Pelland Blog

Shining the Light on New Facebook Premier Ads

November 6th, 2015

When I first started using Facebook, I hated it and “hate” is a strong word that I don’t throw around very lightly. One of the biggest problems I had with the social media giant was the whole privacy thing. Remember, posting is forever and what you put online will be there for the world to see for an eternity.

Don’t worry, Facebook and I kissed and made up. It’s just the way that I was raised I suppose. My ultra-conservative Dad was one of those “big brother is watching you” type of people and the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.



The problem wasn’t with Facebook, it was with me, since I was essentially using it the wrong way. We all know that you can adjust the privacy settings so that only your “friends” can see you, but the concept that they owned everything that I posted rubbed me the wrong way. Now that I am looking at it from a marketing perspective, my view has completely changed.

 With over a billion users, you can’t deny the tremendous exposure that a post or advertisement can reach and that Facebook is “open” twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. What other marketing strategy can boast all of those features?

 The benefits don’t end there since premier ads offer other amenities and choices, such as:


  • Page Like Ads – that allow users to give you the old “thumbs up” directly from the ad
  • Page Post Ads – increasing traffic directly to your site
  • App Ads – driving app installs, engagement and conversion
  • Domain Ads – taking users to the page of your choice at your website
  • Event Ads – inviting them to join your event
  • Offer Ads – enticing users to purchase your product at a great price


Facebook has been recently shifting its advertising and marketing attention to a paid-only format, so why should be “pay to play” on their site? Mostly it is because they have very effective audience targeting features that give your advertising more bang for the buck. Before you say it, Google, Twitter and a thousand other sites will target your prospective customers, but Facebook’s targeting strategies are a little more unique.

Since most users craft a fairly comprehensive profile about themselves, Facebook can hone in on many different areas rather than concentrating on just one bullseye, like women or men, they can aim more precisely according to:


  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interest
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Life events
  • Apps
  • Groups
  • Device usage
  • Travels
  • Purchasing behavior


And those are just a few examples. Arguably, no other social media site uses this combination of  comprehensive data to reach their specific audience. This is what makes Facebook such an effective way for businesses and specific industries to find the consumer best suited according to their wants and needs. This type of marketing strategy also takes little time and effort from the advertiser.


This post was written by Nick Rojas

Facebook: Three Important Insider Secrets

October 14th, 2015

You probably know that, taken collectively, the social media can represent a double-edged sword. If not handled carefully, it is very easy to inflict self-injury. Facebook, by far the biggest force within the social media, presents several opportunities where customers may either positively interact with a business or where a business might allow itself to be publicly humiliated by disgruntled customers. Be aware of how to tip the scales your favor by adjusting three settings for your Facebook Page.

Facebook Messaging

Allow visitors to your page to send you private messages, and then respond to those messages in a timely and professional manner. Of course, if you run a campground, you might prefer that people initiate their reservations by using the online reservation page on your website; however, you do not want to turn away business because potential customers might prefer to contact you in another manner that they may consider to be more intuitive in their instance. If you are heading into a slow weekend and somebody messages you on Facebook, asking if you have two adjoining sites available for the upcoming weekend, you can immediately reply (answering in the affirmative and providing them with both your telephone number and a direct link to your online reservations) or you can kiss that business goodbye (and look at those two empty campsites all weekend long). To ignore this opportunity to allow customers to engage with your business is like telling people that you will only allow them to pay with a credit card, and that you do not accept cash. That would be pretty foolhardy, wouldn’t it?

Here is how to do it: Logged into Facebook as admin for your Page, go to Settings > General > Messages. Enable private messages by checking the box that says, “Allow people to contact my Page privately by showing the Message button.” That is the first step. For the next step, go to Settings > Notifications > Messages, and choose the option that says, “Get a notification each time your Page receives a message.”

The most important part is to respond to your private messages as quickly as possible. Your Response Time is the key measurement. Your response time is visible to the public in the “About” section of your Facebook Page. Your goal should be for that to show as “Typically replies in minutes”. By setting up notifications in the previous step, you should have no excuse for not responding in a timely manner. There are tools that will help you to respond to messages, particularly when you are away or when your office is closed. Go to Settings > Messaging and consider adding a personalized “Away Message” or an “Instant Reply”.

Visitor Posts

Part of the beauty of the social media is the ability for businesses to interact with their customers, particularly in instances where the customers are the ones to initiate that interaction. On Facebook, be sure that you have enabled visitor posts.

Here is how to do it: Go to Settings > General > Visitor Posts. Choose “Allow visitors to the Page to publish posts”, but check the box that says “Review posts by other people before they are published to the Page.” That last step is critically important. If you have somebody who was unhappy with their experience with your business, has an axe to grind or simply would like to humiliate your business in public, this is one of the first places they will turn. In fact, some people specifically “like” a Page so that they can post negative comments. By moderating those posts, and determining which ones you allow to be publicly visible, you are protecting your business for being harmed in this manner. Even if a negative post is only online for a few minutes (until you have been notified that it exists), hundreds of people may be exposed to that post and its potentially harmful content.


