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Good Commercial, Poor Domain Choice

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I just saw a television commercial sponsored by the United States Postal Service, and although I am not surprised by the lack of forward thinking, I am shaking my head that the USPS just doesn’t get it.    

The advertisement (during primetime MLB playoffs) begins with a disheveled looking man walking onto a bus and choosing a seat next to a woman.    He begins by informing her that she just won a random lottery sponsored by a clearly fictitious organization.    To claim the multi-million dollar prize, all she needs to do is write the man a check to cover some random fees.    Essentially, the man is playing the part of an in-person Nigerian scammer commonly seen online.

It is a clever advertisement (and ongoing campaign) playing on the fact that these scams are much more obvious in person than online, and people need to beware when they receive suspicious emails.    I dig the message.    I think it is very important for non-web savvy people to know about these scams, know how to spot them, and know what to do when they come across one.

HOWEVER, the commercial ends with a large graphic directing people to visit FakeChecks.org for more information.    GUESS WHAT!    FakeChecks.COM is owned by someone else.    How many people do you think will accidentally directly navigate to the .com in error – especially considering some web browsers automatically enter the .com extension?    The USPS should never have used a .org domain name where the .com is taken.    If they needed to have that specific .org, they should have bought the .com for whatever it cost.    They then should have forwarded the .com traffic to the .org so they didn’t lose any eyes. The advertising campaign probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.    Why would they chance sending confused consumers to the wrong domain name, especially considering the message.        

This reminds me of the time Dick Cheney quoted something from FactCheck.org and accidentally directed people to FactCheck.com, owned by none other than Frank Schilling.

This has to be one of the most ironic, idiotic campaigns I’ve seen in a long time. The USPS just doesn’t get it!    

Just to be a bit more clear, I am not advocating that the USPS shouldn’t have used a .org.    I think the .org suits this campaign quite well.   I think they might have been  wise to choose another domain name where the .com was available, as people will inevitably enter the wrong extension.   In my opinion, many consumers are trained to goto the “.com” extension.   Why take a chance that some consumers will do this and end up on a site not controlled by the USPS.  

WSJ: Web-Address Theft Is Everyday Event

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Web-Address Theft Is Everyday Event

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article about a topic that most people in the domain investment business have been worried about for quite some time – domain theft. The WSJ article discusses the ease in which thieves can take possession of someone else’s domain name, and the detrimental effect it can have on a business that is reliant on the domain name as an ecommerce outlet or the email addresses associated with the domain name.

When a domain name is stolen, the thief usually tries to sell the name quickly, profiting even before the legitimate domain owner knows the name is out of his possession. Payment is usually requested through a company like Western Union, as it can be more difficult to track the thief. Once the domain name is sold, the new owner may try to sell it for a profit, believing he received a good deal, or he may begin to develop a website around the domain name. It isn’t until the domain name servers are changed that the legitimate owner would notice something was fishy, as his website wouldn’t resolve and email would suddenly stop working. The situation turns into a bad problem because two people feel that they are the legitimate owner, and determining the actual ownership becomes problematic.

Registrars don’t typically help unless there is a court order, as they would probably rather turn a blind eye than become involved in a potentially litigious situation. This makes it difficult for the legitimate owner, and it becomes more complicated when the registrar and/or new owner is located in a different country. Retrieving a stolen domain name can be a complicated task, and it may be best to enlist the assistance of an attorney like John Berryhill (quoted in the article) or Brett Lewis.

Some tips I would offer to ensure your domain name doesn’t get stolen include:
1.) Make sure your registrar password is made up of letters, numbers, and characters to make it difficult to hack.

2.) Keep the email address on the Whois record current

3.) Frequently log in to your email account on the Whois record, and/or forward all emails to a regularly read email account in case you receive a notice from the registrar.

4.) Do not click on links in emails as they may be phishing attempts to gain access to your various accounts.

5.) Do not log into your registrar accounts or email accounts from computers that aren’t secure, as keylogging software could track everything you type.

6.) Make sure your domain registration is up to date. It’s always better to pay far in advance.

