Why a big following on Twitter is a scam

There is an easy way to game Twitter. You too can have thousands of followers… But you’ll need to start by following people you don’t know. The moral turns out to be… don’t follow people you don’t trust.

I hit 500 followers today on Twitter. It gave me a fuzzy feeling, and I took a screenshot for prosterity. There are loads and loads of people who seem to have thousands of followers and at first glance you might say that they are the ones that we really should all be following. But I don’t think so. I think that’s a scam. You, too, can have a thousand followers by the end of the day. I’ll show you how… and also show argue why you shouldn’t try.

How to get a thousand followers on Twitter

Well frankly it looks really easy to get that many followers. Just go and follow all of the followers of the biggest twitter pimps in the industry. The one I’d start with are http://twitter.com/guykawasaki (73,087 followers) and if you want to find the biggest pimps in your own vertical, just find a name you respect in your vertical and plug them into http://friendorfollow.com Then click on the “friends” tab and then sort by “followers”. My most popular friend is http://twitter.com/stephenfry (238,870 followers). But he’s one of the very few people I follow for no logical reason.

Presumably Twitter have something in place to stop this sort of thing, but in principal (you can either do this manually, or using a script…)  you can manually follow one person in Stephen fry’s follow list every 5 seconds, that would mean you are following 5,760 in an 8 hour day. Presumably around one in four blindly follow you back. So the next day, you un-follow any person that didn’t follow you back and you have well over 1000 followers.

So let’s say you didn’t trip Twitter’s filters… maybe did this but at a slower pace and less obviously. What have you achieved? Well you now have over 1000 followers who are – for all useful marketing purposes – a random sample. They have no allegiance to your area of business and no knowledge of who you are. If I did that, then talking about SEO on Twitter would be receiving Nigerian phishing scams in the follower’s inbox. It won’t work talking to these people.

But it’s still going to work for your target audience… just carry on being you and I guess what will happen is that people in your industry will then start to follow you and those not in your industry will start to fade away. People may look at you and see you have lots of followers – and they make the tragic assumption that the followers are genuine. Oh… wait… that’s scuppering my intended argument to say don’t do that. Hmm…

There’s something very wrong here. I can see how to double my followers – and I suspect I won’t even upset my “real” friends in the process. In doing so, I create an illusion of being more important than I am, which might have the effect of creating a self created mantle. I don’t like the sound of that – do you?

So – the moral of the tale. Only follow people you know or admire. Un-follow anyone with followings greater than a field of sheep. Otherwise you play into a cycle of deception which is already being played on a huge scale of twitter.

Yahoo Briefcase Closing

Another Yahoo Service bites the dust. Turns out I was using this one as well. Yahoo briefcase helped store files in the cloud. Now… why would they close it down just as everyone catches on?

Yahoo Briefcase was one of the first systems to allow you to store files in the clouds. Actually – it wasn’t one of the first systems, but before then the Internet was running at… well a snail’s pace. (Yes.. I know snail’s cant “run”. Leave me alone!)

I just heard today that this service is to close. This follows a multitude of closure announcements from Yahoo as it tries to turn its hand from everything to a presumably much leaner machine.

I would have thought that before they just close all these services, they should consider giving them to entrepreneurs that never had billions to protect them in times of crises. I think I could have made a small fortune selling a service like that. I just had to work with a Russian web development team to build something similar for a friend. Sure – mine’s better (now… thanks Nick!) but I doubt it has the scalability that Yahoo had.

Yahoo – you know all these free services that you dropped… didn’t you think to try just puttiong the price up to something profitable before just dumping services on your customers?

Ah well… your recession… your rules.

New WordPress Theme

What do you think of the new site look and feel?

I ran a contest to redesign my site and then got the winning design marked up into a WordPress theme. It has a few bugs – particularly because the Markup guys had to second guess the plug-ins I was using. For example, I haven’t gotten the “Get Recent Comments” to work yet in the sidebar and I also seem to have two different social bookmarking plugins working. (OK – that last one I can fix as soon as I have posted this)

Overall though, I like it. Joost always said “You can’t have a big enough signup button“. Well – I tried! Since I have a server dedicated to an email marketing suite we bought years ago and hardly ever use, I thought a newsletter signup was good just for extra belt and braces call to action.

So the total cost of this? Well – some of you will say I was robbed, others will say it was a bargain. I felt I paid a fair market rate all along the way, though.

So what do you think of it?

Best Search Conferences for Speakers

I have been to many conferences on search over the years. If you are – or want to be – on the speaker circuit, here’s my pick of the best.

Over the last 10 years I have thoroughly enjoyed speaking at conferences around the world. My first real out of the UK speaking gig was in Vancouver. It was great. I took the chance to ski down Blackcombe Mountain and see Vancouver Island. I haven’t been to that one for a long time though – so I don’t know how it fairs. If you are trying to get onto the speaker circuit, some conferences are better than others. Here are my fabourites:

No 6: SMX Sweden. This is a lovely conference. I enjoyed it when it was SES driven and I am still enjoying it now. Mostly for the conference food, which is the best I have had consistently. I always feel saddened when I bust a gut to do a presentation because I know the audience paid a lot… then the audience sits down to eat a sandwich from a box. Not in Stockholm though!

