Needlepoint spam bots


NPL Skimlinks

As a new needlepoint store owner, I am of course desperate eager to get traffic to my blog in order to promote sales.

I’ll do almost anything, except lie, steal and cheat!

I learned recently that a number of needlepoint stores make use of an email marketing service called Constant Contact.

I’ve also noticed that various needlepoint stores place a tracker named Constant Contact in the memory allocated to your browser when you visit their sites.

Other than mass emailing newsletters, Constant Contact also offers its customers a service that involves the usage of trackers in email.  Email trackers allow these customers to, say, associate coupon trackers with their email-driven marketing collateral.

To readers who may be unfamiliar with trackers, this small piece of code may be used to silently follow you around the Internet without your permission.

Unless you hose the trackers with a browser add-on such as the Ghostery Firefox plugin, you will never know that you are being followed. It tells whomever has placed the tracker which sites you visit. As such, it is a potential security risk, if you visit, say, your bank using IE.

Here is noble sounding corporate verbiage re spamming from Constant Contact.

Despite it, Constant Contact is viewed by some as little more than a plain old spammer.

Here are instructions on how to block the service

On the other hand, there are Constant Contact users who praise the company.

Constant Contact is of course far from alone in the email marketing game.

Here is a cost comparison of  Constant Contact and Mailchimp.

Bottom line:

In my opinion, and it is only my opinion, there is something inherently dubious about using any service that engages in spamming or one of its many iterations as a marketing tool.

People loathe spam, as they do junk mail. It is largely unread; and it clogs up the Internet.  It sometimes contains malicious links, and it does little to enhance your reputation as a company.

Most end users typically block trackers.

I personally think that tracker usage is not the sort of image I want to project for Needlepoint Land.

I would never physically stalk my customers around the store, or employ underhanded Wifi technology to monitor their movements, or hire a sneaky gumshoe to surreptitiously follow them when they leave the store.

When an actual or potential customer visits my blog, I am only interested in learning some general things about what part of the world he or she comes from, and which pages the visitor finds of interest.

Of course if such persons choose to comment, and reveal who they might be, well that is strictly by their own volition — although I usually delete personal contact info from my comments section on Needlepoint Land to protect a visitor’s privacy.

It’s true that WordPress uses a tracker from Skimlinks (see Needlepoint Land’s blog header image at the top of this post).

This tracker is what WP uses in support of their ad affiliate program.  If I receive a decent amount of traffic, WordPress will run an ad on my blog.  If I don’t, it won’t bother — which is one way to tell if a site is popular!

Here is an ad that WP ran yesterday on a Needlepoint Land image page:

doubleclick generated ad on NPL

What I observed is the Skimlinks tracker sending a message to DoubleClick to serve up this ad. This is an example of how WordPress pays for their free blogging.

If I don’t happen to like ads on my blog, I can pay WordPress for the right not to have them.

But I’m a startup, so I’m going with the free service.

If this blog happens to get mega popular, I could theoretically pay WP beaucoup bucks to run my own ads. This is what CNN does. This of course is not going to happen with Needlepoint Land any time soon.

The point of all of this is that Needlepoint Land does not track visitors to my blog.

I have no idea of my visitors’ online behavior outside of NPL.

I don’t typically know which city they come from, although if I wanted to I could of course install the Feedjit thingamajig (non-JavaScript, HTML version) in a text widget on the sidebar, but, as I said,  I generally respect a visitor’s desire for anonymity.

Feedjit can indicate the city where a visitor may be located, but this is easily foiled by Tor, and of course many ISPs dump ordinary users into reusable IP block ranges.  In addition, WP does capture and render visible to me the IP addresses of those who leave comments.

While I have occasionally used Feedjit,  there is no way for Needlepoint Land to make use of any tracking information performed by Skimlinks — even if I wanted to do so, which I don’t — since WordPress does not make this information available to me.

And just to be clear, I don’t make a penny off these affiliate ads.

Now the world of browser trackers and Internet affiliate marketing is a murky one that can be very very confusing to the uninitiated. If the subject interests you, however, you can read an informative post on the ever fascinating topic of Skimlinks and WordPress here.

I’ll conclude by returning full circle from where I started.

Call me hopelessly old-fashioned, but I’m not going to hassle anyone into visiting the store via spam, or track them if they do choose to come to my blog.

If a customer or visitor decides to catch up with what’s going on at Needlepoint Land, well, he or she can just read my blog in  peace, and not worry about being harassed.  I do have an email subscription service to my blog that is of course totally voluntary, which I do not share with any third parties.

If visitors like what they see, maybe they’ll tell others about it, and link to my blog.

Word of mouth is a beautiful thing.  As is organic SEO.



© Erin McGrath and, 2012 – 2016



About Erin

Owner of Needlepoint Land, LLC. Professional in the field for more than 15 years, during which I have managed and/or worked with various high-end needlepoint shops. I enjoy teaching both beginners and advanced stitchers, and have created numerous stitch guides, with speciality thread selections, for in-store customers and private clients. I maintain contact with an extensive network of needlepoint vendors, custom artists, and, most importantly, reliable, high-quality finishers. I look forward to hearing your comments on my blog!

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