Yearly Archives: 2012

Site Maintenance For a Few Hours

We are doing an update to our database for Captcha support and this is likely to take several hours. The site will be in maintenance during this time. Apologies for the inconvenience.

More on CAPTCHA Support

We now have over 20 CAPTCHA sites being tested in the system. This testing is proving to be very valuable as it shows us that right now the success rates are not good enough to take the captcha system live just yet.

As you may know, we implement an intelligent retry system for certain failures. We use many different proxies to perform the submissions (to spread out the IP’s and keep them changing), but proxies are never as good as a direct connection so it’s common to get timeouts and general server errors. Plus, some sites simply perform better than others.

Because of this, many errors do not cause a direct failure – the submission is retried several times over a period of 12-24 hours depending on the circumstances. All of these are logged so we can see exactly how well a site is performing.

In the case of captcha sites we have a new set of problems that can crop up, the most common of which is that the ‘solved’ captcha is in fact incorrect. The most common captcha system in use today is ReCaptcha and they throw out some really illegible captchas at times! The issue with a failure of this kind is that a charge is made regardless of whether or not the captcha is solved correctly so we have to be careful to control the number of retries in order to keep the costs at an acceptable level.

What we are going to do in essence, is give more leeway to higher PR sites. A lowly PR1 is not worth the cost of many retries but for a high quality PR5 site we really want to get that submission to work!

In the last post I explained that the system of Captcha Credits we are going to implement will take into account the PR of the site. This was initially decided in order to encourage members to submit only their very best content to the best sites because we want to ensure that we play extremely nicely with the big contenders so there is no risk of our accounts being banned. With a higher PR site costing more credits than a lower one, you’ll need to be picky about what you submit to those.

This fits in very nicely with our retry system. We have more credits at our disposal for a higher PR site so we can afford to retry the submission many times in order to push it through successfully. Therefore the PR of the site will be used directly to influence this retry mechanism.

What that means in practical terms is that the low quality PR1, PR2 captcha sites are going to have to perform well in order to make the cut. At the moment we have done a blanket test without any retries at all to see just how well the captchas perform without brute force and we are seeing failure rates as high as 50% on some sites!

We always aim for over 90% success (many of our regular sites have 100% success rate which is nice!) so if a PR1 captcha site consistently fails it will not make it past the trial stage. There are a huge number of PR1 sites out there, but how many of them will perform well enough with our system remains to be seen…

The good news is that we’re also finding lots of juicy higher PR sites to include!

As a side note, you may have noticed a whole bunch of PR0 sites currently in our list. This is due to the recent Google updates – many bookmark (and article) sites have had their PR level dropped and many have been dropped to 0 or unranked. We don’t want PR0’s in our system!

Luckily, we have recently discovered some new tools for finding and incorporating fresh sites into the system and we have many new sites on trial now. We should have enough to replace all of those PR0’s over the next couple of weeks.

Another Update on CAPTCHA Support

We are continuing to internally test submission to sites with captchas and this is going well. One thing we have also been doing is monitoring submissions being made by members and taking a closer look at how our tools are being used.

One thing we have noticed, is that there is quite a lot of variation in the ‘quality’ of the content being submitted. Some of it is great – high quality content, the kind of thing that the sites we submit to really want to see. But some of it, not so great… One of the downsides of having a flat monthly fee rather than a usage-based cost is that it encourages members to ‘use up’ their available quota and so they submit anything they can think of – category pages, about pages, profile pages and other stuff.

Now whilst this is not hardcore spam by any means (that is filtered out from the outset), it’s not high quality. What has this got to do with captcha sites? Well the reason that these sites put captchas up to begin with is to combat spam – high volume, low quality submissions. The best sites out there use captchas. These sites are maintained by real human beings who monitor what gets submitted and if it does not meet their standards the submission is usually deleted – and often, the account that submitted it will be deleted also.

As we use our own internal accounts for our submissions, it is of utmost importance that our accounts never get deleted or they take with them the backlinks submitted under that account! So before we start adding good quality, high PR sites to our system we have got to be even more careful about the quality of the content that we submit.

