Articles

Dealing with spam in email and comments

What’s the deal on marking email as SPAM? What are my options for all the crap?

Don’t waste your energy on spam

Recently I read a note from a colleague giving advice to others in the field. They said:

Never Unsubscribe from an email. You are just telling the spammer they got a “live” one.

I get phone calls almost daily from different phone numbers wanting to help me with my STUDENT DEBT. I am 65 YEARS OLD! I don’t have student debt! But if/when I block one phone number I just get another call from a different number. What’s the point?  Just hang up.

So on one hand, I get it.

On the other hand, if you do just hit spam, it’s a black mark on the sender’s bulk mailer. And what if the list is something you once were interested in, but don’t remember anymore signing up for?  That’s not fair.

So always try to subscribe using the unsubscribe link. Because that’s the right thing to do.

HOWEVER, if an email requires ME to supply the address to get removed.. THAT’S a spam phisher!

The second piece of advice that was passed along as a great truth(?):

If they are getting your email address off your website, you as the domain administrator can block email addresses or IP addresses from sending email to your domain.

FIRST, if you’re getting email spam that you want to block, it’s likely by the time you actually do get to an address or IP, the sender has another one in line. (See my rant above.)

So, NEVER HAVE your email address on your website unless you want trouble

But you say, you’re a business. You want people to find you.  There has to be a way.  There is!

Use a contact form

You get 2 things from a form.

  1. No robots can vacuum up your contact info
  2. And, more importantly, EVERY email from your website will have the SAME SUBJECT line. So you always know what it is.

Comment spam on a website is a different problem

  1. If nobody legit ever comments on your comments, your could just turn off comments.
  2. Or if you want to keep trying, then use some kind of plugin for your website.

Captcha works pretty well with all the websites I’ve seen. (That’s those little games you have to play to get to the real content of a site.  Personally, I HATE them.) They always say, “Prove you’re not a robot.” Why not say, “Prove you ARE human”?

Consider a “honey pot” field.  You might need help with that, but it’s a box that is invisible to visitors. But visible to robots.  So if it’s checked, it means a robot did it. So “BUZZZZ…Thank you for playing our game.”  You are spam!  And the comment doesn’t get through.

WordPress has several good plugin options. Akismet works great. It’s cheap but not free. I’ve used Antispam Bee pretty successfully. Or search for “top comment anti-spam”. You’ll find lots of options.

Finally: NEVER USE ONE OF THOSE REPLY-IF-YOU’RE-A-REAL-PERSON things.

Especially if YOU ask ME for info.

Get a clean email address. Be careful with it. (See everything I’ve written above.)

Use Gmail or a mail provider with a good spam filter in it. (BTW, your email address should be @your-business-name.com)

But, for goodness sake, don’t ask me to confirm who *I* am if you’ve written and asked my advice!

OR WORSE: You’ve got some nerve showing your your email address on your website meaning you WANT me to write to you…  And then you ask if I’m real?
SHEESH!

SO.. Do the right thing.

  1. Use SPAM notification responsibly.
  2. Use a contact form.
  3. Manage comment spam.
  4. Have your business address @your-own-business.com (Of course you know I mean you should replace that last part appropriately, right?)

And
Thanks for the opportunity to rant.

Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Easy SEO: A Brilliant Article

Advice to help your readers comprehend what you’re talking about AND help the search engines who help them, use these really simple tips.

People often ask for help with SEO.

Short of paying for Pay Per Click (which I can help with), there is a lot you can do with your own content to help search engines “like” your content.

I have said repeatedly: to help your readers comprehend what you’re talking about AND to help the search engines who help them:

  • Use headlines
  • Use bold for important words
  • Use bullets
  • Say where you’re clients are (ADHD coach in Doylestown, for example)

Those few tips put my old website at number one in appropriate Google search results for more than ten years PLUS at least five more years AFTER  I was no longer providing that service!

Here is a brilliant example of what I’m talking about

The silent tragedy affecting today’s children
Even if you have no children, or don’t care about children, or the future, or anything else. Just look at the article for like 10 seconds.
Why?
Scanability (If that’s even a word)
(You have to go look.)

I’ll even presume you don’t care about the subject.

What do you see, even if you aren’t really reading?

I’m guessing:

  • This headline:
    • What to do about it?
  • Then the red bullets (which should be bold instead of red, IMHO)
    • Our children are in a devastating emotional state!
  • Then there are more bullets
  • And bold words
  • And another heading:
    • How to fix it?

That is just BRILLIANT. Readers get the idea REALLY fast .. even if they don’t care. That’s what you’re aiming for (the “getting it” part, not the “don’t care” part).

People don’t read the internet like a beloved novel.

They scan… fast. Then move on.

So you need your readers to get the content ASAP.
Make it easy for them. Use:

  • Headlines
  • Bullets
  • Bold
  • Short sentences
  • Easy reading

PS: That article has really good parenting advice.

Obvious login name? Be careful!

Is your user name or parts of your domain name being used to attempt hacks to your site?

password123Maybe it’s not just a good password that matters

You’ve certainly been hearing everywhere about the need for strong passwords.

