Archive for January, 2009

Evolutions in promotions — blogs are on the wane due to spamming/hacking

Friday, January 9th, 2009

Authors ask me what will work to generate awareness of their books or cause. I tell them that the Internet is constantly evolving — what is hot today might be practically useless within a year. Before this digital age, marketing techniques barely changed over a decade or two. For example, direct mail methodologies of the 1950s were almost identical to those of the early 1990s. Now marketing is a blur of change, with each new development seemingly not having a chance to really mature and flourish into a useful tool for many.

And this is a real shame, since there is such desperation in the publishing world to find viable ways to promote great books.

With over a billion people connected to the Internet, it is understandable that some will have different ideas about what is ethical. If someone is living in a situation of great poverty and limited potential, he or she may look to the Internet as a great opportunity. Tech-savvy entrepreneurs are quite inventive about acting as pirates to con the gullible. We’ve all heard about email scams that ask you to accept a few hundred thousand dollars in exchange for depositing money from a cousin of a deposed African dictator (or similar story). Who would fall for such a false hope scam? Well, last weekend met the husband (former husband actually) of a woman who did just that — she accepted a $10,000 money order (it was forged but skillfully) and cashed it at her bank. The arrangement was that she would immediately transfer $8,000 to a foreign bank account, keeping $2,000 for her services.

According to her ex-husband, the woman spent $2,000 “on jewelry, clothes and shit” but was so happy about spending that she didn’t get around to sending the $8,000. Within days, the bank’s security folks called and threatened to charge her with bank fraud and forgery. She had to pay back the $2,000, and the $10,000 deposit was reversed from her account.

On that occasion, the foreign scammers didn’t get any money. But they are conning lots of people.

Back to the topic of promoting your book:

What you are reading is a BLOG. A few years ago, blogs were big. Some sites were huge. Now I get so much spam in my blog’s comments fields (and never any real comments since those folks emailed me directly instead) that I’ve disabled comments altogether. A shame but that’s the evolution of the Internet, I guess.
Traffic to any particular blog is being diverted by scammers (also called Hackers) who want people to go to websites where there is Google AdWords advertising. If someone clicks on one of the text ads, the website owner (one of the scammers) will receive advertising commissions from Google. To grab traffic at search engines, the scammers are setting up what I call para-sites (pun intended). These are blog sites composed entirely of copied posts (from my blog and others) with a few words in each entry replaced with a keyword that is a link to some sales website. The keyword (“planes”, “discount plumbing”, whatever) is hopelessly out of context — just substituted into the text more or less at random by rogue software. I presume this random placement of links will fool Google and other search engines into thinking that the destination website (where the ads are) is well linked from other popular websites.

An example is http://savinglifesofkids.org/ which is a para-site, with no original content and each blog planted with the keyword links.
Because I use Google Alerts, I am shown a different para-site every few days that is pirating my blogs. There must be tens of thousands of these para-sites. If someone is searching for information about book marketing, there is now a good chance they will be drawn to one of the para-sites showing my content, rather than coming to my blog’s address. I see this as the writing-on-the-wall, an indicator/trend that the utility (usefulness, effectiveness) of blogs is being diluted severly.

So… is there anything anyone can do about this decline in the effectiveness of blogs? Likely not. I’ll keep using this blog, simply because it allows me to “dump” my thoughts. Some of our authors are having some success using FaceBook and other social networking, but the biggest sales are coming from plain old newspaper and magazine publicity (feature articles, not reviews which are becoming quite scarce) and radio interviews. Old technology. Pre-Internet techniques. Pre-scammer/hackers.

thanks, cheers,
Bruce