Middle managers, telephone sanitisers, hairdressers and SEO Specialists

Here's an oddity that washed up in this morning's tide:

From: Montgomery, Luke <Luke.Montgomery@tektronix.com>
To: dan@dansdata.com
Date: Tue, 26 Jul 2011 16:18:47 -0700
Subject: Tektronix Site Resource

Dear Daniel Rutter,

I found your website, Dan's Data and wanted to thank you for providing such great information about PC Hardware and Gadgets. I was wondering if it would be possible to provide a link to our website (http://www.tek.com/products/digital-multimeter/) as a potential resource on Multimeters. We noticed you already reference the phrase on the following page: http://www.dansdata.com/io072.htm, so hopefully, it’d be an easy change on your end.

Link should look like this if possible:

I did some resistance measuring with my multimeter between the legs and got:

Once you've completed this task, if it's not too much trouble, would you mind just sending a quick confirmation email? That way, I can mark your website off my action and follow-up list.

Thank you in advance for your support. If you have any questions, please let me know.

Luke Montgomery
SEO Specialist, Worldwide Marketing
Phone: 503.627.4672

On the face of it, this is a normal link-spam e-mail. Your standard form letter - "I found your site, $SITENAME and wanted to thank you for providing such great information about $SCRAPED_SUBJECT...", and then a request for a link from some random machine-detected page on the site - in this case, the question portion of this letter.

But this link-spam's an odd one, because tek.com really is the Web site for Tektronix, who really are a big name in test and measurement gear - they're possibly the biggest name in oscilloscopes, just as Fluke are the biggest name in multimeters.

(And now, thanks to Wikipedia, I know that Fluke and Tektronix are today both subsidiaries of the same corporation!)

Tektronix.com redirects to tek.com, and they're not even trying to get some Google juice for a new domain name; tek.com and tektronix.com are similarly antiquitous.

If a human had bothered to look at the page they were asking me to link from, they probably would have noticed that such a link would only be appropriate if the multimeter being mentioned was a Tektronix product. Which, since the meter in question belongs to one of my readers, not me, I do not know. But I doubt it, because Tektronix multimeters are really nice and really expensive. The entry-level model on the page they want me to link to lists for $US750, and the top-of-the-line model is $US1350.

That's too rich for my blood, so I couldn't even validly link to the tek.com page from some use of the words "my multimeter" that was actually me talking about my multimeter. My good multimeter for formal dinners and meeting heads of state is...

Stock voltage

...a Protek 506, here seen in the company of one of my random sub-$10 meters and my Micronta 22-195A, which was the very first multimeter I ever bought, when I was so young I still thought it was pretty cool to buy things at Tandy. (It still works. Might even still be accurate.)

So, to Luke Montgomery, SEO Specialist: Send me a Tektronix DMM4050 and I assure you that even though I'll never use at least half of its features, I will link to any page you like the next time I refer to using it, without the tiresome nofollows I've put on all the links to your site above.

And, to Tektronix: Don't do this. (Or pay an Experienced Organic Web Strategist like the windswept and interesting and possibly insomniac Luke Montgomery to do it for you.) It's stupid.

If Tektronix made a general site about what multimeters are and what they do, then links of this sort, to that site, would be valid. Links to particular products from general terms are the opposite of informative, though. This one would be worthless to readers who already know about multimeters, and would either annoy or actively misinform readers who don't already know about multimeters. It's like asking someone to link some random mention of "my car" to BMW's page for the current 5 Series.

Search engine optimisation can be perfectly valid - when, for instance, it makes it easier for people who want to buy the sort of thing you sell to find you.

Tell someone you're in the "SEO" business, though, and they'll probably assume you spend your days pursuing a higher Google PageRank by polluting the Web with misleading and useless information. And they will probably be right.

In conclusion, as regular readers will by now be expecting: Take it awaaaaay, Bill!

UPDATE: Luke Montgomery got back to me, with about the best response I think the laws of physics permit in this situation:

Okay I admit the email did seem a bit spammy. I realize you must receive a lot of spam/email/link-requests all the time so I just wanted to apologize. I send out emails all the time requesting links and I guess after I while I just get in a rut and start to sound like a robot. I am sorry for the spam, my intention was never to bother you. Your post made me realize how I was sounding and I'm sorry.


There may be hope for the boy yet!