According to RandomPassword.com, “password” is most common password. Their list of the top 10,000 most common passwords is pretty interesting reading. “Dragon” is number 7 above “baseball” and “football” at numbers 9 and 10! (Go figure THAT!?)

I like using four random words — that I could speak — substituting some other characters and capitals. But some sites remind us that you have to use a different password on each site.

There are strong password generators included with password manager services like lastpass.com, which helps you keep track of all those dots and dashes and numbers etc. (It’s a great service. I pay the $12 a year to help make sure that it doesn’t just go away!)

But  my new worry is highlighted by this fact: The WordPress plugin Wordfence just alerted me to several locked-out users trying to gain access to a website that I manage.

The attempted user names were NOT “admin” which is a common choice. The default login for the first user of a WordPress site used to be “admin.”  It might still be, but DON’T USE IT!

The new threat here was pieces of the words included in the domain name.

If the website domain name were, for example, dotsanddashes.com, some baddie might be looking for “dots” or “dashes” as a login name.

It also gives pause to using your first name as a login when you also show that as the author’s name on pages or posts.

So if you must use your name, be doubly sure that your passwords are unique!

Transferring a Domain Registration
Just the name, not the site

Why is transferring a domain name so complicated?

Every time I set out to do this, something seems to hiccup. So I thought I’d write out the process here.

First, a definition: Registrar

The Registrar is the company you pay money to to own the domain. It might or might not be your hosting company.

Registration should be around $15/year but some registrars (Network Solutions) charge much more  per year and some less. If you pay less, they may try to upsell you with private registration and a bunch of other stuff you may want, or maybe don’t. Dreamhost gives you free private registration so that your email address doesn’t show up for bad robots. (PS: That’s my affiliate account. I’ve been hosting with them since 1999. So I’m confident about their service.)

Second: The Process

So let’s say I own the domain (outgoing/losing registrar) and the Bob (incoming registrar) wants it.

Domain names are locked so that just any old person can’t steal it from you.

So I have to unlock the domain in the cPanel (or where ever this is managed by your registrar) so that someone else can acquire it.

Then I have to supply Bob with the pass code (sometimes called EPP).
That code might just show up in the cPanel, or you might have to request it from the registrar. I’ve seen it both ways.

Next the Bob goes to his registrar and sends a request to transfer the domain to him. Bob gives their registrar the EPP code and probably pays for a year of registration.

He gets an email to approve the incoming transfer. There’s a link in that email that says, essentially, “Click this if it’s ok.” If that link DOESN’T get clicked,  the transfer doesn’t go thru.

Then it’s up to the outgoing/losing registrar to release of the domain for transfer.

Depending on the registrar, this can take a couple hours or a couple days. But in any case, no human is involved in that part.

I recommend that both PEOPLE stay in contact while this is going on. So we know where we are in the process and to ensure that the domain is properly released.

If this process also includes changing hosts, then there is a DNS change and mail set up issue which can be easy or complicated.

That’s a post for a different day.

What goes in the footer of my WordPress sites

Regularly when setting up a new site, I change the footer information.  I have to look up in my files every time exactly what I like it to say and how it works.

I’m posting it here for myself and for any of you who also wonder about this.

I generally forget to go change the copyright dates on all my client sites, so including this little bit of php in the footer will keep all those dates accurate.

<p style="text-align:left">Copyright 2008 - <?php echo date('Y'); ?>, by whoever-this-should-be. All Rights Reserved.  <br />
Site designed and managed by <a href="http://www.yourwebsitehere.com">your-name-here</a></p>

I use my own name as the designer/manager because I find that people might not like the bottom of the page implying that they have or had a broken website.

Sometimes I also add a link to the site admin because it helps clients who can’t remember how to get into the admin panel.

I’ve found that adding the following right before the </p> tag, I get a nifty link to the site admin page.

<a href="<?php $url = admin_url();
echo admin_url(); ?>">Site Admin</a>

Taking feedback well

Sometimes things don’t go the way you think they should.

Bad customer service, a broken website, you gangry womanet the idea.

People complain. I’d personally like to think that everyone is kind in their complaints, but it’s almost never the case.

I love the answer that Sheryl Sandberg gave to a question about scaleablity of a company/person.

“… people who can take feedback well are people who can learn and grow quickly.”

I wrote about this before here.

If one person took the time to write or complain, you can bet they aren’t the only one who feels that way. I know it can be hard to get past someone flinging crap, but if you can, you can often learn something useful.

Don’t miss the message for the attitude.

Photography from Prawny via Morguefile.com

Search Engine Optimization Before Yoast

When you use SEO plugins you have to go back and correct stuff. Get the tips for where to use your keywords in place first.

SEO plugins are a great help when you’re trying to compose new content for your website.

They let you know, among a lot of thing:

  • if there’s not enough content, or
  • if you didn’t use keywords in the right places, or
  • if your title is too long or too short, or
  • if the language is too complicated for most readers.

The problem is using them means you have to go back and correct stuff that might have been easier to have put in in the first place.

This presentation from WordCamp Rhode Island 2016 gives you tips for places to use your keywords before you check your work.

Here’s the link to WordPress.tv recording of my talk.