7.) If you have an auto-payment plan in place to pay your registration annually, make sure your credit card information is up to date so it doesn’t get rejected, causing the re-registration to fail.

As I stated in a previous blog post, here are some tips to help prevent you from buying a stolen domain name:

1.) Do a Whois history check
-Did anything recently change?
-Does something seem strange in the Whois history like a different email address just added?
-Length of domain name ownership is a good way to tell if someone has all rights to the name

2.) Call the listed owner
-If the email address just changed, the owner will tell you the name isn’t for sale
-Conversation is frequently avoided by scammers

3.) Call/email the former owner
-They will tell you if they sold it (or if it was stolen)

4.) Search the forums/Google for any information that may raise red flags
-Stolen domain name posts
-Spam references on Google

5.) Do a WIPO/UDRP search
-May not be a anti-theft tool, but just make sure the history is clean

6.) Always pay with Escrow
Escrow.com, Sedo, Moniker or Afternic offer this service

7.) Never pay with money order or cashier’s check
-Difficult to track
-Many scams involve counterfeit checks/money orders

8.) Only buy from the listed registrant
-Don’t attempt to buy from the technical contact if it’s different from the registrant
-Technical contact doesn’t necessarily own the name, but may just manage the domain name

9.) TRUST YOUR GUT!
-If an offer is too good to be true, it probably is
-If the terms the seller is requesting seem strange, question them

Paypal Security Key

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A few months ago, Paypal introduced the Paypal Security Key to help prevent account theft. The security key is a device that generates 6 number code every 30 seconds. Once you have the key, you will type this changing code into your account along with your Paypal password. I think this is essential for anyone who uses Paypal. I know this is obvious, but just remember not to tape your account name to the keychain!

It would be great if a company like RSA came out with a security keychain that allowed you to sign up all of your various accounts (banks, registrars, email accounts…etc) requiring passwords. I believe consumers would be in favor of this, but it would take a huge effort to get companies on board. If you find the Paypal keychain useful, why not contact some of the companies you do business with and ask them to look into a security keychain for their company.

Domain Names for Charity

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Below are a few unregistered domain names I believe have good potential. Although I am not charging anything for researching these names, I am requesting that the person who registers each makes a donation to a non-profit organization.

DiscountOliveOils.com
DomainInvestmentTips.com
SailboatingLessons.com
CustomBicycleHelmets.com
PreownedMP3.com
PreownedWheelchairs.com
ItalianInstructors.com
GermanInstructors.com
HebrewInstructors.com
JapaneseInstructors.com
ArabicInstructors.com
ArabicGuides.com

You don’t need to tell me how much was donated, but I would love to know which charity was helped, so please drop me a line after!

A few non-profits I recommend (with the link to make a donation):

Dana Farber Cancer Institute
ALS Association
The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation
Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure for Breast Cancer
Simon Wiesenthal Center
Meir Panim

Charities Previously Helped:
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

CarryOn.com: Protecting Children Online

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Carry On the Domain Charity

Thanks to Jay Westerdahl for bringing this to my attention.    The brainchild of Anthony Peppler and Sania Faucher, CarryOn.com is a 501c3 non-profit charity that allows domain owners to donate their adult domain names in lieu of monetizing them, letting them drop, expire or cancelling them.

Owners of domain names are occasionally in a bad position when they want to cleanse their portfolios of “dirty” names.    With domain tasting being so popular, pretty much any dropped/cancelled/expired domain name is picked up by someone and monetized.    Since domain owners are indefinitely listed on the virtual ownership paperwork, they are forever linked to every domain name they’ve owned.    CarryOn.com allows domain owners to donate their domain names without having to worry about them falling into the wrong hands.    Domain owners may also be eligible for a tax deduction.

This type of service could also be beneficial to owners of domain names with trademarks in them.    However, I believe this would be too risky for any charity, as the charity could become liable should the trademark owner seek financial compensation under the ACPA.    Additionally, the former domain owner would technically remain liable for owning it at one time.

