Scam Alert: WEBUPDOMAIN follows Domain Name Registry of America lead

Photo by Isai Ramos on Unsplash

WEBUPDOMAIN appears to have taken a lesson from the Domain Name Registry of America and added a new twist.  They’re trying to trick you into transfer your domain name registration to them just as Domain Name Registry of America has done for more than a decade.

WEBUPDOMAIN sent a domain name expiration notice using the contact form on my website this morning. If you’re a World-Weary WordPress Web Warrior, you recognize this as garbage and delete it immediately.

Unfortunately, I once had a client fall for the Domain Name Registry of America scam and I’m sure this one works in a similar manner.  This is a case where an ounce of prevention is worth a metric ton of cure.

The Domain Name Registry of America  scam begins with an official looking snail mail notice that tell you your domain name is about to expire.  They (accurately) list all the things that will happen if you allow your domain name to expire.  What they don’t tell you is that they are not CURRENTLY your domain name registrar.  They include a post card which, if you fill it out and send it to them will make them your domain name registrar. Tim Schlee wrote about this back in 2014 in his post Don’t Get Duped by the Domain Registry of America: How to Avoid Web Domain Scams.  Tim points out how falling for this scam can lead to you paying more for your yearly domain name registration fee.

I’m not a fan for paying more without any reason, which is what happens when you switch your domain name registration to Domain Name Registry of America.  I wish that paying more was the worst thing that can happen.  If you’ve got a low traffic website, then that is probably the extent of the damage you’ll suffer.

Unfortunately, one of my former clients fell for this scam a few years ago.  Her website was getting thousands of visitors each month on very lucrative keywords when she filled out the form and transferred her domain name to Domain Name Registry of America.   The way I learned what she had done was she contacted me asking what I had done to her website.

She noticed she hadn’t gotten any prospective client inquiries from her website contact form and set out to find out why. When she typed in her domain name, she was shocked to see that instead of her website, there was a page displaying PPC advertising links and display ads.  She thought I had done this, but I of course, I hadn’t.  So, I went to work to find out what had happened.  The first thing I did was to check her DNS settings.  That’s when I saw that she was no longer the Administrative contact for her domain name and that Domain Name Registry of America was the new registrar for her domain name.  Her DNS settings had been changed, thus the reason why she wasn’t seeing her website associated with her domain name anymore.

Since I had received DOZENS of these notices in the mail, I knew what had happened.

Here’s the really evil part: paying more for her domain name was just the beginning.  It turned out that as part of the transfer process, she had given them permission to remove her as the Administrative contact for her domain name.   Because of this change, there was no way for her to transfer her domain name to a reputable registrar.

She became quite cross with me when I suggested she hire a lawyer to sort this matter out.  Instead, she contacted Domain Name Registry of America and ask them to change her DNS settings so her domain name would once again display her website.  They did, but a few months later her domain name was once again pointing to the Adsense page.

It’s one thing to pay more for your domain name registration, it’s another to pay for a domain name to point to someone else’s Adsense page.  At this point, my client threw up her hands and gave up on having a website for her business.

This is why I encourage ALL of my clients to contact me any time they have a question about their domain name registration.   As a result, I’ve been able to thwart many of these scamming attempts.

I think it’s important to point out that these domain name registrar transfer emails are quite persuasive.  They’re also carefully composed.  They tell you what will happen if your domain name expires.  That part is true.  What they leave out is that they aren’t the current registrar.   They use terms like, “we reserve the right” even though they have no rights.  That is unless you assign them to them by giving them your credit card information.  Get this, the WebUpDomain site even uses https: to securely process your credit card payment.

So without further ado, here’s a screenshot of the ransom – er – I mean “expiration” notice.
Here’s the body of the message:

Message Body:
Disclaimer: We are not responsible for any financial loss, data loss, downgrade in search engine rankings, missed customers, undeliverable email or any other damages that you may suffer upon the expiration of acumenwebservices.com. For more information please refer to section 17.c.1a of our User Agreement.

This is your final notice to renew [domain name]

LINK TO SECURE WEBSITE TO PROCESS YOUR PAYMENT.  (Note – well played WEBUPDOMAIN.  You purchased an SSL certificate to securely process the payment that will transfer the domain name to your registry service.  You’ll steal my domain name, but use a secure website to process the payment.  Well played.)

