How can you do ecommerce and build a name for yourself online on the cheap? Start by being useful.
Update 26 February 2013 – Fortunately some stories have a happy ending and I’m pleased to report that this is one.
Just before I wrote the original article, I put in a request for a refund of lost fees. At first Paypal offered me just a quarter of the lost fees. I sent in a detailed analysis of the last two years (the information available online) as well as a rough projection for a previous year. Paypal’s merchant support were gracious enough to offer about 50% of the lost fees as compensation. While Paypal should stop doing this – blocking clients automatic access to better rates – their customer support was efficient and polite. If you made the same mistake I did of not applying for merchant rates, I recommend approaching Paypal slowly and carefully and provide them detailed documentation of your financial loss. This is very forward thinking on Paypal’s part as I’ve put a lot more money in their coffers than the relatively small sums separating us.
Why would Paypal steal from their very best clients? A bit of a mystery. You’d think they’d take better care of those of us keeping them in business.
The Usurers Marinus van Reymersuaele: senior Paypal executives eyes look much the same
while they are cooking the books in their favour.Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.
Since the days of the Old Temple, through hawala in the Middle Ages and to Casanova’s lettres de change, the money changers have always had their hands deep in our pockets. For a small business, operating internationally, it’s very difficult to get paid without paying close to 10% of the revenue to some intermediary or another (sometimes split like merchant and gateway fees). In this context, Paypal seems like a breath of fresh air. At 2.9% to 3.9% plus 30¢ transaction fee, your costs are about half of the other solutions.
Happily Paypal seems to have stopped regularly stealing from businesses by freezing accounts on slim grounds.
For those doing comment marketing in 2013, you know how hard it is to make your comments stand out. Of all the hundreds of thousands of comments our clients' sites have received, the one which arrived this morning must rank as one of the very most amusing.
Many of our clients are in real estate. For some of them we've even built guides to all the condos in their city. We got some unexpected fan mail from one of the condo owners in a prestigious Yorkville Condo building:
Author : Maximum (IP: 18.104.22.168 , CPEbcc8100fb0de-CMbcc8100fb0db.cpe.net.cable.rogers.com)
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
URL : http://www.maximum-escort.com
Whois : http://ws.arin.net/cgi-bin/whois.pl?queryinput=22.214.171.124
Comment: Get your dick sucked by my hookers at unit 809. Call (647) 989-9849 for a good time.
What's so astonishingly funny is that this is very effective and relevant comment marketing. Alas our client is a rather conservative top realtor and really cannot countenance such information on her site, no matter how relevant and topical.
The website is astonishing as well. Maximum appears to be employing some girls from around here. Miley looks pretty Czech to me. Along with a knockout body, she sports very flexible tastes.
I'm still flabbergasted. Is there really someone openly running a bordello out of 1121 Bay Street, unit 809?
Mimicing such tracking tomfoolery on small successful sites will not make you more like the "big boys". It will just drive people to your competition.
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Lots of our big clients woke up to a nasty surprise on Friday 21 September: Zero subscribers in Feedburner.
I've never been that great a fan of Feedburner. It's a largely unnecessary external service. But it's free and clients often come to us with Feedburner already implemented. Who are Foliovision to argue with them about a free service which usually works.
Why don't I like external services and especially free services?
- there's usually no customer support (Feedburner check)
- there are no service guarantees (Feedburner check)
- there are no promises for future service (Feedburner check)
- there is no one to appeal to: managers hide (Feedburner check)
- usually you are on a URL you don't control (Feedburner check)
I learned the hard way with four services:
LinkedIn claim a bug in their system which is not releasing email addresses that were entered at one time and later removed.
wordpress 312 wp ecommerce 383
This week I had an interesting conversation with Dan Milward, the marketing guy and co-founder of the WP e-Commerce WordPress shopping cart plugin.
Let's start with the facts. WP eComm is now on version 3.8.4. Currently, the reports in from front line users are: 4 say it works, 12 say it's broken.
Why People Hate WP eCommerce so much
Dan told me that sources inside Automattic had revealed to him that in the past as soon as Instinct Entertainment publish a new version there are five reports of the plugin being broken on current WordPress. His sources then erased that feedback.
This is a very bad sign: when you need insider help to erase negative feedback. Not the first time I've seen this happen at Automattic: Mark Jacquith has had to warn plugin database maintainers off deleting plugins which compete with their friends plugins. Second bad sign: people who hate your plugins enough to wait for a new version to mark it as broken.
Dan manages it. There are three strategies he uses which bring Instinct Entertainment to such grief.
If you are purchasing online advertising you really have to watch your media partners like a hawk. Who could imagine that a respected mainstream publication like ZDnet would be ripping off all their advertisers?
Here’s what happens if you visit a ZDnet page…if you click on anywhere except in the article you get taken to the advertisers ad (today it’s SAP getting the shaft: target is http://www28.sap.com/mk/get/comcrmlp ).
In my case I was just reading about
Imagine my surprise when I ended up on the SAP ad five times while just scrolling around. It turns out the page background on both sides will create a click. When you put a ZDnet page in the background, just clicking on the window to bring it forward will generate an ad click. Not cool ZDnet.
Great first day at the ProSEO 2010 Seminar in London with SEOmoz and Distilled. Wonderful to see old friends again. Here are just a few pictures from the day and some more of the superb night which Lynsey Little organised for us at the opening night party.
