If you’re a self-hosted WordPress blogger, you know the importance of a good theme. It’s the first thing your visitors see when they come to your blog, and as the old saying goes, you only get one chance at a first impression. If you don’t have a good WordPress theme, that first impression may be the only one you get. That’s why I use StudioPress.
The importance of net neutrality has been brought to the fore after several major Internet providers and telecommunication firms on both sides of the Atlantic sought to impose restrictions on their customers’ access to the Internet. [Read more…]
…If sinners entice you, do not consent… If they say, “…We shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us…” …do not walk in the way with them… for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. …Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be rich? Not just a little rich… I mean so rich that you can swim around in your money like Scrooge McDuck. You would be completely free from the shackles of debt, free to do anything you want in life.
The Internet and Scams
The creation and development of the Internet has spawned a multitude of ways for the clever and industrious to make that kind of money online. Though many online entrepreneurs have been able to use this technology in legitimate ways, the medium itself aids those who want to disguise their true identities to trick, manipulate, and otherwise harm unsuspecting prey.
The perpetrators masquerade in various forms. Sometimes they are poor or in trouble and need some kind of help. If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably heard of this scam involving a Nigerian needing help with international wire transfers. Sometimes they pretend to be representatives of the lottery, congratulating you on your winnings (as soon as you pay the processing fee).
Just like effective sales copy, these scams work because they promise to satisfy a desire of the reader — specifically in these cases, a desire for money.
They fail because they are over-the-top… and because they have been publicized.
Introducing the Banner Ad Scam
Savvy netizen that you are, you may think that these scams are so obvious that you would never fall for one. I thought the same thing until I got this email:
Direct ad sales like this do come along from time to time, so I wasn’t particularly alarmed by this email. And I want to make some money from blogging, so I sent back a request to see what kind of banner ad he wanted to run. I got this email in response:
If you go to the website mentioned in the email, you will find banner-sized .gif images for Lacoste. In retrospect, they look pretty shabby compared to the sleek design of the official Lacoste website.
Not thinking clearly, I was still operating under the assumption that this might be legit, so I sent back a pricing offer. I expected some kind of negotiation, but there was none. (Some bloggers who have also been targeted by these people have reported that they sent back ridiculous offers, like $1,000, and they were also “approved.”) Martin replied with this:
I had never heard of an advertising company needing publishers (in this case bloggers) to install a special plugin to serve ads. It seemed highly suspicious that I needed to install this ADV plugin, so I started doing some research (which I should have already been doing).
Who is Behind the ADV Plugin Banner Ad Scam?
It turns out that the same person or people have been using the same modus operandi under various pseudonyms for at least a couple months. I got an email from “Martin Lefevre” from the “Rita Agency,” but other bloggers have received identical emails from:
- Killian Blanchard — Jino Agency
- Rayan Meyer — Bevesto Agency
- Martin Dumont — (agency name unknown)
- Jules Barbier — Marka Agency
- Oscar Meunier — Kervel Agency
- Noa Morin — Kara Agency
Regardless of the name used, the scammer sends out the same emails, pitching an ad deal for Lacoste and then requesting the blogger to install the ADV plugin. The scammers have a form website that they copy for each domain name, corresponding to each spurious company. The websites look like this:
What’s in it for the Scammer?
It’s unclear at this time what the end goal is for Martin Lefevre (or whatever her name is). If the scammer(s) are able to phish a blogger’s payment account details they might try to do something malicious with that information. Another possibility is some sort of exploit with the ADV plugin that they are using.
I’m not a PHP expert by any means and would not have been able to see exploits in the code even if there were any, but other bloggers reporting on this scam have shared that there doesn’t appear to be anything in the code as it is. Perhaps this was foolish on my part, but I ran the plugin on a sand-boxed WordPress site, and it seemed to do what the scammers said it would.
Of course, this is a huge security issue. Installing this third-party plugin opens a door to the scammers to potentially access the innards of your blog and do all kinds of nasty things with it.
Though social engineering and hackery are both possibilities, they are merely speculations. It is yet to be discovered for sure what these scammers are after.