In the event that [domain name] expires, we reserve the right to offer your listing to competing businesses in the same niche and region after 3 business days on an auction basis.

This is the final communication that we are required to send out regarding the expiration of [domain name]

Secure Online Payment:

SECOND LINK TO SECURE WEBSITE TO PROCESS YOUR PAYMENT.

All services will be automatically restored on [domain name] if payment is received in full before expiration. Thank you for your cooperation.

YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Your domain name registrar will NEVER contact you using either snail mail OR your website’s contact form.

If you don’t know who your domain name registrar is, do a WHOIS search for your domain name.  Your domain name registrar will be listed there unless you have paid to have your contact information made private.  This will also show you when your domain name was created and when it will expire.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOLLOWS:

What makes this so insidious is that they used your contact form to send this to you.   It’s a red flag that says, “THIS IS A SCAM!”  However, in the immortal words of BoJack Horseman, “When you’re wearing rose colored glasses, red flags just look like flags.”

When you get this type of garbage coming from your contact form DO NOT mark it as spam.  Why?  Because the message was sent from your website.  If you mark this message as spam in your Gmail, you’re telling Google not to trust emails from YOUR website.

Best case scenario, you’ll never see any messages from your contact form again because they’re landing in your spam folder.

Worst case scenario, your site is blacklisted for spam.

Stay vigilant World-Weary WordPress Web Warriors!

Business blogs give your business an unfair advantage

I recently asked the question “Is it time to convert your website to a blog? and shared more than a few reasons why blogs are great websites for businesses.  However, I neglected to focus on the biggest reason you should be blogging for your business:

Business blogs give your business an unfair advantage.

Self hosted WordPress blogs are incredibly search engine friendly.  I sometimes forget exactly how big of a deal that is.  It’s kind of like access to oxygen – it’s easy to forget how difficult your life can be if suddenly access to oxygen is reduced or eliminated.

I came to this realization when I saw the traffic logs for a blog I launched just a few short months ago.

Launching a blog is nothing new.  As a matter of fact, it’s a fairly regular occurrence around here.  However, I launched this blog to promote my own business interests.

I created about a dozen tightly targeted posts and then went back to working for my clients instead of for myself.

So when I went to upgrade WordPress (for yet another security update) – I decided to take a peek at my analytics account to see how many visitors my newly launched little blog was getting.  Imagine my surprise when I saw that the site was getting hundreds of visitors each month. I felt like a hostess who had been caught with her hair still in curlers before her big dinner party.  I had so much to DO at the site to get it ready for visitors.  Most importantly – I still hadn’t set up an email newsletter to capture visitor information – something I always do for my clients during site launch but had “slipped” through the cracks on my own business blog set up.

But this rapid rise  made me realize how much of an unfair advantage a business owner with a blog has over his or her competitors.   I mean – over the past thirteen years – I’ve created a lot of small business web sites and some of those sites never got the traffic in a year that my little blog generated last month.

Of course, traffic is one thing – building credibility and respect is another.

One day not long ago was obviously  “Illustrate the power of business blogging day”.

The day began with a conversation with a potential client who has been a reader of my main business blog for months.  During the conversation, I realized how much of an “unfair” advantage my business blog has given to my business: I don’t have to work NEARLY as hard “proving” myself to prospective clients. It’s a welcomed change from the way I used to do business back in the 1990’s.

Later that day, another business blogging client contacted me.  She and her husband had been contacted by a national magazine who wants to do a story on their business.   The writer for the magazine had found their blog , then read their blog posts – and featured them in a story which has since been republished “online”.

It’s not the first time one of my business blogging clients have been “tapped” by the national media.  See, journalists are people too.  They’ve got a lot to do and little time to do it.  When they have a deadline,  they use search engines to find information.  When your business blog posts come up on that first page – well – that’s how PR events happen naturally and without an agent!  🙂

Business blogs illustrate once again how essential it is for a business to tightly target the marketing message.  When you know WHO your target audience is – and WHY they are buying your products or services –  then it’s remarkably easy to create powerful online content which builds your online authority and showcases your expertise.  Then, as prospective clients find your business blog – they can get to know more about you – without taking the risk of making contact.   A happy side effect of course is that media outlets can find you – and include you in stories.

