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How Rap Genius Pulled a Dumb Move

I’m a radio host on the weekends, and one of the genres that fascinates me most is the rap coming out of the underground, social justice, and queer circles—people like Angel Haze, Le1f, and Blue Scholars. These artists use rap as the medium for some incredibly well-written messages. The best rap is filled with double entendres, setups and punchlines, and phrases with multiple meanings; Blue Scholars’ “North by Northwest,” for instance, features the lyric “It’s two types of crack, one legal, one felonious/
The lumpenprole push keys like Thelonious.” Lumpenprole is a term coined by Karl Marx to describe the lowest stratum of the proletariat—criminals, vagrants, and tramps. Pushing keys is a reference to jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, but also to the common slang term for ‘kilogram’ used by drug dealers.
dunce cap
How do I know all of this? Because I looked it up once on RapGenius.com, a lyric site which includes an innovative annotation system which allows artists and fans to analyze the content of rap lyrics to explain the references and reveal the deeper meaning behind the song. But if you search for ‘rap genius’ in Google, you won’t find it; the closest you’ll see, at the time of this writing, is their French site, rapgeniusfrance, buried on Page 5. On Christmas Day, Google hit Rap Genius with a massive penalty, after they were caught trying to recruit bloggers with spam SEO tactics; the company, which recently received a massive $15 million investment from venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, has effectively been wiped from the map.

Web entrepreneur John Marbach exposed Rap Genius’ growth hacking attempts shortly before Christmas. In a blog post, he details how he responded to a call for affiliate bloggers that went out on the Rap Genius Facebook fan page; when he sent an email to inquire about the opportunity, site cofounder Mahbod Moghadam responded with instructions that Marbach should include a set of HTML a href links on the bottom of one of his blog posts. The links were for each of the songs on Justin Bieber’s new album; Moghadam promised to tweet out any blog post which included the HTML, assuring massive traffic increases for both sites.

Anyone with even a slight idea of how SEO works (and how it shouldn’t) will shudder at the thought. Rap Genius was caught red-handed attempting to engineer a huge link scheme with tactics so old-school that they might as well come with corporal punishment and inkwells. After Google zapped them from the SERPs, Quantcast estimates show that Rap Genius’ traffic plunged by 60% the first day after the penalty, and another 52% the day after that. The fact that Rap Genius asked for anchor text links from a blogger is almost quaint, and everyone from Barry Schwartz to Eric Ward has weighed in on the site’s penalty and why things unraveled the way they did. Ward’s analysis was particularly poignant; he expresses sympathy for the site, which wanted what every site wants: more traffic based on links from high-ranked blogs. But, he says, the mistake wasn’t in trying to get bloggers to link to Rap Genius, but rather demanding anchor text from them rather than just letting the content creators create the links more naturally.

Rap Genius has been controversial before; its founders have been in the news for foul-mouthed and explicit behaviors, but the site was rising in the ranks for a long time. Recently they were featured in a New York Times article for their participation in a unique education program designed to teach science through hip-hop. For a while, it seemed like they were destined to reach the top quickly despite being a relatively young site; but the fact is, no one knows exactly what Google wants out of a site, and no one can game the system without risking penalty. While Rap Genius has confessed their mistake and promised to fix it, and the penalty may be fixed sometime down the road, this case is yet another clear reminder that quick schemes will land you in hot water more often than not.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:13 pm on December 31, 2013


 

Blogcology Dec 19, 2013

Davecology

Dave Davies’ recent Search Engine Watch article takes us back in time by reviewing Google’s methods of madness from 2013. What was great about this article is that it makes sense of Google’s events and algorithms as far back as 2012 and how it all came together for the present day. He discusses on the show that 2012 was a case of tearing off the band aid where 2013 was more about learning to adapt to the changes.

His 2014 forecast was intriguing as he sees Google continuing pursuit of a mobile search environment. Since they own a majority of the OS market this makes sense that their direction increases their focus on communications between desktop and mobile.

