Monday, June 9, 2014

Humans apply within, robots not required.

This blog is currently hosted on a Google Blogger server. It has been a constant struggle to raise viewer numbers. Last month was an all-time high of over 7,000 but how many of those hits were genuine? That's a question that was puzzling as although hits and page views were increasing, revenue and interaction were very low. In fact, revenue had actually dropped.

Looking at the site on a content level, there were modules included that allegedly listed the blog on blog directories. Now blog directories were something that in regular everyday browsing are never encountered. Out of sheer curiosity, they were removed and the effect was pretty fast. Not only did "visitor" numbers plummet but revenue increased. This sounds paradoxical but does make sense if the reasons behind this are examined.

Adsense - which is the revenue creation medium for this blog - is set up to reject fake hits. If it wasn't then just about every site owner would be sitting clicking adverts all day, every day, creating revenue for themselves which really wouldn't be fair on the advertisers. The problem with automated systems is that very often they don't really work. Thus, genuine advertising clicks are often missed.

Previous articles have discussed various aspects of fake hits but not the damage caused by fake hits. Veritassium makes some excellent points about fake Facebook hits by way of example. For Facebook pages, fake hits actively reduce the number of people viewing the pages. This leads directly to a reduction in visibility. With blogs, it's different. Fake hits bump up the hits figure and give people a sense of positivity that their blogs are making the rounds. They encourage people to produce ever more content which in the case of Blogspot, Google likes. For Google, more content means more chances people will see something with advertising and hence make them more money. Thus, it pays Google to get people hooked on blogging even if it means supplying the means to generate fake hits.

The downside of the fake hits is that while it looks like there are readers, it does count against adsense. It's a little perverse - Google supplying the means to generate fake hits and then deleting genuine hits from adsense revenue because of the fake hits. The evidence is clear - as soon as the "blog listing" component was removed, adsense income rose.

Fake hits are a curse for Adsense. For Facebook users, fake hits are a curse too. Amazingly, people are prepared to pay for fake hits just as they are prepared to pay for fake followers on Twitter, Instagram etc. Fake is fake and a total waste of time and money but worse than that, the fakes actually harm the integrity of what is being achieved. In many ways it's similar to the analogy of a smoker once given by a university friend, Paul Portway who declared that it was like somebody stabbing themselves in the back with a knife while declaring that though they knew it was bad, they enjoyed it.

For businesses with few hits, the idea is that people will think more if the business has more hits or likes. The point of a like is somewhat elusive. For this blog, readers are what is required. It's not possible to force people to read. Fake hits are not required. Interaction is desired but not frequently forthcoming.

What is your experience of fake hits or likes?

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