Search Engine Optimization: Why Search Delivers Irrelevant Results and Ad Budgets Can Go Poof

July 23, 2019

DarkCyber noted “What Are Click Farms? A Shadowy Internet Industry Is Booming in China.” A diligent “real news” professional noted that one can buy clicks. DarkCyber spotted these services on gig economy sites like SEOExperts, Fiverr, and similar services some time ago. Think in terms of years.

The write up explains: Click farms

are plugged in and programmed to search, click, and download a certain app over and over again. The goal is to manipulate the system of app store rankings and search results.

The procedure is:

Click farms use an automated process hacks into the normal App Store Optimization (ASO) practice — which requires developers to use certain keywords in descriptions and attract users by being a useful product — and are programmed to promote apps by imitating a real user by searching for certain keywords, clicking on the app, downloading, and even writing positive reviews.

The write up focuses on apps and China.

DarkCyber wants to suggest that click farms are available to perform tasks like these:

  1. Target a company’s online ads, click on them, and burn through the budget for a keyword so a second place owner of a keyword pops up and presumably gets the “real” clicks from an actual interested person. (Keep in mind that a savvy competitor can have this technique used against his or her campaign.)
  2. Target a concept and click links. The result is what DarkCyber and its beloved leader calls “augmentext.” The idea is that a concept, not a site, can be converted into an attractor for a Google-type relevance system
  3. Click on an entity and cause that entity to have “magnetism.” With the loopholes and weaknesses inherent in the core algorithms, an entity can become “hot” or a “trend.”

The write up points out that click farms are illegal. Perhaps the estimable search engine optimization industry should police its behaviors? Perhaps online disinformation consultants should not use these services?

I am not sure that click farms are new, particularly shadowy, or going to go away. Spoofing relevance is too darned easy and there’s zero incentive for certain vendors selling ads or offering to manipulate opinion to change.

Stephen E Arnold, July 23, 2019


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