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How do ya Play This Game, Mister?

Aug 17, 2007
Several years of intense Web experience has taught us that the Internet is a lot like the wild west. The sheriffs are few and far between. It's easy to get hoodwinked or shot in the back - figuratively, of course. You can lose your, um, shirt. Jumping into the Internet today is a lot like a tin-horn walking into a western bar and asking a poker dealer, "How do ya play this game, mister?"

Not only are there phishing scams, Nigerian princes (and their many variants), spam, adware, and viruses, but there are other insidious pitfalls as well. Here are a couple of examples from personal experience that may save you some headaches and money.

The "free trial"
A while back, against my better judgment, I signed up for a $1 trial for seven days to check out a company's Web statistics software. Before the seven days was up, I needed to contact the company's technical support. An email entered through a form on the site was not answered. Ooops!

Phone calls rolled over to a voice mail asking for a phone number for a call back. Not a good sign! Emails and phone calls demanding cancellation of my trial subscription were ignored as well. The result? I started getting $29.95 charged on my credit card which took two months to resolve.

The moral of this tale is to never, ever, give a credit card number for a "free" or nearly free trial. After all, if it really is a free trial, they don't need your credit card.

"Too Good to be True" Offers
As web designers and practitioners of the black art of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) our inboxes are flooded with "advice" on how to get higher ranking on the search engines. This "advice" generally leads to a sales pitch. No matter what business you're in, you get these too, and you know what I'm talking about.

Here's a real-life example I got earlier this week. I received an offer from an SEO firm that stated they could get our sites on page one of Google, MSN, and Yahoo! They showed how they had done just that with their site. I checked one of their key phrases and they were right - they were on page one Google. The only problem was, literally nobody ever searched using that key phrase! What good is a page one ranking for an obscure key word that no one ever searches on?

"It works, But..."
Some time ago, I received a promotion for software that would automate the tedious and time-consuming process of submitting articles to article directories. (If you're up to speed on SEO these days, you know that article submission is a good way to generate valuable back links to your Web site.) Since there was no free trial (Note to self- if there's no free trial, move on!), I bought it. Did the software work as advertised? Yes. Was it more tedious and time-consuming to use than our manual process? You bet your sweet mouse it was!

I got the money back on that one. I kept searching and found an article submission service that is very user friendly and has worked well for us.

So when you "walk into the bar" of the Internet, have your pistols loaded, and keep your credit card in your pocket because the "dealer" has a pair of aces in his sock.
About the Author
Janet Winter and her husband, Phil, are owners of Web Design Partners, a full-service Web design firm. They also operate three e-commerce sites, "http://www.wildbirdgoodies.com">WildBirdGoodies.com , WelcomeBabyGifts.com and APamperedDog.com. If you have questions about Web topics, you can contact them at WebDesignPartners.com.
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