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The July and August 2012 Crash of Elsmar

Marc

Captain Nice
Staff member
Admin
#72
I read the blog post. It's really nothing new. Pretty much everything in the blog post is stuff that could have been written 3 or 4 years (or more) ago. Most of those "basics" which the article covered was stuff that was well known years ago. Hubspot it's self is selling it's services if you look closely. It's just one of thousands of sites which proclaim they have "the answer", feed you some bits and pieces of typically rehashed stuff to get you interested, and tempt you to purchase their services.

And remember - Most of the stuff you read about SEO will be applicable to more narrowly focused web sites and sites selling stuff. Discussion forums were, are, and will remain quite different.

I've seen some weird stuff, too. There were once quite a few links to here in Wikipedia. Almost all, if not all, were removed last year.

There is no answer. I have gone back to "This is what we do here and how we do it." You can only chase around so long before you realize that there is no magic elixir. There is no "solution". And listening to Matt Cutts is like listening to a vague, tired college professor. Matt Cutts is a "Google God" to many people who try to derive meaning from his words. To others, me for instance, Matt Cutts is an unreliable shill for Google. Nothing more, nothing less.

If you're not reading at least 3 or 4 webmaster" forums every day and following threads like http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4550136.htm , you have no idea how simplistic blog posts typically are. Trying to keep up with them got too weird for me. Too many contradictions and guesses.

In all of this one must also remember - There are over 200 factors in Google's algorithm, or so it is said. No single factor is "supreme".

FWIW - I have stopped trying to "please" Google. On the internet these days Elsmar.com is like a "Mom & Pop" shop trying to compete with Walmart.

I will say this - Do a Search (which ever search engine you use) for "How many web sites are on the internet?" Last I looked there were over 300,000,000.

I can't say I feel bad considering (according to Alexa) Elsmar is ranked 110,654 (as of this post) in the *world* and in the US it is ranked 77,695. Typically during 2011 and the first half of 2012 Elsmar ranked around 85,000 to 90,000 (world ranking) so it really hasn't moved that much as far as ranking.

According to Elsmar on Quantcast (on which Elsmar is *directly* measured), Elsmar ranks (as of this post) 21,819 in the US.

Put those up against 300,000,000 web sites, as old and decrepit as Elsmar is it still gets a fair amount of visitors and ranks pretty good. The biggest changes are that when topics came up on Google, sites like about.com and ask.com come up more frequently than ever (sometimes filling the entire first page of search results). Those are the "Walmarts" that are crushing so many web sites. As a single person who doesn't have a cast and crew to help in design, coding, etc., etc., not to mention any venture capital, I can't complain. Sites like about.com, ask.com, Wikipedia and the many, many "subject focused" web sites (many well funded) suck traffic from sites like Elsmar.com which is in part why Elsmar's ranking has not decreased significantly - The big, well funded "for profit" sites were already ranking highly.

As time goes on, we'll see what happens. I'm in my 60's and there will come a time when I will offer it to one of about 6 folks here. If no one wants it - Who knows. What I am trying to say is there will come a time when I will simply retire and not want to deal with it any more.

This last week I ended up spending almost 48 hours in horror as I started getting bounce messages with content like this:
Bounce Message said:
The mail system

<xxxxxxxx@alphen.co.za>: host alphen.co.za.s200a1.psmtp.com[207.126.147.10]
said: 550-5.1.1 The email account that you tried to reach does not exist.
Please try 550-5.1.1 double-checking the recipient's email address for
typos or 550-5.1.1 unnecessary spaces. Learn more at 550 5.1.1
http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?answer=6596
x44si1793605eey.234 - gsmtp (in reply to RCPT TO command)

--2DD104404F9.1363238687/elsmar.com
Content-Description: Delivery report
Content-Type: message/delivery-status

Reporting-MTA: dns; elsmar.com
X-Postfix-Queue-ID: 2DD104404F9
X-Postfix-Sender: rfc822; *redacted*@elsmar.com
Arrival-Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2013 00:24:42 -0500 (CDT)

Final-Recipient: rfc822; xxxxxx@alphen.co.za
Action: failed
Status: 5.1.1
Remote-MTA: dns; alphen.co.za.s200a1.psmtp.com
Diagnostic-Code: smtp; 550-5.1.1 The email account that you tried to reach does
not exist. Please try 550-5.1.1 double-checking the recipient's email
address for typos or 550-5.1.1 unnecessary spaces. Learn more at 550 5.1.1
http://support.google.com/mail/bin/answer.py?answer=6596
x44si1793605eey.234 - gsmtp

--2DD104404F9.1363238687/elsmar.com
Content-Description: Undelivered Message
Content-Type: message/rfc822
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit

