Thursday, December 06, 2012

Barclays fraud dept not answering phone!

Yesterday I tried to make a payment online using my Visa debit card (sometimes you have no choice!). The problem started when I accidentally entered the wrong 3 digit CSV code. A Verified by Visa page then appeared, with some additional security questions to verify my identity. At this point I realised I had entered the wrong card's CSV so I cancelled out of the transaction.

I tried to make the payment again, with the correct CSV, but to no avail. I was now presented with a Barclays "transaction failed" page quoting error code EC15 (or ECI5?) and a 0870 156 6485 national rate number to call their fraud department.

I tried calling this number twice last night (Dec 5th, 6-7pm) and despite holding 10-15 minutes each time, no-one ever answered the phone - and this department is meant to be available 24/7. I gave up and decided to try again this morning (Dec 6th, 11-11.30am). After 13 minutes of listening to the on hold music, it started to ring - only for me to then be connected to silence - #fail, as it's called these days!

I will have to ring back and try yet again. If anyone from Barclays stumbles across this post, then I hope you will investigate what's going on with this awful call centre/dept. I've included the dates and times above so you can query them (if they answer your call) on why they were not answering customer calls for the last day.

In the meantime, I found a freephone number that takes you to the same queue, it doesn't solve the problem of them not answering, but at least you don't have to pay national rate for the privilege of having your call ignored! The number is 0800 015 1358

Friday, October 19, 2012

A4UExpo 2012 London review & round-up


At this year's A4UExpo I met an affiliate who was returning to the industry after a few years off. After giving him the “we’re now calling it performance marketing” memo, I then asked for his first impression of the show, the answer: “there’s a lot more suits these days”.

This, in a nutshell, describes the change that many of us have witnessed over the last few years. Google’s highly effective assault on affiliate marketing has virtually obliterated the ability to make money from simply running a network of exact match domain (EMD) sites. The increasing complexity of Google's ranking algorithm is putting a huge time strain on the average affiliate. Combined with the growing importance of regularly interacting on social media and it’s a wonder that we find the time to sleep!

These pressures have caused some affiliates to quit the industry altogether (or go the agency/merchant route) and those of us remaining are quickly realising, if they hadn't already, that it's all about developing a sustainable, long term, project. While you might still make a ‘quick buck’ with an EMD site promoting this year’s must have product, you also know it's unlikely to keep you going for long.

I know that some affiliates now find events like A4UExpo either too expensive and/or too full of agency types, but I feel the increasing complexity of the industry makes such events a 'must attend'. Also, these aforementioned agencies spend considerable amounts of money and time on analysing ranking factors and developing useful new tools. Without an event such as A4UExpo it's unlikely that us, mere, humble affiliates would ever have access to their findings.

In terms of reviewing the specifics of this year’s A4UExpo, it seems logical to start with the pre-event networking party. Compared to previous years, this seemed to be a relatively quiet affair - perhaps, in part, to being held down in Southwark on a rainy evening. Given that people are encouraged to stay at the Hilton, it would be seem more polite (and practical) to hold it somewhere closer to that. Hopefully next year they'll consider this, I remember some of the best pre-event parties from yesteryear were those held in the Novotel (the official hotel) bar.

While on the theme of boozing, I’d like to give kudos to Matt and team for this year's main networking event at Jewel in Piccadilly Circus. They wisely decided to get people to eat beforehand, rather than repeat the ‘food riots’ (slight exaggeration!) of previous years. I’m guessing this also meant they had more budget for the free bar which was very generous and still going when I left at midnight. It was a great evening and I think perhaps a template for future years – ultimately people just want a bit of drink, a bit of dancing and a quiet place for chatting – all of which were done well this year.

Those following the #a4uexpo hash tag on Twitter will have seen me doing a lot of tweeting on my only-used-at-expos @geoffblog account. Hopefully some of the tips, tricks and links I tweeted were helpful and obviously full credit goes to the presenters. I found the sessions this year to be good, although again it did seem a bit quieter – either that or the rooms were just bigger! I don’t find the panel discussions, other than the ‘fun’ ones, to be overly useful. That's probably because I’m looking for tips and tricks I can take away and implement. If you worked in a larger organisation, or perhaps in a strategy role, then obviously these more ‘zoomed out’ discussions would no doubt be useful to you.