But at the same time, we also have a bunch of lower quality sites – the PR1’s and PR2s that don’t really mind the lower quality content and we want to keep those in too because bulk links can still be useful – it all adds to the variety of your backlink profile.

So, if you read my last post I explained that we’re going to be using a system of captcha ‘credits’ to make these submissions. Pro members will get a credit package free every month as part of their Pro subscription but Light members will need to purchase a credit package in order to submit to these sites.

We are still going ahead with this idea, but with one small change… in that post I said that 1 credit = one link submitted to one site regardless of PR. What we are going to do instead is factor in the PR of the submission. So whilst a submission to a PR1 site might be worth just 1 credit, submission to a PR4 site, would require more credits.

We don’t have the actual numbers figured out yet but the general idea will be that you’ll be able to choose how to spend your credits. If you have some lower quality links that you want to submit, you might blast those out to the lower PR sites and you’ll be able to get more links as a result. If you want to submit to the higher PR sites, they’ll cost more credits, so you won’t be able to submit as many links.

This will encourage members to submit only the highest quality content to the highest PR sites which will in turn ensure that those sites are only getting great content from IMAutomator submissions, and will not be flooded with low quality submissions. It’s a win all around.

With that in mind, we are going to be incorporating a wide variety of captcha sites and not just the highest PR ones so you’ll have more choice. Once we have around 15-20 sites tested and working, then we’ll figure out the actual numbers for the credit system and it actually get it implemented so you can use it!

More on CAPTCHA Site Support

Over the past few weeks we have begun work on incorporating support for Decaptcher and we have begun to internally test sites using it. These do not yet show up on the supported sites list as they cannot be used by members. In our testing we have come across various issues and have decided to change the way we implement captcha sites into IMAutomator as a result.

The original plan was to funnel requests for solving a captcha directly to the Decaptcher service using the login credentials supplied by the member. In this way we do not handle any funds directly and at first it seemed like the simplest solution. Whilst simple, it is not optimal:

1) It immediately forces all members who wish to take advantage of captcha sites to create an account with Decaptcher. This is not ideal as the whole premise behind IMAutomator is to shield the member from this very need. Also, there is a $10 minimum deposit. This would exclude many members from the outset.

2) It forces us to store your login data and we’d prefer not to store sensitive data unnecessarily.

3) Due to the nature of the submission process, one submission could make several calls to the Decaptcher service and cost the member varying amounts of money. This is the biggest hurdle we have faced and feel it is unnacceptable. Submissions do not work 100% of the time – web sites are slow, they time out, have bad days, have random errors etc. We have a retry mechanism in place which will retry a failed submission several times over a 24 hour period before marking it as failed. If a captcha is involved in that process, depending on what point at which the submission failed, several captcha solves may be required. This is of no concern to the member and you should not be charged for these additional calls.

4) Similarly to the above issue, sometimes the Decaptcher service gets it wrong and this causes the submission to fail. Again, here we can retry it later but the member should not absorb the cost for this.

5) Another cost issue – sometimes our own system is not performing 100%, sometimes the login fails or we have issues with our engine. Obviously we are always taking steps to minimize such issues but there should never be a case where the member is directly charged for something that has not worked. You should only be charged for a successful submission.

6) Not a single captcha submission can be done without the member supplying a Decaptcher account. We’d like to at least give some freebies to our Pro members!

Therefore we have decided to go in a new direction and do all of the captcha submissions with our own Decaptcher account, doing the retries as normal but the member will be able to purchase packages of ‘credits’ to use against these submissions. Pro members will receive a free package each month as part of their existing subscription but may purchase additional credits.

Each credit allows a single link to be submitted to a single captcha site – the PR of the site does not matter. When submitting new links, you will be able to choose precisely what sites you would like to choose, if any and you will know exactly how many credits the submission will use at most. Failed submissions will be refunded – you would only charged for a successful submission and only a single credit regardless of how many attempts was made for it to succeed. For example, if we add 20 new captcha based bookmarking sites and you submit a particular link to half of them, that would cost you 10 credits assuming they all succeed.