Who’s at Risk?
Because their strategy requires the use of a third-party WordPress plugin, only bloggers who run a self-hosted WordPress blog are susceptible to this scam. Though if the exploit is through the plugin itself, it’s possible that the same kind of attack could be recreated for other content management systems like Joomla and Drupal.
I suspect WordPress has been targeted because of its popularity.
Of all the open source content management systems (CMS) available to bloggers, WordPress is by far the most popular. Famous WordPress developer Yoast recently released this infographic on WordPress usage, showing that as of March 2012 WordPress is used on 72.4 million sites worldwide. Compare this to Joomla’s usage on 1.6 million and Drupal usage on a mere 684,055 sites, and it becomes clear why the WordPress community is such a large target.
Do You Know Martin Lefevre?
Have you had any interaction with these scammers or other banner ad scams? Let us know your story in the comments below.
Update: My Site Was “Rejected”
A few days after Martin told me to install the plugin, I got this final email from him:
Another Update (1/26/2012):
As if any confirmation was needed, today I received an official word from LaCoste. After I was contacted by Martin Lefevre, I contacted LaCoste through the contact form on their website. Here’s what I wrote:
Dear Lacoste, I am a blogger and recently received an email from a “Martin Lefevre,” supposedly from an advertising company name “Rita Agency.” Lefevre offerd me an advertising deal displaying banner ads for Lacoste, however the situation seems illegitimate. I would like to know if you have any knowledge of Martin Lefevre or this Rita Agency. Please let me know if this is a true representative of your company. Thank you.
Nearly a month later, I finally got a response from a LaCoste representative:
Sorry for the late feedback regarding your email mid-December.
We had to investigate around the world with our digital agencies and legal team.
As you assumed, and you can read in the link below, this request was totally illegal and we thank you for letting us know.
So, there you have it.
Specifically, Resources useful for Copywriting
If you can write, there is (apparently) plenty of opportunity to make a lot of money copywriting.
At least, that’s the story I’ve been buying recently.
In pursuit of a lucrative copywriting career, I’ve been doing research about copywriting and studying the market, and in the past week I’ve come across some useful (and FREE) online resources that you are bound to love. [Read more…]
If you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ve probably realized that it takes a LOT of time to make it work. Sure, technologically, the blog will stay there as long as you pay your hosting fees, but if you want a thriving, engaging blog that brings lots of traffic (and lots of money) you have to keep feeding it with new content.
The problem for many bloggers is that they don’t have time to frequently and consistently write quality posts. I’ve been there. Having (or building) a successful blog is a full-time job, and for bloggers who are trying to make a go of it on the side will almost certainly run into this problem.
Here’s a critical overview of why I think they suck.
Web Traffic Control
This website is based on the idea that people who have something to advertise will pay people with a blog to publish a guest blog post about the product or service they are advertising. Web Traffic Control is the “service” that brings the two parties together. The advertiser pays WTC $30 per post. WTC keeps half the money, publishes the post on your blog, and gives you, the blogger, $15.
That doesn’t sound too bad, right? So why does Web Traffic Control suck? Several reasons:
- You have to be at least a Google Page Rank 2. Realistically, if you are any good at blogging, this isn’t that hard to do, but it does take time.
- You have to have a self-hosted WordPress blog to participate. Though WordPress is one of the best blogging software options available, not every blogger uses it, and not all the bloggers who use it are self-hosting (even though they probably should be if they hope to make any serious money).
- You have to grant WTC login credentials as an editor. Though the system appears to be set up to publish blog posts automatically, that is without someone from WTC personally accessing your site, the idea of giving login credentials to an outside party certainly creates a sense of uneasiness.
- NO ONE IS USING IT! The first three issues might not be such a big deal if Web Traffic Control actually worked. The problem is that they don’t have enough advertisers participating to supply the bloggers with any content to publish. I’ve had an account set up with WTC for a few months and haven’t had any posts show up. Until more advertisers start using it, WTC is a waste of time.
