Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

December 18, 2009

Should Your Kids Believe In Santa?

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 12:49 pm

Forgive me for going mommy blogger for a minute, but I had an interesting conversation last night with a friend about believing in Santa Claus. It’s a worldly tradition that we blindly pass on from generation to generation without stopping to actually think about it.
Spoiler Alert – tell your kids to stop reading now.
Is believing in Santa bad for a child? Sure it may seem like lots of innocent fun, but think back to the day you learned the truth about Santa. Maybe you woke up in the middle of the night and saw Dad putting out presents. Perhaps it was your peers making fun of you in elementary school. Or, perhaps you were that kid in middle school who still believed and everybody made fun of behind your back. We had one of those kids, and he didn’t turn out too well.

How devastating was it when you realized that everybody – your parents, friends, family, tv – was blatantly lying to you? It’s probably one of the saddest memories of everyone’s childhood.

So why do we put our kids through this? As a parent, you are your child’s model for God. For the first few years of that child’s life her parents are the most perfect people she knows. Now, imagine what it’s like when she finds out her godlike parents lied to her. She’s got to be crushed!

Isn’t it much better to instead teach our children about the benefits of giving?

Of course, then there’s the whole Santa as a bad influence. Here’s a fat, pipe smoking man who spends his time watching little kids (creepy) while forcing minorities (elfs) to work under slave like conditions in an inhospitable climate. This is the type of shit that goes on in China and Africa, not the type of bedtime stories we should tell our kids.

And what about the kids who won’t have a Christmas because they either aren’t christian or their families just can’t afford it. How do you explain to those kids that Santa visits all of their friends but not them. They’re too young to understand religious differences, and they’re still likely to be upset when their friends talk of all the gifts they’ve received from this magical man who shunned them.

During our conversation we decided that should we ever get really really drunk and somehow produce offspring together, that we wouldn’t let them believe in Santa. Instead, we’d teach them about the benefits of giving and doing good for others. The only challenge with that though, is preventing our own kids from ruining christmas for other kids – as that job belongs to their parents.

December 11, 2009

We’re Overreacting To Google Real Time Spam

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:00 pm

Outspoken Media has a great post dealing with Google’s new social search feature where they talk about the possibilities of real time spam and threats to children. The author gives some great examples which serve nicely to fuel the fear mongering – but should we really worry about it?

Ted Dziuba once said “The revolution won’t be televised, but it will be twittered; and then completely forgotten as it scrolls off screen.” Every time I see another post about Google’s real time social results I can’t help but think of that quote. It’s not just funny, it’s also true.

When SugarRae was doing her test tweets for the post they all showed up in my Twitter reader. I quickly gathered what she was doing and started monitoring those search results she was spamming while she was spamming them. The average tweet only showed up in the search results for a few minutes – tops.

That led me to do some experimenting of my own. It seems if you tweet from a new account, or one with very few tweets, followers, etc, then it’s not very easy to show up in Google.

Now, I know any spammer who knows what he’s doing can easily have multiple accounts following trending topics and posting stuff to keep himself fresh – but will even that matter? For a topic like “Miley Cyrus” there’s so much noise out there that even the best spammer’s efforts will easily be lost among the crowd.

Ortak√∂y So what about less popular topics? I just don’t see them having tremendous spam value either. Sure, you can do some nice cloaking like SebastianX points out, but I just don’t see that lasting too long. It’s the same cloaking technique used in the past to trick Google’s spiders, and they’ve developed pretty good techniques to prevent it. Those techniques easily transfer over to the real time results – so I don’t expect this trick to last long.

Won’t somebody think of the children though?
One of the commenters on the original post said “I don’t consider exposing potential dangers to children fearmongering” but that logic is flawed. Theoretically, everything is a potential danger to children. To live by this philosophy you’d have to wrap your kids in bubble wrap and leave them locked in a room until they’re 21 to keep them safe – it’s the only way.

Let’s face it. There’s far worse things that children can find by searching Google than somebody trolling Twitter. Your child is way more likely to be abused by a family member than he is to be harmed by somebody online. If I had kids, I’d spend more time worrying about what they’re doing with their cell phone (sexting anyone?) or who they’re friends with on Facebook than what they could see in Google search results.

It reminds me of when people threw a fit about Google Streetview saying that a predator could use it to see where children live. Guess what, predators can also drive down your street anytime they want – but nobody’s raising concerns about that.

At the end of the day though, it all comes down to educating your kids. Every new technology that arises can pose a potential threat. If you teach your child not to talk to strangers (or, more importantly, not to be looking for sex from old men,) then it won’t matter whether the original solicitation came from an email, text message, IM, facebook, google social, or an old fashioned snail mail.