Dave’s projection for Google technology acquisitions in the New Year will be primarily on advertising. With a rumor of a gaming console he seems to think could deliver convenience through offering live time shopping from the television or console. Like ordering a pizza while playing a game or watching TV without shutting the entertainment down to do so.

Definitely an entertaining read that places the pieces to the puzzle in subsequent order and paints the perfect possible future for Google.

Faceology

These days’ people aren’t seeing the usual views from friends that they might be used to. According to Jim he sees Facebook as a “liberal echo chamber” because of the limiting results of visual updates. The new algorithms give you what you think you want to see but leaves out what it decides are not of interest of you. Jim made a point that the washed out delivery of content is making this social platform a less interesting environment. Dave referred it to “filtering to placate” a trend that not only Facebook has followed but Google as well. The lack of debatable posts is less engaging but it’s also creating less time on site. A benefit for Facebook users but a considerable loss for the social giant.

Googecology

The boys were discussing the blunt warning from Google to spammers. Pugnacious, was the word Jim used to describe Matt Cutts latest video thwarting off the evil of spammers. This takes place of after a massive spam hunt on link networks such as Anglo Rank. Matt laid down the law and showed muscle behind Google’s intent to end dishonest work on the web. I would have to definitely agree with this bold move from Matt and think that this could end up being the year that spammers lie six feet under.

Sumcology

• You could be ordering pizzas while shooting zombies
• Facebook -  we want the good, bad and ugly
• Filtering to placate can result in boredom
• Pugnacious, is just fun to say

SEO news blog post by @ 1:30 pm on December 20, 2013


 

Google Goes Network Hunting

Last week, I reported on Google’s takedown of AngloRank, a supposedly solid link network used by black hats to boost their sites. It was amusing to follow AngloRank’s sales thread on BlackHatWorld, because Matt Cutts’ proud Tweet announcing the torch was actually seen as free publicity and the network saw an increased interest in their packages.

Well, it seems that Google is making network-hunting into a bit of a sport; last Friday Cutts reported the takedown of another link network, Backlinks.com. This service was yet another “undetectable” link buying program; they offer “2 types of text links: Standard text links which display a simple text link of up to 30 characters and Content Links which display a text link and additional surrounding text of up to 120 characters.” You can also sign up to sell text links from your website, for which you will receive 50% of the revenue generated. Like AngloRank, if you work with white hat SEO tactics it’s a little bit of a shock to realize that these sorts of networks are still around—it’s sort of like seeing someone walking out of the Apple store using a first-generation brick-sized cell phone.

Backlinks.com has a far more professional-looking website than AngloRank, which seemed to do most of its advertising on the BlackHatWorld forums, where SEOs largely knew exactly what they were getting into. The network hasn’t commented on the penalty, and Search Engine Watch reports that, in fact, they started a promotion on the same day as Cutts’ tweet which offered 3x the number of links for the same price. Whether they’re desperately bailing out as much cash as possible or simply puffing out their chest in the face of a challenge is unknown.

duckdogsI headed over to the BHW forums to see what they thought of this latest takedown, and again the response surprised me; while I didn’t expect them to be mourning the loss of their links, they were quite critical of Matt Cutts for announcing the Backlinks.com takedown with such pride; one user compared it to “a top cop reporting about petty theft. Just sad and disgraceful.” It’s quite the difference in impact between Google and the black hats; while the white hats celebrate another bad guy biting the dust, the black hats roll their eyes and complain—not that their link networks have disappeared, but that Google shouldn’t even be going after them in the first place because they should have bigger fish to fry. To them, Google is ruining a person’s business, and trying to win an endless game of cat-and-mouse. It’s not unlike the dog character in the classic NES game Duck Hunt, who pops up to giggle at you when you’ve missed a shot.

So, to reiterate, again: do not buy links from a network. Just don’t do it. AngloRank proudly reported a spike in sales after Google announced they’d caught them, and its owner claimed that a scant handful of sites had been penalized and that customers would not feel the impact; this week, the service has ceased taking orders from new clients, and many current users have reported getting penalty warnings from Google. The network’s claim that they were untraceable has been pretty well debunked by this point. Matt Cutts, cheeky as always, won’t confirm that Google is specifically going after link networks one by one, but now that two major services have been taken down in as many weeks it definitely seems like a pattern is emerging. But the question now remains: out of Google and the link networks, who represents the target shooter, and who is the dog who pops up to laugh in the face of a loaded gun?