21 Responses to “Middle managers, telephone sanitisers, hairdressers and SEO Specialists”

  1. Jax184 Says:

    I think if you really want to raise awareness of the SEO WTFs, you're going to need to learn how to play the guitar. Scathing blog posts, while certainly amusing, lack somewhat in the mass market appeal of a song like United Breaks Guitars. I don't know anyone who's watched http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo who can hear the name United without thinking about busted instruments and snotty customer service people.

  2. Chazzozz Says:

    Whoa...Luke, if you're reading this page at all, you really need to change the photo on your about.me page. The first thing I thought of when I saw that was you must have stepped in something awful. Sorry, but your expression doesn't convey anything positive.

  3. RichVR Says:

    Probably low tide.

  4. Popup Says:

    At work we actually have a real live telephone sanitizer.

    It's a little old lady who comes around every odd month and wipes off all phones with with an alcohol-infused wet-wipe.

    The first few times I thought it was someone from the surveillance department who wanted to check that we were properly bugged - but I've since realized that the management is too incompetent to manage even that...

    It's the only place that I have worked at, or even heard of, that employs such a speciality (except of course for Golgafrinch). Do they even exist anywhere else at all?

  5. aspringv Says:

    Ok, as a long time reader and a former marketing guy I finally have to weigh in. I have two thoughts for you all.

    1.) People like marketing.

    No, I actually mean it, sadly.

    People actually want marketing targeted at them. They want (sadly) to be reassured about the choice they're about to make. I personally disregard almost all marketing and prefer, oh I dunno, comprehensive research, say, instead of relying on the word of some corporation with a vested interest in selling me more of their product before I make a significant purchase. But most people want to be told they're making a popular (safe) choice. Be it by their tv (TV comercials) their friend's (viral marketing), or by the radio (you trust, for Australian readers, the endorsements of Alan Jones?) Personally, I wish people chose the best product or service for the quality if offers, but, annoyingly, they choose the ones that they think most people will approve of.

    If you offer most folk the same product twice(essentially); one that is cheap and one that is pricier but well marketed, they buy the marketed product. They vote with their dollar; sadly. More annoyingly some folk don't actually care about whatever the product is - they want the 'wank value' that a product has - a virtue that is purely a factor of marketing. Have yourself a chicken and egg conversation to your hearts content about whether marketing made or serviced that need...

    2.) Marketing can be benign and useful - even educational!

    Test drive a car and decide for yourself (marketing expense). Eat a free sample and decide if it's worth your dollar (marketing dollars at work again). There are companies that spend money educating anyone interested, secure in the knowledge they're selling quality. You can fire up about that if you like, but I call that pretty genuine, should you filter the reality you experience from the spin.

    I appreciate that i've just opened the doors to being flamed by the dansdata faithful; but, good lord, did you but the name brand over the obscure but decent quality product? You just endorsed a company using marketing.

    Hang it - I spend money with the butcher that makes me laugh when I buy, because it makes me fell happier than the 0.50 extra makes me feel bad.

    That was good marketing... He sold me the moment, not the product.

  6. Daniel Rutter Says:

    I'm not sure what point you're trying to make, here. If you're saying that it's impossible to avoid having one's Bill-Hicksian purity contaminated by products that you're persuaded to buy by underhanded means, then yes, I agree. That's the problem.

    The facts that it is effectively impossible to buy anything that has not been marketed, and that it is possible for marketing to be helpful, does not excuse the numerous offenses people commit in their attempts to sell stuff.

    Take, since you raise the subject, Alan Jones. He, and his stablemate John Laws, were secretly paid to say nice things about a number of corporations, pretending they were expressing their own opinions.

    That's marketing, all right. It is also wrong. And the fact that people fall for this sort of thing all the time - whether it's immensely wealthy radio hosts being made even more wealthy in return for lying to their audience, or whether it's Web-site owners doing the same thing in extreme miniature by linking to worthless sites - is exactly why we should be angry about it.

  7. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Update, for them as read the comments but don't obsessively check the post for changes: Luke got back to me, like a mensch, not like a marketroid.

  8. corinoco Says:

    The small firm that works in the office next to where I work is a SEO firm. There are 4 guys; we share a kitchen with them.

    food scraps left everywhere? The SEOs.

    our plates & cutlery being left in the sink, or just anywhere, used, dirty? The SEOs.

    All our coffee gone? The SEOs.

    Oh, and the bathrooms - do they look like a herd of incontinent hippos just passed though? The SEOs.

    Smoke break every 15 mins? The SEOs.

    I'm just saying; hardly seems a coincidence.

  9. corinoco Says:

    Oh, and while I'm here...