It seemed that Twitter didn’t feature much this year, at least not in comparison to the growing importance placed on Facebook’s EdgeRank. There didn’t seem to be a lot of hard evidence on how this works, more a theory about the value of the different interactions people can have with your FB content. For example it was suggested that receiving a comment could be worth four times more ‘value’ than receiving a 'like'.

In terms of sessions that stood out for me, I found the very first session of the Expo, “60 tips in 60 minutes: Social, search and conversion” by Sam Crocker, Kelvin Newman and Stephen Pavlovich, to be a great session to kick things off with. It was packed full of content and was well organised with the three speakers covering each topic equally and with a consistent style.

As predicted, I also enjoyed “Consumers are socially mobile: Get your mobile search in order!” by Sri Sharma and Bas van den Beld. The session featured some ‘real life’ examples of how Google are handling mobile search, including one particular query (I think for car insurance?) that return of a result featuring lots of ads and just a single 'organic' result!

Dave Naylor and Martin MacDonald did a good job with their session on the various ranking factors for search and social. In an effort to brighten up a rather grey and rainy afternoon, Dave was even sporting a handsome pair of red trousers. Again it’s best to check out the archive of tweets on @geoffblog if you're looking for any specific tips I picked up from this session.

On day two I enjoyed “Turbo-charging your SEO and link-building strategy” by A4U regular Patrick Altoft and Jon Quinton of SEOgadget. Jon did a great job of showing some very specific techniques for identifying possible link partners as well as a nifty way to find your own pages that are ranking well but have a low CTR. Meanwhile, Patrick was able to cover the timely announcement of the Google disavow tool, as well as provide his usual good advice on building a decent SEO strategy.

This review could go on and on, so in the interests of time, I’ll round things up by name checking a few other sessions I enjoyed. These included: “Engaging Facebook through EDGErank, content optimisation and killer apps” by Martin Belam, Kelvin Newman and Jeremy Waite. “Getting personal to drive conversion: customer behaviour meets big data” which was the keynote from Dr Mike Baxter and also “Excel Skills for SEOs” which was an enjoyable and unashamed Excel ‘geek fest’  from Richard Baxter of SEOgadget.

All in all, it was another good year for the A4UExpo in London. Yes it’s become more ‘corporate’ and yes some of the familiar faces might not have been there, but neither of these things should detract from the fact A4UExpo has matured in to a well organised, well run,  content packed event for our industry.

Agree, disagree? Spotted a typo? Then leave a comment below.

PS. To show I’ve got nothing against ‘the suits’, I’d like to point out that I was sporting a lovely (other opinions are available!) M&S suit jacket for the duration of the show ;-)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Shared Google Calendar suddenly missing from iPhone

Overnight I noticed that a shared Google calendar that I could normally view on the iPhone Calendar app had suddenly disappeared. This was after months of it working perfectly normally. I double checked all my settings (which turned out to be fine), before heading to Google to try and find a solution.

To cut a long story short, the solution was posted on the Apple discussions site here:
Try to sign-in to your Google account at: https://www.google.com/calendar/iphoneselect and check all shared calendars [you'd] like to see on your iPhone, then tap Save button.
It was as simple as that. After re-ticking the shared calendars on the link above, they immediately started to show up again on my iPhone. I hope that by re-posting this solution here will help others in a similar situation.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Preview: A4U Expo London 2012 agenda

Given that we seemed to have missed out on summer this year, my mind is slightly baffled that we're now just over a month away from this year's A4U Expo. Once again it's being held at the swanky Hilton London Metropole, a far more convenient, if somewhat more expensive, location than that of Excel from a couple of years ago.

The events team at A4U/Existem have been busy sorting out the conference agenda which they released earlier today. If you haven't attended the expo before, then it's certainly worth coming up with a rough plan of what sessions you're going to attend in advance. Unfortunately, as ever, some sessions are likely to be at hangover-o'clock (9am), but at least you can plan which nights to take it easy on (beer wise!).