Is it time to convert your website to a blog?

When I launched Virtual Impax in 1997 – I was creating traditional “set it and forget it” static websites for business owners.   After all, straight HTML websites were “cutting edge” technology at the time.  As time and technology progressed – blogs began taking the internet by storm.  When it became obvious that the search engines actually PREFERRED content published to a properly set up self hosted WordPress blog – I began converting my existing clients’ websites to blogs.   What follows are the three most popular questions I encountered as I approached my clients about converting their static HTML websites into blogs.

What’s the difference between a website and a blog?

Quite honestly – from the visitor’s point of view – there’s very little “difference” between a website and blog.  As a matter of fact, many of my clients weren’t even AWARE that some of the websites they frequently visited were actually blogs.

Blogs began as “content management systems”…. which is just another way of saying that blogs were created to make publishing content to the web fast and easy.

See – in the early days of the internet – in order to publish content to the web, you had to be able to not only write well, you also had to be able to code in HTML and use FTP software to get your html masterpiece from your computer onto the web.  That meant that business owners would hire a web developer – like me – to create a website for their business.  However, if that business owner wanted to make CHANGES to the website – he/she once again had to contact me and pay me to make the changes.

It was a cumbersome process – and one that was literally crying out for an easy to use web publishing solution.  Microsoft sold millions of copies of the WYSIWYG HTML Editor Front Page as one “solution” to the problem – however that solution -like virtually every other “easy to use” web publishing solution –  came with it’s own set of problems.  The most significant problem with these so called “user friendly” software solutions was that the websites created were not only “not so easy”  – but they were also ineffective.  See the websites created with most DIY easy to use publishing software are often difficult for the search engines to  index.  Since the search engines drive most of the traffic on the web – using an “easy to publish” software solution often lead to creating a website that was ignored by the search engines.

Enter the blog.  In the earliest days of blogging – this easy to use publishing option was originally used by web pioneers to journal.  However, as time went on – many internet marketing experts discovered that the content created using blog software – most notably WordPress – was getting favorable treatment by various search engines.  Many internet marketing gurus began touting the “magic” of blogging.

For webmasters who had previously been doing things “the hard way” – blogging was like magic.  Suddenly – building a massive web presence became easy.  The blog’s flat architecture made navigation a breeze.    However, it wasn’t just web savvy webmasters who appreciated the ease of publishing content to the web using a blog – business owners discovered how easy it was to use the web to build their business by using a blog.

So the primary difference between a “website” and a “blog” from a business owner’s point of view is that a business blog is actually just an easy to use website which can feature informative articles in addition to the “standard” information communicated with a business website.

Is it time to convert your website to a blog?

The answer – “Maybe.”

If your current website is currently enjoying high SERPS (Search Engine Results PlacementS) on relevant keywords for your business – then DO NOT FIX WHAT IS NOT BROKEN!  Feel free to ADD a blog to such a website – but if the search engine gods have chosen to smile on your HTML business website – don’t try to fix what truly isn’t broken.

How can you tell if your business website is enjoying high SERPS on relevant keyword terms?  Does your website get a lot of traffic? Are customers regularly contacting you via your website?   If the answer to either of these questions is “yes” – then you may want to consider ADDING a supplemental business blog to your already thriving business website.

Most business websites however do NOT fall into this category.  Many don’t even rank highly for the business name – let alone for terms potential customers may use to find the products and services offered by the company.  When that’s the case – converting a low performing static website into a blog can be the best investment a business owner can make.

What are the other advantages of converting a static website into a blog?

One of the reasons I began converting my clients’ traditional static websites into blogs is that they came to me asking for a “web site makeover”. Websites are like fashion – and what was once “trendy” begins looking dated after only a few years.

One of the biggest selling points for converting a traditional website into a blog is how EASY it is to change the appearance of a blog.

