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Ecommerce & Web Marketing Ezine. 
12 July 2003

View the TTB Ezine Archive

Greetings all,

Welcome to all our new subscribers!

Caricatures - great gifts and marketing tools

If you've taken a trip out to Taming the Beast.net in the last week, you would have noticed that our mascot, the "man with the axe" has pretty much well disappeared. 

The "man with the axe" was much cherished and has been a part of my business since 1995/96. The logo is still hiding in some of the less traveled alleyways of TTB, but for the most part, my ugly head is now the web site logo - in the form of a caricature!

I'd be most interested in your feedback on this change. Like it? Don't like it? Let me know. Caricatures can be a great marketing tool as they add a touch of humor and humanize, while creating strong associations with products and services - If you're interested in obtaining a caricature, either as a gift, for email stationery or as a logo for your online business, you can learn more here:

http://www.tamingthebeast.net/tools/caricature.htm

PayPal scams - another ecommerce blight

Every scammer and fraudster in the world appears to have our email address on their lists. This week a new kind of scam graced my inbox regarding PayPal. I've seen similar attempts at PayPal fraud before, but none quite as well done as this.

Usually what will happen is that you'll receive a HTML email containing a PayPal "branded" form requesting you to update your details. The form is a fake and submits the info to the scammer who can then access your PayPal account.

These scams are easy to spot - usually by examining the From address in the header and definitely by the fact that PayPal would *never* ask for information in this way.

The incident that occurred this week was very different. The note that came through came from verify@paypal.com (false of course). It was a plain text note written quite professionally asking me to click on a secure link to the PayPal server to update my details. The resulting page looked exactly like a PayPal form and had my PayPal id already displayed. 

The email even had a warning for me to be cautious of PayPal fraudsters and contained other standard PayPal statements common in their email communications!

The first point that alerted me to the fact that something wasn't quite right was a spelling error in the text and a couple of minor grammatical errors. The alarm bells really went off when the secure page I was redirected to after clicking what appeared to be a PayPal link was located on an obscure secure server. PayPal servers always have "PayPal" as the primary domain name.

I reported the incident to PayPal and to their credit, they contacted me within a hour to say that they had visited the URL, could confirm that it was fraud and were investigating.

The frightening thing about this particular instance of fraud was the level of information that I would have provided the perpetrator if I had completed the form. Among the details requested were:

  • Name

  • Address

  • Telephone number

  • PayPal password

  • Social Security number

  • Bank account details

  • Mothers' maiden name

  • Drivers license number

I hope that PayPal managed to catch the perpetrators of this fraud. The URL was decommissioned within a couple of hours of me reporting it.

If you use PayPal, or know people who do - please be alert and warn others of this kind of scam. If you do receive what appear to be emails from PayPal requesting you to update your details and providing a direct link to do so, don't use it. 

If PayPal require you to change your details, you may be alerted via email, but it will require you to log into your account first, not go directly to a form. To be extra safe, never follow a link from an email. Go directly to paypal.com and log in from there. If your details do need updating, you will be alerted to this once you've logged in.

Another important point - if you receive fraudulent emails, report them as PayPal *will* take action very quickly. Not reporting fraud may result in one of your friends, clients or family falling victim. You can report this kind of fraud here:

https://www.paypal.com/wf/f=sa_fake 

Did you click on the link I just provided? Tch, tch. While it is valid and I'm a trustworthy guy; I still recommend going directly to the PayPal site, logging in and then searching on the term "fraud" via their help section. 

It's good to practice this process as time is of the essence when reporting fraud. Many scammers will only leave the URL active for a few hours in order to avoid detection and investigation.

Online advertising continues rebound

For those of us who garner revenue from displaying banner ads and engaging in affiliate partnerships, there's continued good news for the months ahead. 

We'll probably never see CPM prices at the levels of 1999 again, but the indicators are that there will be a greatly increased number of advertisers offering plenty of campaigns to participate in - which should mean better rates.

According to an article on CyberAtlas:

"U.S. online advertising spending is expected to account for $8.1 billion of the country's $293 billion total media budget by 2006, marking a return to 2000's Internet spending spree".

For further information:

http://cyberatlas.internet.com/markets/ advertising/article/0,,5941_2221201,00.html 

Google settling

If you have a well established site and are noticing more traffic coming from Google over the last week, this may have been due to some sort of settling after the mighty G's recent rounds of algorithm tweaks. 

Whether this is just a breather in their current refinement push or the real deal is anyone's guess. If you also take note of your PR levels via the Google toolbar, the word from Google is not to concern yourself too much with what is being displayed - it may be inaccurate at present.

So it seems that the white knuckle search engine rankings ride that many have experienced over the last couple of months may (temporarily) be over.

The Google toolbar

Regular readers of this ezine would be familiar with me prattling on about PageRank™ and PR levels. If you're not familiar with this terminology, in a nutshell PageRank™ is Google's system of ranking pages based on a number of factors including links from other sites, the quality of links pointing in, plus on-site factors such as text relevancy. 

The relationship between PR and how you actually rank in the search engine results is somewhat murky as Google keeps the inner workings of PR a closely guarded secret. PageRank™ is displayed as a score between 0-10, the higher the score, the more "authoritative" Google considers the page to be. A PR0 usually indicates some sort of Google penalty and a gray bar (no score) indicates that the page isn't present in the Google index as yet. (Important: see notes below)

If you would like to monitor what your web site PR levels are; it's easy to do so with the Google Toolbar. The toolbar is a lightweight plugin for Internet Explorer that allows you to search Google directly from your browser, view PageRank™ and other information about the page being displayed, search for images and a whole lot more - including a popup killer. It's one of the most useful tools I have in my arsenal.

Learn more about the Google Toolbar and download a free copy of the software here - it only takes a couple of minutes to install:

http://toolbar.google.com/ 

Important notes re: PageRank™ (As at July 2003)

If you do decide to install the toolbar now, please bear in mind that PR levels indicated may not be accurate while Google is in this phase of refining their processes. I've noticed some traditionally high PR sites and pages currently showing low or 0 PR at the moment, but they are still ranking very well in Google's results. New sites and pages also have a tendency to display as PR0 at present.

That's all for this issue; have a great fortnight!

Other resources on Taming the Beast.net

Search engine optimization tutorials

General web marketing & promotion articles

Online business security articles and tools

Affiliate marketing strategies and tutorials

Ecommerce tutorials and guides.

Web development tutorials and articles

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast.net
http://www.tamingthebeast.net
Tutorials, web content, tools and software
Web Marketing, eCommerce & Internet solutions. 
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