JM's Blog

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February 24, 2006

Choosing a web hosting

What should you consider when looking for a web hosting provider?

Obviously, the hosting plan must technically fit your needs, and there is a wide choice of offerings ranging from expensive dedicated server hosting to cheap PHP/MySQL hosting.

What makes the differences between the hosting companies has little to do with the disk space you get or how many free software they allow you to use. In my experience, there are two elements that make the difference: how fast is their network, and how responsive and qualified is their support staff. I have seen in this respect huge variations.
Big names are not a guarantee you'll get a good service. For example, although I've never tried Yahoo hosting, Yahoo domains is notoriously very bad. So, if you consider buying the service of a hosting company, I suggest you contact their support staff to find out what kind of reply you get, and how long it takes.
If you can't find how to contact them: run.

Speed information is available for most hosts from websites like Alexa and Netcraft, so do your homework and check this as well.

February 11, 2006

Adsense spam

There two great things about Google's Adsense contextual ads. Firstly, they are not aggressive and quite repectful of users both in terms of content and bandwidth (compare this with Flash ads or popups). Secondly, they are targeted to be as close a possible to the content of the webpage that hosts them, in the hope that the user will find the ads relevant to himself in his particular situation, and will see the advertised websites as a valuable content, rather than as something that is being imposed on him.

Being mostly an automated system however, Adsense is being abused by both publishers and advertisers. The case of publishers is well know. Some sites automatically generate thousands of pages by aggregating search results, replicating content from the Open Directory, Wikipedia, RSS feeds, etc. and generously including Adsense banners among these. Google is certainly working on ways to reduce this particular type of spam, being doubly involved as a seach provider and an advertising network.

The second type of Adsense spam is the act of some ad publishers, and as Google gets revenues from publishers spam, it seems they are far less concerned about it. Type any keyword of no commercial value in Google and you'll see ads like the one below:

Adsense Spam by Ebay adsense-spam-3.png

Adwords allows Ebay and others to buy hundreds of low-value keywords and automatically generate text ad banners. You'll find these not only along Google's search results, but also on other sites publishing Adsense ads. The problem with these ads, of course, is relevance. I'm not aware of idiots being sold on Ebay, but this is what the ad says. Is it what the publisher wants us to believe? probably not. They just are just using those ads as cheap bates to attract you into their site.

Those ads have a negative impact on the content of the hosting site, so that's bad for content publishers that value more the general quality of their site than the cent they'll get for the click.

Some publishers are buying those cheap keywords to publish unrelated ads. That's how I got ads for a religious group on a foreign languages website, and ads for adult content alongside Google search results.

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