The Moral to the Story – Keep Your WordPress Installation Up to Date.

For those of you who don’t know how I pay the bills around here, I have this “savior” complex where in I try to save people from themselves.  While others hold their sides as they roll on the floor laughing at the idiots on YouTube who subject themselves to groin shots, I grimace in empathy.

As part of this complex, I launched a service known as Acumen Web Services where I sell self hosted  WordPress blogs to business people who are not geeks yet want to harness the power of the internet in their marketing.  At Acumen Web Services, I have a service known as “Cyber Angel” hosting.  This means that I’ll be responsible for keeping your WordPress blog up to date as part of your hosting with me.

I offer “Cyber Angel” hosting because I’ve watched clients take groin shot after groin shot  over the years and I don’t enjoy it one bit.

Here’s a word of advice:  If your web site is getting nice search engine action, BELIEVE ME the bad guys are hard at work finding a way to grab a piece of your hard earned success.

That’s what is happening with WordPress blogs.  Average, every day people are getting incredible results using WordPress self hosted blogs as their web presence.  Because of that success, there are bad guys (and gals) out there who are always looking for a way to siphon success from these hard working WordPress blogs.

As a result, the WordPress development team is always trying to keep one step ahead of the bad guys.  It’s a labor of love and it upsets me when people complain about the frequent updates.  They’re doing it for YOUR own good folks!

So, updating WordPress is essential.  If it’s too much for you, then get a free blog or hire someone to take care of YOUR self hosted WordPress blog for you.

As you might imagine, I’ve had more than one person throw a fuss over the monthly hosting fee which comes with “Cyber Angel” hosting.   Most are surprised at how QUICKLY I agree to doing it “their” way.  However, for some reason, the ones who ask “Why?” usually end up signing up quickly for the service.  The rest  have gotten exactly what they requested.   I am MORE than willing to set up self hosted WordPress blogs on regular web hosting account, however it comes with the explicit warning that it is the CLIENT’S responsibility to keep the blog installation up to date.

So this morning, I get an email from one of those clients.  At the time of installation, he was all “Scouts honor!  I promise to stay on top of this!”  His last blog post was August 2007.   Unfortunately, while he may have forgotten about his blog, the search engines haven’t.  He wrote a couple of posts which have obviously done VERY well for themselves with the search engines.  Remember, there are always people willing and able to siphon your success!!!  He’s not only not been posting to the blog, he hasn’t stayed on top of the installation issues.

Now he has a problem – a SERIOUS problem.  Seems he’s been getting email messages from unhappy campers as a result of his blog.  They go like this:

To Whom It May Concern:

I am tired of receiving messages containing malicious computer programs (viruses) from your e-mail address!!!

If within 1-2 days you do not stop sending messages to my e-mail address, I will have to address this issue to the Police!…

Today I received a hard copy of your data logs from my Internet service provider. The copy contains your IP address, logs of sending malicious programs and your e-mail address details…
I am sending you the copy of the document containing your data and logs of sending malicious programs as the proof of your fault!!!!!!

You must print the document containing the list of your data and logs of sending malicious programs and pass it on to your Internet service provider with, so that they could find out why the viruses are sent from your computer to my e-mail address!!!!

Ask your Internet service provider to resolve this problem!!!!

Do this now!!!

Once again!!! If you don’t stop sending the letters, I will address to the Police and file a lawsuit against you!!!

I went in and checked and by gum he is running an old version of WordPress.  Go figure.  I quoted him on what it’s going to take to “fix” the problem.

By the way, I can’t imagine that this is helping his company’s “brand” or image in any way, shape or form.  While I’m sure the frustrated sender of the email above will NEVER forget my client’s company (which has been featured in the email address of each and every spam message being sent)  it won’t be a good thing.

If you’re not running WordPress 2.6. X UPGRADE NOW!

Do You Measure Customer Service By Satisfaction or by Complaints?

communication

When it comes to business, measuring is an integral part of success. While measuring sales, marketing even web visitors is common, many businesses fail to recognize the need to measure customers service… and with good reason.

Measuring customer service is hard and quite honestly, most businesses are not created with customer service as part of their business DNA.

