The Voice of the PEI Tourism Industry

Advertising Solicitations - Spam Scam

The tourism industry on PEI has largely grasped the importance of Internet marketing and search engine placement. Results from the recent Atlantic Canada Technology Initiative survey indicate that 77% of responding tourism operators have a website for their business. This number has soared from only 28% of tourism operators with websites as reported in the 1999 Baseline Market Research Inc. study.

Unfortunately, success comes with someone trying to make a buck. These days broadcast e-mail solicitations are so prevalent because the cost is minimal compared to the opportunity for return. There are no defined laws for doing business with unsolicited e-mail advertisers but there are some "best practices" to look for when considering accepting a proposal.

  1. Can YOU find THEM in the search engines?
  2. Does the site look professional?
  3. How much money do they want for what service?
  4. Cash - Cheque - Credit Card?
  5. What is their e-mail address?
  6. What is YOUR target market?
  7. What is the company's return policy?
  8. Is this a time-limited offer?
  9. How long has the company been in business?
  10. Listen to you intuition.
  11. Additional resources
1. Can YOU find THEM in the search engines?

Pick two or three of the most popular search engines and see if you can find the company. If you can't find them how will a potential visitor find your advertisement? If you are not familiar with many search engines try searching at some of the following addresses:

 
back to spam
2. Does the site look professional?

Go to the website and ask yourself if you would even want to be associated with the site. It is true that the more links you have to your site the better the chances of someone finding you but you must be selective about where these links are located. You would not want your site being linked from a poorly designed site or one with poor business practices, as this will reflect on your business.

Do they have contact information on this site that tells you exactly who they are, where they are from, and how to get in contact with them? If not, it's most likely because they do not want anyone to contact them. Anyone who is legitimately in the online advertising business knows that their potential clients need to have a high level of confidence in the business before they will invest.

back to spam

3. How much money do they want for what service?

This one could be detailed much further but I will use the "Professional Search Engine Placement" solicitation for example. An e-mail that was forwarded to me originally sent from regall@freeuk.com promises a "Money Back Guarantee". If you look further into the e-mail you will see that they do not guarantee what your placement on these search engines will be only that they will submit the site. Why pay £79.97 for something you can either do yourself for FREE or pay your web developer or another company less in Canadian dollars for the same service?

back to spam

4. Cash - Cheque - Credit Card?

NEVER send cash or cheque to an unsolicited advertising company. The only protection you'll have is from your credit card company. Most credit card companies will not hold you responsible for scams. Be wary of an unsolicited bulk e-mail requesting that you send cash, cheque, or as in the Nigerian letter scam, requesting your bank account information.

back to spam

5. What is their e-mail address?

Many of the "sketchy" Internet advertisers do not have "business" e-mail addresses. This cannot be taken as an indicator of a legitimacy as it is very simple to register a domain name and set up e-mail addresses for it but if the company is not going to bother to do so why should you bother to give them any of your money? This is the first thing that I notice when operators forward e-mail solicitations. Many of the e-mails originate from free service e-mail providers such at Hotmail, Yahoo, or AOL, which makes it more difficult to track who actually sent the mail.

back to spam

6. What is YOUR target market?

In reality, you can't be everywhere so you must know who and where is your target market. As a business you do not want to miss an opportunity to tap into a new or minimal market but you should focus on targeting your major markets. Instead of spending $50 on an Australian listing that may or may not be seen and most likely will not drive traffic to your site, take that $50 and purchase a keyword or sponsored advertisement on the search engine from which you derive the most traffic. This is a quick, inexpensive way of highlighting your business over the rest in the search engines. You will definitely get more of a return on investment from a sponsored ad than a listing in a directory.

back to spam

7. What is the company's return policy?

Does the company clearly state their policy and procedures if you are unsatisfied with their service? If so, would you be satisfied with this "return policy"? Ask for references from people who have received refunds before. The ball is in your court - not theirs.

back to spam

8. Is this a time-limited offer?

A reputable company will not rush you into your decision. If the solicitor is demanding that you decide within a short time decide NO.

back to spam

9. How long has the company been in business?

Ask the company how long they have been in business and to provide a business history. Check up on it afterward. You can check the details of the website's domain name at www.internic.ca

back to spam

10. Listen to you intuition

Use common sense and trust your intuition. If you have a funny feeling about the company - chances are you are right.

back to spam

11. Additional Resources
  1. Industry Canada
  2. RCMP Fraud Scams Alert
  3. Internet Fraud Complaint Center
  4. Scambusters
  5. Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email

Please be advised that the above guidelines should be considered in conjunction with each other and not as separate indicators. The guidelines do NOT come with a guarantee - Buyer Beware

back to spam