April 2, 2006

Reputation Management: SiteAdvisor

SiteAdvisor is a service that tracks and rates sites for their propensity to spam or infest your system with spyware and other malware, started by a group of MIT engineers spurred to action after too many holidays spent cleaning up their families' computers. Plug-ins are available for Win IE and Firefox users which will, upon installation, alert you to questionable sites as you surf, and overlay ratings in search results from Google and Yahoo with Google Maps-type balloon notes [screengrab, 72K png]. Automated and manual analysis, community and site-owner feedback collate security and reputation information, rock'n it Web 2.0 style; in short, It's a Beautiful Thing™.

General users or reputation managers can manually check SiteAdvisor's growing database, and every time you query an unrated site it becomes queued for future testing. SiteAdvisor reports on spam potential, downloads, online affiliations and "annoyances". Reports show the number of messages per week you can expect to get if you sign up at a given site, with an example inbox demonstrating received email subject lines. Downloads are examined for the presence of malware, a neat diagram shows color-coded affiliated sites to reflect their rating (more on this below), and annoyances like excessive pop-ups and tracking cookies are listed. All reports offer detailed drill-down analysis.

I ran the test on a few of Threespot's current clients and was happy to find none raising red flags. I did find one linking to an affiliate site that hoisted a yellow flag, reporting "somewhat spammy" email. Here's where reputation and/or brand management questions come into play for agencies either tasked with this role or for whom have taken it on as part of a general client advocacy -- should we alert our client that one of their affiliates has been marked by this service as a potential spammer?

Because bookmarklets are cool, I've created another to make it easy for users to query SiteAdvisor's data. To use, simply drag the SiteAdvisor: Check Site link to your Bookmarks bar, navigate to a site to test and click on the bookmarklet to try it out.

Posted by Lewis Francis at April 2, 2006 4:23 PM

For best results, test a site with and without subdomains; iow, "mysite.com" as well as "www.mysite.com".

Posted by: Lewis Francis at April 2, 2006 6:29 PM
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