Letting the Machine do it all
The problems with automated software on your site

Machines are wonderful tools, they make very good servants, however they can get you into a lot of trouble if you trust them entirely for your web sites needs, without some safe guards in place.

Case in point: Auto checkers for your back links

These are perfectly good tools that keep an eye on all your back links, that go and look on the sites where you are supposed to have them and see if they are still there. Now, up to this point, fine and dandy, if  your checker also handles your emails to the other party however, they can land you in a world of trouble if the information they have "checked" is incorrect, or the checker is in error in some other manner.

Recent event:

Got a message from an auto checker, that such and such a link was not on my links page and that mine on their site had been suppressed until the matter was fixed, ... only one small problem, the link in question was ON my links page and had been for months. I am a reasonable person, I went and checked to be sure it was on there, made sure the text was right etc., re set everything and sent a message back. Got another canned letter telling me it was fine, and my link was back.

Not a day later however I got yet another email from the same checker, telling me now that my link had been deleted this time on their end for lack of reciprocity. I was not alone in this, as at this same time, the same thing happened to several clients of mine as well,  who forwarded me letters from the same site, all saying the same thing.  I dutifully went and checked the links to the same party on their sites too,  to make sure of the matter, just as I had for my own, assuming it was some perhaps some error on my part.  Re copied and pasted their link codes, yet again.

I knew full well they all had the needed link to start with, as I put them there myself, being their web designer, but re checked, anyway, just to make sure. The links were exactly as asked for according to their requirements, useing their codes, and notices of what link page they were on, were sent yet again.  It was all in vain, hours of my time, wasted, all because something was wrong with the checker.

Now at this point I, and my clients, had had enough. We were tried of being told our links were invalid, when they were there and working as specified. I  told them they needed to stop depending on the machine, as all they had to do was go and look and they would see the checker was wrong. But this was ignored.

I also deleted them from my list of reciprocal link suggestions for my clients. So they lost not only mine and several other links on account of this, they also lost all the ones they might have gotten on my recommendation to new clients.

Now, I have a feeling that no one will ever read that email in which I said this however, as there is no one home to read it, as its being sent to a machine. No one is at the switch as it were, and the machine in this case ... is ruining their link ups and ticking off perfectly good link partners. 

Outdated link codes:

In some cases this effect is due to some parameter change. Meaning the site has changed how they want their text link to look, and sent the machine out, on what can become a seek and destroy mission for anyone who had their old link.

Now the reason I know this, is it has happened to me many times. The last time it happened however, I  managed to get my hands on a live human being. The party in question never considered that their old back links were different, and that by setting their checker out to only look for the new parameters, they would lose all of their old long standing link partners, if the machine was not told to accept the older link.

Now, in the first case above it was not a matter of old vs new, just something wrong with the checker, as it was lying to the site holder, telling them that a link did not exist for them, when in fact it did, and deleted the one that was for reciprocal off their own site, for no good reason.

Now this is assuming that the checker is even telling the site holder anything, very often, they don't, they just go on and do their job, as most such things are a set it and forget it. Which is fine, If ... if it's working correctly.  But if not, you can end up with the problems above and may never even hear about it, meanwhile your reputation on the web is being trashed by your own machines.

As once, one can allow, but twice in three days, it's unacceptable and inexcusable. My reaction was perfectly predictable, forget them and their link and consider it their loss.

Now, how to avoid this:

One way is that your checker link letter, has in it a way to contact a live person if the information is in error, someone who will read the email and has the authority to handle the matter.

A better way ... question the results the checker gives you, go and look with your own eyes .. before you let it send out an email.
It will save you a great deal of embarrassment.

Never use any software that does not report to you its activities on a regular basis. Preferably, before it takes action.

Other tools that are good, when they work, but can cause havoc when they fail

Auto link makers:

These tools again, are wonderful time savers, when they work. The number I have used that have failed however, is staggering. The solution to this problem is simple, go to your link maker and try to set up a link yourself once in a while and make sure it's working correctly. You can always delete the fake link you made, but it's worth the time and effort to check the programing, otherwise you have lost all the possible link partners for the machines failure, that you never were told about. The numbers you could be losing are considerable, not to mention again, your reputation is being trashed by tools you set up to save time.

Auto mailers:

I have touched on this matter in other articles, but will revisit it here just for a moment. These are great tools, for a variety of purposes, however, if there is no way to get a hold of a live human being, there is a problem if the information is incorrect. There always should be a notation in such mails that if the messages are in error to contact, so and so, and put in a working email with a live person on the other end, whose job it is to handle such glitches. They will happen, no matter how good the programing is, and failure to set up a way to reach a real person is just asking for trouble.

Auto inputs, forums, guest books etc.:

Great tools, however if you don't have a way to check the imput to such things, preferably before they go live, you are setting yourself up for spam of all sorts. Everything from guest book hackers, just looking to put a link up, to somewhat deranged persons who seem to enjoy leaving nasty notes. Again, it's a matter of keeping your hand on the imput. If your guest book or other user imput set up does not have a way to let you review and approve things, before it goes online, you are asking for problems. If you do not have the time to do this, then you should not have such services. So be certain that any such software gives you a way to control what goes on your site.

Auto Link request letters:

I have whole articles devoted to this one, as almost without fail, such letters will get trashed, not read. Link building is a hands on process. Don't have time for it ? Hire someone who will do it for you, but never waste your time on automation. It not only is a waste of time and electrons to send them, but again, your reputation as a web site is being ruined by an attempt to save time. It's not worth the time savings, and brings little return of investment.

Long story short, machines are great tools, but keep your hand on the controls, or they can and will eventually cause problems, instead of resolve them.

More soon

Return to how to design a website