See Your Website Here – ( – Crawler Spam

As if Semalt, with it’s botnet and crawler that skews people’s websites analytics results wasn’t enough, here in the UK another company has decided to borrow their tactics. You can read more about Semalt here if you’re not familiar with them.

Have You Been Visited By See-Your-Website-Here?

If you run or manage a website you may have noticed a referrer in your stats which looks like this –[your web address]. They operate a crawler which registers on your website as a genuine visitor, not a crawler. As with Semalt, the problem is that it messes up your website analytics with what are fakes hits, and it screws up other figures such as your bounce rate.

See Your Website Here (SYWH) are, at the time of writing, a newcomer as their web domain was registered in June 2014. They’ve obviously seen what Semalt have been doing and have decided that it’s a good way to get people to visit their website. There’s no telephone number on the SYWH website, just a contact form. However, the domain name has been registered by Vanilla Circus Ltd, a company in London, with the contact email of and telephone number +44(0)2088793340.

I’d avoid using either the services of or as any company that uses such unscrupulous tactics to gain customers should be approached with caution. It doesn’t appear that they’ve stooped to Semalt’s levels of using malware to create a botnet that spams sites (just yet), but who knows what they’ll decide to do in the future?

They even admit to spamming sites to show up on people’s Google Analytics. They blatantly say that’s how they operate!

A screen grab from taken on 11 August 2014.
A screen grab from taken on 11 August 2014.

There are other worrying signs; their SYWH Twitter link is broken (at the time I’m writing), there’s no telephone number on the SYWH contact page and the website address has only been recently registered.

I’d have thought that after the amount of vitriol that Semalt experienced on their Facebook page no other company would use the same tactics, but it seems as though they would. SYWH doesn’t have a Facebook page, but their parent company does, though oddly it’s associated with a different web domain,, which is a company registered in Pakistan. So See Your Website Here is associated with Vanilla Circus and in turn, they’re associated with

I’m going to dig a little deeper, but if anyone manages to untangle things further, let me know.

Microtransactions – In-App Purchases – Freemium – Subscriptions

If you’re thinking of developing your own App, you may have heard that they can be very profitable, and indeed they can. However, you need to carefully consider how you make money from it.

With the advent of the smart-phone, tablets and the App Stores that provide the downloadable applications they run, Microtransactions, In-App Purchases, the Freemium business model, and the subscription business model have exploded exponentially in growth. They’ve also creeped into the more ‘traditional’ software that you may be used to, and many people are not happy about it.

Forking over considerable amounts of money for ethereal goods, or just being allowed to rent software, these practices are, on the whole, having a negative effect and getting people riled up. What’s the future of these strategies? Will they divide us into the digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ or implode on themselves?

There are a number of buzz-words floating around, but they all amount to the same thing – parting you from your money. Microtransactions and In-App purchases are pretty much the same thing, but Microtransactions are, as you may expect, typically smaller amounts. Freemium is a combination of ‘Free’ and ‘Premium’, that is something that is free, but has premium elements which you can purchase. And subscriptions are just that, something for which you have to pay a recurring subscription fee.

Now let me stress that I’m not against these tactics per se, but rather how they’re generally used.

They’re Most Prevalent In Games

In gaming for instance there has been a huge surge in the emergence of games which have been dubbed Pay-to-Win, and Pay-or-Wait. These are just lazy attempts to make people part with their hard-earned cash.

Pay-to-Win games generally make it impossible to complete a game without paying, while Pay-or-Wait games will slow down gameplay to such an extent that they’re no longer games but exercises in tedium.

As you may expect, gamers are furious about this, and so they should. Geoffrey Tim from presented this amusing image to demonstrate how these tactics work, and how absurd they are by applying the idea to a well-known game. His example is extreme but you get the message.


This image however isn’t an amusing fake. It’s very real. Worryingly so. It’s from EA’s Dungeon Keeper.


The gems allow users to speed up aspects of the game. Otherwise they have to wait for up to 24 hours. You see the ‘best value’ package of gems for £69.99? I always thought “who would pay that?” Well it seems that a very small proportion of people are willing to pay it. How far will £70 get you? Not very far actually. The gems will soon run out.

It may seem crazy that people are paying these prices, but they are. The figures are startling. If you look at Apple’s App Store, you’ll see that the highest grossing Apps are usually these Free-to-Play (F2P) games which rely on (Not-so) Microtransactions. Generally, less than 0.15% of these games users account for over 50% of the games revenue. These high-spenders have been dubbed ‘Whales’ by the gaming community, and it increasingly seems that app developers set out to ‘harpoon themselves a whale.’

Where does that leave 99.85% of the apps users? It leaves them frustrated and bored.

It’s Not Just Games

Even business apps and other useful apps are subject to the same practices. Splashtop Pro 2 is an example of this. Put simply, the app lets you access your computer from your tablet or or smart phone. Very useful, right?

You have to pay to download the app, and that’s fine, but there’s a problem. The app doesn’t let you access your computer from a remote location. I’m not joking. If you’re using the same Local Area Network, e.g. your home WiFi network. You can freely access your computer as long as your on the same network that your computer is, so you can access your computer from the next room, or maybe the garden. If you’re away from the house, you can’t.

What if you want to access your computer from work? From a hotel? On the train? You have to pay a subscription through an In-App Purchase. This is another example of Microtransactions going bad.


Subscriptions may be good for a company, but not so good for customers. Adobe have announced that they’ll be no longer be selling boxed software. You will have to download it, and even then you can’t actually buy it. You have to ‘rent’ it through a subscription service.