Reviews on Facebook are consistently the source for the greatest potential harm to a business. If your reviews are all positive, congratulations! You need to read no further. However, if your business has ever been the target of even a single negative review, you have probably been frustrated with the inability to delete any such reviews that appear on your Page. By default, all you can do is “like” or comment on a review; however, comments with a negative reviewer tend to lead to nothing but a shouting match on your own turf. People who see the negative review generally do not know the author, but your responses can make you look defensive, argumentative, or dismissive … none of which are good business characteristics.

I have worked with several clients whose businesses have been the targets of negative reviews. In the instance of campgrounds, these 1 star reviews are generally written by a camper or group of campers who had been evicted or reprimanded for misbehavior during their stay. They typically recruit their friends to write their own negative reviews or to comment on their reviews in order to ensure that the snowball keeps growing. Of course, they will usually first try to post to your Page; however, if you are moderating posts by others or have banned a user from posting to your page, they will often turn to the review process.

The problem with reviews is that you cannot get individual reviews removed, unless the reviewer has resorted to the use of profanity, character assassination, or another narrowly-defined violation of Facebook review policy. Reviews will appear on your Page whether you like them or not, and they seem to linger forever. For example, Normandy Farms Campground is one of the leading campgrounds in the United States by anybody’s definition. Their Facebook Page shows 778 reviews, with an average rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars. Of these, 92.5% of their reviews include either 5 or 4 star ratings, with fewer than 2% being 1 star reviews. The problem is that the review summary that is visible to anyone who visits the Page shows two reviews: an example of a 5 star review and an example of a 1 star review. Clearly, this summary is not an accurate representation of the reviews for the park by any stretch of the imagination. Hopefully, anybody visiting the Page will quickly recognize that negative reviews are the exception to the rule and are written by people who lack the credibility of the majority of the reviews.

Nonetheless, that review summary is a problem for many businesses on Facebook, particularly if the negative review is compounded by comments and copycat reviews by the reviewer’s friends. What can you do in this instance? Follow these instructions to prevent reviews from appearing on your Page. Just remember that this is an “all or nothing” solution; however, if you have a bad review that is giving you migraines, you are better off having no reviews appear on your Page.


Here is how to do it: This tip is slightly trickier to implement because it will not be found in the Facebook settings. Go to your Page’s “About” tab, and then choose the “Page Info” option on the left. Hover over your business’s address in order to make the “edit” link appear. Click on that edit link. This will bring up information where you are able to correct your address, and it also shows a map of your location. UNCHECK the box that says “Show map, check-ins and star ratings on the Page.” Click “Save Changes” and the reviews that have been haunting you will have now disappeared from your Page!

As I have said, Facebook and the social media in general can work for or against your business. Implement these tips to give your business the upper hand on what might otherwise be an off-level playing field.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

When There Is a Copyright, Copying Is Wrong

September 30th, 2015

You may have heard the recent news report (September 22, 2015) about how a federal judge in California ruled that the song “Happy Birthday” is not subject to the copyright claim of Warner/Chappell Music. That company had purchased what it insisted were the successive rights to the song that was originally copyrighted back in 1935. This legal ruling declares that the song, which is said to have originated with two Kentucky sisters back in the late 1800s, is in the public domain and may be used freely, no longer entitling Warner/Chappell Music to collect some $2 million in annual royalties.


Campground owners are probably already familiar with the licensing rules that must be addressed when showing films or playing music within their parks. The entire concept revolves around the fact that intellectual property is, in fact, property. Perhaps not as tangible as a three-dimensional object that you have purchased, that intellectual property is the result of the work of one or more people (typically thousands of people in the instance of a feature film) who earn their livings by creating this work, just as you earn your living by running your campground. Without compensation, we have no more right to use their work than we have the right to take a ride in a car that we admire that we see parked along the side of the road. (Personally, I would like to take a spin in a nice Tesla Model S!)

When it comes to films and music, associations such as National ARVC have negotiated group discounts with licensing organizations such as the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation (MPLC) and the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP). As a member, you should subscribe to those member programs in order to stay on the right side of copyright compliance.

Photography is another copyright zone that may directly impact your business. If you hire a photographer to take photos at your park, confirm in advance that you will own the rights to those photos without further compensation. If you are using stock photography, on the other hand, there are two basic types of usage rights: royalty-free and rights-managed. With royalty-free images, you pay a one-time fee to either a photographer or a photo agency, allowing you generally unrestricted rights to use a photo. Reproduction of images on articles for resale (such as posters, calendars, postcards, or coffee mugs) is generally not included, and the photographer retains the right to sell additional royalty-free rights to as many people as may be willing to pay the requisite fee. There is always the risk, of course, that your company and another company might purchase the same usage rights to the same photo, potentially creating an embarrassingly awkward situation.

Rights-managed photos, on the other hand, involve very specific licensing fees that are based upon how and where a photo is being used. These fees are always going to be substantially higher than the fees for the royalty-free usage rights that are more than adequate under most circumstances. Companies with deep pockets might choose to pay even higher fees for exclusive rights to an image, preventing anyone else from using the photo.

