which the ad points that is the big unknown and potential problem. Also, think of how much daily admin this manual quality control would require of a busy webmaster.

Quote:
That or let you opt in on sites that you think are relevant to yours.

That would just add more manual quality control requirements. In an open system you don't have the trust relationships and accountability provided in a closed system. Thus, you have to check links, pages, sites, etc. If a closed system network had, say, 250 trusted webmasters, each of whom had multiple web sites, the potential intelligent cross linking could be very powerful and of very low risk. Many social networking systems are not built on anonymity (open) and require some level of disclosure and accountability (closed). I'm suggesting a reciprocal linking social networking system that has a high barrier of entry, is free, is effective, and is safe. And both good old boys *and* girls could participate.

and the point is...

*The point of the network is to make link advertising affordable and widespread*

Strangely enough,that point gets remarkably little coverage in the DP forum ;-)

Keep the Suggestions Coming...

Please... it will be used to make the network better and less prone to those who want to abuse it.

>I don't think that you expre

>I don't think that you expressing your preference of living in a closed system makes your home a good old boy's club.

but I bet an exceptionally limited # of people enter my home. The all must reply would make it too slow and closed off really. Talk about an admin nightmare!

>It's the page to which the ad points that is the big unknown and potential problem.

Right. and I was suggesting that you accepted sites that you would link to from your site.

Chocolate or Vanilla?

Quote:
but I bet (sic) an exceptionally limited # of people enter my home.

Exactly. So there are many types of open and closed systems. The scope of inclusion/exclusion varies depending on shared values and needs. The 250 (or so) webmasters idea I floated is based on a different criteria than who you let through your doors. However, it's still a closed system. "Membership has its privileges." Groups can be exclusive without being elitist.

Quote:
The (sic) all must reply would make it too slow and closed off really. Talk about an admin nightmare!

Nah. You're missing the opportunity. Once you've initially formed a trusted group, there's exceptionally little to admin. For example, one social networking methodology is to have only existing members be able to invite new members. If the new member violates the TOC, both they *and you* are kicked out! Thus, people are then *very* careful about whom they invite to participate. There are people to whom I wouldn't give a ride even if it was midnight and pouring down rain. On the other hand, I recently gave a car to a friend in need. (OK, it was a beater...but it *was* a car! :-)

Howdy Folks

Hey guys,

I think its important to move to a category based classification system as soon as possible. I am leary of placing outbound links on any of my sites that are not categorically relevant. Of course, all of my sites rely heavily on SE traffic. Having a bunch of unrelated and rotating outbound links on my sites is something I will stay away from.

With that being said I think DP has done a great job in creating a useful free tool that some webmasters can definitly benefit from. I dont think any harm will be done by joining up and getting the temporary effects of a ton of links coming in.

I would not be worried about penalizations of being part of the network but I do think it is a good idea to remove as many network wide signatures as possible. Regardless, I find it highly unlikely that G will spend the time to find and penalize the network; I dont think that would be necessary. With new link algos coming out all the time it will only be a matter of time before this sort of link network will be rendered ineffective. But hey thats always been the case so why not take advantage while you can.

Of course, I am only referring to the way Google would handle things, Yahoo and MSN are completly different stories. I think it will be some time before they can catch up with Googles sophistication of sniffing out linking programs.

It's very simple, guys...

Look at the sites in the network. Are they ones you want to link with anyway? Ones you want your site advertised on?

If so, then do it.

If not, then don't.

If you like the sites, it doesn't matter that Google doesn't like them. But I would have to ask why you would like a site that Google doesn't. Google usually has good reasons for not liking sites. They don't just dislike any old site for no good reason...

(Was that a triple negative? ;)

To be honest, the ad network

To be honest, the ad network never was intended to grow exponentially the way it has. It was that reason that it was changed from live ad serving initially to the server-side caching mechanism it uses now.

More than anything it was just another tool I made because I'm an idea guy and I like to tinker with stuff and see if I can improve on things or come up with something new.

And of course there have been a few cheaters that have been found on the ad network (cloaking ads or hiding them for example), and they were banned from the network because of their actions.

I just got back from a week in Costa Rica (vacation), and one of the main things I'm going to do this week now that I'm back is to improve the ad network (for example language and theme classifications) as well as designating volunteers to review ads (this will free me up to do more useful [as a whole] backend things).

For some general background and goals of the ad network, there is some reading at: http://www.digitalpoint.com/tools/ad-network/history.html

For me, it's really just seeing if their might be a better way to do some things and then apply what I learn to our "real" products at Digital Point Solutions. For example, an automated way of keeping the "bad neighborhood" sites out of the ad network is to use the Google API to see what Google thinks of the site. If the site is filtered or banned by Google (because of spam, duplicate content or whatever else), they would end up with a 0 weight in the network, which means they have a 0% chance of their ad being shown at any given time.