Return-Path: <xxxxxxx@elsmar.com>
Received: by elsmar.elsmar.com (Postfix, from userid 48)
id 2DD104404F9; Thu, 14 Mar 2013 00:24:42 -0500 (CDT)
To: xxxxxxxxx@alphen.co.za
Subject: Learn How To Have An Unlimited Supply Of Nutritious Food
X-PHP-Originating-Script: 48:class_mail.php
From: "The Elsmar Cove Forum" <*redacted*@spamcop.net>
Auto-Submitted: auto-generated
Message-ID: <20130314052441.c25f2bed6040@elsmar.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="ISO-8859-1"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
X-Priority: 3
X-Mailer: vBulletin Mail via PHP
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2013 00:24:42 -0500 (CDT)

o,

This is a message from Rick Thompson ( mailto: ) from the The Elsmar Cove Forum ( http://Elsmar.com/Forums/ ).

The message is as follows:

Hi,

We discovered a very smart way to have enough food to last your family for decades. And that, while paying around 20 times LESS than you'd have to shell out on a conventional survival stockpile.

This method we're about to show you was recently featured in a CNN report. It was discovered that people in Gaza are using it in an arid warzone. Among falling missiles and mortars, those people are using this method to feed their families... even if they have no water, no money, no fertile soils, no space to grow food.

Take a look at this presentation:
xxxx://backyardfortune.yolasite.com?e=els

Have a nice day,

Rick

Site member

PS:. If not interested in receiving my future message, please visit the following link together with your email address.
xxxx://offme.yolasite.com/?els=accounts@alphen.co.za
In short, someone set up a phishing site and was blasting email lists with emails which used Elsmar as the forged sender. The only way I knew about it was I was getting hundreds of Bounce messages. This is not to mention the well over 100 nasty, many very vulgar, emails to me about sending that link to them. I replied to a few telling them I had not sent it and that I had noting to do with the email they received, but I stopped. There were just too many of them. And I doubt many people would have believed me anyway.

NOTE: Email lists are easy to buy from many, many places (including Linked in and Facebook for what it's worth). They were not using a mailing list from here. The Elsmar server was not compromised.

It took me almost 2 days to track everything down and get the web site *shut down* and to get the spam emails stopped.

I mention this because I often mention how I do a lot of things "behind the curtain" that you folks never see or know about. This is just an example of one of the weird things that come up that I have to deal with.


From an earlier post that I ended up deciding not to post at the time:

I appreciate the feedback. I really do. I honestly don't want the following to be misconstrued as negative. I am receptive of advice and appreciate the links.

I am not sure I should post the following, but think it may help in understanding and take the edge off of this thread. I probably shouldn't have started this thread to begin with. I did so because I feel a personal obligation to keep the "regulars" here informed of what is going on, and, in all honesty, I was totally freaked out. I have not made Elsmar what it is. The many people who have contributed their time and done so much to help others over the years have made Elsmar what is. I'll take some credit for the early days, but even there people like Kevin Mader and Don Winton were very important to what was then QS9000.com.

The 2 weeks of the "crash" caused me to "run the numbers" so to speak with respect to my personal budget and had a recovery not come I simply could not fit it in my budget to continue it. I'm almost 63 and for all intents and purposes are retired. I have saved and am comfortable, but I'm a budget freak. Had there not been a relatively significant recovery I simply could not have afforded to keep Elsmar.com online. The recent migration and cleanup of the server structure cost about US$3K. That's not to mention a lot of fixed costs such as the server fees and administration costs. And while I'm not sitting in front of my computer 24/7/365, "regulars" here know I spend one heck of a lot of time in front of it. There are times I want to just close up shop, so to speak, and get on with my retirement. I can't even take a vacation and feel OK about it. Now, I mean a *real* vacation as in no computer and no email. I get too many emails alone every day to deal with which are about everything from people not receiving activation emails to lost passwords. As I have said a number of times before - Until you're sitting here for a day or two, it's hard to understand everything that is going on "behind the scenes". I truly wish there was someone who could take over everything for a week or two. But, I can't afford to hire someone and to train them would be at least a few days (if not a week) *if* they're vBulletin knowledgeable and in general have a solid server background.

Before the "crash" I did keep track of SEO stuff, and for the most part I kept up with things. In fact, the DEC 2011 server migration which screwed up so many things was a direct action in response to what Google now sees as less important than they did - Page Load Speed. They built it up for a while there as a "significant" factor only to demote it as a relatively minor factor within a year. They even abandoned their page load speed grapher in WebmasterTools (aka WMT).

I feel it is important to interject this: I want to Thank the "regulars" and the moderators who do so much to help keep spam and "junk" out of the forums. That is one of the most critical aspects of SEO in my eyes.

