Myspace, Meet SEO 101

To-day one of the profiles I manage there was down for a few hours, for "routine maintenance." Shortly afterward I noticed a couple changes on Myspace worth noting:

Their robots.txt file changed since the last time I mentioned it, moreover this change happened just to-day actually. I know this because to-day I was, pseudo-paranoid that I am, looking up my temporarily-downed profile in in case for some off-the-wall reason I was about to lose it (I've heard of people losing profiles innocently on occasion). In the morning I was able to get to some older caches of it, yet now at nearing 11pm Pacific time it's no dice: They have now at last issued their first 'bot block, and it's of ia_archiver.

My guess is this is to make it harder for spammers or or other undesirables to scrape content, for generating profiles and/or restoring banned content in fresh ones. The other big reason to do this would be user privacy issues. Pretend for a moment that you're a female Myspace member being harassed by an ex-boyfriend (statistically a cyber-stalker would probably be male). You're pushed to extreme measures and delete your profile(s) altogether. Here raises ye olde SERM quarry: Is it deleted everywhere, truly wiped from the face of the 'Net into a sheltering oblivion? Maybe, maybe not. Depends how it was removed, and whether someone copied it down first even if it was removed thoroughly upon being subsequently cut.

That's the best theory I have for the reasons behind a change of this ilk. Anyway, despite whatever higher purposes this one inhibits me from illustrating something else of interest (though many active Myspace marketers will see this next one plainly upon checking), also a change at least somewhat recent:

They are also making progress with adopting basic tagging standards, by now making profile TITLE tags more descriptive. This is happening now with both regular user and band profiles. Not long ago, if you has one of these its title would just mirror your custom URL, e.g.


Now though, if you have a regular user profile it's something more like

<TITLE> - yourName - yourAge - yourGender - yourCity, yourState -</TITLE>.

The same principle applies if you have a band profile. In that case, your new tag template is

<TITLE> - yourBand - yourCity, yourState - yourGenre1 / yourGenre2 / yourGenre3 -</TITLE>.

Obviously this item is also a simple but very significant edit. It helps to reduce duplicate content issues some, to be sure. If you've ever tried to find someone on Myspace you probably already know it used to be pretty difficult sometimes. Various parameter values can be shared limitlessly and logically. But now, Presto. Pinpointing people - or at least who/what they say they are - on Myspace, and also searching for such profiles within Google and other engines, just got a whole lot easier. On sites as huge as this, there is no such thing as a minor SEO change really.

It looks like Myspace may be taking a few SEO 101 lessons from Google since buddying up with them. Or perhaps, certain SEOs now within the FIM ranks (you know who you are 😉 ) are behind these gradual however serious improvements.

Ironically, the TITLE tag changes actually make it easier for targeted social marketing or other structured, granular queries in some ways. To target specific demographics and point-of-interest indicators, scrapers now don't necessarily need to look to the Myspace domain itself anymore. Now, when one wants to do simple filtrations like weeding out a solid sampling of 30 year-old males in San Francisco for example, one can just use Google operators.

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Myspace: Protecting our Kids from...

...perverts? pedophiles?!? Aye, of course but let's not forget (and perhaps most of all):


Samy (the lad whom I mentioned a couple weeks ago) is now feeling the not-so-swift nonetheless serious hand of Myspace justice as reported in SC Magazine yesterday. Man. Don't mess with the Fox / NewsCorp people; some of them take being shaken up a bit quite seriously (even when the shaker isn't shaking to make money or disrupt them really).

I found this on Myspace, ironically.

...OK, technically yes, Samy was no baby, and he did commit a crime that he's got to pay for. He was legally an adult when he let his worm loose on them, but by a mere year or two. That no doubt made all the difference in determining his punishment (despite undisclosed details about the $ part).

It doesn't necessarily mean that Myspace taking it as far as an actual trial for his childish behavior would've been the most mature response, though. I wonder if taking him to court with the aim of settling so as to put him to (unpaid) work for them for a period of time would've been a better strategy, i.e. retaining more street cred while putting some obviously skilled help on tightening up their sites. With hackers and spammers, it often takes one to fight one... and sometimes it's better to take the high ground and look for a potential advantage in a situation, than it is to go making an example of someone to try sending a message like they did here.

They have been getting it together lately though. Word is they've been working in more email verification requirements, IP blocking, and a stronger CAPCHA in the past week.

Anywho, I've been putting off getting one of the T-shirts for a while. It's about that time now though... just in case the better design sells out and/or their prices get raised. Besides, they probably qualify as retro chic now. Two years counts as retro in Internet time, right? I should think so.

I wonder how long Samy's direct record (complete with the code overview, screenshots, links and a guestbook) will be allowed to stay live. Those who haven't seen it are encouraged to check out the retrospective now in case it gets yanked soon per the recent court ruling.

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Speak of the Devil...

and hear wings rustle.

It's been another interesting discovery day in the world of Myspace, whom I happened to elude to yesterday albeit on a different point.