SEO news blog post by @ 10:53 am on December 18, 2013


 

#RestoreTheBlock: How Twitter Nearly Enabled Abusers

A few big things happened on Twitter last night. Scandal aired its midseason finale, shocking and delighting its diehard fans as they tweeted along; Beyonce released a brand new album on iTunes with virtually no warning or hype, bringing an early Christmas surprise to her listeners. But for about five or six hours in the evening of December 12th, users everywhere were up in arms over a change to Twitter’s blocking policy, which had been quietly announced that afternoon. People didn’t really take notice of the change until an article on Forbes.com outlined the new rules; but as word spread, it became clear that Twitter had made a very, very big mistake.

restoretheblockTwitter has always struggled with the privacy and online safety of its users. If you blocked an account, that person would no longer be able to follow you or see your tweets or profile photo, and any @replies they made would not show up in your mentions tab. A blocked person could log out of their account and still view your public profile and tweets, but taking away the ability to interact went a long way towards preventing harassment and abuse.

Under the new rules, blocking someone on Twitter effectively just muted them. They could still follow your account, reply to you, and retweet your posts to their followers; you just wouldn’t see any of it. A company spokesman told Forbes that the change was meant to placate the angry responses from blocked users; “We saw antagonistic behavior where people would see they were blocked and be mad,” said Jim Prosser. The paper-thin excuse, literally chalked up to people’s feelings getting hurt, was supplanted by a more cynical theory that Twitter was trying to prevent users from blocking promoted advertisements now that the company had gone public.

Anyone who knows how stalking works online can see the problem with this immediately; it put the blinders on the victims, instead of punishing the perpetrators. Millions of people use the block function to prevent death and rape threats, online harassment, and other abuse; now someone could still maliciously threaten them, and they just wouldn’t see it. Furthermore, the inability to force an unfollow meant that if a spambot followed you, you were stuck with them forever; you wouldn’t see them, but they’d still be able to see your tweets and use them to hawk whatever they sell. From an SEO standpoint, it was disastrous; we’ve spent months or years telling clients that the numbers of followers do not matter, but rather the quality of who you interact with on Twitter; with the new blocking rules, there was nothing to stop #Teamfollowback members from keeping an account in their virus-like circle of self-indulgence, even if you couldn’t see it.

What really horrified me, though, was remembering that I wrote about Twitter way back in August—and how they announced that they were going to begin work on a ‘Report Abuse’ function in the wake of the death and rape threats to the British woman who did nothing but get Jane Austen’s face on the £10 note. Four months later, we got a step in the entirely opposite direction—being invisible to your target is a stalker’s dream. The solution was not to “just make your account private”; part of Twitter’s appeal is its use as a networking and communications tool, and telling victims of abuse to make their accounts private is putting the onus on them instead of on the perpetrators. Twitter users all over the globe felt the same way as I did; political analyst Zerlina Maxwell, herself a victim of vicious abuse on Twitter, quickly created a change.org petition calling for the reinstatement of the block button, which got over 2,000 signatures. The #RestoreTheBlock hashtag erupted into a rallying cry, even as it suspiciously disappeared from the Top 10 trends list.

Luckily, Twitter reversed their decision, and reinstated the original block features shortly before 8pm. It’s refreshing to see a company acknowledge that they’ve made a mistake and move to correct it; it’s one of the reasons why Twitter has maintained a better policy record than Facebook when it comes to changes in user experience. I’m glad that none of us had to see the long-term ramifications of the mute-block function; it spelled disaster not only for those facing harassment, but also for companies wishing to establish an authoritative, trustworthy profile on one of the most popular social media sites on Earth. Twitter has promised to continue refining the safety features of their service, and I hope that this lesson is a reminder of what they actually need to do to make their website a safer, more effective communication tool.

