Monday, 26 February 2007

Beware "free" email accounts

Last week, my partner had her Yahoo email account hacked. We spent the entire weekend on the phone with ebay and ebuyer trying to sort things out.

That is someone got the password and/or security question right and consequently went in and changed the password and security questions. She is now locked out of Yahoo email and cannot get into asses the damage.

On the surface this would seem trivial - "its just an email account ... not a bank account"...
However the offender now has access to all my passwords and username for every site that she has ever registered, or purchased from. Including some which retain payment details for credit cards or similar.

After faxing a passport copy to ebay and about 3 hours phone calls and emails. Ebay have finally advised that someone has been bidding using her account and payment details, on several products. They wont say which products or even disclose an IP address to us.
All of this is extremely painful and annoying. We are unsure of how much fraud may have been attempted beyond ebay and ebuyer. What other sites do they have access to now?

My point is that this is happening and Yahoo have not bothered to send us a sensible reply within 72 hours. We keep getting the same hopeless people at Yahoo sending non-sensical standard replies and meanwhile her online identity has been hijacked. As yet its impossible to determine how or why or even who.

I have no idea if this was a brute force attack or someone who had access to our private documents that you might find if you went through our rubbish bins.

The overriding point is that free email providers have a reasonable obligation (irrespecitve of what it says on their legal mumbo jumbo) to assist and respond in a manner that is fair to its users.

I have been reading more and more and this is not uncommon amongst other Yahoo email users.

You have been warned.

I would invite someone at Yahoo to get in contact me with outside this forum to assist with this issue. If this happens I will be updating this issue.

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Web analytics professionals (or not...)

My phone rings every other day at the moment with recruitment agencies wanting to offer me the Web analytics "job of a lifetime".

Anyone with Webtrends, Coremetrics, Omniture or Websidestory on their CV will know what i mean.

There is a serious shortage of web analytics professionals at the moment. Worldwide.

This is a result of several factors
- Worldwide growth of web "eyeballs"
- Increased tendency to spend online
- Increased tendency to "do" online what you would otherwise have done offline in the past
- Increased pressure on Web marketers to justify online spend
- Pressure from competitors
- Clever advertising from the vendors themselves

and finally not to mention the ubiquitous Google analytics, which has raised awareness of Web analytics globally.

So why hasn't the increased demand resulted in an increase of available professionals?

There are several reasons including but not limited to
- Good marketing people don't always make good technical people. The reverse is also true. You need to be both commercially aware and technically astute to be a Good Web analytics professional. Hens teeth.
- Web analytics professionals are usually multi-skilled. Often those other skills areas are professional more appealing (or pay better!)
- Web analytics doesnt always pay the best (but things are improving)
- Web analytics roles are somewhat "professionally ceilinged". Presently these are new roles with somewhat uncertain career paths.
- Web analytics doesnt always find the right "place" within a company structure - meaning that being successful with Web analytics within the business can be like pulling teeth at the best of time.

But I personally believe the main reason for shortages is that the Good web analysts don't stay in the role for very long and this explains the shortage...Why?
Being able to read and understand a business's web numbers is that important/critical that the Good web analysts are (or were already) being propelled into more Senior and/or important roles within the business.

I know 3 good Web analytics professionals who have all moved into more senior roles at companies like Microsoft or senior consultant roles within the vendors themselves.

Now that explains the problem... anyone think of the solution!

Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Corporate Email deliverability - an often overlooked concept

Lets take email deliverability to a more complex and even more poorly understood level.

But equally or perhaps more important level.

That of "B2B deliverability".. or perhaps more appropriately "C2B deliverability".

All delivery discussion and online literature still seems to focus on the big ISP's. ie. Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL, Gmail et al

Lets assume you are a consumer brand that retails or markets to the average Jo(anne).
We often forget that a large majority of purchases are taking place during business hours and a huge percentage of these are made at work by office-bound desk-drivers.

It is also (absurd) corporate policy for several bizarre companies to block staff access to online email providers. Therefore no Hotmail access forces office workers to use corporate email to receive Marketing literature during office hours.

Chances are that a lot of an online retailer's best customers have subscribed using corporate email addresses.

What do you do then, when the Network Nazi's at "Big Corporate enterprise" decide to block your domain/IP or Email type on the basis of bizarre corporate rules?

