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Jul
22
Still Looking for the Magic Pill
Posted by Troy Newport on 22 July 2014 08:11 am

Business owners are constantly bombarded with marketing messages from companies in our industry:

“#1 Google Rankings Guaranteed!”
“5000 Facebook Followers in a Week!”
“Get Rid of Negative Reviews!”

Yelp released a PSA to their business owners warning of reputation management companies who claim to work with Yelp to perform services such as removing negative reviews, boost ratings, etc.   We get these same SPAM emails, and we also get phone calls from people claiming to be with Google.  Not because they really think we need their help, but because they are blanketing the world with their scams in hopes to find those consumers still looking for the magic pill to solve all their marketing pains.  Think about your marketing solutions like this:  Remember those burn-fat-at-nite pills didn’t work for you, but exercise and a smart diet did?  Your marketing solutions are going to present themselves in the exact same way.  Fads will waste your time and money, but dedication and strategic planning will begin to solve your daily business challenges.

The content of the Yelp PSA is below for your reading enjoyment:yelp

Important Public Service Announcement
Darnell Holloway, Business Outreach

We’ve recently seen several new reports about “reputation management” companies that claim to work with Yelp to remove your negative reviews, recommend certain reviews, or otherwise boost your ratings for a fee (of course!). If you’re wondering how these companies can make good on this offer, the answer is simple: they can’t. Consumer trust is our top concern, so businesses can’t pay Yelp or any third party to alter or remove their reviews. It’s also worth noting that brazen attempts to manipulate ratings and reviews on Yelp could result in a Consumer Alert being placed on your business profile.

If you’ve been contacted by someone offering something along these lines, we’d love to get the details so we can prevent them from preying on others. Please use this form to loop us in. For general questions, contact our user support team at www.yelp.com/contact.

Finally, as we’ve said in the past, the best strategy for reputation management is to provide great customer service and respond diplomatically to your reviewers.

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Nov
27
Deceptive Foistware Really Grinds My Gears
Posted by Troy Newport on 27 November 2013 10:40 am

Since everyone is up in arms because Brian got “killed off” Family Guy (come on people, Stewie has a time machine!) I’m going to take this opportunity to tell you what really grinds my gears.  Sure, I know it’s the eve before Thanksgiving and I’m supposed to be spending the whole month of November posting on Facebook what I’m thankful for, but this is important! 

People inadvertently download crapware to their computers all the time without knowing any better.  Websites deceptively place ads around the real download, and software vendors automatically bundle other software with their download unless you read the fine print and uncheck a small box before you start downloading. 

Sure, I understand if someone is letting me download their software for “free” it’s a way for them to make money.  But how about giving us an option to download something that is valuable, won’t take over control of my web browser, and/or conflict with other software already on my computer?  Huh?  How about that??  And don’t be fooled, it’s not just the little guys trying to make a buck.  The big boys are notorious for this practice too.  Kudos to ZDNet for calling out Skype, Adobe and Oracle for these practices.

Here are some examples of how you are tricked to install things like the Ask Toolbar, Babylon Toolbar and other malware:

CNET is a place that comes up well in searches if you’re looking for a popular piece of software to download.  Unfortunately they strategically place ads that are more prominent and have language surrounding the ads that is designed to confuse less savvy users.  Which of the highlighted areas should I click on to begin my download?

When updating Adobe Flash you are taken to this screen during the installation process, which if you are in a hurry and ignore, will cause you to inadvertently install McAfee.  Doesn’t Adobe already make enough money from us?

Here is an example of how you can be prompted to install the Ask Toolbar.  You should never, ever install the Ask Toolbar!  You need a PhD to get it off your computer once it’s taken over.

And finally, I saved the WORST for last: the Babylon Toolbar.  If you have this on your computer, have your IT person clean it off immediately!   Unfortunately if you do a search for “how to remove the Babylon toolbar” it’s possible you will go to a site that will prompt you to download software to remove it, and you will inadvertently download something even worse.  So if you don’t know what you’re doing, have someone help you who does.

Often when I’m with a client at their office I see their Internet Security application or other critical application popup and say “Update Now”.  Almost always they close the window without running the update.  I ask them why they don’t update and the response I most often get is, “I’m afraid to update things because I end up downloading something that breaks my computer.”  Foistware is directly responsible for that sentiment.  If people are afraid to update their computers because they have been trained to think they are going to accidentally break their computers, then we have a bunch of computers that are open to security vulnerabilities. 

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Aug
28
Do You Believe Everything You Get in Your Inbox?
Posted by Troy Newport on 28 August 2013 08:07 am

Every day I receive spam in my inbox that some spambot sent about how they can help me build a better website at a cheaper price, get me on the 1st page of Google, help me with my AdWords, build a better email template, shopping cart, social media strategy, blah blah blah blah blah….  I promptly curse at the practice of spamming, delete the emails and then go about my day. 

