Debate Traffic Spike

During last night’s presidential debate, Mitt Romney briefly mentioned food stamps. At that moment, there were five people on my blog. Sixty seconds later, there were hundreds. Here is a snapshot of Google Real-Time Analytics (click to enlarge):

That spike was an order of magnitude larger than any spike I have ever noticed on my site. Imagine if Romney and Obama had actually discussed food stamps. Sixty seconds of that, and I would have had thousands of people.

However, this is very low-value traffic. People were just doing a quick fact check, and I only got a couple of ad-clicks. So, the whole giant spike only generated a couple of dollars in revenue. But it was fun to watch.

Business Insider Surpasses Bloomberg

Since I put up the “Top Investing Websites” page eight months ago, Bloomberg has been the #1 site, and Business Insider has been #2. However yesterday, Business Insider moved above Bloomberg. So, there’s a new sheriff in town.

This changing of the guard was not only from Business Insider improving its Alexa Rank recently, but from Bloomberg taking a nose dive. Here are the charts from my Rank-O-Matic app:

Now we will see if Business Insider can hold the high ground and widen their lead over Bloomberg.

Congratulations, Business Insider.

Facebook Click Fraud?

A month ago, I posted “Why You Can’t Make Any Money with AdWords” which discussed pay-per-click advertising fraud. Now there is a related story about Facebook ads.

Limited Run, a New York start-up company says that they found what looks like bots clicking their Facebook ads, and burning up their advertising budget. Their is no way that Facebook or Google can stop criminals from clicking on your ads. However, they can scrutinize traffic and give you refunds for fishy-looking clicks. Google AdWords does that; I don’t know about Facebook.

Google has a much larger policing problem because sites that run AdSense have an incentive to click on ads that appear on their site – at least until Google catches them. As far as I can tell, Facebook doesn’t have revenue sharing, so you can’t make any money by hiring a shady character with a bot network to click the ads that appear on your Facebook profile.

A possible motive to click Facebook ads could come from short-sellers. Right? You put on your short position, you fire up the bots, and then you sit back and wait for Facebook’s advertisers to raise a stink.

In any case, it’s Facebook’s responsibility to deliver real leads to their advertisers no matter what the bad guys are doing. And if Facebook doesn’t have a click-fraud detection system, and refund policy, in place now, they had better get one fast.

Top Investing Websites – Update for July 2012

The Top Investing Websites page has been updated. Among the top-ten sites, there was only one change: Zero Hedge moved above ADVFN to regain the #8 position that it lost back in March.

FinViz moved above Morning Star into the #13 slot, and Wall Street Cheat Sheet continued its meteoric rise to #16. However, it won’t be easy for Wall Street Cheat Sheet to continue advancing. If you look at the table, you will see that the site is at the top of the second tier. In order to break into the top tier, they will have to take out IBD, which is 6,000 ranks higher. That’s a very long way to go.

Why You Can’t Make Any Money with AdWords

Click Fraud. That’s why. Look what this kid wrote on Reddit in IAmA 17-year-old Internet marketer that makes $20,000 a month:

“…when I was 14. …I was introduced to PPC (pay-per-click), which is websites that basically pay you for clicking on advertisements and watching them for certain amount of time.”

His idea of what “PPC” is all about is the exact opposite of yours, the advertiser, right?

A click-fraud operation sets up a website with AdSense, and content that attracts your ads. Then they pay people to click on the ads. But they know that some of you are studying your server logs looking for just that sort of thing: a bunch of quick clicks from a shady looking site. So, like the kid says, the click-monkeys loiter on your site. They fill out your forms, sign up for your mailing list, download your software, install it, run it, etc.

Their job is to create a plausible-looking stream of traffic in your logs.

If I were this kid’s dad, I would take a very close look at what he is doing now. He might be too small for the FBI, but the FBI does indeed to prosecute click-fraud cases.

Spotting click-fraud sites is still possible though – even when they use well-trained click-monkeys. For example if a site with a poor Alexa rating sends you as much traffic as a quality site with a strong Alexa rating, it’s probably a click-fraud site.

I find sites like this all the time using “click-fraud finder” software of my own invention. And I block them from my AdWords campaigns.

Problem solved, right?

Wrong!

Every time I block a bogus site, another one pops up.

You see, these click-fraud gangs know that I will block their sites, so they have plenty of spares ready to go.

So, I don’t let them hurt me too much. I bid low in Google’s “display network”. I study new sites very quickly. I try to get a feel for whether or not they are operated by honest people. And I track my conversions diligently. If I make a sale after spending less than $20 advertising on a site, it’s probably legit, etc.