Customer service as part of a company’s DNA is the absolute best description of what it takes to truly deliver on the customer service front… and it’s so not mine. That phrase totally belongs to Ben Yaskovitz. It’s in Tip #4 of his latest blog post Using Great Customer Service as a Differentiator.

What an elegant, descriptive way to describe the perfect delivery of exceptional customer service.

Ben goes on to tell of his own customer service testimonials from his start up Standout Jobs.

Exceptional customer service has earned him not only testimonials but also new sign ups for the service. Obviously customer service is part of the Standout Jobs DNA.

This really contrasts with my own experience with another start up. However, a more recent and horrible tale is tole by Marketing Pilgrim Andy Beal who writes a tale of customer service gone bad with his blog post Office Depot Joins the Reputation Deadpool.

In a nutshell, Office Depot put out some ATTRACTIVE bait to capture a new customer by offering a great limited time offer of a special low-low price on a Toshiba Laptop. That’s the way it works. A a business, you entice a customer to try your product or service with an offer that is too good to resist. Office Depot even sweetened the already sweet deal by offering next day shipping. You can’t build a successful business on profit margins this thin, but it’s necessary to win new customers.

Then, as you fulfill the order, you amaze the customer. You meet or exceed their expectations with the hope of winning that customer as a steady customer for life… or at least, the next few years.

In Andy’s case, Office Depot was trying to woo him away from his “steady” office superstore, Staples. At the very least Andy expects flowers, a nice dinner and a movie. Poetry, a moonlight gondola ride and ridiculously expensive champagne would have sealed Staple’s fate as soon to be “used to be”. Instead, Andy was stood up and then sent a bill for flowers he never saw and a dinner he never ate. Andy’s devotion to Staples has grown ten fold as a result of the experience. Meanwhile, Office Depot’s brand is being drug through the streets after being tarred and feathered.

Obviously customer service is NOT part of Office Depot’s DNA.

Kelly over at Maxiumum Customer Experience writes:

Your customers are skeptical. There are customers who want you to provide delight, and then there’s this lady. Depending on your industry, there may be thousands lined up behind her. At this point she’s not looking for delight. She’ll take a discount or some other special offer, but what I heard in her voice says it’s not what she’s looking for.

She wants to know somebody at this company cares.

BRAVO Kelly!!! That’s a hit the nail square on the head kind of observation!!!

Does anyone at your company care?

Trust me, if there isn’t anyone who cares, it’s going to show. It’s surprising how a truly sympathetic ear can take the edge off of the burning rage that builds when you feel you’ve been reduced to a number.

How do you measure customer service?

Leadership Tools offers these as ways to measure customer service quality.

  • Customer Attrition Ratio = number of customers leaving / total number of customers (for the same time period) – the higher the ratio, the less likely it is that your company is consistently delivering quality customer service.
  • Sales Growth – your reputation precedes you. If people are still buying from you, and referring others, chances are they are happy with the service and they are loyal to your organization.
  • Customer Survey Results – directly asking customers to rate the service level they receive is by far the best way to measure service quality.
  • Customer Complaints – be thankful for each complaint that comes to your attention. You can only provide a thoughtful response to customer issues once you are made aware of the issue. When customer’s complain they represent not just their issue, but perhaps an issue that is affecting others.

However, it’s all for naught if customer service isn’t part of your company’s DNA. It’s cool to care about your customers. Pass it on!

Spotting Marketing Crooks and Liars

My clients are the best people on the planet! They are honest, trustworthy and loyal which are traits which make spotting marketing crooks and liars difficult.

See, people who are honest tend to view the world through that lens… the lens of honesty and integrity. Even the most “web savvy” are not immune to getting hooked by marketing crooks and liars. (Read the Itty Biz post 7 Home Business Lessons From StomperNet for an in depth explanation from a web savvy business owner who got “caught up” in the game.)

I OFTEN tell my clients that part of the “service” they pay for when they sign up with me is that they don’t have to get “burned” because I’m already heavily scarred from the 3rd degree burns I’ve suffered over the past 12+ years on the web.