We haven’t set the prices in stone yet and at this stage we are not even sure how we are going to incorporate payment into the system as these will be one-off purchases and not a monthly fee. This is a rough ballpark so far:

$5 for 500 submission package ($1 for 100 subs)
$10 for 1,200 submission package ($1 for 120 subs)
$25 for 3,000 submission package ($1 for 140 subs)
$50 for 8,000 submission package ($1 for 160 subs)
$100 for 20,000 submission package ($1 for 200 subs)

We would give Pro members the $10 package of 1200 submissions free every month. This would not carry over from month to month (purchased credits DO carry over) and would be in addition to any credits purchased separately. So what would that get you? It depends on how many sites you select for each link. For example, if you have a really important piece of content you might want to push that out to as many sites as possible. If we had 20 sites and you selected all of them, that $10 package would buy you 60 URL’s. To be clear that’s 60 URL’s x 20 sites = 1,200 total backlinks.

This system will still be entirely optional. For those who choose not to use it, IMAutomator will remain exactly as it is now. We are continuing to add as many totally free sites as we can on an on-going basis. For those who have purchased a credit package or for Pro members who will have one free, the submission form on each tool will have an additional section to allow you to select captcha sites to include.

We’ll have more details available in due course!

Decaptcher Support, and Why We Need To Include It

Decaptcher is a third-party service that allows the remote solving of CAPTCHA images. These images are now found all over the web on submission forms and require the user to type in the text / characters seen in the image. They are specifically designed to prevent automated submissions from robots.

They perform a valuable function – they drastically reduce spam. For example, look on our own site here, on the Contact page we use a CAPTCHA. If we didn’t, somebody could very easily write a script to automatically submit that contact form a million times – and that could have some serious adverse affects on our server!

When it comes to the kinds of sites that we submit to with IMAutomator – Social Bookmark sites, Article & Web Directories etc, these are vulnerable to spam and the website owners need to keep control of what gets submitted. There is submission software out there similar to ours, except that they will create thousands of different accounts at one site and submit the same bookmark to all of them just to try and boost the number of backlinks. Of course, Google is wise to this kind of thing so it doesn’t do much for your SEO, but not everybody knows that and people still use these spammy kinds of systems.

As a result, more and more submission sites are introducing CAPTCHAs into their submission forms which means that we need to change the way we do things with our software to keep up with the times.

IMAutomator has been in operation for over 2 years and in that time we have added HUNDREDS of sites to the system but the number of supported sites in both Bookmark and Article submitters has tended to hover around the 30-50 mark for most of that time. The reason is that sites come and go and when a site dies we remove it and then hopefully, we can add new sites to replace those that die.

However, over the last year or so it has become increasingly difficult to find sites to add to the system because so many of them now require that CAPTCHA image. We started building our own Bookmarking sites instead but we feel that these do not perform as well as more established third-party sites and so it’s not something we particularly wish to continue.

Thus, we are now working on incorporating support for the Decaptcher service which will allow us to start including all those sites (including many high PR ones!) into IMAutomator. Unfortunately the Decaptcher service is not free so members who wish to use it will need to pay for it (it is entirely optional). They currently charge $2.00 for 1000 images.

In the next post I’ll explain the stages in which Decaptcher support will be introduced into IMAutomator, more details on the pricing and exactly how that will be controlled, and more information on how the submission process will work when using Decaptcher.

Spintax errors described more clearly

A small tweak has been made today to the validation routines to more clearly describe errors. In particular, spintax errors occur due to a group not being closed (usually because the text has been pasted in from an external application and it has been truncated to fit into the field), or nested spintax has been used which is not yet supported.

The error will tell you what field called the problem and what the problem was. We’ve also tweaked a few other errors around the site to make them a little clearer.

Job Submission Now Has Full Job (Spintax) Preview

Today we have implemented a subtle change to the way the that job submission works for all job types to include a full job preview (including resolved Spintax) for all submissions. On the job submission form, instead of having a direct submit button and a continue button you now have just a single ‘Preview & Submit’ button. Previously there was a preview option for Articles but now the preview is a mandatory step for all job types.

All validation – including spintax validation is done at this point. So as before, if there is something missing from the form, or a field entry is too short or invalid in some way you’ll get an error message but now your spintax will also be resolved and checked for errors at this point. This will prevent you from submitting a spintax job which has any errors in the input.

