Digital World: Black Hatting on the Web

Got a Web site? How about a blog? A Myspace page? If you do, you could be raking in the bucks.

alexa logo 88 (photo credit: )
alexa logo 88
(photo credit: )
Got a Web site? How about a blog? A Myspace page? If you do, you could be raking in the bucks - if you play your cards right, that is. All you have to do is figure out how to draw thousands of people to either click on your site and/or link to it. That's the dream, at least. Once upon a time, the dream was to write a script that would be bought by a Hollywood TV or movie producer, or maybe writing the Great American novel. But with YouTube and its ilk everybody's a producer - and who has time to read books anymore? Today, making big money from a Web site or blog (or, for the easily impressed, a multi-level marketing scheme) is the new dream. Like the way this guy ( is making - are you ready - $40,000 a month off his sites! And it's an attainable dream. All you have to do is set up a site or blog, enroll in the now manifold advertising and affiliate programs dotting the Internet (check out for some of the options) and get people to click through. Under the current Internet regime (with Google setting the tone), page views and links to your site/blog will determine how popular it is with the Internet hoi polloi - and, in turn, determine how much you can make from the ad space you, or your affiliate agents, sell on your Internet space. Of course, in the interest of brevity, the description I've provided for how Internet money-making works is a very abbreviated one because the topic today is not how Google AdSense ( or the other ad programs work. Personally, I rarely click on a link for fear of getting warped into a suspicious site that will install some spyware or virus on my computer, unless it's a link to a site I know and trust (i.e. But there are other ways to make money off your site/blog than just by selling ads. If you're a good enough writer and have an area of expertise, you could find yourself with a new writing career, for example, as e-commerce or other sites take advantage of your witty, punchy Net writing style. Or, you could end up writing newsletters for dentists or accountants. Or, you might strike it rich selling gear (T-shirts, caps, etc.) at your site, via a service like Bottom line, though, is the more people you get to your site/blog, the more others will want to link to you, driving more traffic - and more money-making potential - your way. So how do you drive traffic to your Internet home? Well, there are lots of ways, far too many to cover in such a short space. Fortunately, there are tons of sites on how to drive more traffic to your pages, and lots of free advice on SEO (search engine optimization). Check out, for example, the SEO Chat Forum (, with lots of ongoing, interesting discussions on the subject. Once you start getting some traffic to your site, you'll want to start shopping it around to potential advertisers, or whoever you're trying to make an impression on. And how do you "prove" that you've got a successful/popular site that people are paying attention to? Via Web ranking services, which will check the status of your site's popularity, and the number of people visiting it. And therein lies our topic of discussion. Those in the Internet know that, no matter how you slice it, you can't get away from Alexa ( For those who haven't heard, Alexa is a Web ranking service that checks the number of visitors to sites that install its software (the Alexa Toolbar). The rankings are publicly available so a potential advertiser, or another site looking to exchange and post mutual links with you, can check the ratings and make an objective decision based on the data. The toolbar lists not only ranking information, but also other sites that link to yours, as well as indicating "movement" of a site's popularity ranking over time. The higher your site's Alexa ranking, the greater its appeal to the people you're trying to do business with - hence the importance of getting as high a ranking as possible. Now, of course, true Internet mavens take Alexa with a grain of salt. According to, the rankings are not - cannot - be accurate because they exclude from the rankings secure (https:) pages and RSS feeds. Only users of Internet Explorer on Windows are counted in the Alexa rankings - toolbars for Firefox on Windows, as well as Mac users, are said not to impact the ratings. And many corporate users are also not counted, because most system administrators steer clear of Alexa, due to its aggressive data collection. Nevertheless, Alexa is one of the few free ranking tools that small Web site owners can use to check their ratings - most of the others (such as cost money, and the average blogger or small business is not going to pay for the detailed information they believe they are getting for free from Alexa. It may be skewed, but Alexa's not going anywhere anytime soon, and a high Alexa ranking definitely counts for a great deal (or at least something) among many Web users and advertisers. But, unknown to most people, Alexa is subject to manipulation. Using a few tricks out of the "black hat SEO" handbook (no, this has nothing to do with hareidi politics), site/blog owners can boost their site's rankings by thousands, if not millions, of spots in the rankings. How so, you ask? Easy - just follow the instructions at the Alexa Sucks site ( The site is an experiment that purports to show just how unreliable Alexa is - by using a set of less than legit but tried and true tricks to take a Web page and boost it ever higher in the Alexa rankings. Just installing the Alexa Toolbar, for example, automatically raises a site's ranking, which starts off in the six millions (out of billions of sites) upon installation, and boosts it up to the upper 1 millions (1.6 million, etc.). The more you click on a link rated by Alexa, the more boost it gets in the rankings. Alexa Sucks recommends setting up its page as your home page, and opening it at least 10 times a day. And they want you to do it 10 times a day, every day - and get 10 friends to do it, too. Most interesting is the list at the bottom of with links to the 36 most popular social bookmarking services. Sites like Furl, and Digg will increase the exposure of the site, thus boosting the site's exposure and link connections - and raising its Alexa ranking. If this can work for Alexa Sucks, why not yours? Answer: There's no reason why not. Is it honest? Well, here's where it gets sticky. While Alexa, no doubt, does not mind that many Web surfers believe that its rankings are accurate and important, the Alexa FAQ itself (, while not disputing the latter, is under no illusions regarding the former. Bottom line: Alexa knows its rankings are not accurate, and it's not afraid to admit it. But again, that doesn't mean that the service doesn't count and, in fact, it might count now more than ever because of the blogging revolution of the past several years, which has added oodles of new sites to the Web mash with desperate users trying to make ranking sense out of them. According to the Alexa Sucks blog (, the Web establishment knows that Alexa's rankings are problematic but they continue with the charade of their importance for their own selfish motives. As an example, the site says that SEOChat (cited above) has an artificially high Alexa ranking because most of the people who visit it are Webmasters who have Alexa toolbars installed on their computers. Note, though, that the author of this blog doesn't accuse SEOChat of conducting an organized campaign to get users to install Alexa toolbars - it just worked out that way. However, the author of the site is insistent: "You can quote me on this - SeoChat is not the 546th largest Web site on the Internet! No way, no how... Period!" Alexa is not alone, by the way. Technorati, the unofficial doyen of blogs, can also be hacked, according to This site has 10 little tricks bloggers can use to boost their rankings in the Technorati popularity poll - in fact, it's even easier to do than with Alexa. Don't get carried away with all the hype, though - the bottom line is, if you don't have the content, you're not going to get the visitors. Setting up links at all the social bookmarking sites, like Alexa Sucks did, is a great idea to get the word out about your blog/site, but if you don't give the people what they want - information they can actually use - word will get out pretty quickly among your potential audience, and Alexa won't be there to save your ranking.