Of course Google is not flawless in their determination of spam at any given point, but Google only gets better, and it's the best option that I know of.

Another thing that needs to be worked on this week are some clearer guidelines on sites, writing of ads, etc. For example, I'm so sick of filtering out ads people try to sneak into the network for porn, gambling or RX sites that I'm thinking of just coming down hard on those users. Like rule #1 being if you even try to insert an ad (which of course would never pass review), your entire account and all your sites will be banned, regardless of their content. They really do nothing but waste my time with those types or ads.

cool stuff!

> language and theme classifications

thats awesome.

For example, an automated way of keeping the "bad neighborhood" sites out of the ad network is to use the Google API to see what Google thinks of the site. If the site is filtered or banned by Google (because of spam, duplicate content or whatever else), they would end up with a 0 weight in the network, which means they have a 0% chance of their ad being shown at any given time.

That is a kinda funny / good way of putting it, because using that idea for Google to penalize you based on "bad neighborhoods" it would mean that Google would have to have bad spam filters and hold you to a higher standard than themselves.

hate replying to myself, but.

hate replying to myself, but... ;)

although I think they intentionally make it so that they API will not easily detect all penalties.

footprint

4.) Since there appears to be no footprint, how could there be detection by the SEs?

Of course there is a footprint. If I have to spell it out:
html structure with css in its exact position, 6 digit random looking class, the link changes randomly..

That said, for short term gains I have seen people using this program getting massive results. The big question is, are you going against SE's guidelines and will you be penalized?

Digital Point's Free Co-op Ad Network Under Scrutiny

For those of you that have been reading this site for a while now, you will know the name Digital Point. In fact, back in July I interviewed Shawn Hogan of Digital Point, because, whether he admits it or not,...

Give me a break

Google (and its prophet, Googleguy) is the first to recommend not to place all our eggs in the Google basket. And now that somebody finds a viable alternative to get free traffic, they frown upon it? (In my book, once it stops being automatic, it stops being viable. How many hours can you invest accepting/rejecting links?).

I remember a number of unpleasant ads in AdWords, in the past and in the present (pharma-dialers-pseudodrugs-etc). So, they can have unsavory partners withouth adverse effects, but if we do the same, we risk being banned? Come on, Google, not everything we do is aimed at gaming your precious algorithm!

algos

Hi fishyking, and welcome to Threadwatch. Do introduce yourself

I disagree, i think the network is indeed aimed at the G algo - or at least as a major secondary consideration but i do agree that their is a certain amount of hipocrisy in Googles stance on "spam" in general - it's become a bit of a tradmark™ over the last few years :)

Ooops

I missed Shawn!

Nice to see you over here Shawn, do introduce yourself aswell please.

The Thread And SEW Forums

So like DigitalPoint, I'm catching up on things after being gone last week, as well.

1) The original thread was removed at SEW because there was a question of whether it violated the newly created no spam reporting policy that many members wanted. The mod was uncertain, asked if the person posting (glengara) could redo without naming specifics until one of the admins could review. As both Elisabeth and I were away last week, that meant a delay. Sorry on the delay, but better safe than sorry.

2) I looked at things today and decided that there wasn't an issue of the no spam reporting policy. A couple of thoughts on that. First, the original post wasn't about a particular thing the network is doing -- is this particular thing spam? It was about whether the network was useful or had issues. It's a public network, putting itself out there, and it seems a fair question for anyone to raise. In addition, the fact that Nick -- probably our most zealous member about wanting to protect the no spam reporting rule -- didn't report an abuse but instead commented in response to the discussion made me feel even more that it could go. Finally, coming over here, there's plenty of discussion -- so I further see no reason that there's a problem with our rule.

3) Kind of related to the spam question, was the person posting trying to hurt the particular site? I have no idea. Nick raised that question, it was asked and answered, but the overall question of what people think about the network seems valid. In fact, it's being discussed here.

4) Nick said, "I never did get a pm about being deleted, just a bad rep point for "to sarcastic" - are we losing our manners at SEW?"

Yes, you should have gotten a PM. I apologize that this wasn't done, and I've asked the moderators to make sure they ensure all the people posting within a thread are notified on the rare (and it is rare) occasions when this happens. The two who started threads on the topic of the network were notified, but you as the only person to respond in either should have been as well. Two out of three ain't bad, but it ain't good either. Three out of three should have gotten messages.

