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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Before You Embed That Gadget or Badge or Infographic...

Last week I received a panicked email from a reader who was having problems with her classroom blog. She reported that dialogue boxes were popping-up whenever someone visited her blog. That's usually a sign that there is some malware hidden in the code of the blog. So I used an laptop that I keep around for these kinds of things and took a look at her blog. Sure enough, as soon as I visited the site a bunch of dialogue boxes popped-up on my screen.

As I looked at the blog I saw an educational game gadget embedded into the sidebar. There was also a countdown calendar embedded into the sidebar. The countdown calendar was one I had seen in a lot  of blogs so I didn't think that was the problem. The game gadget was from a service I hadn't heard of. I asked the owner of the blog if she could remove it. She did and the pop-ups went away.

Embedding gadgets into a blog can be a good way to enhance what your blog offers. That said, some gadgets seem harmless can cause problems for you. Before you embed a gadget or badge consider its source. Is it from a site or company you've never heard of? Does the site itself have a bunch of pop-ups appearing? If so, those could be good signs that the gadgets they're offering are suspect too.

On a similar note, a lot of companies like to get bloggers to embed badges that say something like "top teacher blog." Before you embed that badge consider its source. Is it coming from a site like "Best Online Degrees?" If so, they're giving out those badges as a part of their SEO strategy. Dan Meyer wrote a great post about those kinds of sites, I highly recommend reading it. I'm not saying that you shouldn't put up a badge if you've been recognized for something, just consider that badge's source and whether or not it is being given as recognition or as part of an SEO strategy (spoiler, sometimes it's for both purposes).

Infographics are widely used for SEO purposes too. I have at least two per day emailed to me. The next time you have an infographic emailed to you or see one that you want to embed, take a look at who created it, who is hosting it, and who it links back to. For example, one that has been sent to me twice this week is titled, "How Technology Is Changing the Classroom." It looks like a decent infographic. But I took one look at the embed code and saw that it was linking back to an online degree scam site. Another I received this week is titled, "White House History." When I looked at the code for that site it linked back to an online rug and carpet store. Needless to say, neither infographic will be appearing on my blog.