Obviously everyone has different interests when it comes to attending sessions, but as a display ad publisher who dabbles in affiliate performance marketing, the sessions that I've put a virtual circle around so far are:

Day 1, October 16th (full agenda here)

09:00-10:00 - 60 tips in 60 minutes: Social, Search & Conversion - these types of sessions normally give you at least a few tips/tricks that you've not considered before, regardless of how many years you've been in the 'game' for.

10:30-11:30 - You are the Weakest Link - Goodbye! - who could resist a session that states it will reveal "areas of link building that Google is trying to debunk and those that are still slipping 'under the radar'".

12:00-13:00 - Consumers are Socially Mobile: Get Your Mobile Search in Order! - I'm not overly interested in this sector (at least for the moment) but I've seen the two speakers Sri Sharma and Bas van den Beld a number of times and I know it'll be a good session based on that alone.

14:30-15:30 - Performance Marketing Ranking Factors: Search, Social, Video, Mobile - This session sees the return of Dave Naylor to A4U Expo and he's always good fun/value. The session covers new ranking factors and therefore is highly relevant for me.

16:00-17:00 - Google Analytics for Publishers - I'm already a big fan of Google Analytics and probably know it to an intermediate level now, but there may be some additional pointers/tips from this session.

17:15-18:15 - UX for Conversion & Engagement - A session on user experience which will also hopefully provide some pointers on ways I can improve my own sites. Hopefully it will contain some real life examples of good and bad designs.

Day 2, October 17th (full agenda here)

09:30-10:30 - I'm currently undecided on which session to attend!

11:00-11:45 - Turbo-Charging your SEO & Link-Building Strategy - If you've seen him before, then you'll know it's difficult to resist a session held by Patrick Altoft. Combined with the promise of demonstrating a SEO audit of a live affiliate site, this session sounds like a winner.

12:00-13:00 - Engaging Facebook through EDGErank, Content Optimisation and Killer Apps - I need to know more about Facebook's ranking algorithm (EDGErank) and therefore this is an ideal session.

13:30-14:30 - Digital Clinics - this are still TBC but normally I find at least one person I want to get some one-to-one advice from.

16:00-17:00 - Excel Skills for SEO's - I've been to similar sessions at past conferences and I have to confess I'm still trying to get my head around this topic. A refresher is therefore welcomed!

So there you have it, that's my current thinking in terms of what sessions I'll attend. I also want to save some time for walking around the exhibitors and generally chatting to people. I'll be live-tweeting (naff term, but can't think what else to call it) from the show, so please follow @geoffblog or watch out for the hashtags like #a4uexpo.



Friday, September 07, 2012

Removing old addresses from PayPal

While making a payment on PayPal this morning, I noticed a drop-down menu containing a large number of my old addresses (going back nearly 10 years!) as well as addresses for various family members who I'd previously sent presents to. After completing the payment I duly logged in to PayPal to tidy up my account and remove all these old addresses - I didn't feel comfortable, from a privacy point of view, having my life history of addresses stored at PayPal.

After about ten minutes of fruitlessly searching the "My Profile" section for the list of addresses, I decided to turn to Google and, more specifically, the PayPal-Community.com web site. Following the advice of 'CrazyLittle' (in this post) I called PayPal customer services. After a bit of a confusion, they eventually realised what I was trying to achieve. My 'top tip' for you is to say the words "3rd party addresses" and/or "gift addresses" when explaining the list of addresses you'd like to have removed. If your call handler is like mine, then they will keep trying to reassure you that the address currently listed in your PayPal profile is the one they use - but persevere and they should eventually find and remove these "3rd party addresses" from your account.

Given legislation such as the Data Protection Act, I'm surprised that PayPal are allowed (if that's the right word?) to make it this hard to remove old and unwanted addresses from your account.  It seems that gift addresses and 3rd party added addresses are automatically added to your profile, but then are not easily removable. I don't see why PayPal won't let you manage this list of addresses via their web site...?

PS. The phone number I used for PayPal was 08707 307 191 - I found this by logging in and then clicking Contact Us in the footer of the page. It gives you a one-off passcode too, which might help speed up the call handling, so I'd advise that route rather than just calling without one.