The appearance of the ignorance that is Semalt.com has brought back bitter memories of Plaxo.
It was an eon ago in Internet years we were grousing about all the email spam from Plaxo. What made it worse was the spam was the result of our friends’ lack of awareness to Plaxo’s game (to build its business by sending email to EVERYONE in their customers’ address books without much warning if any at all).
For years those of use who were able always created a rule to block any email coming from Plaxo when setting up a new email account.
It wasn’t until years later that Plaxo CEO, Ben Golub, finally came out and acknowledged that what they were doing merited an apology and a promise of better behavior. This only after being called out by the blogosphere elite using comments such as, “You should have done this a lot sooner,” “You clearly knew that what you were doing was wrong” and “You’re evil, horrible people who should be banished to Hades.”
Plaxo changed their business model. Became rather innocuous and faded away only to be bought later by Comcast (who amazingly seemed to have no idea of the blemished brand they were acquiring).
Fast-forward to today. Allow me to introduce you to Semalt LLC (hereinafter referred as those who shall not be mentioned or, more simply, “S”). S made their first appearance (aka crawled out from under a rock) late 2013. They began showing up on webmasters’ radars as a site referring website traffic, lots of traffic for some.
We webmasters like to see other sites sending traffic to our and our clients’ sites. More eyeballs is always a good thing. So we take notice and investigate. But wait … every one of these visits hits one page and then leaves. How odd. This is a sign of a poor traffic source since people aren’t engaging with the website and leaving. A high bounce rate (people leaving from the page they landed on) is something search engines look at when deciding if your web pages are worthy of touting to people searching for what you’re offering.
It isn’t hard to quickly uncover the mystery of this traffic. Simply search for S and you’ll discover lots of forums filled with webmasters spewing forth the worst kinds of spew about S and its clumsy and annoying visits to their sites. Plaxo would find this quite familiar territory.
When confronted on their Facebook page, S repeats over and over statements like [sic]
- I’m sorry if our bots have caused you any inconvenience.
- Our service is absolutely legitimate and each user chooses for himself – to use it or not.
- Unfortunately, we can not abandon collecting of data on the web, as it is necessary for our clients.
- S harvest statistics for web analytics service.
- Our bots have accidently visited your site, as well as the sites of other webmasters. These bots harvest statistics for our service and cause no harm. bring apology on the behalf of our company for the inconvenience.
They then tell the webmasters to enter their website(s) information in a form that supposedly will tell S to bugger off. There’s a few things wrong with that.
- It’s like a trespasser telling you it’s okay for them to be in your house because they’ll leave if you ask.
- I don’t know about you but I’m not putting information in a form created by these yahoos. I don’t need them to know there’s active monitoring going on or to combine my IP with the URL or who knows what. There are people smarter than me out there so I am careful of such things.
- According those brave enough to play S’s game and put the website info in the form, it doesn’t stop the visits from happening.
I am able and have blocked S from having their way with my and my clients’ web sites and in doing so send their script (it’s not a bot as they’d like you to believe) back to harass S’s own site to use up their bandwidth, server cycles and pollute their own traffic data. But I feel for people who, for whatever reasons, are unable to filter these undesirable visits from their traffic data and who may be incurring any SEO penalties due to an increase in their sites’ bounce rates as a result from this sophomoric company’s behavior.
What can be done? Email campaigns to their domain registrar, web host, Google and Bing advising them of S’s spammy behavior have been going on. What can be expected? Not much. Unless feeling adequate pain (read threat of a lawsuit), you can’t expect any to take the brave leap to shut one of their customers down.
So I am left to obsess, gnash my teeth, shake my fist and get all-around indignant about S and their arrogant/ignorant behavior. That is until Comcast swoops in and buys them.