In a “traditional” website – the design elements are part of the web page DNA. In order to change the colors or images on a large HTML based site – each page has to be created over again. Meanwhile, changing the “look” of a blog is as easy as installing a new theme. Themes govern the “look” of a blog. I often tell clients that while changing the look of a traditional website is a lot like trying to change a tattoo – changing a blog’s “theme” is as easy changing your clothes. That means – when your business blog begins to look “dated” you can quickly and economically “change” the theme instead of investing in a total site overhaul.

Since blogs are better – are they more expensive to create than websites?

The answer is “NO!” – launching a business blog is actually a FRACTION of the cost of hiring a professional to create a traditional HTML website.  Not only are blogs easier to set up than a traditional website – they’re easier to change the appearance and they’re easier to update.

Are there any downsides to using a blog?

There is one significant disadvantage to a blog over a standard HTML website and that is that WordPress blogs must be frequently updated to remain secure.

Remember – WordPress blogs have an unfair advantage when it comes to creating search engine friendly content for the web and since they operate on a fairly easy to use interface – it makes security a pressing issue. Keeping your WordPress blog up to date is the best defense against the evil doers on the web who would love nothing better than hijack your business blog’s enviable SERPS. Acumen Web Services offers “Cyber Angel” hosting which automatically updates WordPress for our clients – but if you choose to take on the task of converting your website to a blog on your own – be aware that keeping your installation of WordPress up to date is an ESSENTIAL part of blog ownership.

Is it time to convert your website to a blog?  If it is – contact us for more information about how easy this process can be.

The Best Way To Find New Customers

The web is without a doubt the BEST way to find new customers for your business.  However, if you’re like most small business owners – you’ve probably been frustrated by your efforts to find new customers via the web.

Recently, I got an email from an Acumen Web Services client who shared that her business blog had landed TWO new clients for her practice in the past few weeks.  Allow me to share with you some of the “secrets” she used to create a website that attracts customers and clients to her practice.

1. It took time.

I want to begin with this one because so often clients sign up for a blog and expect to start signing clients within 72 hours of their blog launch.  It doesn’t work that way.  Creating a client or customer magnet takes TIME.  In the case above, it took about 3 years for my client to sign her first client from her blog.

It probably won’t take you that long to sign your first client though.  When my client didn’t see immediate results – she quit blogging after about 12 blog posts.  She then forgot about her blog for over a year and a half.  When she finally logged in again – she saw that NINE different people had left comments asking for more information about her services.  That was the fuel she needed to get blogging again for her business.

2. She focused on the PROBLEMS prospective clients were having.

This is a KEY element in her success.  Instead of blogging about trivia or the latest news – my client began writing blog posts about how she provides solutions for problems commonly experienced by her target audience.  Over time, when her audience began searching for solutions to problems they were having – her blog posts would pop up.

My client has thousands of competitors – many of them blogging for their business – but few if any are blogging and addressing the PROBLEMS this target audience is experiencing.

Today, one of her blog posts is regularly drawing in hundreds of new visitors each month and she has started a new series of problem solving blog posts to keep reaching new prospective clients.

3. She tightly targeted her audience.

In my book,Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results, I share how important it is to tightly target your audience when you’re creating your marketing message.

My client could not possibly begin to write about the problems her target audience was having without first defining her “niche” market.  If she had tried to speak to “everyone” she would have spoken to no one.  Since she tightly targeted her audience, writing blog posts about problems that audience is facing was easy.

4. She didn’t rely solely upon her blog to carry her message.

I love blogs as a way to carry your marketing message – but as versatile as blogs are – they can’t carry the ENTIRE load.  Your blog is a great way to get noticed in a crowded marketplace but in order to keep the conversation going – you need more.

My client has an email newsletter sign up on her blog.   She used a quick and easy method of setting up her email marketing newsletter so she could set up her email marketing newsletter and then forget about it.

This way, when a prospective client or customer FINDS her blog post – she can continue the conversation after the visitor has left the site.  This way she can stay in touch with visitors who aren’t quite ready to make a buying decision yet.

Of course the foundation of my client’s success is her search engine friendly self hosted WordPress blog.  This client had been trying to market her practice via the web for YEARS before she discovered Acumen Web Services.  I suspect that part of the reason she “gave up” on her blog so quickly was because of her past failures.

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result – and my client really couldn’t see the difference between her blog and her old website.  That is – until the content had time to age and “connect” with her audience.

