Lyndon wrote a good post today talking about bait and switch or as he called it “switchbait“. I’m glad he did, cos I was in one of those ‘shit, what shall I blab about today’ moods.
The method is as old as the hills. Build a domain, get the visitors, move them on to somewhere else. At least thats a quick and dirty interpretation.
Some of you seasoned SERP watchers might recall the days when highly tuned cloaked content found its way into search engine indices. Titles were carefully crafted to grab the users attention and get them to click on through. When the user clicked the result, the domain then redirected them on to some affiliate site that paid the redirecting site a referall fee. It still happens, but its not as endemic.
The search engines hated that of course. They weren’t interested in the line of thought that said “where’s the harm, everybody wins” as ultimately they wanted to control or at least give the allusion that they did, the make up of their results pages. To allow cloaked content to stay within their indices unchallenged would give credence to the view that they were easy to game and simple to manipulate. No fortune 500 company really wants to give out those kinds of signals as if such a view gained momentum it might snowball and overspill onto other core products. Weakened confidence in the technology, doesn’t take too long to equate to reduced uptake and use. The house of cards could quickly implode, seriously affecting revenue models and streams.
Its a similar scenario for the meta refresh too, albeit slightly different in that a meta refresh actually equated to a 302 server header, or temporary redirect. Temporary redirects are used in all manner of ways to say that the content that was once here has now gone and has moved elsewhere, but may be back at some point. Not everyone has always had access to server side redirects a la header (“Location: fullyquailifiedurl”); so the meta refresh tag was a handy method for achieving the same, which was, moving the user on to somewhere else.
301′s and 302′s are in tech circles, a recognised way of redirecting users and their agents on to new locations (urls) Domains change hands, content is altered, urls change too. There needed to be a legitimate way of letting people know, without just plonking the old page before them and embedding a big fat THIS CONTENT HAS MOVED TO message.
The knowledge of how search engines interpret such things can be used in all manner of ways. At best it can be used to legitimately move a user on as described previously. At worst it can be used to trick or deceive; in the worst extremes it’s the user who is deceived, referred onto something heinous or unrelated – and at best the search engine, deceived into believing that spidered content was what would be showed to its users.
How far away is Lyndons example from what is described prior? Lyndon proposes to build a domain, create leverage and authority and then subsquently apply it to a 3rd party.Is this any differrent from showing the various stakeholders say Technorate, Digg, Y! or Google one thing only to subsequently move the goalposts and move it all on?
To my mind, no not really. Unless Lyndon had told us his intent we’d never have known. Domains are bought and sold and change hands everyday. Its called business. What if Lyndon had done exactly as described, yet told no one, or simply redirected/moved the blog/domain to a directory on his clients/affilaite sites. Perfectly legitimate of course, yet to announce the intent to do this for manipulation purposes suddenly puts it all in a different light.
The bottom line is that its quite one thing to create stuff for the technology and traffic providers and use it to your better advantage, but do so in a way where they can decide or determine that your intent was one of use and abuse and you might well find your efforts were wasted. Do it a way that is elegant and sophisticated as described by Lyndon and no doubt used and applied daily by 100′s of other savvy marketers, and you’ll be on to lots of sure fire winners.