It is one thing to have an SPF entry, reverse DNS, correctly configured email server... it is another thing when corporate rules restrict your ability to do business and market to desk-bound office types.

C2B deliverability is a poorly understood and underestimated area of Email marketing and a very high "risk" area.

The fundamental question is - what can we do about it?

Monday, 12 February 2007

More on Email deliverability..

I attended a fascinating "round-table*" last week run by Andrew Robinson and Kieren Cooper of Lyris UK/Facultas

Also in attendance was Mindy Wallen a US based email deliverability consultant/guru who knows probably more about Email deliverability than everyone in the UK put together

Email deliverability is one of those poorly understood areas of online marketing and Email delivery experts are seen more of the "Doctor that you see when you get sick..." rather than the Doctor you should see so that you don't get sick.

The landscape has indeed changed in that reputation is king and is responsible for determining the vast majority of your "deliverability-ness".
This makes perfect sense.
The act of a spammer is to spam from new or ever changing IP's and domains... or to spam from IP's in dodgy countries.

If we know where you are and who you are - we can block you.
If we dont know who you are and where you are - we will block you.


Thursday, 8 February 2007

Email deliverability - the landscape has changed. again

Ripped Blatantly from my E-consultancy post...

I have been doing some Email deliverability testing on a newly configured server/IP.

All good email marketeers know that the key to good Deliverability includes.

- A properly configured mail server
- Reverse DNS correctly configured
- Correct MX records setup
- an SPF record/SenderID record
- Correct To and From: records in the mail that match the lookup that the receiving server will inevitably check
- structuring the content and headers in accordance with WC3 and email RFC standards

As well as the usual best practice
- removing bounces regularly - keeping a clean list
- acknowledging unsubscribe requests promptly
- Whitelisting with as many ISPs as possible

So when I did some testing on a newly configured IP/server... the delivery rates relative to historic ones I have experienced (on other servers) was appalling. As much as 35% less in some cases.
Interestingly when i did switch to another IP (offered to me temporarilly by a friend at an ESP) the delivery rate increased up again 35%.
What makes things interesting is that the latter IP I used did not resolve correctly to my domain..... so technically it was not configured correctly... but gave me almost perfect delivery rates..

In other words an incorrectly configured ..."long established" IP address gives better delivery rates than a properly configured "new" IP.

So it would seem that Mailing IP's need a "history" in order to get accepted by some ISP's. Technical configuration, content and ethical practices are important... but not as important as having a solid mailing history associated with a specific IP address...

This will pose challenges for anyone starting a new business no?

Accounting 101 - Google style

In the continuiing vein of Google bashing, for which their seems to be an increasing trend of late...
very funny post over at e-consultancy...

This has led to confusion within companies - and at worst, caused Google AdWords users to think their campaigns are more profitable than they are, and thus pump more money into Google while decreasing their own business' profitability

Ah - so that explains where all my the money went boss!

Well yes this is absolutely true. I cant help think though that blaming Google for peoples inability to understand things like margins, profits, sales and revenues... is a little excessive.

Its a bit like putting a warning-label on an Automatic rifle.

My guess is that if you need to be reading and learning from this stuff then perhaps you should be steering clear of trying to make money on the interweb.

Call me cynical.

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Web 2.0....

Whenever I hear this term my eyes glaze over and my mind wanders off....

Not because the underlying technologies behind "Web 2.0" are inherently devoid of use or value, but because the vast majority of people who bandy the term around with an alarming frequency are unable to talk about the practical application of "Web 2.0" as a sensible business model.

Show me the money.

Yes. Ajax is a cool tool.
Yes. User contributed content is useful and creates value if used correctly.
Yes. Mashing creates some pretty funky sites.
Yes. Second life is interesting. Although, See here for a better verion :)

But all of these technologies have been around for years.. albeit under different names.. way before a bunch of rastafarian, overpaid, marketers came up with the term Web 2.0.

Give me a sensible business model, with revenues and sensible assumptions - mixed with some of these individually and discretely useful technologies.

Just dont bundle them together, give them a "cool" name and expect to make money.
The world is full of buzzwords and silly businesses models like that.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

In the beginning...

its taken me a loooong time to get myself an armed and fully operational battle station but here it is...

thats the easy part right?

now to fill it with content and meaningful content...