By simply tightly targeting her audience and then creating problem solving blog posts – my client signed two new clients directly from her Acumen Web Services blog.  Those two clients have a lifetime value which well exceeds her investment in her business blog.

How long has it been since your website sent you a new customer?  If the answer is “never” or “too long” – then contact us about getting started with a business blog.  A business blog is the best way for many businesses to find new customers on the web.

Business Blogging vs the Business of Blogging

Nothing changes a business owner’s facial expression from calm, cool and collected to “deer in headlights” faster than suggesting that he or she begin blogging for his/her business.

It’s understandable.  In the past 10 years, blogging in general has exploded.  It’s gone from a relatively unknown software created to quickly and easily publish content to the web to an international phenomenon.

Blogging has catapulted people from “ordinary” to superstars in short order.  Matt Drudge and Perez Hilton are just two “average”  people who began publishing their thoughts to the web and found themselves famous as a result.  So it’s not surprising that when you think of blogging – you think of a full time writing gig.

Blogging has “grown up” over the past decade and many popular blogs are directly competing with newspaper, television and magazines by providing engaging and entertaining up to the minute information.

That’s not “business blogging” but rather the BUSINESS OF BLOGGING.

There’s a difference – a big difference.  A HUGE difference between the two types of blogging.

The Business of Blogging

If you’re in the business of blogging – your goal is to entertain, educate and engage.

If you’re in the business of blogging, you’ll spend your time identifying, writing and researching breaking news stories.   Like a savvy magazine or newspaper editor, you’ll need to have a good “feel” for which stories your readers want you to pursue.

When you’re in the business of blogging – you’ll fund your blogging activities by selling advertising space to businesses who want to get their advertising message in front of your loyal and dedicated audience.

Business Blogging

Business blogging is an ENTIRELY different “beast”.  While the blogger who is in the business of blogging needs to think and act like a magazine or newspaper editor –  the business blogger isn’t concerned with the editorial content of the blog.

Well – that’s not entirely true.  Of course you’re concerned about the editorial content of your business blog – but your business blog is operating from an entirely different point of view.

While the business of blogging has as it’s main goal to entertain – entertainment is not the top priority for the business blog owner.

When it comes to the entertainment factor – the business blog doesn’t live or die based solely upon the entertainment value of the posts.  Sure, it’s an added bonus if your blog post on your latest product release is entertaining as well as informative – but it’s not a requirement.

When you begin business blogging – you don’t have to churn out three or more posts a day in order for your business blog to be a success.  Will it launch faster – of course.

Creating 3 posts a day for 100 days means you’ve got 300 pages of content ready, willing and able to be indexed by the search engines.  Then, when a prospective customer or client goes searching for answers – the answers your products and/or services provide – VOILA – your blog post can often be the star of those real time long tail keyword searches.

(Note: long tail keyword searches is an SEO term used to describe the words actual people use who are looking to buy products and services.  Instead of searching “back pain” – someone whose back is hurting will use words like “upper back pain relief” or even better “arthritis back pain relief”.   While millions of people search for general terms like “back pain” – relatively few search using these “long tail keyword” terms. )

As a business blogger – you don’t have to take the 3 posts a day approach to creating content for your blog.  Instead, you can adopt a much more “relaxed” schedule – like posting one post per week.  At the end of a year, your blog will have 52 posts.  After three years, you’ll have over 150 pages of content.

What should you write about?

I often encourage my clients to carefully edit outgoing emails and use those as blog post “fodder”.  When you answer prospective customer’s questions asked via email – chances are that visitors to your website are asking the same questions in their head.  Why not answer those questions on your blog for all to see?

Start a Business Blog

So what’s involved with starting a business blog?

Many business owners are surprised at how easy business blogs are to use.  Often it’s the fear of the unknown that creates the biggest barrier to business blogging.

For many business owners, once the initial business blog set up is complete – business blogging is as simple as sending an email.

When you blog for your business – the content you write becomes part of the every growing fabric of the web.  Those blog posts often create what is known in SEO circles as “long tail keyword” content.

Long tail keywords are search terms which don’t get a lot of “action”.  While a word like “chiropractor” is included in thousands of searches every hour – long tail keywords like “Boca Raton chiropractor” don’t get searched for very often.