Blogger Link Up
The Blogger Link Up network is low-tech in comparison to WTC. It’s essentially an email newsletter sent out to everyone on the list three times a week. Users who have guest posts to give away or blog owners who need a specific blog post written enter that information on the website, and the offers and requests get sent out to the people on the list.
Each newsletter starts off with a brief message from the webmaster (which is sometimes useful and sometimes not so useful), and then the list of offers and requests.
On the positive side, I think the BLU is a great concept for networking with other people in the blogosphere. And if you keep your eye out, you can come across some good opportunities (I had an article published on a Page Rank 7 site through a connection I made with it).
The problem is there is no quality control. Just like any other free-to-use ad site (cf. Craigslist) the offers are only as good as the person behind them. This usually means a lot of junk posts. The offer in the newsletter might seem good, but when you get the final product, more often than not it turns out to be a poorly-written, barely grammatical piece of fluff content with no substance and a link in the author byline to a site that is not related to the actual blog post at all.
I regret some of the junk that I’ve published on my sites through shady offers on Blogger Link Up.
My Blog Guest
Similar to the Blogger Link Up, My Blog Guest is a network of writers and publishers. Instead of being a newsletter, it feels more like a social networking site where there is actually the possibility of interaction between the two parties.
My Blog Guest has one up on BLU because they review the articles in the offers to make sure they are original, and for the most part they are of higher quality than BLU. The ones I’ve received are grammatical, have substance, and are usually written by someone with experience in the field they’re writing about.
The problem? The articles lack panache. They are informative but impersonal. You might get some search engine traffic from these, but dry content isn’t going to connect with your readers.
Back to the Basics
After my brief sojourn in the safari of guest blog post hunting, I’d like to think I’ve returned a wiser blogger. By and large, it’s a barren wasteland, filled with ghost towns, sickly game, and jackals.
I’m sorry to my regular readers for publishing some of the refuse that has been on my blog recently. I’ve realized the error of my ways and will be more selective in what is published from here on out.
If you are running a blog of your own, hopefully this post will help you learn from my mistakes. Don’t publish fluff content just to keep the search engines happy; your readers are more important. If your schedule doesn’t allow you to post quality content as frequently as you planned, reduce your frequency, not the quality of your posts. Don’t partner with just anyone willing to throw you a bone — publish good content by people with authority in your niche.
Do it well, or don’t do it at all.
There are two powerful ways that you too can use Twitter to drive in thousands of new readers to your blog each month and enable your blogs to go viral, getting them in front hundreds of thousands of new prospects.
The first and perhaps easiest way to reach new prospects for your blog with Twitter is by using the Twitter Badge in your blog posts. This enables readers who really love one of your blog posts to instantly re-Tweet your blog post to their Twitter followers with just one click. This gets your blog out in front of tons of new potential customers without you doing a thing.
The badge also acts as a counter and show how many times your blog posts have been re-Tweeted by others. This also boosts your credibility. People like to like things that others think are cool too. So the more times that a blog post has been re-Tweeted the more perceived value it has. Along with your blog analytics this can also act as a guide to help you create better blog posts.
Obviously common sense tells you that creating more posts like the ones that have been re-Tweeted the most will help you to boost your traffic even further and will be of most interest to those who are help in you promote your blog by re-Tweeting your content.
The second incredibly powerful way to use Twitter to promote your blog and drive in new readers is by Tweeting clips from your blog with a link back to it. In contrast to just bombarding Twitter followers with sales messages this gives you a way to offer real value and funnel your followers through to conversion.
The 140 characters per Tweet allowed by Twitter is very restricting so use URL shortening tools like bit.ly to make them smaller and get more into each message. Note that if you sign up for bit.ly instead of using the free version you will be able to use custom URLs. If you are using a WordPress blog, which is highly recommended you can use the new Publicize feature to automatically syndicate your blog posts to Twitter and Facebook.
Don’t just limit yourself to one Twitter account either. Professional Internet marketers use multiple Twitter accounts to reach different niche markets and drive in even more traffic. You should also be having all of your staff members and contractors Tweeting links to your blog posts as well in order to reach their followers and their follower’s followers.