True, the cost each year is less than buying the software, but this argument isn’t really that valid. You don’t own the software anymore. Most people who used Adobe Creative Suite will skip different versions as the package is over well £1000 to purchase. So they will buy version 3 say, and then wait until version 5 or six before they upgrade again. So what if people fall on hard times and can’t afford the software? They can’t use it, and therefore can’t work. A horrible prospect. Adobe’s move has prompted many of those who use their software to seek alternatives. Again, this is giving the middle-finger to those who can afford it, and those who can’t.

Old School Tactics

Companies (Adobe included) have always offered demo version of their software or games in the hope that if you enjoy it, or find it useful, you’ll then go and purchase the full version. Companies which adopt the Freemium model claim that In-App Purchases stop software piracy, and that may be true to some extent, but people will always find ways around it if they’re that dedicated. The deme idea can be seen in some apps, but more often than not, it’s done in a very underhand way. That is, the user will be unaware that it’s just a demo until they hit the paywall (the pop-up message which stops the user from progressing unless they pay.) This infuriates users who may have invested a considerable bit of time into a piece of software, be it a game they’ve been playing, or some piece of software they’ve been learning to use. The moral of the story: be upfront about costs.

So You’re Thinking About Using IAPs?

In-App Purchases / Microtransactions / Paywalls – whatever you want to call them, are not necessarily a bad thing. They can be good for raising revenues, but they can also do that without alienating the majority of your users.

To do that, don’t go ‘Whale’ hunting. The Freemium business model can only exist in its current form with these ‘Whales’. And personally, I wish that these people would realise that they’re fuelling a hideous travesty, and that if they curbed their spending, app developers would be forced to reduce their prices or change strategy, benefitting all users of their software.

Things To Consider

Some of these may not relate to your particular app, depending on what sort of app it is.

  • Don’t Hunt ‘Whales’: If you’re focussing on that 0.15% you’re telling the other 99.85% of your customers that you couldn’t give a toss about them.
  • People Don’t Like playing To Save Time: This primarily refers to Freemium games where the player is forced to Pay-or-Wait. Games should be fun and engaging.
  • Be Upfront: If you’re just offering a demo, let people know upfront and be clear about it. You may not get as many downloads, but those that do will now what they’re getting into, and will be more likely to give you a 5-Star rating if your app is good, rather than a 1-Star rating for being misled.
  • Use Paywalls Sparingly: Whether it’s a game, or a business app (such as mind-mapping software), don’t segregate each feature into its own additional paid-for add-on. Paywalls infuriate the user and annihilate the user experience.
  • Don’t Make People Pay To Remove Annoyances: These are things which simply get in the way and don’t offer any real benefit. It could be something as simple having to watch an advertisement each time before you use the app.
  • People Will Pay For Unique Content: Make the transactions unlock good content and features. When using In-App Purchases, the offerings should be tangible. E.g. Unlocking the full programme, or unlocking all features.
  • People Will Pay For Good Content: If you’re going to offer something extra to people who are willing pay, make sure that the content is worth it.
  • Nintendo Have Steered Clear Of The Freemium Model: And that’s despite one of their investors urging them to adopt it.
  • Treat Customers With Respect: EA are the main culprits here. Many of their games for phones and tablets are blatantly designed to gouge customers. See below.
EA thinks that accusing their customers of being tight-fisted will encourage people spend money just to speed up the game.
EA thinks that accusing their customers of being tight-fisted will encourage people spend money just to speed up the game.


It’s quite easy to summarise this post. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and treat them with respect. Carefully consider what you’re offering and how best to deliver additional content and features. Don’t treat them like idiots who will just throw money away, and whatever you do, don’t, like EA, insult them.

Carrot > Stick

What is Is Semalt a phishing site? Semalt & the Trojan Virus

If you own a blog or website and wondering what heck Semalt is, we have the answer for you.

Semalt is a web service tracking site that is using guerrilla tactics to gain a user base… and its working.

Semalt will go to your site, and will in turn show up on sites that are referring traffic to your website. This then gets you curious, and click on their website, and BOOM now they have your information. The site is beyond shady, and I would not trust them with your information.

Noone knows what they actually do, if they do anything at all… Avoid at all costs

~ This Is Tight

The above quote is from a website I found when I was searching for information on Like many other people, I’d been receiving a load of traffic from this site, and when I checked out their homepage, I was given no information. I either had the choice to login or register, that is all.

I was rather suspicious, and it seems many other people are too. I did register to find out what they do, and it appears that they just offer a way to monitor traffic on your website (for a fee of course.)

What really grated me about how I found them was that they spammed (using bots) my website with fake visits, messing up my stats. I suggest that no-one has anything to do with this shady company. Although my research has shown that they are just (yet) another website monitoring tool, I don’t like how they went about increasing their search engine visibility. Besides, Google offers all the tools you need to monitor your website – for free.

EDIT: Semalt’s method of gaining pageviews on their own site appears to be against Google’s rules as it’s a method of trying to falsify their page ranking. It’s known as a Black Hat technique and is frowned upon. If Semalt pester your website and mess-up your website stats, you can report them for spam here –

ANOTHER EDIT: It appears that have been deleting all of the negative comments from their Social Media channels. Bad move guys. It’s best to admit mistakes and respond to criticism professionally. They’ve actually blocked me from posting or contacting them via Facebook.

Semalt and the Trojan Virus

EDIT: In a sinister turn of events, Semalt has started using a botnet to spam websites, and even have their own Trojan virus to infect computers. See for information on (and proof of) the threat. See this other blog post with a detailed look at the threat from Semalt –

This is being done through another website belonging to Semalt’s owner. The site is, and the programme they offer as a download is the virus.

The owner is spamming the link all over the place, people download it and then that’s it, your computer is infected and becomes part of their botnet. Goodness only knows what else this malicious software does.