Why you shouldn’t have fake pages on your site

Why you shouldn’t have fake pages on your site

I’m in the market for some rack space in a colocation facility. I’ve been running the numbers and it looks like I could save some substantial cash and add redundancy to my websites by buying a couple of servers instead of renting from SoftLayer. But where to colocate?

Ideally it’d be somewhere I either already live, am moving to, or near someone I visit often. I don’t plan on living in Connecticut any longer than I have to but I have no idea where I’m going to move, so that leaves me with the option of near someone I visit often. My parents have a goal of moving overseas so that leaves Becca’s parents in the Roanoke, VA area.

So I search for “roanoke, va colocation” and lucky me! The first result is a Roanoke colo from a company called Coloco! I check the pricing, spend time crunching numbers, checking my bandwidth usage to see what I need, pricing servers, etc. Becca then asks where the colo is actually located. I search their site but can’t find an address. Weird. They give the addresses of other locations.. The page definitely says Roanoke. Where in the world is this colo?

And then I realize what is happening. This company has flooded Google with fake pages that say whatever city name you are looking for. To test my theory, I visit: http://www.coloco.com/colo/colocation_in_your%20mom’s%20basement.HTM

Sure enough, I’m greeted with this entirely convincing sales pitch (emphasis added):

Grrr. I’ve just wasted 30-45 minutes evaluating a spammy company that is at least 3 hours from where I want to host my servers. I’m not sure which misguided individual at their company decided it’d be a good idea to introduce their company to the world using blatant lies, but I’m definitely not going to host with these guys.

I decided to thank them for wasting my time by offering them some free SEO services. I’ve submitted a few of their URLs to Google that were missing before, including your mom’s basement, the ghetto, and the ball pit at your local McDonald’s. I sure hope it gives them some extra traffic.

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How iptables earned me an extra $500 per year

A few weeks ago I started taking a more active role in monitoring the traffic going to my server. I discovered that lots of people were scraping my sites, or in other words, they were writing programs to extract the data off of my sites without actually browsing them in something like Chrome or Firefox. Very rude.

So I started using iptables, a Linux program that lets you configure the kernel firewall, to block IP addresses that were obviously abusing my services.

One of these scrapers was very persistent. They were scraping my ABA Number Lookup site instead of using the very inexpensive API that I provided. As soon as I blocked an IP, a new one started up. I probably would have let them get away with it but their programming was atrocious. Within the space of a few minutes they were looking up the same routing numbers dozens of times instead of looking up unique routing numbers. So I kept blocking their IPs until apparently they ran out, and the scraping stopped.

A few days later I was hanging out with my family when my cell phone starting ringing on my business line. I answered the phone and was greeted by an individual that needed help signing up for the API. I gave him the information he needed, and then he bashfully asked if I could unblock their IP addresses. Ah hah! This was the man that was hammering my server! Turns out he works for a finance-related company on Wall Street and instead of paying the measly $1 per thousand look-ups he was scraping my site.

So now they are using the API like they should have been the whole time, and I’m making an extra $500 per year. Yay!

Moral of the story: Sometimes it pays to check your logs.

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