SEO news blog post by @ 5:01 pm on December 13, 2013

Categories:Twitter

 

Blogcology December 12, 2013

Mozcology
Rand Fishkin CEO of MOZ stepped aside to teach new CEO Sarah Bird. The Moz team have had many positive years as well as managed to evolve with the fast changing world of SEO. The future is in great hands with Sarah Bird who has always been a fearless personality, a world class academic but most importantly, has complete faith from the team. Congratulations to all at MOZ.

Googcology
Watch out repeat offenders Google is going to get you! It’s been made official, if you repeatedly get penalized it could take you years for your record to be repaired. Since the Florida update Google has kept a detailed record of your history and if it’s been flawed don’t expect to have it simply fixed. It could be if this has happened and you turn for help you could easily be turned away and told to get a whole new domain. Is this fair? Yes it is, and not only is it fair but it cleans up poor practice and unethical madness on the internet. This will clear the path for honest business practice and regain the trust needed for a healthy e-commerce world.
What if I need to get a new domain? The best tool for that is the use of Majestic SEO and check out the historical index for any negative backlinks going to the domain you’re looking at buying. If you’re a small Mom and Pop store that wants to use a certain domain take it in to the closest white hat SEO and have them do the research on it for you. I’m sure they can let you know if it has a positive or negative history.

Dumbcology
Anglo Rank customers are getting penalized with inbound link warnings. Of course they are and were going to achieve a warning the minute they signed up. You don’t buy links!!! No sympathy in this post.

Dixoncology
Dixon Jones from Majestic SEO joined Jim Hedger and Carolyn Shelby this week for a fantastic interview. First on the topic was the newest addition to Majestic; their new search engine. Dixon explains that this Search Engine Alpha is like no other – being subscription based it cuts out the digital crap. It’s primarily meant for pure research purposes that indexes over a ninety day period with over billions of urls picked up daily. Cooperative bandwidths shared by individual hard drives allow for international crawling which helps produce the billions of urls. Created for simple use it produces positive targets and link prospects. This transparent search speeds up the research time by sidestepping digital crud and helps give a more accurate more positive result.

Sumcology
* If you buy links you’re simply dumb
* SEO Moz is ready for a clear future
* Google will spank you if you keep playing dumb
* Dixon Jones sounds like Ricky Gervais

SEO news blog post by @ 3:38 pm on

Categories:Articles

 

Google Busts Anglo Rank, Anglo Rank Keeps Trucking

On December 6, Google’s Matt Cuts sent out this cheeky tweet: “’There are absolutely NO footprints linking the websites together.’ Oh, Anglo Rank.” This was effectively an announcement that Google had busted the paid link service; when Search Engine Land’s EIC Matt McGee theorized that the network was “torched,” Cutts confirmed that Anglo Rank had indeed been penalized and that Webmaster Tools would be sending out a lot of penalty notifications in the near future. He also told Barry Schwartz that Anglo Rank was far from the only network that was being targeted by the latest raid and update.

This isn’t the first link network that Google has gone after in the past year, but they’ve been taking them down with greater speed and frequency as their algorithms increasingly demand high-quality, honest link strategies from sites in order to get them anywhere near the top 10. In contrast to all of the quality, content-focused work that we SEOs have been doing in the wake of Hummingbird, Anglo Rank’s listing on Black Hat World appears almost delightfully quaint; it promises English-language links from high-PR sites on top-level domains, and boasts that the network builds enough anchor and link diversity to ensure that Google won’t flag the links as spam. Cutts quoted a piece of their sales pitch in his tweet; Anglo Rank promised that there was no way that Google would see that you were participating in a linked network of sites. Clearly, that’s no longer the case.

What I find personally fascinating is that the report of Google’s bust has done anything but shut Anglo Rank down; its thread on the Black Hat World forums has reported Cutts’ tweet, but the requests for sample links and packaging prices have only increased as a result. The sellers have actually reassured interested webmasters that the network has barely been touched, and any attempts to warn potential new customers away have been met with hostility and accusations of being a Google spy.