As for the bad rep, that was given by a moderator and probably should have instead been a private message or an edit. I'll raise the issue with moderators not to use the rep system for negative impacts, only positive. I think that's a good way to go, encouraging them to get in touch directly if they feel something negative needs to be addressed. That's the way the rep system will work in the future, probably just after the New Year, when we get a chance to do it. In the meantime, I've reversed that.

But as for manners, I promise you and other members, Nick -- you can get us to investigate things without having to turn them into public matters. If it's bad manners for you not to get a PM or a rep that you question, I'd say it's also bad manners not to give the admins a chance to address the concern for you directly. If we don't act, fair game. If we do act and you dislike the action, hey, fair game again. But give us the chance -- that's not too much to ask.

4) Glengara wrote, "Thread was pulled for mentioning the network by name, getting more like WMW by the day."

As said above, the thread was pulled so it could be reviewed to see if it violated the new no spam reporting policy, not because it named a particular network.

5) GoogleGuy said:

"I pointed out one network member using hidden text and another with keyword stuffed doorway pages in the next post. Wait, I see. NickW edited my posts and snipped the urls I mentioned. The edits don't make it very clear that I was pointing out spammy sites that were already in the network. No wonder people weren't understanding what I said about the real risk of hurting one's reputation, even today."

Go ahead and send one of the SEW admins what you wanted to post, we'll review and see about posting it. Now that this is fully a public matter, it may be fine with our spam policy.

6) GoogleGuy said:

"This is quite a conundrum. SEW snipped NickW's mention of the program name, then NickW snipped my examples of spam in the program already. My head hurts. :)"

You and me both. One week, folks are worried that specifics will lead to spam reporting. The next week, there's a concern when we hold a thread with specifics to make sure we aren't spam reporting. The "there's no pleasing everyone" cliche is pretty true.

7) Completely offtopic, but Nick, what is the deal with not being able to highlight text, then copy and paste into another app on this site?

8) I'll repost the thread URL on the subject at SEW when I finish merging, and I'll also cross-link over to here.

Manners

It's a time issue Danny. I posted about it here as it was relevent (the thread i was referencing was removed and a TW member had asked) then it took what? 12hrs to get a pm from the mod concerned?

That's not my problem. It's yours and your moderators to deal with. You know the history with me and that particular mod, and we've spoken about it many times - as i said, it's really not my problem at all. Thankyou however, for addressing the issue here.

Now, Let's get back on topic:

What Would You do to Improve such a Network?

We've had some great suggestions in this thread, i'd like to sum up a little if i may - please do add to the list if i've missed any and do suggest more.

I think Shawn's program is worthy of a little support and we can best provide that with some constructive suggestions i hope...

  • A closed network rather than a free for all
  • Better monitoring of advertisers - volunteer/paid basis?
  • Categorization of advertisers to allow themed exchanges
  • Opt in - choose your partners

Any more, im sure i've not covered all the suggestions made but it's now a looong thread :)

> closed network rather than

> closed network rather than a free for all
>Better monitoring of advertisers - volunteer/paid basis?
>Categorization of advertisers to allow themed exchanges
>Opt in - choose your partners

Would any of the above make a difference from the SE perspective?

If G or Y! or any other traffic generating SE takes a view that the effect of such a network has too much of an impact on the anchor text aspect of its algo, and that is its primary raison detre for existing, then its certainly on dodgy ground.

Similar well known ad networks such as whoinventedthe*******.com appear to go unscathed so why should DP be treated any differently?

Or is it one rule for paid manipulation and another for unpaid.

Seems to me that there is a lot of BS on this issue, and that at the end of it all, if you spend enough you'll be ok, whereas if you don't then you better be careful. No, Ive no hard evidence, just a feeling based on a few 1000 hours observations.

Were every one of those sites within that network to be banned or penalised in some way, then IMO it would be very harsh, although, if people wanted to quote guidelines and all that sort of stuff then things like (paraphrasing) "you shouldn't engage in activities designed to manipulate the etc etc aspect of our algorithm" could easily be flagged up as a valid reason.

Sure, the judgement is that of the SE's, its their index, their playground, but does this mean that people shouldn't be able to form trusted networks? IMO, no,of course not, but if they do, then they need to weigh up the various benefits and match them against the various consequences that *could* stem as a result.

Some of us might prefer it if the engines could find ways to programmitically detect and neutralise, but the reality is for many things they cannot.So instead, they selectively target and banish as a broadshot to those who might consider the same. Fair? Nah, but neither are the hairs on a cows arse.

Good luck to the network participants, I hope they aren't sent to search engine hell. I'm told its not very nice there. :(

It's all about $$$'s

I think you've hit some nails on heads there rob. Many search folks seem to be under the impression that Google and Yahoo do this out of the goodness of their hearts.