However, if you’re a chiropractor in Boca Raton, Florida – guess which keyword term is more valuable in building your practice?

That’s the real “magic” of business blogging.

When you start a business blog and begin writing two or three articles a week – you’ll be creating blog posts – a.k.a. articles – that naturally contain those long tail keywords.

Those business blog posts are viewed by the search engines as individual web pages – and those pages are indexed just like any other web page.  Only – there’s a difference.  A HUGE difference.

See, when you create web pages with many of the easy to use web site editors – the resulting web pages aren’t easy for the search engines to index and catalog.   In some cases, the code those WYSIWYG web editors use to create those beautiful web pages are down right ugly from the search engines’ point of view.

So that’s why – when you start a business blog – it’s like creating dozens of search engine web pages over the course of a year.

Even better is that as you create those articles – when a prospective customer (or in the case of the Boca chiropractor – patient) finds your business blog posts – they’ll be finding valuable information they were heading online to find in the first place.

Business which need to educate consumers are the best candidates for starting a business blog.

Business blogging is perfect for your business if you’ve ever thought,

“If people knew 1/3 of what they need to know  about [insert your business here] – they’d choose our company hands down.”

Business blogs are a GREAT way to provide the essential information your prospective customers need to know to make the best buying decision.  When you use your business blog to educate – to entertain – and to inform – you’ll soon discover what all the fuss is about business blogging.

Business Blogs Vs Facebook, Twitter

When it comes to blogging for your business – business owners have a lot of questions.

One question often asked by business owners is:

“Why have a business blog when I can use [Facebook/Twitter] to promote my business?”

For starters – when you launch a business blog – and  I’m talking about a business blog where you pay to register a domain name and you pay for hosting for that blog – you are in complete control of that business blog.  (Read this to learn about the differences between “free” business blogs and YOUR business blog.)

You control the content – you control the comments – you control if/when that blog ceases to exist.

A word picture I often use  to describe blogging on your own business blog is to liken it to building a brick and mortar building.

When I was growing up – my parents wanted to buy lakefront property.  They were in love with a community which had some of the best lakeside property available but there was a catch.  When you built your home there – you didn’t own the property.   Instead you built the house but you LEASED the property upon which the house was built.

I remember the horror my parent’s expressed at such an arrangement.  They could not imagine spending hundreds of thousands of dollars building a lakefront home on property they would never own.  When my parents asked what happened if the holding company went out of business – the response was “Don’t worry – it will never happen.”

In case you haven’t noticed, a lot of things have happened in real estate over the past few years that few correctly predicted could or would happen.

There are a lot of similarities between the “real” world and the online world – and one of them is ownership = control.

When you create a Facebook account or a Twitter account – you’re creating a user account on a web site you don’t own.

Lest I begin to sound like a control freak – a term which has been bandied about on many occasions 🙂 – being in control of  your business’ assets should be a priority for any business owner.

Over the past 20 years – I’ve worked with hundreds of small business owners and  I’ve worked with a few who discovered the painful truth of what happens when you don’t own the building in which your business resides.

In one particularly painful case, the neighboring business in the retail plaza was also my client’s landlord.  When the owner of the property needed room to expand his business – he simply gave my client ample notice that he would not be renewing the lease.  After a period of commercial property shopping – my client decided to throw in the towel rather than start from scratch in a new business location.

The similarities between building a brick and mortar business and a business blog are many.  Just as “location, location, location” is a primary concern for your brick and mortar presence – it’s even more true for your business blog.

When you create a business blog for your business – you set in motion of cascade of events – many of which you may not be aware.

Just as your brick and mortar customers become “accustomed” to doing business with your physical business location – the search engines – the vehicle which many visitors use to FIND your business blog –

Whether it’s a free blog – Twitter – or Facebook – the “address” associated with your business is www.domain-name-you-do-not-control.com/yourbusiness

Now – when you have a business blog on www.domain-name-you-do-control.com – you can direct visitors from your free blog, Twitter or Facebook to the location where you are in control.

That way – if things go sideways with your free social media accounts – you won’t find your entire business web presence is gone overnight.