I recently wrote about how New York lags behind the West Coast in terms of knowing all the tricks it takes to drive a web business.
The article generated a lot of comments as to what these secrets are, with most people focusing on the most obvious ones, black hat SEO. Now before I divulge, let me state that I don’t know all the secrets. I probably don’t even know 10% of them. We don’t use any of them at our company. And I’m not saying that any of them are good. In fact, they suck and they hurt honest companies who are trying to do the right thing.
But what I am saying is that some of the biggest, and most venture backed companies have used all sorts of traffic and acquisition tricks over the last few years to drive their numbers up. For some it has not worked. But for others it has, especially when numbers are needed to show VC’s or advertisers. Some of the biggest websites in the US use this stuff and have folks (often with such titles as VP of shady business) who know all the tricks. Rather than focus on whether you should run your startup in NYC or the West Coast, I try in this article, to point to where on the web others have exposed some of these tricks and where they hide.
This then becomes instead a story with lots of footnotes, featuring IM bots, anonymous proxy servers, meta refresh, pop-unders, pornography, fishy downloads, chinese traffic drivers, fake user emails and so forth. While I don’t pursue these strategies, and I don’t recommend them, if you’re in the game, you should be cognisant of how the game can be played.
Porn based traffic – Remember those old AOL chat rooms? Or the now hot Chatroulette? It’s no secret that porn drives traffic and everyone from Yahoo, to Google to Ning have thrived in its wake.
Porn driven traffic – There’s no traffic like porn traffic. It’s cheap to buy and can generate a lot of clicks. One previous NYC high flying media company with significant A level venture backing was known to be the master at monetizing porn traffic arbitrage, buying it for cheap and reselling their own landed on pages for much more. Want to buy some?
Traffic robots and meta refresh – This stuff requires only the most basic of programming skill and is in fact so easy that it makes you wonder if anyone’s time on site can be trusted.
More traffic bots and fake traffic – This type of stuff is generally used by smaller mum and pop entities but scripts to fake and drive your numbers are readily available on the interwebs, and some people will even translate the Chinese for you.
Fake activity on a dating site – Lots of sites and social networks make it appear that members are reaching out to you. Wondered why so many folks were checking you out on that latest hot dating site, driving your activity? It’s all fake.
Pop unders – While pop unders are much less present now, they had their day in the Silicon Valley sun driving huge traffic spikes.
Facebook already knows you – Go to facebook. Sign up with your work email or any email that you use but is not your main facebook email. Create a bogus account with that email. Name it whatever you want, Elmer Fudd, Bugs Bunny, whatever. Be shocked how it instantly recommends people you know and how you start adding friends. Even though you didn’t do anything, didn’t give it information, it already has lots of information stored on you. How’s that work? I’ll leave that one to you to figure out.
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