It’s actually a little amazing to see the black hat side of this story; while most of us would assume that having a link network busted would result in a mild scramble to rework strategy, it seems that Anglo Rank is still running under business as usual, and webmasters see Cutts’ announcement as more of a challenge than a threat.

For dedicated black-hatters, things like this are just dust in the wind; it’s all a part of the game, and there are plenty more churn-and-burn sites and underground link purchase networks to exploit. But it’s also a potent reminder to everyone with a good website that they can’t afford to lose; never trust someone who promises quick results and bulk link quantities; while the black-hatters may know exactly what they’re doing, if you are their client then you may end up bearing the brunt of the penalty. Good SEO requires patience, hard work, and a lot of give-and-take; Anglo Rank isn’t the first network to get busted by Google, and it won’t be the last, but we are in the final days of these Wild West tactics and they are not going to produce good long-term results.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:59 pm on December 10, 2013

Categories:Google,link building

 

Blogcology

Googcology
Are you sure you want to play in Google’s sandbox? Google Sandbox is a theoretical purgatory where a certain business under manual penalty sits until a review. Unfortunately, many companies are playing around in the Google sandbox and most of them are sitting there because of bad black hat link strategies. For example, Dave Davies mentioned that a client recently reported of sitting in purgatory over unnecessary and malicious link building. A horrible thing but most of the work done today is spent on disavowing backlinks for clients than progressive strategy. This is more likely the given state of affairs until this monster transition settles down.

Robotcology
Too many robots in the kitchen already! From self-driving cars to roaming vacuums Google has now entered robotics with the help of Android developer Andy Rubin. This lifestyle product will be dedicated to making day to day activities easier; catered to save you time by connecting your home to you. The artificial intelligence is built to know each and every user on an individual base far ahead of earlier model concept such as Microsoft once proposed. Google has made advances to where the robot adapts to individuals rather than stick to a ridged non-responsive software.

Sumcology
Yucky things can be found in the sandbox
Your best friend will be a robot (if he isn’t already)
Get your Christmas website prepared well in advance
Darth Vader is replacing Mickey Mouse

Find out more on Webcology

SEO news blog post by @ 3:45 pm on December 6, 2013

Categories:Articles

 

Electric Love: Apple Acquires Topsy

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Apple has purchased Topsy, the leading Twitter search engine and analytics tool, for a rumored $200 million or more. While Apple has not released a definitive statement on what they plan to do with the service, the social web has been abuzz with what this partnership could mean for Apple’s iOS operating system and for Twitter users worldwide.

 

It is, in fact, impossible to have too much fun with Photoshop.

It is, in fact, impossible to have too much fun with Photoshop.

The San Francisco-based company launched in 2007, and is widely acknowledged as one of the best Twitter search engines in existence, thanks in large part to its incredible index; the service can access every single tweet in existence from 2006 to the present—approximately 540 billion tweets in total—making it an immensely helpful for social analytics. Throw a few keywords into the analytics search engine—“star wars” versus “star trek”, for example—and you can see how many tweets per day mention each key phrase, and who comes out on top (for this week it’s Star Wars, surprisingly). Users can also explore their entire Twitter backlog, examining which of their tweets has had the most influence on the social sphere as a whole and who they influence the most.

From roughly 2008 to 2010, Topsy was one of several “real-time” social search sites fighting for prominence; it competed with other companies like Collecta, Crowdeye, Tweetmeme, and Scoopler, to name just a few. However, the major search engines began including real-time results in their own algorithms, killing off most of these tools—except for Topsy, which remained strong as one of the few companies with full access to Twitter’s entire back index of tweets. The company won the race for good when the same search engines either shut down their social search functions or lost access to Twitter’s veritable “fire hose” of tweet data; Topsy retained what Google couldn’t keep. So it’s not surprising that Topsy was a hot acquisition property, but its purchase by Apple is an interesting twist.