After reading the post above, I got a message in my inbox the other day from a client who is toying with the idea of buying a “program” which will teach her the “secrets” to Google Adsense.  She sent me an email that goes like this:

My partner and I were just talking about the possibility of putting Google Adsense on our websites as guaranteed income. Just something we are thinking about. An example of this is on: [blog address that I’m not going to justify with a link]

This guy said that he has a guaranteed income of $15,000 thanks to Google Adsense.

Our question is-can this be done on the type of websites that we have? We are just wondering…

Thanks Kathy!!!

My reply:

Of COURSE you can add Google Adsense code to begin displaying ads on your blogs.

The way you make money with Google Adsense is when people come to your website and click on the ads displayed a.k.a… leave your site to go to another site.

The secret to making money with Google Adsense is traffic… lots and lots of traffic. It also helps to have really CRAPPY content because that way, visitors won’t find what they’re looking for on your site and will click on one of the ads displayed to find a site that does have the information they seek.

So I go to the site she sent me and there’s this guy who has his own typepad blog which is not “domain mapped”. The blog has an alexa ranking in the 1.2 million range. Adspy tells me he has 2 Google Adsense ads, both are running on this blog and he has them positioned in the navigation bar at the bottom. As anyone who makes money with Google Adsense will tell you… put your ads at the bottom of the page… that’s where the REAL money is made with Adsense. (Tongue is planted so firmly in cheek it hurts with that statement!)

However, because my dear, sweet, lovely clients would never lie to get clients, they assume that this guy is also a straight shooter as well.

Google Adsense can be a GREAT way to make money with very little effort from your blog, but it’s a numbers game pure and simple. From my experience with Google Adsense ads, I average about $1 for every 1000 visitors. Since the client who sent me that email gets about 2500 visitors to her blog every month, she can expect to make about $2.50 a month from displaying Google Adsense ads on her blog. Needless to say, that is far short of the promised $15,000 promised by this wannabe marketing guru!

In direct contrast to the idiot I refused to link to who promised guaranteed income of $15K, I’d like to introduce you to Courtney Tuttle. In his post, Smart Farmers Don’t Plant One Seed at a Time (and Neither Do Smart Internet Marketers)

As we’ve taught you more and more about sniping I’ve had a recurring fear for our readers. The fear is that you’ll do a little “case study” of your own, with one site, and after a few months you’ll get that number 1 spot on Google. It will be a big victory, because you’ll feel like you cracked the Google code, you’ve made it, arrived, etc…but then the site won’t make much. Maybe $3 to $5 per day.

Personally I think a $5 per day site is something to be excited about when it’s part of a portfolio of ten similar sites. But if you invest 6 months into getting that one site ranked, and then another month or two watching it get to $5 per day, you’re going to be mad.

Court’s the best… that other guy my client found is the worst.   Learning to tell the difference sometimes means getting burned but if you’ve got a blog, you can at least share your experience with others.  (Thanks Naomi!)

Web Promotion Advice

Sometimes, when you’re trying to promote your website (be it a blog or a traditional website) it can feel like you’re in a tiny row boat being tossed about on a roaring sea. It’s easy to feel lost in the sea that is the internet. Website promotion via the web is a “natural” but to really stir things up, create a website promotion strategy that includes OFF LINE promotion tactics.

Website Promotion Advice

Web Promotion Tool #1: Off line or hard copy newsletters

Darren Rowse of Problogger.net recommends allowing offline publications to print your content. In Darren’s case, he gave permission for a newsletter to translate and reprint an article he had written. As a result, he got 50 new sign ups for his photography website.

Web Promotion Tool #2: The Postal Service

ScribeFire suggests using snail mail as a website promotion tactic in the post Offline Blog Promotion Techniques:

Go Postal – this morning I got to my PO Box to find that inside it was a rather large parcel. Inside was two things – a book and a T-shirt. I didn’t know the name of the person who sent them to me but on the accompanying business card and note was the name and URL of a blog which I will check out later today.

A popular blog gets hundreds, sometimes thousands, of emails each day. Most of the time it’s people seeking the opportunity to be showcased on the popular blog. Its a great website promotion strategy to partner with a popular blog to promote your own website, however you need a way to stand out from the crowd. Taking the time to send a card via snail mail can be the difference between making contact and getting marked as spam. Including a T-shirt, a book or another promotional piece in the mailing is even better!

