Who Dat Gonna Get Fat Traffic?

For the last week we’ve been wandering the halls of last week’s Internet World trade show (you can do that in print), in search of good stories (or at least good lessons) that we can adapt in the future.

But before we head for the virtual plane (I’ve been off the real jet for a week now), let’s talk about the longest-running opportunity/controversy web site owners have faced for the last five years.

Let’s talk about search engines.

The “industry” of dealing with search engines was born in 1995, and it has many types of players. There are information providers, and dozens of companies that submit your pages to the engines. (Even Microsoft has gotten into this business, through its Link Exchange unit.)

An industry that began with a service then became software. The best-known players here may be NetSubmitter and Web Position Gold, which runs on your client machine.

At Internet World, Fat Traffic Inc. president Rob Crigler suggested it all needs to evolve again, away from the client and back to professionally managed servers. He said the difference between what he is now offering and what his rivals have done in the past is similar to that between batch processing and an online process.

Fat Traffic “is a behind the scenes technology that monitors web site performance,” he said. “We monitor the search engines on a continual basis. We’re constantly doing searches and seeing the results.”

In addition to keeping client sites at the top of the engines, Fat Traffic’s service also removes dead links from clients’ pages and can detect manipulation. That means, I suggested, his company can actually play a positive role and aid in law enforcement.

Rob asked for an example, so I mentioned a recent case where the FTC found that pages were stolen, spamdexed, and the users then “mousetrapped” into looking at porn ads. There were four different sets of victims — the sites whose pages were stolen, the search engines, the users, and the porn sites. Rob said he’d been looking at reporting manipulation to the search engines, but it might make sense to cooperate with law enforcement, too.

That’s the way a lot of things evolve. What starts as a batch service moves into client software and then becomes an Internet service. (Larry Ellison of Oracle has been pushing this idea for years, and it’s now obvious.)

But the same evolution can be seen in ethics. What starts as a great idea can evolve into a rip-off (I’ve been spammed countless times by spamdexers, and so have you) but then becomes a tool for law enforcement. Once robbers get it, cops need it. (That’s probably why the Test Ban Treaty died, but that’s another story.)

Next week, we’ll get back on top of the news. But before we do, let me give another thank you to my critics. There were a lot of great stories at Internet World this year.

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