Previously, as long as the actual data was valid the job was accepted and the spinning of the job was done later on. If any errors were found (which we assumed would be very rare), the spinning is aborted and the field submitted as-is in plain text, which of course is not desired. We have found two cases that can produce errors through no fault of the member! Firstly, we have a maximum length for every field on the form and when pasting in text from another application that text will automatically be truncated to the correct length. If that truncation happens in the middle of a spintax group, it results in an error.

The second issue is that some members are using nested spintax in their jobs which is not yet supported. Due to the number of members that we have seen use this, it is obviously a desired feature so it is on the list to be implemented in the future but we do have some other higher priority features to implement first.

Back to the job submission… Once you hit the preview button without any errors you are shown a preview of your job. This will allow you to see if any text has been cut off and in the case of spintax jobs it will spin each field and randomly select one spun version to show you so you can see how it might read once submitted to external sites. From the preview page you can go back and continue editing the job or you can submit the finalised job.

Note that this change also affects job editing. So now, to edit a job you click on the details link from the job list as normal but from here you now have the preview button instead of the final submit. Now this is significant for existing members who have jobs in the system with problematic spintax – this will especially apply to anyone who has used nested spintax. Any edits to an existing job will of course go through the same validation routine as a new submission but this now includes the validation of the spintax which means it will ask you to correct the spintax before submitting the changes.

Please go through your existing incomplete spintax jobs and do this to ensure that there are no errors. The jobs will still be submitted without doing this but as previously mentioned, if errors are found the spinning is aborted and the original text containing the spintax is submitted – which is not what you want.

I hope you find the new preview functionality useful and enjoy the more robust spintax functionality!

A Server Issue Found, Problem Hopefully Resolved

Our host found a problem with a firewall that was running on the server and causing some packet loss when trying to ping the server. This firewall has now been upgraded to the latest version which has stopped the packet loss. I’m not 100% convinced that this is the cause of the problems over the last few days as that firewall has always been there so if you still continue to have issues please let me know and I shall keep the host guys on the problem.

Server Issues Being Investigated

There have been reports over the weekend of some problems with the IMAutomator server. I am not seeing this myself and the engine seems to be running as normal so I have passed it on to the host for them to investigate what the issue is.

How to Submit Your RSS Feed Automatically For Continous Backlinks

In this post I’ll discuss how you can use ingenious online tools to submit your RSS feed automatically so that you can bring in a continuous stream of backlinks to your content over time.

How to submit your RSS feed automatically

IMAutomator is a suite of tools designed to automate the process of building backlinks and it includes an RSS feed submitter. It could not be simpler to use – you simply tell it the URL of your RSS feed along with some additional information such as a title, description & some tags, then you select the sites you wish to submit to and click the submit button. The whole process take about a minute!

To obtain credits to use with IMAutomator you can either create a free account and just purchase a one-off credit pack or if you have content that you wish to submit on an on-going basis using their other tools such as the social bookmarking submitter tool and the article submission tool then you will be better off with one of the subscription plans which work out cheaper than the credit packs.

How RSS Feed submission works to create backlinks

RSS feed directories work a little differently to regular web directories as they are designed specifically for RSS feeds. When you submit your feed, the directory doesn’t just store a link to the feed, it crawls the feed pulling out all of the links inside it. It is these links that it makes available for searching in its directory. The wonderful thing about RSS feeds is that they are automatically updated whenever you add content so you don’t have to go around resubmitting your RSS feed every time you add something – the process is automatic!

As long as the feed you are submitting is a feed to content which is being added to and updated then every time you post new content to that feed, every RSS directory that you submitted the feed to will automatically get the new content and create the backlink to it. It’s a great value way to create backlinks because that one single submission creates backlinks forever!

Using software such as IMAutomator to help you submit your RSS feed automatically is a massive time saver. You don’t have to do the research to find directories to submit to and then spend the time to go around making each individual submission – you submit just once to IMAutomator and their submission engine does the rest! Furthermore, you can have those submissions drip-fed slowly over time to be more search engine friendly.

Stay connected with us in your favorite flavor!