They dont. It's all about $$$'s. When somthing looks like it might threaten my income i'll kill it before it can walk if i can. I dont think it's unfair to assume the same of any big business like G or Y.

The thing is, could they get away with killing a network like this, could they whether a potential PR storm?

You might think that no one would notice the quiet dissapearance of a small ad network but i know first hand that there are people/journalist just looking for stuff like this to make a big deal of (maybe that's obvious eh?) so they might think twice about any overt action.

who knows..

Nick, feel free to edit if yo

Nick, feel free to edit if you think it's off topic, but you gave SEW a number of off topic dings within this thread already about what happened to the thread on our site, so I'll give one last response.

Time issue? First I heard of your concern on this was today when I was cc'd on a message between you and a mod where I guess you asked about what happened to it.

I already said that you should have been informed, of course. Bad manners on our part, which will fix. But if you were wondering back on Sunday, two days ago, you could have dropped Elisabeth or me a message then. You know where we are at.

It means you might have to wait a bit longer to get our perspective, rather than posting and speculating -- but that's a trade-off every publisher has to decide for themselves.

They Cannot Weather the PR storm

As we have seen in the past, Google is real careful not to upset too many people on purpose. Since the days of the Searchking lawsuit Google has been real careful not to rock too many boats at once, again I stress "on purpose". Instead of outright banning sites they quietly slip in a penalty/filter that goes mostly unnoticed and creates uncertainty about its existence. Heck, there are still people out there that strongly believe that G doesnt block pagerank from passing on certain sites!!

IMHO If Google did anything about a network like this, and others, it would be algorithmic and go mostly unnoticed for a long time.

With proper support from the community (feedback and funds) I'm sure Shawn can keep adding improvements that will strengthen the network and counter any changes that G may make.

Good points

It must be quite a ship to balance i think..

A simple reporting mechanism and a warning to all members of the dangers of being infiltrated by less scrupulous sites might go a long way Shawn...

>edit

Nah... you're okay danny :) let's just move on now eh?

The ad network (and everythin

The ad network (and everything else I do) is in a constant state of evolution. This morning I've added a few new things to the ad network already:

- Finished the backend system to allow designated volunteers to review new ads (frees up my time to do things like code). Hopefully this will result in a closer monitoring of new and existing ads in the system as well as have backend accountability about who let a certain ad in if it's a questionable one.

- Anchor text on ads has a maximum length of 40 characters now (thinking about dropping it to 30 at some point in the future, but we'll see how much spamish ads pop up at 40 first) and descriptions dropped to 128 characters

- Full unicode (UTF-8) support on ads (creation, output and character length validation)

- Assignment of language and category/theme are done when ads are created. Nothing is being done with the data yet, but it's required for all new ads. I still need to make a system to let people make the assignments for existing ads. Then we'll figure out the best way to use the data.

I should also point out that all these changes are not being made because of this thread... they have been planned for awhile as you can find here: http://forums.digitalpoint.com/forumdisplay.php?f=34

And there are going to be some other changes soon as well. This is just pre-lunch stuff so far today. :)

too obvious

Ok. If google ever decides that using the service is a Bad Thing, it will have no trouble finding all the sites. For starters it could just join the program.

>too obvious I think it wa

>too obvious

I think it was intended to be obvious. The point perhaps is not whether or not it can be found, but whether or not it infringes on relevancy of search results or the profitability of the search engines.

I think Jarrod is right though that they will look to slowly implement filters of some sort if they can.

I also think there is a significant double standard between rich companies spending tons of money "advertising" and other companies participating in effective and inexpensive SEO techniques.

The fact that spending enough on AdWords can get you an unofficial SEO consultation from Google should let you know that at some point or another the business is heavily intertwined with the free stuff.

There is no penalty

People seem to be acting here as if Google already has plans to penalize this network. That doesn't appear to be the case.

GoogleGuy himself simply said that there is the potential to link (unwittingly?) to bad neighborhoods. If that issue is addressed and there are NO bad neighborhood sites in the network, then there should be no problem.

Will anyone risk a good site?

Until the network is an established SEO method I suspect people will test the water with throw away domains. You'd have to be daft to join up today with your flagship domain.

That is the challenge - you cannot build quality when everyone who wants to join is not playing with their best cards.

I will most likely join but I won't be taking any risks.

Developing closed circuit version for testing purposes

My development team has started today in designing and developing a more closed/private version of this co-op ad network. I think that if it can stay relevant to the theme of keywords we are going after, then it will work even better than the original version, I think. I'll continue to post updates on it periodically and let everyone know how it is going, if there are any speed bumps, and overall progress.

I am curious though, would there be a way to bypass that downloaded file, because it would make it all the more easier to implement on regular direct link sites. Just curious.

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