One real estate investment education company has used this strategy to generate an average of 800 views to each of their daily blog posts and become ranked number 1 in their category by the Inc. 500. Just think about it, that’s almost 30,000 more hits on your blog each month. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out you only need a small percentage of those readers to buy from you to make a killing online.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of very valid reasons to watch Internet TV. The following ten are most often quoted by viewers as their main reasons for watching Internet TV.
Reason number one to watch Internet TV is the almost unlimited number of stations and shows available to viewers. From Afghani movies and British sitcoms to Yemen’s latest news or Zimbabwean soap operas – and just about everything in between – it can be found on Internet TV.
The second reason for watching Internet TV is that it can be watched on a PC or on a laptop, making it possible to watch one’s favorite shows or keep up with the latest news whenever and wherever.
The convenience of this is reason number three. TV shows will no longer have to be missed, as it is possible to watch or download them any time, at home, at the beach or even at work.
The fourth reason, which could easily be the first one, is the fact that Internet TV is free. There is no monthly cost and all that is required from a viewer is to sign up (which is usually free) and maybe download a specific player, which is usually done very quickly and equally free.
Because it is free and easy to set up, every computer or laptop in the house can be set up for different stations, which is reason number five. This allows the kids to watch their favorite shows while mum enjoys her soaps and dad watches his favorite sport. Fighting over the remote control thus becomes a thing of the past.
Talking about sports, reason number six is presented by the fact that not only those who are abroad for whatever reason can follow their favorite home team, it is also possible to access extreme sports events and so on, which are not normally shown on ordinary TV channels.
News coverage is reason number seven. Sadly, many countries’ citizens are kept in the dark as to what is really going on through extreme censorship on the news their regular TV stations present. Being able to watch uncensored news allows them to get real, uncensored news from all over the world.
Thinking about censorship, reason eight is the availability of adult shows. Both professional and amateur x-rated content can be found and watched with ease on Internet TV. Having the ability to watch them without fear of the kids walking in makes this reason even more valid.
It is possible to find many old, almost forgotten shows and classic movies on Internet TV stations. Remember Kojak or the Martian Chronicles? There’s nothing like indulging in a little nostalgia as reason number nine.
So what is reason number ten? Well, it encompasses a whole list of other reasons, from educational and discovery programs great for teaching kids about the world around them, the ability to check the weather in holiday destinations and shopping, music, hunting and fishing channels to being able to improve one’s foreign language skills by watching TV shows or movies in any desired language.
Top image by balleyne
DVDs will be staying at netflix.com
Netflix customers were greeted today with an email announcing yet another change in Netflix’s plans for the future.
A few weeks ago, Netflix announced a split in the company. Online video streaming would continue under the Netflix brand, and a subsidiary named Qwikster would take over the DVD side of the business. Each brand would have distinct operations and a separate website.
In a rare case of a big company actually listening to its customers, Netflix’s announcement today was in direct response to customer complaints about Netflix’s proposed plan. Two distinct services with two distinct websites would not be user-friendly for customers of both brands.
Thankfully, Netflix relented of its awful plan. In case you didn’t receive it, here is a copy of the email:
It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs.
This means no change: one website, one account, one password…in other words, no Qwikster.
While the July price change was necessary, we are now done with price changes.
We’re constantly improving our streaming selection. We’ve recently added hundreds of movies from Paramount, Sony, Universal, Fox, Warner Bros., Lionsgate, MGM and Miramax. Plus, in the last couple of weeks alone, we’ve added over 3,500 TV episodes from ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, USA, E!, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Discovery Channel, TLC, SyFy, A&E, History, and PBS.
We value you as a member, and we are committed to making Netflix the best place to get your movies & TV shows.
The Netflix Team
Will this change in Netflix’s plans have an effect on your subscription? Is Netflix’s quick about-face the sign of a company dedicated to customer satisfaction? Or is it the sign of a lack of clear direction and leadership — a lack of confidence? Leave your comments below.