After the "crash" for months I followed several SEO forums of note, not to mention Danny's Search Engine Land. I've read Danny's stuff since the late 1990's. I even had a paid subscription to his monthly "news letter" back then. But at the same time while I wanted Elsmar to have decent SEO it wasn't a main goal. Needless to say it was all much simpler back then. Over the years Elsmar did OK with respect to visitors and participation. I was not concerned with building a business. If anything, I was concerned that, as the forum spread from it's initial narrow focus on ISO 9001 and QS9000, there would be people who could help others in areas outside of my field of expertise.

After the "crash" I hang on every word in webmaster forums, and even saw the chart Miner linked to. And I've seen each of those links. For several months I was obsessed with SEO. I had an SEO guy go over the site.

Now - In all of this, remember that when someone is talking about SEO, there are many types of sites. So - When you, for example, read a thread in a webmaster forum you have to take into consideration a very important aspect: There are different types of web sites. There are company web sites. There are commerce web sites, large and small. There are Blogs. There are "special interest" sites (flowers, birds, history, advice, etc., and all the sub-topics of each). Forum type web sites are rarely in the mix discussed because forum web sites are typically low paying and a PITA to administer and keep online. Here is one "webmaster" like site for forums: http://www.theadminzone.com/forums/

By late January my position was this:

0. Listening to Matt Cutts is essentially useless.

1. For every SEO expert opinion, there is an equal and opposite opinion.

2. After the crash I made a number of changes when I should have just waited things out to see what would happen. A recovery started. I'm not convinced that some changes I made didn't make things worse by my over reacting.

And - You have to remember that when a change is made, results may not be seen for a month or more - Sometimes a change will gradually show over several months or more. It's really not a thing where you can make a change and see if it made a difference in a day or two.

3. Elsmar is a small forum. Then again, for years it was in the top 100,000 web sites in the world. On the other hand, as QS9000.com in January 1996 it was one of the first 100,000 sites on the internet. It was essentially a hobby site which didn't even have any advertising until 2004. Some of you may remember it had become too expensive, not to mention extremely time consuming, for me to want to continue it. Luckily someone (I think it was a guy who worked with Steel Women or someone) convinced me to try AdSense which "worked" in that it made enough money to pay for the site expenses and some extra for the time I was putting into the site.

As I have said many times in the past - I'm not a business person and Elsmar was never intended to be a business. It has essentially become a business, but then again it's just me. There are no investors or such. Nor am I motivated enough to try to make Elsmar into a big business (so to speak). As I have said before, if someone wants to, I am always willing to listen to ideas and I don't *care* if it becomes a bigger business than it is, but that means venture capital and all that involves. As I have said for years - If you have some money you want to invest and you have a plan, call me. I would hate to try to count how many people have emailed me and called over the years telling me how to make Elsmar TOPS! But - It has, every time, been a "If you do this..." (note the "you" - They don't want to put any time/work into it), and they have no interest in investing *any* cash, and usually they expect a cut of the "profits" if I follow their advice (which is typically just silly stuff to begin with, or something that would take a sizable amount of cash).

As has been pointed out on several occasions over the past few years, even the forum is archaic. It runs on old software. This is not to mention that the static pages on the site are very outdated. Most of the static pages are from the 1990's. I have essentially left them online for historical purposes. And in many cases, such as the old "presentations", most of the information is still relevant. Even ISO 9001 - Despite the 2000 and 2008 revisions there really have been no significant changes other than buzz words like "process oriented". In other threads I have given my reasons for saying that so I won't go through it again here because it's :deadhorse: I got into ISO 9001 22 years ago so I have been "following along" for many years.

I could go on about a lot of this but most has already been said.

4. The Future of the Elsmar Cove

I have stopped watching the webmaster forums, which, for a number of months, I was doing hourly. I have put in links before to some of the forums & threads I monitored like a hawk. This is one: http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4550136.htm

Now - That is the recent thread. It is split every month. Go back to August 2012 and until last month I was following along checking for updates at least 4 or 5 times a day (hourly for the first few months), every day. If you read through a few months of the "continuing saga", my bet is your mind will start to melt. I burned out on following it (and several threads just like it on a couple other webmaster forums).