The only problem is my clients get these emails every day too, and apparently they aren’t aware these emails are spam, scams, phishing attempts, and other malicious malcontents.  So quite often I have clients forwarding these spam emails to me saying, “Hey this company says my website rankings stink and they can help!  What’s the deal??”  So now I have to take time out of my busy day to try to explain the difference between legitimate email (people who you already know, or companies with which you have an established relationship) and spam.  So in reality, spam is a double productivity killer for me…  GRRR!!

Since it’s apparently difficult for the regular email consumer to know the difference between legitimate email and spam I’ve decided to offer the following advice:

1)  According to the federal CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 it is illegal for companies to email you unless you’ve explicitly authorized them to email you, or you’ve done business with them and they are emailing you as a result of the ongoing relationship you have with their company.  So, do you want to do business with someone who is violating federal law?

2)  If someone is sending you an email out of the blue soliciting their services and you’ve never heard of them before, DELETE IT.

3)  If someone is sending you an email from a Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Live or other ‘free’ email account soliciting their services, DELETE IT.  (This isn’t foolproof, but they are more likely to be a legitimate company if they have a real website address. I don’t send email to my clients using my Gmail account, I send email using my @webtivitydesigns.com email account.)

4)  When it comes to people sending you spam about how they “just looked at your website and noticed you don’t rank well on the search engines”, DELETE IT.  They didn’t look at your website, they unleashed a spambot across the internet hoping it would get into enough people’s inboxes and that a few people would actually respond.  In fact, even Google gets these same emails!  Here is an excerpt from the Google Webmaster Tools website:

  • Be wary of SEO firms and web consultants or agencies that send you email out of the blue.

Amazingly, we get these spam emails too:
“Dear google.com,
I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”
Reserve the same skepticism for unsolicited email about search engines as you do for “burn fat at night” diet pills or requests to help transfer funds from deposed dictators.

source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35291?hl=en

I can’t say it any better, Google… I can’t say it any better.

 

URGENT UPDATE:

While I was preparing this Blog post I received the following spam through my Facebook page:

Robert Martin              4:08pm

Estate Investment Project proposal:
Dear, I came across your page in this social network website during my official browsing hours, and decided to contact you right away. Well I have the honor to introduce myself as Robert Martin, a citizen of Jordan, but currently residing in the United Kingdom where I run an estate development firm. However, I contacted you with the view to build a mutual investment partnership with regard to the desire to invest in estate development over there in your country, if you are willing to partner with me in this estate investment project in view, be assured that the project will be to our great advantage, because real estate investment has being lucrative and rewarding worldwide, feel free to send an e-mail for more briefing and other necessary information. However, if this partnership proposal is against your moral ethics, accepts my apologies . In the same vain, if you are interested, do write back to me with this email, Robertmartin41@yahoo.com as I will be glad to receive your response. Yours, ROBERT MARTIN

 

Need I say any more????!!!!

 

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Jul
11
Price Arbitrage Vs Transparency
Posted by Troy Newport on 11 July 2013 08:09 am

Price arbitrage was again brought to the forefront when Facebook recently changed their policies to prevent the practice within their advertising network.  This practice involves ad agencies buying large chunks of web advertising inventory, and then reselling it to their clients at a premium price.  That allows the ad agency to make profit from managing their clients’ ad campaigns, and also profit off the margin.  This practice is much more common among large media companies and is legal (even though if you tried the same practice on Wall Street you’d be in federal prison.)   Recently large corporations have started asking questions about how their ad budget is being spent and have been pulling out of agencies who can’t (or won’t) be transparent about the issue.  Read more about this on AdWeek.

You may be saying to yourself, “well I’m a small company and I’m not working with those large agencies so I don’t have to worry about it.”  Unfortunately this practice happens on a different level with smaller agencies.  For example, often agencies will create a Google AdWords account for their clients and never give them access to it.  They charge a flat fee to their client which includes the ad budget and the fee the company charges to manage the campaign.  Unfortunately at the end of the day the client doesn’t really know how much of their monthly costs are going toward ad budget and how much the agency is pocketing.  Unscrupulous agencies have been known to mislead their clients on exactly where their money is going. 

To prevent this from happening to you, make sure if an agency is managing an ad campaign for you that the campaign is created in your account and your credit card is being charged directly by Google, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook, or whichever ad networks are being used.   Not only does this allow you to fully account for your ad budget, it also provides portability if you ever decide to leave that agency and work with another.  For example if an agency is managing your Google AdWords campaign and you decide to take it elsewhere, if you do can’t take your account and ad campaign to the new company they have to setup the campaign from scratch.  That means you lose all your account history and Quality Scores.  In the long run that means you are going to pay more money.

At the end of the day make sure you have control over your web properties, your accounts, and demand transparency when it comes to your ad budget and how your money is being spent.

 

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