I maintain that if I were them I'd be flapping hard, despite how the only way entrepeneurs are directly monetizing them is (to my knowledge) in pushing profile tweaks and lookie-loo webcam sites via fake profiles (areas which unto themselves have some serious coin in them): RSnake's Fierce has revealed now their "Content Take-Down Tool"...

Content Take-Down

also their Site Admin...

Site Admin

and the location of their Webmail...


and... sheesh. Hopefully they're hiring Engineers as aggressively as they say they're hiring Sales reps. 😛

I really don't know much about Web security or IT but meself, I'd have thrown some spider traps on all this. Also, their public site's robots.txt is surprisingly simple and inviting for the business they're in. There are ton of sites who are spit in the ocean compared to Myspace that are more secure. It wouldn't be hard for them to just let in the major SE bots and feed aggregators and as for the rest of them, well screw 'em, in order to keep out unidentified crawling objects. Up there with Yahoo and Ebay, they're the one of the most visited sites on the Web already, and their brand is one of the most searched-on queries any given week or month. So sure, it would hamper their traffic some but IMHO it would be a small price to pay to sleep easier at night.

Maybe I'm just paranoid... Whenever I register a domain and put the DNS on anything other than the registrar's park page, it doesn't take but days or weeks before some hoser, proxified via the PRC, Turkey, Singapore, The United Arab Emirates or some other place, sends something wriggling through me trying to find vulnerabilities in things that don't even exist yet, i.e. before I've installed any software or databases on the host whatsoever. This moreover sometimes happens before I've published any content or set up any inbound links on the greater Web. That's how aggressive and thoroughly automated some people are.

Anyway, I'm not the only one with misc. feelers out there aiming to keep a finger on the pulse of things from ongoing research, polite observation, and info-power perspectives. So if people like me are becoming aware of this stuff without specifically trying, think what professional hackers are up to right about now with it. My guess: Shifting attention from developing various XSS methods that work on Myspace's public-facing stuff (a handful of which seem to appear monthly) over to targeting their back-end. At this rate it's probably just a matter of time until someone comes up with something that does a lot more damage than what Samy did.

With Web 1.0 hyper-growth was a lot about content management, handling loads on infrastructure etc. ... With 2.0 though, given the new democratic openness and the methods facilitating that, the watchword now is security for sure.

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Demographics in Web Analytics

One thing that's often elusive in doing sites analysis is weeding out the demographics of visitors. There have been natural limitations here as analytics technologies have always had to collect no personally identifiable information, and in connection with this they've also obviously had to keep their privacy policies clear. Vendors like Omniture, Coremetrics, Websidestory and others must adhere to this basic rule, like just about anyone doing business online.

This has meant Web Analysts have been left to things like surveys, offline data sources like call center data, and any associated indirect and/or circumstantial evidence to draw conclusions from. This can get complicated fast, so often marketers opt to keep it simple at least at first. Example:

OK, my top referrer is Myspace, so chances are good most of my visitors are Millennials.

Aside from accuracy considerations, a problem with this though is the results aren't always going to be actionable. The data will come out something that had already been treated as a given...

Well duh, I'm selling ringtones. Tell me something I don't know, like whether we're talking mostly high school or mostly college students...

One fun, free and casual tool that's out now to perhaps help connect the dots is Quantcast. Some of the data it returns on some sites I've worked on looks believable. On low-traffic sites at least though, I'm finding it's way inaccurate, presumably due to limited data: I also checked a well-aged domain held by a popular club here in the city, managed by a few folks I know. Quantcast says it's got roughly 1000 visitors a month, which is of course almost nothing and sounds about right. However they also said an overwhelming majority of visitors to the site are Hispanic, also holding graduate degrees. I do promotional networking at the venue itself on occasion. To my knowledge its average patronage is almost all early-mid 20-somethings (normally a bit young to have finished grad school), moreover pretty Caucasian; perhaps leaning slightly on the WASPy side... So there are some pretty big differences here between who Quantcast says the club's Web audience is, and what I know their meatspace audience to be. It doesn't add up.

I've started connecting a few sites to the tool for quantification, to see how it does with queries regarding others I've background on already. At the very least, on traffic numbers we'll see how it holds up against the reporting sources already in production. They're still aggregating information from their integrated partners, and I'd half-expect them to not come up with demographics at all on some domains even if they weren't still building out their records, but here's crossing fingers and noting a new option for the toolkit in any case.

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Based out of Northern California, is a bl.og dedicated to the advocacy and study of high-impact, data driven marketing disciplines and related concerns: Analytics and Data Mining, Marketing Automation, Integrated Advertising (targeting, retargeting), Demand Generation and Lead Nurturing, Social Media / Social Engineering (Crowd-hacking) and the new PR, Privacy, Security, CRM, SEO / SEM, CRO, ROI... more TLAs (three letter acronyms) than any sane person's daily lexicon should include.

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