    Epicurus - "Advertising is the root of all evil"

    I might be paraphrasing there, but Epicurus was pissed off at marketing & advertising more than 2000 years ago.

    That is simultaneously profound and horrific: I am amazed someone discovered the truth so long ago, and I am equally amazed the problem has been around so long.

    It makes me happy to know that I am doing my bit for the extinction of the human race.

  10. mangoman Says:

    @Popup, 1:
    I've had this pinned above my desk for some time. They were handed out on every desk at work a while ago (the annotation is mine).

  11. Steven Den Beste Says:

    I worked for Tek thirty years ago, and I can't believe they have descended so far as to engage in SEO. I think the Tek I worked for must be dead and buried now.

    Howard Vollum would spin in his grave.

  12. xuth Says:

    Had Luke asked for a link that was both informative and much more relevant would you have done so? It wouldn't be that dissimilar to what you already do on your own. I think it would be a tough call and I'm not completely sure what I'd do. I can see lots of options including doing nothing, including it and adding a disclosure line, including a nofollow tag and there's probably several other meaningful things depending on what I thought of the company in question.

    Mostly I'm just curious as to your thoughts on this.

  13. Daniel Rutter Says:

    Had Luke asked for a link that was both informative and much more relevant would you have done so?

    Sure - but I can't remember anybody in the SEO business ever making such a request :-).

    Almost all link-request e-mails I've received are from the usual kind of SEO and/or Web-advertising bottom-feeders, who offer me money to link from some existing text, or create a new text link, to whatever gruesome snot-farm they're trying to promote.

    The remainder are people pointing out that some site an old page of mine links to has now been dead longer than Bon Scott, and perhaps I should, rather than change the link to an archive.org copy of the old site, instead point to some better site on the same subject. That site may or may not be, but usually isn't, connected to the person e-mailing me.

    I wouldn't rule out linking to a great site just because the person suggesting I do it is in the SEO business, but, again, the issue has really never come up. If you've got a great site that people should link to, you probably don't need to hire someone to persuade people to do it.

  14. farnz Says:

    So, taking a hint from comment 13, if Tek had a decent page explaining what a multimeter is, how it works, what the difference is between a cheap meter and an expensive one that appears to do the same thing, basically all the useful bits of the Wikipedia page on the subject, that also happened to suggest Tek meters, would you have considered linking to it?

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  16. Popup Says:

    multimeter -> oscilloscope -> wave shapes -> curly hair -> hair straighteners?

  17. Daniel Rutter Says:

    I hate when people reply to spam-comments before I get rid of them :-).

    Now GHD Straighteners' comment must stand, non-functional BBCode and all. (I neutered the link from their now-deleted username, though.)

    This blog's annoying sign-up-to-comment thing prevents most of these people and/or robots from posting; I don't have to do much work to get rid of the few that get through. The major hassle is loading the blog's user-list to delete spammers' accounts, because of the staggering number of failed spammer accounts in that list. The last entry in the user-list is currently numbered 10,809; the actual number of users in the list is a little lower from the spammers who succeed in commenting and then get deleted, but the overwhelming majority of the entries look like, to pick one of many, #10,765:

    Username: nqJClApXMotplHsZy
    E-mail: email@gmail.com

    Thousands of the bloody things. The userlist page is now larger than 5Mb.

    The nonsense-accounts are harmless, though, so they stay there rather than being edited out of the database, which is something Blogsome would have to do for me.

    I wonder if, one day, I'll discover that WordPress barfs if you've got more than 2^24 users...

  18. Alan Says:

    There aren't too many people who can justify fancy Cisco gear in their homes. But, to be fair, those optic fibre exchangeable modules should be implemented in laptops.
    I'd want: One ethernet, one optic (preferably NBN compatible), and one RS-232 (for all the crap that still needs it).

    I know- I've been told I'm Dreamin'. I'm still waiting for the return of proper WUXGA (1920 x 1200 resolution) screens...

  19. Daniel Rutter Says:

    You're replying to the spam-commenters on purpose now, aren't you?

    (Unfortunately, I zapped that Cisco-gear spammer's account and comment before I noticed this.)

  20. xuth Says:

    yet another person who likes wuxga. I'm very sad that I can no longer get 15" wuxga notebook displays. I'm also very sad that I can't get similar pixel densities on a desktop monitor.

  21. Alan Says:

    The only current WUXGA notebook I can find is 17" and costs double what I'd expect to pay. For a price that ridiculous, it must be an Apple (Macbook Pro).

    Oh well, there's always second-hand Dell D830's - on eBay.

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