Web Promotion Tool #3: Traditional Media

Way back in the late 1990’s, if you listened to AM radio, you would have heard ads for the largest bookstore in the universe. These wacky radio ads featured such silliness as trying to rent warehouse space on Mars because no where on earth was big enough to house all the books offered for sale by this emerging online bookseller. You’ll probably recognize the name of the online merchant that ran those ads: Amazon.com.

Traditional media has been slammed of late because it’s a “spray and pray” approach to marketing. In most cases you’re reaching tens of thousands of people who are NOT prospective customers. However, if you can create a compelling and captivating message, you’ll find that traditional media can be even very effective at driving traffic to your website.

When people find your site via a radio, television, newspaper or magazine ad, this is known as a DIRECT REQUEST. According to the WWW Observer, this is what is known as Low Bounce Rate Traffic and is exactly the type of traffic you should be striving to create.

Web Promotion Tool #4: Social Networking Media

BlogGrrl in her post A Very Long List of Ways to Get Blog Traffic lists 13 different social networking sites plus another 36 tips on ways you can introduce your website to new people.

Web Promotion Tool #5: Commenting on Blogs

This one usually makes my skin crawl when I read someone who advises people that they don’t need a blog, they can just comment on other people’s blogs and get all the benefits of blogging without the time and expense of maintaining your own blog.

Commenting on blogs is NOT a substitute for having your own blog, but it can be a great way to promote your website.  The key here is to find the right blogs to comment on.  Rather than go over that, University Kid has a post on the subject Make Money Online By Blog Commenting.

When making a comment, make sure you give it the care and consideration you would take if that information were appearing on your website.  A blog comment can act like a banner ad for your website so watch what you post!

These 5 Web Promotion Tools are just a few website promotion tactics.  What ones have you used to promote your website?

Domain Name Registry Scam

The bastards are on the loose again.  You know, the CREEPS  who send you a very official looking “invoice” regarding your domain name registration.   Obviously a LOT of people fill in the form because it looks so damned official.  I’m a “professional” and I have to admit, if I didn’t know better… I’d sign it as well.

It’s bad enough that you have to worry about security online… now you have to guard yourself off line as well.  It’s a form of snail mail domain name phishing.

In case you don’t know, here’s the scoop.   In the fine print it is written that by signing this form you’re authorizing the  transfer of your domain name to THEIR service.  Want to point your DNS to another hosting program.  TOO BAD!  You can’t.  Want to transfer your domain name… can’t do that either… you signed away those rights.

I’ve gotten two emails this week from clients asking about the letters they’ve received via snail mail regarding this scam.

“But I thought my domain name was registered through you?”

My reply, “It is and will be unless you fill out that form and send it in.  Then all bets are off.”

In case you can’t tell, one of my clients made that mistake a few years back.  I don’t think we ever got control of the domain name back.

It INFURIATES me when some slimy bastard tries to use FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) to make a buck.

Well, obviously the scam isn’t working so well anymore, so the slimy bastards have hired a call center to telemarket their service.

I got just such a call this morning.  “Hello.  I’m from Domain Name Registration Services and you will be getting a notice in the mail about changes to your domain name account.”

“Why will I be getting that?” I asked.

“Uh, because there are changes in your domain name registration account,” she replied.

“Why?” I asked again because I can be a horse’s ass sometimes.

She started stumbling so badly it was literally incoherent jibberish.  I began thinking of the dear, sweet woman who wrote to me earlier this week and thought about how different this phone call would be if she were in my place.   That visualization set me off and with that,  I let loose on that poor telemarketer.

You know you’ve reached a new low when a telemarketer hangs up on you.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW ALREADY:

  • Don’t click on links in emails regarding your domain name .  Go to  the web site where you registered your domain name and renew it.
  • If you didn’t register your domain name via snail mail, don’t respond to snail mail messages regarding your domain name.
  • Your domain name registrar will NOT be phoning you about your domain name… even if you haven’t paid the bill.

By the way, these rules apply to your CREDIT CARD, YOUR BANK and YOUR PAYPAL accounts as well!!!

It’s only classified as paranoia if they ARE NOT out to get you.