An Encounter With Syndication Spam

ML Aug 25, 2006

We got coverage today from CNET 2.0 today, giving one of the first indications that the HitTail message may be ready for the mainstream. His headline, “HitTail helps you profit from the dregs of search”, is right on. Rafe’s feedback is positive, but apparently I create a lot of cult-ish and hype-ish writing. OK, guilty as charged. Blame Guy Kawasaki and his books, The Macintosh Way and Selling The Dream. They installed in me a need for a pseudo-fanatical love for what I do. And yes, I was an Amiga computer user too, making me just a few steps shy of all out Zealot.

But this perhaps is going to turn into a post about CNET syndication, and re-publishing issues in general. You have to love the term syndication and aggregating content. That is such a euphemism. It used to be that when the flow of data wasn’t quite so free, syndicated content meant something like The Associated Press, where users of the content were actually expected to pay. And as recent Google news shows us, it sometimes still works that way. But for the most part, the original publishers of content are just not as tech-savvy as the ad-revenue incentivized “aggregators”.

This was newly impressed upon me this morning when I said, OK, surely Technorati has the CNET HitTail article. It is their Web 2.0 Blog, after all. The article has been up since midnight, so I’m told, and it has been producing hits on our site since 2:00AM. So surely, the blogosphere knows about it by now, right?

Aside from the insight that this provides about whose grabbing for what traffic, this was an untenable situation for me. Imagine, the authoritative word on HitTail is coming first from something called BlogJunkTruck, when the actual story ran on both the CNET and News domains! So, up comes PingOMatic, and I do what CNET should have done at midnight–pinged the blogosphere.

Not that it would have really made much of a difference, picking up the few blog searchers who are out there. Most hits from a mainstream-ish media site are going to happen based on their existing readership. And already by 11:30AM this morning, the CNET blog article is challenging our second top referrer. And once CNET was picked up in Technorati, you can see it’s the most authoritative of the three sites. This concept of authority may eventually help the engines weed out syndication spam.

HitTaing is a much better alternative to making an AdSense network than syndication spam. Problem is, HitTail is not automatable. You have to have something to say, and not simply query X-sites on Y-topics, pull in, reformat and spit out the results. Alternatively, HitTail starts with your existing site as a sort of query, and determines what NEEDS to be written about, as if it were a suggestion box. Matt Cutts has written a very popular thread on choosing topics and writing. All this contributes to my belief that we have something that’s ready to take SEO to the mainstream marketing world.

Oops, there I go with that hype again. I’ll have to work on that.

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