There are tons of ways in which Apple could use Topsy’s services, but unlike the company’s other recent acquisitions it’s not immediately clear how it will be applied. Some analysts predict that Topsy’s information may be used to help improve app recommendations in Siri, the App store, and iTunes; if you think about it, Twitter is a far better way to discover connections between properties. Apple’s Genius tool can use a mathematical algorithm to recommend Bob’s Burgers if you’re a fan of Archer, but Twitter trends may show that people who talk about Archer are overwhelmingly more likely to also mention Breaking Bad—the crucial human element of choice and preference that may have slipped past Apple’s algorithm. Apple is also highly likely to use Topsy’s data to improve its digital voice assistant, Siri; they integrated Twitter information into Siri with the iOS 7 update, and Topsy would greatly improve the results.

While the details of what Apple plans to do with Topsy aren’t yet clear, it’s an intriguing turn of events; no one really expected that data to end up in the hands of the consumer electronics giant, and considering Apple’s recent competition with and separation from Google services it’s clear that the developers are seeking alternative methods to accurately search the web in all its forms. Whatever the outcome, it seems that little Topsy has, at last, found electric love.

SEO news blog post by @ 1:16 pm on December 3, 2013

Categories:Technology,Twitter

 

Why I Can’t “Like” George Takei

Or: Facebook Done Wrong

George Takei

Pretty much every search marketer has taken a lesson from George Takei and his amazing use of social media.  I know that I for one, as a huge Star Trek nerd and Internet Marketer on top of that have “Followed” him since his earlier days on Facebook.  So you can imagine my surprise when I found that I could no longer Comment on his status updates or even Like them.  So why would this be?

Let me begin by noting that at no time in any of my Comments did I make any statement that might be considered offensive.  I don’t object to his orientation, I love Star Trek and I’ve got way too much to do in my day to troll (and if I wanted to there are just so many people I’d rather launch into objections on).  So what happened that resulted in me having my ability to Like or Comment on George Takei’s Facebook page blocked you ask?

It Started With A Comment Being Removed And Then …

It started with a comment getting removed.  I can’t remember the specific product over at Amazon that was being promoted on his Wall that I Commented on but I do recall that when I clicked the link my first though was, “Really?  This is what you’re promoting?”  Rather than insert that comment (which would have matched quite a number of others at the time) I decided to do a little snooping.  It seemed suspicious to me that all the links were through bit.ly (though he now uses different URL shorteners).  I mean, when I just find something I like I don’t usually shorten the URL unless I either need to track it or hide it.  So which was it?

Well here’s where I got myself in trouble with Mr. George Takei (or more likely, the folks managing his social media).  I noticed that the URL shortener lead to an Amazon URL (like … every time) and they all have an affiliate ID (I know as it looks just like the IDs I use).  So we can now eliminate the need for tracking since that’s available through the affiliate program itself.  All that leaves is hiding the URL.

Well, I decided to make mention of it and props to them for responsiveness – within about 30 seconds it was removed.  I should note that at the same time as my one comment noting that the link was an affiliate link and they should be open about it and not promote crap, there were numerous comments on his wall that I’d deem as downright offensive.  Those stayed – mine was removed.

Well – I let it go for a bit but I started seeing more and more affiliate links and to worse and worse products.  I decided to make mention of it again and this time included a note that without disclosing that there was profit behind the link, that they were likely violating the law which requires disclosure of such.  And that was the last time I was able to Comment on George Takei’s wall on Facebook, or even Like a post … I’d been blocked.

And So …

I use this as a horrible example of how to interact on social media and one which could backfire.  If I’ve noticed then certainly others will and if the products marketed on his wall continue to be second-rate there’s sure to be a loss of interest.  People followed George because he was entertaining and honest and if that’s gone – then what’s left?  And do I even need to mention that posts like this one, not particularly positive, are likely to creep up?

Getting back to my Treky roots however I have to hope that things smooth over and that the social media folks stop trying to eke a buck or two at every turn and stick to promoting George himself, being clear when they’re profiting of links they post and hopefully stop being skewed by their Amazon affiliate ID and post links to genuinely interesting things.  And if any of the social media managers of George Takei read this: ThinkGeek has an affiliate program and their products are far more entertaining than what you’ve been posting lately.  Just be sure to note the profit you’ll be making.  People don’t mind if it’s genuinely interesting.

