One bad apple

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A colleague brought to my attention the dubious practices of, a German provider of free web analytics. LogStats is a typical teeny-tiny provider of free web stats, using a JavaScript-based tag for data collection. Free web stats is a pretty thin business to be in these days, what with behemoths like Google and us charging about (or about to charge about, in our case) in the market – so how does LogStats pay the bills?

It turns out that the HTML code segment that LogStats distributes contains a little something extra. Can you spot what it is in the code below? (thanks to Google Blogoscoped for this code):

<!– Logstats Counter Code –>
<script language=”JavaScript” type=”text/javascript” src=”…”>
<img src=”…”>
<a href=””>Leuchten</a>
<!– Logstats Counter Code –>

Don’t see anything unusual? Go to the back of the class. What, precisely, is that link on the word “Leuchten” (German for “Lamps”) doing in the <noscript> section? Well, the website linked to – – is owned by the same guy, Marcin Nolte, who owns So everyone who implements this tag code is giving Artelight a free link – on every page.

That’s going to be pretty good for Artelight’s Google rankings, and indeed they rank #1 in Germany for the term “Leuchten” and “Lampen” (another word for “Lamps”). Logstats claims to have about 9,500 customers, so that’s a lot of back-links. But it’s pretty sneaky.

You could argue that  Logstats/Artelight are doing nothing more evil than gaming Google’s page rank algorithm, and all power to them. After all, apart from consuming a tiny amount of extra bandwitdth on their clients’ sites, neither their clients nor their customers are coming to any harm whatsoever. And you could argue that these companies need to get something back for providing a free web analytics package.

But in an era when web analytics and online marketing are viewed with considerable suspicion, this kind of behavior is unhelpful, to say the least. There are rumors that other small web analytics firms are engaged in this practice, too, which is also rather worrying (the only one I’ve been able to confirm is which seems to do something similar). The problem with this kind of thing is that it is grist to the mill for anyone who wants to throw mud at the online marketing and web analytics industries and paint them as enemies of privacy. One bad apple spoils the whole damned barrel.

[Thanks again to Google Blogoscoped for much of the detail of this post]

2 thoughts on “One bad apple”

  1. I agree with you that it is sneaky Ian, but I do think its a very clever idea. I put it in the same category as those who offer free business cards, etc. On the back of the free business card is a description of the printer, similiar to this. Invest some money into a free tool, in this case web analytics, and let the links roll in.

  2. >>After all, apart from consuming a tiny amount of extra bandwitdth on their clients’ sites, neither their clients nor their customers are coming to any harm whatsoever
    Not necessarily true Ian. Google and other search engines use both links in and link out from websites to help determine what your site is about. As such, if your website is unrelated to “Leuchten” or lighting, then you should be concerned about having these links included in your code.
    Furthermore, its also arguable that by including this code in your page you are assisting to break Google’s best pratice guidelines (relating to hiding links) or indeed breaking them yourself.
    I suspect this may be very effective for whilst it lasts.

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