Maybe you’re thinking that you can just take traffic from name-brand sites? Not so fast. I have a couple of stories about that, but I don’t need to be sued by any big companies and their legal teams. Suffice it to say: trust no one. Every site is suspect until your conversion tracking proves otherwise.

A few months ago, Google said that they were tightening the requirements for new sites that wanted to run AdSense. From my perspective, it hasn’t made any difference. If you have evidence to the contrary, please post a comment.

Top Investing Websites – Update for June 2012

The Top Investing Websites page has been updated. Traffic to investing websites surges when the stock market plunges as it did in May. So, if you operate an investing site, and are pleased with the improvement in your Alexa rank over the past month, you have to keep in mind that it is your rank relative to your competitors that counts on this list.

The top-ten sites held their relative positions except for Stock Charts which dropped from #10 to #11, having been bested by NASDAQ. However, my guess is that NASDAQ is one of those sites that people go to for free charts when the market is making scary headlines in the news. So, maybe Stock Charts will be able to regain the top ten eventually.

The most-significant move amongst the top-tier was, once again, Wall Street Cheat Sheet as it continued its rapid ascent, moving from #21 up to #17.

Will Being on TV Boost Your Alexa Rank?

Seems like an easy question, right? Well, let’s take a look at a test case. In March 2012, Josh Brown of The Reformed Broker had his book “Backstage Wall Street” published, and it generated a lot of buzz in the financial media.

Suddenly, everywhere you looked, there was Josh on financial TV and radio, including CNBC’s “Fast Money” show. I imagine that Josh was promoting his book more than his website during these appearances, however I was surprised to see that his Alexa rank did not improve. Here is the chart from my Rank-O-Matic app:

This reminds me of Steve Martin’s comments about how TV appearances did nothing for him during his early career. Viewers just didn’t jump up and race to the record store to buy his comedy CD’s.

This is good news for anonymous bloggers who might be feeling like they are missing out on TV-generated web traffic.

What could one do to drive more traffic from a TV appearance? I don’t know, but maybe saying something wild like this would work: “I have a picture of a caged extraterrestrial on my website right now. Go look at it.”

Do Blog Comments Help Your Website’s Alexa Rank?

Yes, it appears that they do indeed. And we have an excellent case study to look at. On February 19, 2012, ace technologist Dave Winer shut off the comments on his blog. (See his “No Comment” post).

On that day, Mr. Winer’s Alexa rank stood at 39,669. Since then his site has dropped down to #46,655. Here is a chart from my Rank-O-Matic app. The red arrow marks the spot where the comment section was closed:

Dave Winer's Alexa Rank

I’m sure that Dave has better things to do than worry about his Alexa rank. However, back in February, he was feuding with Robert Scoble, and Scoble’s site has an Alexa Rank of 51,843. Will Dave be irked if his Alexa rank drops below Scoble’s?

In any case, having a comments section seems to be a good way to boost your Alexa rank. And letting the idiots run wild probably helps too. If you are irritated by dumb comments, and take pleasure in smiting the idiots, then you are at a disadvantage to your less-discriminating competitors – as far as your Alexa rank goes.

Note: I know Mr. Winer’s Alexa ranks because I have been building a list of top technology bloggers, and have a number of daily ranks stored in my Rank-O-Matic database. I will be publishing that list soon.

StockCharts.com Overtakes TheStreet.com

The Top Investing Websites page has been updated. Stock Charts has jumped over The Street to take the #10 spot, and is nipping at Zero Hedge’s heels. The home of perpetual Armageddon dropped another 62 ranks over the past month. Stock Charts has 700-some ranks to go to catch Zero Hedge, and that’s a lot of real-estate at this level. Godspeed, Stock Charts, godspeed.

Of course, if your site drops, it’s not always your fault. For example, if your site is down recently, one of the ranks you lost may be due to codecademy.com racing by you. The site is ranked at 5,102, and teaches newbies how to write code. That’s right; there’s a coding craze going on. Strange, but true. Who could have ever predicted such a thing? Certainly not us coders who know how not-fun it really is when you do it for a living.

The moral of the story is that you can be doing everything right on your site, but still be surpassed by new sites riding a new craze. It’s your relative ranking within your industry group that counts.

There were no other ranking changes amongst the top sites. The next most-significant change was Mish dropping to #27, having been topped by Elliott Wave International.

12 sites have been added to list this month, bringing the total to 149. Sites added are:

Bruce Krasting
Crossing Wall Street
Dragonfly Capital
Howard Lindzon
Investing With Options
Paul Kedrosky
Points and Figures
Raymond James
Stock Market Mentor
TheArmoTrader
The Stock Sage
Todd Sullivan’s Value Plays