No 5. Affiliates4U Amsterdam. To be fair, this conference hasn’t even happened yet, but having seen just how professionally run A4U was run at London Excel (which doesn’t make my list due to the location), this looks to be a great show for speakers. 

No. 4: SMX Advanced[Edit-add: The one in Seattle] As a speaker in pure business terms, this must be seen as a pinnacle. I have to be honest – I’ve not been a speaker here. It’s a conference where everyone in the room seems to have been a speaker at some conference or other… so getting a speaking gig here is a bit rarer than some others.

No. 3: Pubcon, Las Vegas. I like the diversity of speakers, attendees and sponsors here. Some people think that this conference was for “mom and pop” companies but they really should have gone to the last few. After one talk I did, the people that came up to ask questions and shake my hands included Facebook and Ebay. It’s also in Las Vegas… if you like that sort of thing…

No. 2: SES San Jose. It’s huge… and it’s really nice and warm. For a Brit, we are not used to either. The hotels have massive pools and the whole town seems to be connected to WiFi. You also get to go to the Google Dance… although I have heard that may be coming to an end 🙁

No. 1: RIMC in Iceland. You just cannot beat this conference as a speaker. I have gone twice and I have been taken to Hot sulpher baths, Massive Ice-covered waterfalls and Geysirs. I’ve been to Viking villages and eaten everything from Argentinian steak to rotting fish. The rotting fish was voluntary. It is THE event that speakers go for not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself.

Tata for now.


Google Profiles Pass Anchor Text Relevency

Here are the results of a controlled test to see if links in Google Profiles affect SERPS. It would be interesting if other people can duplicate the test to verify my findings.

I’m fairly confident my methodology is sound this time. Google Profiles pass link juice. Specifically, they pass anchor text relevancy through to a landing page. That’s an easy link. Now all you need to do is get everyone linking to your profile.

I have been testing whether a page passes PageRank over the last few months and in particular was using Google Profile for my test. I managed to corrupt my first test – but in the process learnt that anchor text should not be unduly long if you want it to be effective. This time though, this result pretty much proves my theory I think, that says Google Profiles DO pass juice.

I set up some unique anchor text on my Google Profile like this:


Which results now in the following Google search result:


To be clear, the phrase “little Bed-shire” does not appear anywhere on the site in the harlington.net site result. The result was a “GoogleWhack”. The only page where that text appears, in that order, is on my Google profile of Dixon Jones. Yet because that text appears ONLY in anchor text, Google’s search engine has decided that the page it links t0 – not the profile itself – is the relevant page in this context.

Of course, Google’s right. So how did the others fare?

Well Live Search comes in second… finding the result, but giving the relevance to the Google Profile rather than the landing page:


In last place comes Yahoo. They probably ban Google profiles on principal.


Now before everyone gets carried away with rushing out to get a free link from Google, a word of caution. The only commercially viable link in my profile is absolutely buried in the serps. My test ONLY tested what it tested… mileage cannot be guaranteed and results may vary.

Google Profiles

Amusingly, Yahoo seem to have gotten into the SERPS for the phrase “Google Profiles”, due to Google’s sometimes arrogant efforts to predict what we, the uers, might be thinking.

Google has an annoying habit of assuming that you mean something you don’t when you type in something even mildly unexpected. So you’ve gotta laugh when they get Hoisted with their own petard. (That means “blown up by your own bomb, ironically.) Take this example of searching for “Google Profiles”. They think you want Yahoo’s profiles!

Google Profiles
Google Profiles

And I laughed and laughed. Serves you right Google for thinking “Receptional”  is something to do with office answering phones.

Build a link widget out of your content

If you really have good content, maybe others will want your content in their websites? Here is a way to give that functionality to them in a way that also give you an anchor text link to you at the same time.

I often talk about link widgets. They are bits of code that are (hopefully) useful to other people, that – when used – also give you the kudos you deserve. This post shows you how to make your own content into a link widget.

For example – would you like me to write content for your website? Using a snippet of code below on your website, every time I write a post on dixonjones.com, your web page will update automatically… like this:


Subscribe to RSS headline updates from: Dixon Jones.


Just cut and paste this code into your site:

<script src=”http://feeds2.feedburner.com/DixonJones?format=sigpro” type=”text/javascript” ></script><noscript>Subscribe to RSS headline updates from: <a href=”http://dixonjones.com”>Dixon Jones</a><br/></noscript>

(I will of course make sure my content is always Internet marketing related and I hope one or two do put the code on their pages. If you do, please let me now… I will certainly give you a link and maybe bring in your while feed)

So how can you offer your code in the same way? Here’s how:

  1. Well first you need content in a Blog or similar system that has an RSS feed. If you are using an online system for you content, chances are you already  have an RSS feed. 
  2. Next, get an account at Feedburner. It’s free and it gives you plenty of other useful ways to use RSS feeds.
  3. Use the “Buzzpost” option in Feedburner. Deselect the “display link to feed option BUT…
  4. When the code is generated by the Buzzpost software, you need to just adapt it a little, otherwise the anchor text and backlink goes straight to Feedburner. simply add {Subscribe to RSS headline updates from: <a href=”YOURSITE.com”>YOUR ANCHOR TEXT</a>} (without the curly brackets)

Then when you give that out to people, you will also get the benefit (which you rightly deserve) of true credit for the content you write.

