So while we were waiting for our bank to call us back about a payment. We decided to do the same as 4,400 other people do every month, in Google.co.uk, we searched for ‘Suffolk News’.
We found EADT to have the prominent results but while on the site, we were redirected to App Stores and strange looking websites. We were quite surprised due to EADT being so well known, you could argue that it is ‘Suffolk Main News Paper’?
In the terms of ‘SEO’ – Being redirected, without a valid reason is SPAM and very much against Googles own webmaster guidelines. You can read about that in the link at the bottom of the blog.
We decided to have a look to see what was going on, EADT wouldn’t add spam and add shady code on their website, would they? Why would they do that?
We discovered that EADT are very much tracking you, and sharing that data with over 60 third-party websites, while also using ‘sneaky redirects’ which is something Google hates, along with anyone who is annoyed with being asked to download the latest dating App, even if you are married with two kids and a dog!
So with our findings, we decided to have a look at the top 9 results in Google for the keyword search ‘Suffolk News’ to see who else is tracking you and how much of that data is going to third-party websites.
The websites we found in the Top Nine (written in ranking order) of Google at the time of writing this blog (4/4/18) are:
BBC Suffolk – Two Trackers
BBC Suffolk is at the top result in Google.co.uk. BBC only have two types of trackers on their Suffolk section of the website. This is more than acceptable. They know how many people come to the site and where from, simple but good data. Their main tracking is Google Analytics which is very much the standard for any website on the internet.
EADT – Over 77 Trackers
The second two results in Google is eadt.co.uk/home and their eadt.co.uk/new pages. We found the website to be very slow on an iPhone and a MAC/Laptop. We found that if you are using a mobile device, you will end up being redirected to a website that tries to force you to download an app etc. We found EADT 77 trackers on the website with three of the tracking codes being extremely insecure. One of the most concerning tracking codes is eXelate which buys and sells data to various sources.
Ipswich Star – Over 100 Trackers on some pages
Ipswich Star is within the same group as EADT. We expected this website to be flooded with third-party tracking in the same way. Ipswich Star doesn’t appear to have as many tracking codes as their mother site but it is still an extremely high number. We also found two of the tracking codes to be insecure. We also found some tracking codes that are linked to websites that buy and sell data. We also double checked the website in their news section of the website, we recorded over 100 tracking codes on that one page.
ITV Anglia – 8 Trackers
We were pleasantly surprised with ITV Anglia. We expected them to be flooded with tracking codes because they are paid for by advertising. We found the industry standard of Google Analytics which is expected. ITV has barely any real tracking on the website at all. We only found two trackers that record traffic with just two others related to advertising. The remaining four codes were related to having social sharing buttons or video players.
Suffolk Constabulary – 8 Trackers
We only listed Suffolk Constabulary because Google ranking for a news-related term. However, we can safely presume that its one of the most popular news type websites around for crime or campaigns. We expected Suffolk Police to have a lot more tracking and data filtering services than we thought. We only found eight with four of the tracking codes being related to Facebook. We would presume Suffolk Constabulary would use social media to their advantage, if a crime happened in Sudbury, they can easily target people within 10 miles of Sudbury while not including unrelated people in Ipswich.
Independent Suffolk – 63 Trackers
Independent Suffolk has over 63 types of tracking codes on their websites. We looked into what type of tracking they have, most of it is related to selling advertising space, one of the most known tracking codes is called ‘BlueKai’ who have been accused of invasion of privacy more than once. Independent are also using services such as ‘ScoreCard Research Beacon’ which is a well-known service that records anonymous information about users so websites can improve their content etc.
Heart Suffolk – 26 Trackers
Heart is using 26 tracking codes on their Suffolk section of the website. We have found that this website is not classed as ‘secure’ because they are not using something called HTTPS. Banks, Police and Google have all stated that websites should be using SSL/HTTPS. Heart appears to be gathering data so they can build up a database of user behaviour, it appears they are focused on tracking people who are classed as ‘buyer intent’. Heart do sell advertising on the website so we expect third-party websites to be sharing Heart’s data so they can show adverts of interest to a user.
Please don’t get us wrong here, we love data, we love tweaking and playing with websites to make them perform better for us, clients and their users. We believe using website data in the most ethical way, we don’t even store personal data other than ‘hits’ to our websites which will record the data in the points below. There is no real need to install tracking code over tracking code, there is no reason at all to send anyone to a third party website without the user actually knowing, and agreeing.
- How many hits
- Where those hits have come from, such as a search engine or social media.
- Where the rough location is of that traffic,
- What web browser they are using, mostly so we know a website looks and performs as it should.
- We don’t record IP addresses for more than 30 days – We have no need for it unless it is from a spammer and we will simply block it.
There is nothing wrong with tracking website users at all but there is a very fine line between tracking to improve a users experience and stalking them. We all need to question websites about data, how they track, store and use it.
Google Webmaster Guidelines – Sneak Redirects
p.s SEOMERS use five tracking services on our website. Two are related to Google Analytics, Two ‘live chat’ codes which is more of a chatting system rather than ‘tracking’ and the other is called ‘Gravatar’ which is a WordPress feature for people who may comment on our blogs, so they can use custom avators. Thank you for reading this article. You are welcome to share it SEOmers
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