SEO news blog post by @ 8:02 am on

Categories:Facebook

 

Security Tips for Cyber Monday

Notebook SecurityWith Holiday shopping in full speed many small businesses have been preparing for a successful season. With a steady increase to internet banking and shopping there is an unfortunate rise of identity theft as well as fraudulent transactions. The unfortunate case of becoming a victim to online theft can leave many people or businesses facing financial as well as personal loss. Michelle Stone from AmOne, gives us some basic tips on how small businesses can keep themselves and others safe online.

More than ever small businesses are utilizing online shopping to engage a larger clientele. What would be the first move to help prevent online scams and fraud?

Simply put, online retailers, regardless of size, should have at least the basic security and encryption in place. There are a number of companies that provide authentication and security for ecommerce sites. In addition, many web host providers offer packages that include site security. The best, first move? Think like your customers. You’re a customer yourself. Use your experience in shopping online and think of how safe you feel your personal and financial information is. Which online stores have you used and how secure are they? Do they display things like HTTPS before their web address, is there a green padlock in the address bar of the browser, do they have some form of certification? Odds are they have all of this and more and you as a consumer felt confident that your payment information wasn’t going to be compromised. Take notes from these retailers and apply them to your own business.

Are there ways of safeguarding online customers from a cyber-attack?

Customers can be compromised from a number of areas. While you can work to make your website as secure as possible, it’s harder to make sure that your consumers haven’t been compromised in visiting another website or falling prey to a phishing scam. You can educate your customers on what to look for when it comes to spoofing, phishing, pharming, smishing, and even vishing. If you don’t know what those terms are, you should. Do you have frequently asked questions on your website? If so, talk about how you take their online security seriously and explain what they should be on the lookout for. Tell them that they should always go to your website directly and access their account from there. If you have a newsletter or other email marketing, add this information in as well on a regular basis. It can be a monthly security tip. Help your customers help you by informing them and keeping their computers safer. This in turn will help your system limit exposure to a possible attack.

Is there any benefit to educating employees to internet safety?

Your employees are as likely to fall prey to fraud or an online scam as your customers are. There are even more direct threats to your business, threats that use your employees as a way to access sensitive data. Your employees are your first line of defense. Making them aware of social engineering techniques such as someone calling the company and posing as a vendor (or even as a coworker) will help to protect your business from someone wanting to steal information.

What would you consider the best possible way to educate employees?

Keep your employees informed. Many of the exploits that can target your business also affects them as consumers. This will help make the training materials easier to relate. Just like with assessing your business and where you shop to get a sense of how you can prevent identity theft, put yourself and your employees in your consumer’s shoes. It’s easy to stay informed on the latest scams, fraud schemes, and vulnerabilities through government websites like USA.gov and BusinessUSA.gov.

Is there a particular role a business can play when engaging the online community from social media and client communications?

If nothing else, listen to what’s being talked about in social media and listen to your customers. What are the current security issues and concerns? Twitter is a fast way to find out the latest information, whether it’s breaking news or Twitter chats with non-profit organizations like the Identity Theft Resource Center to learn how you can learn about threats and how to counter them. You can also take part in these chats and share information via social networks and emails to your clients (like a monthly newsletter). You should also claim your name on the major social networking sites, especially those that relate to your business. It can be easy for a fraudster to sign up a social media account in your company’s name and use that to try to defraud your customers out of their personally identifiable information. Make sure your employees and customers know which social networks your company is on and monitor your name and activity for any sign of potential issues (including client reviews).

To sum up online safety for the small business; what would you say is the number one necessary piece of advice to maintain a healthy and safe experience on the internet?

Think of how you use the Internet and what you expect from retail, media, government, medical, even entertainment websites when it comes to the safety and security of your information. Would you trust your own website with your email address? What about your credit card information? If not, why not. Then follow up with, why should a customer trust your site? Keeping it to that simple question, do you trust your own company’s website? can help to guide you in safeguarding your customers’ sensitive data.

SEO news blog post by @ 10:38 am on December 2, 2013

Categories:Cyber-Security

 

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