As part of my on-going job search, I've been attending "at least two" networking events per week. I had a bunch on the docket for this week (and next). Some have been more useful than others, but at least I'm getting out and mixing it up.
Tonight I had two ... one was a last-minute "Tweetup" related to a conference that was in town (which was very useful, meeting a whole bunch of agency folks), and the other was the regularly scheduled Chicago Affiliate Marketing Meetup.
Now, folks who know me know that I tend to show up early or on time and not leave until "the fat lady has sung". I actually walked out of this Meetup tonight. I have never been in a room full of so much ugly vibes ... everybody there seemed to be "gaming the system" some how. The subject of the evening was "Advanced SEO" but this wasn't (I hope) "standard practice" SEO, but varying degrees of "black hat" projects run by a bunch of guys who made Ferengis look ethical.
The guy running the meeting seemed to have outsourced everything but the planning. He had a gal in the Philippines who wrote "pretty good English" and only got paid $2.50 an hour. Another guy would do all his ad placement for $15/month, and he could get other guys for the same $2/day if he needed a big push. Blech!
As a writer, I was mortified to hear not only about the ½¢/word rates they were paying for text that basically was just a matrix for key words and phrases (the one guy was saying he had a hard time convincing his writers that the copy "didn't need to be that good"), but also about these "spin" sites where these guys would upload a thing they'd have written by one of these almost-English speakers, and would shuffle the words around enough that it would spit out TEN sufficiently-different versions to seem to be separate pieces. THEN the same program would automatically generate WordPress Blogs, upload these "new pieces" and insert links back to the target web sites.
Hell, they were even "gaming the gamers" checking the "scouring" sites (ones that steal copy from other blogs only to post them "with attribution" on boards that went out to hundreds of other sites), and steal the titles of the re-cycled stories, then append "dummy copy" which was basically just a setting for links back to their sites, and seed those out there so that the same "scouring" programs would re-cycle THEIR pieces (with their links).
There's also "PR rating" which is Page Rank (certainly not Public Relations), and how they "seed" links from the aforementioned blogs to sites with higher ratings, etc., etc., etc., trying to convince Google, etc., that they're legitimate (a quote: "It's not so spammy if you link to sites with OK P.R."). Everything they discussed seemed only a hair's breadth away from being outright fraud. I got so disgusted that I walked out.
I never even figured out when they actually made any money. One guy was bragging about how he had his scam links seeded into all the Nursing Jobs ads on Craigslist and that these all ended up in thing selling stuff. Another was telling about a friend of his that had some "watch the Superbowl on the Web" link that made him several thousand dollars a day the week before the game. How? I don't know. It either involved working the ads (one said, "every once in a while you'll get that banning letter from Google, but so what?") or outright bait-and-switching on the back end.
I'm glad the earlier thing was as quality as it was, because this felt like "organized crime". I sure hope there's SEO stuff out there that's not this sleazy, because this left a hugely bad taste in my mouth for SEO and Affiliate marketing (which I had hoped to have learned something useful about to perhaps finally DO something with some of my "shelved" real cool domain names).