Until late January I had not invoiced any of the direct advertisers since last fall. I didn't think it was moral to charge them and I wanted to see what was going to happen. Even thought I let their ads online, there was no income from them. For all intents and purposes I have seen pretty much what is going to happen and have started touching base with advertisers about whether to continue their ads or not. In January I contacted 3 advertisers. Two did not respond so I dropped them (they were sidebar ads). Since I run ads based upon 3 month runs, I am getting ready to contact advertisers which I would normally have invoiced in February. In late March I will be contacting another group of advertisers. Right now the bottom line is AdSense is keeping expenses paid. In short, I don't see any immediate problems but we'll see what happens 6 months from now. Elsmar is still getting fairly good traffic, especially considering it is a "niche" forum. Considering the number of people on the internet these days, topics we discuss here aren't - Well, look at Facebook. Or look at http://forums.techguy.org/ - The topics it covers are topics many people are interested in so the audience is vast compared to the number of people interested in the discussion of business standards of which we cover a *small* number when one considers the total number of standards in the world.

Summary

I've been typing this for a few hours now. I could type for a few more. But - There is so much here that could be discussed that I really could go on for pages, but I will leave you all with this:

A. Elsmar isn't going anywhere for at least another 6 months.

B. If worse comes to worst I will offer it to several people to take over.

C. I will keep you informed of potential changes.

D. There is only so much SEO which can be done with a forum like Elsmar.

E. The internet is changing and getting ever bigger and more competitive, especially with respect to the large capitalized sites such as LinkedIn. I will mention Facebook, but only with respect to seeing a lot of people there who used to spend time here that these days spend more time on Facebook. That's OK with me and I don't for a minute see Facebook as a competitor, it is just that as the internet evolves people are going to broaden the number of sites where they want to spend time. Elsmar is never going to be anything like LinkedIn. Elsmar will remain as it always has been - A relatively small niche forum.

F. If anyone wants to help, there are a few ways:

F1. If someone asks a question, if you can help out please do so.

Unanswered questions are always my *biggest* concern, especially since the topics covered in Elsmar have evolved way past anything I can handle. There is a small group of "regulars" and moderators who are very active and it is them who keep Elsmar relevant. They are the people who *are* Elsmar without whom Elsmar would quickly disappear. As always, my sincere Thanks go out to them.

F2. I have never mentioned this before because I feel it's sorta like cheating by bringing it up, but... If you are on Google+, LinkedIn and/or Facebook, use the links here to "Plus 1" (or the equivalent Facebook "Like" or LinkedIn's version) good discussion threads and the forum home page. And/or if you see something you like that I have posted on any of the 3 majors (Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook) give it "Like" (or equivalent) there.
 

Marc

Captain Nice
Staff member
Admin
#73
BTW - I am getting email bounces again and the phishing site is back online. DON'T GO THERE! Looks like it will be another long night for me.
 
#74
BTW - I am getting email bounces again and the phishing site is back online. DON'T GO THERE! Looks like it will be another long night for me.
you have my sympathy! It took me two months before a similar highjack of one of my email addresses moved on to the next victim.

the one thing that nags at me still - was it random or did the S.O.B. target me?

I was lucky in being able to shut down the email address without damage to my consulting business, but I know what you mean about upset victims of the phisher looking for someone to vent at.
 

Ronen E

Problem Solver
Staff member
Super Moderator
#75
FWIW: In medical devices regulatory affairs, there's no contingency for Elsmar. Just to clarify: Even if someone deleted all my posts ever in Elsmar, it would still have the best online content in that field, IMO.

Marc, you are a true hero, and I mean that. Don't underestimate what you have achieved. Many people spend a lifetime and don't get halfway where you did. :applause:

All the best,
Ronen.
 
#78
BTW - I am getting email bounces again and the phishing site is back online. DON'T GO THERE! Looks like it will be another long night for me.
Persistant buggers... Is the site up with the same provider? If so, it really is a poor show on the providers part: It should be blindingly obvious to them by now that their client is misbehaving, and under no circumstances should be allowed to cause more problems.

If they want to come across as a serious provider, that is...

/Claes
 

Marc

Captain Nice
Staff member
Admin
#79
I'll fire up a VM in a bit and take a looksie. But for me it's now moot since I stopped their xss cross site scripting.

Yola is a company which sells cheap site space under their yolasite.com umbrella. You don't really even need a real domain name. Technically I could do the same with the Elsmar server by just setting up a sub-domain such as domainname.elsmar.com
 
#80
Yola is a company which sells cheap site space under their yolasite.com umbrella. You don't really even need a real domain name.
Yeah, I know, but if my neighbour tells me that my dog is using his flowerbed as its personal loo, I know that I will have to keep better track of it. If I don't, my neighbour will be cross with me, as it is my responsibility to keep my dog in order.

Here, one of Yola's puppies have been misbehaving grossly, and they have been made aware of the fact in no uncertain terms. It is now their responsibility to prevent it from misbehaving again. Instead they let it out of the pen to resume its previous activity. Shame on them, I say...:whip:

/Claes
 
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