These are just a few selects, uncorrected and uncropped. Distilled will have many more photos of the speakers in their own coverage of the seminar.
Click on any picture to enlarge with Lightbox.
Recently we've done a couple of Typepad to WordPress conversions for a very nice Austrian PR and marketing expert by the name of Karin Schmollgruber. Karin's very up-to-date on social media and Facebook.
While we are quite active on LinkedIn and Twitter and various other social sites, we avoid Facebook like leprosy. Mark Zuckerberg has shown time and time again that he is not someone to be trusted with your data. In fact, the origins of Facebook themselves are dubious, he hijacked someone else's code and project.
Our fundamental objections to Facebook go even deeper and affect our relationship with Google as well (I won't use Gmail, although we do use Gcal and some Google docs at work and of course I use the webmaster tools as well). Basically, in the Soviet Union, the government spent a huge part of GDP on its security apparatus of KGB gumshoes and their paid and unpaid informants, maintaining huge filing cabinet in the Lubyanka on people of interest. In the US, the FBI did similar surveillance of Black Panthers, human rights and Indian groups, although these activities represented a much smaller part of US GDP.
I should preface this article by saying that of the social networks, we like LinkedIn best. They don't try to get ahold of information about you they shouldn't have and they give the account owner very good granular control of what appears in his or her account. On the other hand, sometimes one wants to close an account. And it should be easy.
How can one quickly and easily delete one's LinkedIn account? It turns out nohow.
First, it’s almost impossible to do it without seeking out very detailed documentation. Fortunately you have arrived at the right place.
The received wisdom is that you have to open up a customer support ticket to close your LinkedIn account. That’s no longer the case. Possibly thanks to the direct pressure that celebrity programmer (can a programmer be a celebrity?) David Heinemeier Hansson brought to bear.
In the second round of Heinemeier Hansson’s LinkedIn let me go hell, Heinemeier Hansson wrote:
But two people from LinkedIn has now been in touch and hopefully we can work this out. I’ll try my best to get the quit-account operation to be automatic, not manual. That’s the big problem.
But it’s still not easy.
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Don’t give away the store, as Toys R Us and Target found out.
Imagine you are a simple businessman, who has his own website and you want to bring more traffic on your site. As you are familiar with Microsoft software for decades now, naturally you'll want to check out their online advertising system.
Here are some basic guidelines to make the experience less painful:
First pitfall - Don't even consider using Safari or any other browser except IE and Mozilla, adCenter website does not support other browsers. Their help center states that also Mac and Virtual machines are not supported.
Before he found out that all Mac browsers are banned, Alec, our creative director, spent several hours trying to get Microsoft adCenter to work with all of the browsers under Mac OS, including spoofing the user-agent. Futile, he assures me. You can't even view the System requirements page!
Want to succeed online? Start by letting go..."You are better off letting the world run wild. You cannot completely control your message any more. Be as authentic and awesome as possible or you will fall like the Berlin Wall."
Yet another fake domain renewal notice, this time from Domain Submission Center in Toronto. Learn how not to get ripped off.
For years, I’ve been on the Site Build It list. SBI is the creation of the rather annoyingly gushy Ken Evoy who never stops his carnival barker cries about his one-stop-site-creation tool.
Evoy’s been at it since the bad old days when the internet was a mess and Site Built It! did have the advantage of actually getting a website up in some form – easier than coding html from scratch for the neophyte.
Throughout SBI’s history, Evoy has shrieked about his process and his proprietary tools. On the surface, a clear process and proprietary tools are a good idea. Probably worth the price of admission (or so I thought at the time). The issue with the proprietary tools (which otherwise might be a good deal) is that you can only use them a little bit. Come and play for one hour per week, see you next week. Not exactly inviting brainstorming or creativity.
In contrast, the indepdendent expensive (many of which are free) tools Evoy condemns let you use them as much as you like once you find them.
I was looking up information on Canadian accounting software (or more particularly looking for a Mac OS X offline tool for Freshbooks, the amazing online accounting system with which I run Foliovision.com).
I couldn't find a Mac OS X tool for Freshbooks but I did run across a great website which typifies to me many of the things which a weblog should be:
- Illustrative (very nice and simple photos on most posts)
- Helpful (the articles may not be all that frequent but they are all have some thought or use to someone, this is not posting for posting's sake)
Here is a sample of Peter Rukavina's writing about the dangers of online social networking - a virtual world where only like will meet like:
There are a few weblogs where the comments are better than the article. To get to this point, many of the articles have to be very good to build up a readership capable of creating collective intelligence.
Switch to Phrase and Exact Match and Bring Down Your Cost Per Click and Cost Per Sale
Yesterday, I got an email from my acquaintance Andrew Goodman over at PageZero (author of the excellent Winning Results with Google AdWords) discussing issues with broad match in Google PPC management.
In August one of my clients had a horrible surprise (well we both did) where PPC costs skyrocketed - almost tripling for one week, with only about a 25% improvement in leads.
I got on it right away and called Google. The Google AdWords representative told me that thanks to our great quality score we'd qualified for "expanded broad match". Although Google says that they are against get rich quick schemes and fake sweepstakes in AdWords, this move is straight out of that shady playbook.
Sure, we'd "qualified". Qualified to pay three times as much for just a fraction more business.
"So how do we turn it off?" I asked.
"You can't," she answered.