Welcome to the (web) jungle

Web management is not for the innocent or naive. I am slowly learning this.

There are many con artists with tricks up their sleeves, and you need to stay on your toes to avoid falling into their traps.

Personally, I have always found it easy to ignore the poorly-worded messages from faraway lands offering to improve my SEO:

"Do you want to see your website in Top 10 positions in Google or other major search engine?

"If yes, please let me know your website URL and keywords name that you want to optimize so that our team could supply you with our best price to optimize the website'€¦."

I equate messages like these to business offers from exiled princesses: fit for the bin.

But sometimes, there are actions that catch me off guard, and I have to turn to my tech team for advice.

For instance, one of our cloud developers pointed out to me this week that Cybera's blog comments section now featured advertised content. Whaaaat?

It appears that our web comment management system, Disqus, had made a few alterations a couple weeks ago. Here is the email they sent me at the time:

Welcome to the All New Disqus
YOUR SITE HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY UPDATED

Here are some of the new features your community now has access to:

  • Fully real-time commenting that shows activity as it happens
  • Improved social sharing to Twitter, Google+ or Facebook
  • International language support
  • The Discovery box shows recommended content from your own site
  • Promoted Discovery and revenue sharing programs (More Info Below)
  • Drag & drop image uploading
  • Automatic adapting to your site'€™s style
  • Discussion digests for your commenters and readers digests
  • An improved moderation interface and user reputation system

'€¦.

Did I read the email at the time? No. Life is too short.

But if I had read it, I would have noticed point five, about, "Promoted Discovery and revenue sharing programs." It seems that Disqus automatically changed Cybera's comments system to include links and references to other websites '€” a good way for them to make money through offering paid-for content on our site. I had to go in to our administrative settings to turn that off.

Sneaky sneaky'€¦

This came shortly after a separate email I received from a marketer, noting that in Cybera's list of websites we peer with, we do not include Comcast. Clearly a silly mistake on our part, he asked if we could include links to Comcast's cable services on our site (he helpfully included web links).

We do not peer with Comcast, as our technology operations manager, Jean-Francois Amiot, confirmed. The man who wrote me works for an independent content marketing agency. Jean-Francois wondered if Comcast even knew that he was doing this outreach on their behalf, and told me he would investigate.

Sneaky again.

And then, there was this report, which I stumbled upon last month while Googling the Digital Accelerator for Innovation and Research:

It was written as part of a longer review of all the websites affiliated with the DAIR program. No website faired well in the writer's eyes. Cybera received a measly E (58%) for its "page speed grade" and a D (69%) for something called the "Y Slow Grade."

Suffice it to say, my heart was broken.

But, of course, this was also a con. As Joe Topjian, our systems administrator, pointed out, the web hosting industry is fueled by affiliate commissions. This article was trying to discredit us and other websites because we run on servers that are not part of their affiliate circle.

They can get away with these mistruths about how "painfully slow" our sites are by adding lots of asterisks with footnotes noting that "reports are based on certain servers, results may vary, etc, etc."

For shame, HostJury. For shame.

On this last note, Joe raised a really interesting question '€” will cloud hosting fall into the same commission-fueled game once the field of players who can offer these services opens up?

Can no technology remain innocent?