So what’s my take?
At the end of the day I just don’t see Google’s social results being that useful. If I wanted to see what people were saying on Twitter, I’d simply search Twitter and get much better results than Google can ever offer. If I want news, I’ll search Google News. It’s the same thing here. As far as the spam goes, I don’t see it being very profitable for spammers so I’m not keen to jump on the fear mongering bandwagon just yet. Who knows, maybe somebody will prove me wrong and make millions by spamming the results. If so, Kudos to you!

December 9, 2009

Adwords Account Banned For Keyword Research

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 3:14 pm

There’s been a big uproar on the web lately about Google’s latest sweep in which they appear to have banned thousands of Google Adwords accounts algorithmically. It looks like plenty of people have been complaining about the ban lately.

Ordinarily I’d say good riddens to bad rubbish, but it appears that I, too am one of the people who have been banned.

I received the same stock email last week as everybody else explaining to me that my Adwords account had been banned for a violation of Google’s TOS.

While the form letter accuses me of deceptive ad practices, I can assure you that I have done no such thing. In fact, I haven’t even run an ad in the last couple of months. It seems pretty odd that I’d be banned over ads that haven’t run in a long time right?

I’ve emailed Google 3 separate times asking for clarification, apologizing for anything I may have unknowingly done, and asked how to get my account re-enabled. Sadly, all I’ve gotten back is another form letter explaining that I may have violated the Adwords TOS and telling me to enjoy my lifetime ban.

So what did I do? Since Google wouldn’t tell me, I did some digging on my own. Having once been a Google quality rater, and having manged multiple Adwords accounts in the past, I have plenty of insight into how the process works.

From what I can gather, my ban isn’t related to ads I’ve been running at all. It seems to be related to my usage of Adwords for SEO keyword research.

Like most SEOs out there, I use Adwords all the time to create ad groups for SEO research. It’s the only accurate way one has of gauging what people are paying to bid on terms, how much competition there is out there, or what your website’s quality score is for a specific term. All of this information is extremely useful in both SEO strategy and in monetizing natural search traffic. I’ve used it at both the personal and the fortune 500 company level. It works great.

What I didn’t realize at first though, is that every time I create an ad group quickly and give it some random landing page (I’ve used example.com a few times) that it actually goes to editorial for them to review. Even though I never spent $0.01 on the ads, many of them were still reviewed by humans and flagged as pretty bad. After all, I wasn’t concerned with the ad text or landing page, simply the cost for the keywords.

A few times I was even seeing what it would cost a site to bid on some unrelated terms that they wanted to attempt to capture. Before creating new content for the site, I had used Adwords to get a baseline quality score and bid cost. The hope was that by creating the new relevant content, I could re-visit this data in a few months and show the client that the site was indeed now more relevant, and the pay per click cost had been lowered.

Not anymore though. It looks like Google’s attempt to remove the “make money with google” and “acai” style ads have caught legit advertisers as well – and there’s little to no recourse that we can take to solve the problem. Sure, I can create a new Adwords account, but it’s not certain if Google has tied the ban to my physical address, billing information, or any other plethora of data that they know about me. I simply haven’t tried yet. I’d rather have my main account that I use for everything else also be my Adwords account.

It gets even more complicated now that Adwords has been linked with Analytics and Adsense accounts as well. There’s really no telling if this ban could extend to those accounts in the future.

Google’s Not Talking.
What I’d really like is some sort of response from Google. If they don’t want me using Adwords for keyword research, that’s fine, just tell me. But please don’t accuse me of having misleading ads – I haven’t done that.

No algorithm is foolproof, including those written by Google. I’d be shocked if there was really no way to undo an Adwords ban. I’m hoping that the Google employees are just backlogged and haven’t had time to give me a personalized reply yet. Hurry up Google, I’m waiting.

UPDATE: Google Responds:
Google has responded with the following:


As mentioned in our previous email, your Google AdWords account has been
suspended due to multiple LPQ violations. We are unable to revoke your
account suspension, and we will not accept advertisements from you in the

Please note that our support team is unable to help you with this issue,
and we ask that you do not contact them about this matter. If you need
more information about our content policy guidelines, please visit

As noted in our Terms and Conditions, Google reserves the right to
terminate advertisements for any reason. To view our Terms and Conditions,
please visit https://adwords.google.com/select/tsandcsfinder.

We appreciate your cooperation.

basically, they won’t tell me what I did wrong, and there’s no way I can appeal the suspension. They basically told me to go fuck myself and stop emailing them. That’s some top notch customer support.

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