Email Marketing Tips – Do’s and Don’ts

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Email can be one of the most (cost) effective ways to reach your prospects or customers. Over the past few years, I’ve learned a few things about email marketing that I’d like to share. Of course there are many other email marketing strategies and tips, but I believe these are some of the most important. Feel free to add to this list in the comment section.

Important Things to Do in your Email:

1.) Identify Yourself – With email-based fraud and scams at an all-time high, it is essential that you identify who you are to give comfort to your target prospects. Use the subject line and the email headers to say exactly who you are. Include a link to your website, and allow your prospect to follow that link and read the email on your website. Once the customer sees that the email is actually from you and your company, they will have more comfort.

2.) Use a Strong Call to Action – I’ve found that if a person doesn’t respond to an email within a couple days after sending it, they won’t respond at all (unless they happen to be on vacation). Within a couple of days or even hours, your email will move to the bottom of your prospect’s inbox, and eventually it will move out of sight. Once that happens, the chance of getting a response is slim.

3.) Make your Offer in the Subject – Since it’s very easy to delete an email or send it to the spam folder, let the customer know the purpose of the email in your subject. If you are trying to buy a domain name, perhaps your subject should be “Offer for XXXXXXX.com.” The owner is more apt to open your email if the subject is of interest. One caution is that spam filters are very strong these days, and a subject that appears to be spam may be automatically filtered. If you are selling cheap erection pills, email may not be the way to go!

4.) Provide a way to Opt Out – While you might not want to lose the ability to send future emails to prospects, it would be even worse to send an email to an annoyed customer. It’s also against the law to not include an opt-out option in commercial emails. Do yourself a favor and make this opt-out option easy to use for your prospects.

5.) Let the Prospect know how you Found his Email Address – People tend to be suspicious of random emails. If you found the email address using a Whois search, let the prospect know this. If you have an existing business relationship, you should remind the prospect of when you did business if possible, or at the very least, give information about your company in the email as a reminder.

6.) Keep your Email Short – Keep your email concise and succinct. Provide links to your website that will allow the prospect to fully examine what you are offering.

7.) Offer a Text Version of Email – Allow your prospects to read your email in HTML or text to make it as easy as possible for them. Some people prefer to read text based emails rather than emails with graphics in them. This is especially important because of the proliferation of Blackberries and Treos. It’s a pain to read a graphic based email on some mobile devices.

8.) Include Prospect’s Name in Email – Most banks and other financial institutions already include the prospect’s name in the email, but you should, too if possible. This will immediately let the prospect know that there is some sort of relationship, whether it’s between your company and the prospect or a related company and the prospect. (Only do this if you are sure the names and email addresses are correctly matched!)

9.) Read the CAN-SPAM Act Before Emailing – This is the most important suggestion. If you want to avoid any potential penalties, you MUST read the US Government’s CAN-SPAM Act. Violators of this Act can be fined up to $11,000 PER SPAM EMAIL!!

Important Things to Avoid in your Email:

1.) Don’t Send too many Emails – Even though email is free for all intents and purposes, don’t send more emails than necessary. While you may find your emails informative, your customers may find too many emails to be a nuisance. Also, every time you email your prospects, you give them the opportunity to opt out, which they will do if you annoy them. Avoid this by only sending important emails.

2.) Don’t Send Emails with Poor Grammar or Spelling Errors – When I receive an email riddled with spelling mistakes and/or poor grammar, I immediately think that it’s a spam message from a foreign country. Always use spell checker software, and if you can afford it, have a professional proofreader examine it. If you can’t afford the proofreader, have a friend or colleague review your email before sending it out.

3.) Don’t Email People who Opt Out – Never send an email to a prospect that previously opted out of receiving your email solicitations. Keep a file of email addresses that have opted out, and always purge those emails from your new prospect list to avoid re-emailing that prospect.

Here are some good resources on Email Marketing:
Dos and Don’ts of E-Mail Marketing
E-Mail Sender Lines: Do’s and Don’ts
Email Marketing Tips, Tricks and Secrets
Avoiding the Spam Filters and Other Email Marketing Tips

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