Proving a page passes PageRank and other secrets

I came up with an interesting finding or two today, whilst testing whether having a link on a Google Profile passes PageRank. The test itself is explained – as well as the unusual findings that thwarte a few theories about how Google works.

I came up with an interesting finding today, whilst testing whether having a link on a Google Profile passes PageRank. Writing it up prematurely, I am going to end up tainting the experiment, but since I inadvertently spotted something interesting, I decided to stop anyway and tell the world. So this post:

  • Shows you how to tell whether a page really passes page rank
  • Shows you why I think Google Profiles don’t pass PageRank (even though they are not nofollow) and
  • Shows an error in Google’s algorithm…. clear as day.

How to tell if a page really passes PageRank

Well first… I don’t believe in Page Rank. What I am actually testing is whether a link from page A to page B actually influences the ranking of page B in the SERPS. If you think that’s the same as green fairy dust, then please go back a few steps.

My test was to put some unique anchor text on page A that did not appear at all on page B. Most people trying to check or claim a page passes any authority or relevance tend to completely ignore this important part of such a claim. If the anchor text has any similarity with the content on the landing page, then you have screwed up your test, because there could easily be (and probably are) other factors affecting whether the landing page shows on a search engine for that term. Below is my test in pictures.

Why I think Google Profiles don’t pass PageRank

I did the above test on a Google profile… My own google Profile. I used the unique text:  “I live in Harlington with Marie and my two kids and I have just taken on an allotment.” The profile went live in late November. Now in THEORY, that link is not “NoFollowed” so if Google finds it, then it should take some authyority from it’s parent domain (which is www.google.com!) and then in do couse, the landing page would show in the Google results for either the phrase “I live in Harlington with Marie and my two kids and I have just taken on an allotment.” or just “just take out an allotment”… even though these words do not appear on page B right? Of course, just because Google doesn’t put “NoFollow” tags in its own links, doesn’t mean the links are “DoFollow”. Anyway… Heres what has happened with the test so far.

Day 1: Google hadn’t indexed anything. So no screenshot to show you.

6th January the result was like this:


Very cool… Compete.com seems to have cached the page, and its cache made it into Google’s SEPS before the original post! However… no sign of the landing Google profile or the landing page yet.

Jan 15th the result was like this:


Google has found Page A (The Google Profile) and has indexed it… and to be fair has given it more relevence than the Compete.com Cache, even though Google iondexed the Compete’s page before its own.

Feb 1st the result was like this:


Google managed to kick Compete out of the results altogether. But the Landing Page (page B) is still not appearing for either of my test search phrases. Now that I have published this post, my test must stop, because I have other links to the landing page. But a new test continues, I suppose, to see if THIS page passes anchor text link juice to the landing page. But I stopped the test, because the test already found two new things:

An error in Google’s algorithm…

Look closer at the above image. Is it my eyes, or does it say “No results found for ‘I live in Harlington with Marie and my two kids and I have just taken on an allotment.’ and then… right underneath it… show a page with EXACTLY that result. Syntax correct… match case correct… everything correct. So the Hazard symbol lies.

Here’s another bonus secret for reading to the end…

Most people think that Google will call the first page it indexes with duplicate content the authoritative version. However, Google clearly indexed compete’s version first… some days later, it indexed my profile… then some days later again it dumped compete.com.

So that debunks the theory that the first call on content wins.

Much to think about there. Can you add to my findings?

Web Design Contest Winner

I was very impressed with the way in which 99designs gve me over 50 different “look and feel” designs for my blog. If you want a decent designer, here are many!

After receiving over 50 entries, I have chosen a winner for the new look and feel to my website. Congratulaions To Malique for this winning design.

Malique’s design won for the following reasons:

  1. Great calls to action
  2. He kept to the brief very well
  3. He showed me the internal pages, not just the home page
  4. He cleverly blended in my company colours without making it obvious

The while experience of using 99designs was great too. You set out the design spec as a contest and let the designers run wild. The interface is very intuitive for me and the Intellectual Property gets properly handed over at the end. On the down side, you have to commit to a prize, regardless of the quality of the entries – but there were many entries and if Malique hadn’t been in the batch, others woud have won and I would still have been happy.

The other finalists (who deserve the “nod” after all their hard work) were:

Runner Up: Hammer aka Luis Fok 










There was also another very close contender, but he has withdrawn his design, presumably for use another day. You can see most of the contestant entries here.