The important thing to keep in mind is that, if you are using a photo that you did not take yourself, you must be sure that you have paid any applicable licensing fees. Even a photo that you have taken yourself, if it includes another person or another person’s property, may not be yours to use in a manner that involves public distribution (either in print or online). If you need a stock photo or graphic, turn to one of many online stock photo agencies. You are likely to find the perfect image, and you may then pay a reasonable fee for royalty-free usage rights. (The stock image illustrating this story is a perfect example of a royalty-free image, rights to which I have purchased for this specific purpose.)

What you must not do is carelessly assume that you have the right to use a photo simply because it appears in a Google image search. For example, I just did a search for “John Wayne”, and I can assure you that somebody owns the rights to each of those photos. In fact, the family of the actor has even attempted to copyright the name “Duke”, taking legal action against Duke University in the family’s efforts to license the actor’s nickname for a line of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey.

I was recently contacted by one of my company’s campground clients who had received an e-mail from Getty Images (a very large rights-managed stock photo agency), demanding compensation for copyright infringement. My client questioned the validity of the e-mail, since there are so many phishing scams these days that look quite official. Unfortunately, this demand notice was very much the real thing. Apparently, one of my company’s employees had somewhat carelessly found a photo of a red-tailed hawk in flight (no doubt using a Google image search) and used it to accompany a link to information about a nearby raptor migration lookout.

It is clear that companies like Getty Images are using some very sophisticated image recognition technology to actively seek out and pursue cases of copyright infringement, regardless of intent or knowledge.

Their correspondence included the following notes:

  • Ceasing use of the imagery does not release your company of its responsibility to pay for the imagery already used. As the unauthorized use has already occurred, payment for that use is necessary.
  • You may have been unaware that this imagery was subject to license. However, copyright infringement can occur regardless of knowledge or intent. While being unaware of license requirements is unfortunate, it does not change liability.

In this case, I took responsibility for the error in judgment on the part of one of my employees. I removed the image from our client’s website, and I paid Getty Images the $520.00 that they demanded in settlement. A friend of mine who runs a travel website later told me that he had once been sent a demand in the amount of $4,200.00 for using a historic photograph of Abraham Lincoln on his site. Even the images of one of our most beloved Presidents are apparently not in the public domain.

In summary, let me offer fair warning and a word to the wise, urging my readers to be cautious to an extreme when using stock photos. In the meantime, let’s all sing a round of “Happy Birthday”, since it is somebody’s birthday today and every day.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Evaluate Your Website’s End User Experience

September 16th, 2015

I often find businesses that put far too much emphasis on driving traffic to their website and far too little emphasis on the user experience once someone reaches their site. This is backward thinking that fails to address the importance of converting online traffic into customers. Think about it. If you ran a store where your average sale was $100.00, would you rather have 100 people in your store if only 1 out of 20 made a purchase, or would you prefer to have 20 people in your store with 1 out of 3 making a purchase? In the first instance, you would look very busy but would be realizing only $500.00 in sales, whereas in the second instance, you would be generating more income while giving your customers greater attention and tremendously reducing your sales overhead.

Businesses that are engaged in online commerce have their fingers on the pulse of their customer base, easily detecting the difference between active customers and dead bodies. They know that, right until that last confirming click, a shopping cart may be abandoned and an order lost. For that reason, they know that they need to do everything possible to ensure that the end user experience is as smooth and flawless as possible. Any and every little hindrance along the way takes the customer one step closer to bailing out and shopping elsewhere.


There is a rule of thumb in the website design business that says “three clicks and they’re out”. This means that, if somebody enters a website and cannot find what they want (whether it is merchandise or simply an answer to a question) in 3 clicks or less, they are increasingly likely to leave the site … often never to return. On the same token, if a user is attempting to make a purchase – or make a reservation – but encounters roadblocks along the way, I believe that the same “three clicks and they’re out” rule of thumb applies. It is simply not as easy to monitor as an abandoned shopping cart.

Other than shopping carts themselves, probably the most frustrating online content involves pages that contain forms. Let’s face it: we all dislike filling out forms. Do you like going to your doctor’s office and being asked to complete the same 4 or 5 forms every time you have an appointment? Well, it is time to stop running your website like a doctor’s office! All campground websites either have or should have some type of reservation request form, but try to be sure that your forms are intuitive and follow some basic common sense rules.

  • Do not ask for non-essential (or even intrusive) information. For example, I often see people asking for a “home phone number” at a time when about half of the population no longer subscribes to a landline telephone service
  • If input is required for certain fields, let people know in advance (typically with an asterisk), not with an error message after users click “submit”.
  • Design your forms to adapt to user preferences instead of demanding that users adapt to the forms. For example, if somebody enters their phone number as (123) 456-7890, they do not want to be told that they were wrong and must re-enter it as 123-456-7890 or 1234567890.
  • Every form submission should be followed by some sort of receipt or confirmation. If you respond to a form via e-mail, use an address to which the customer can reply with any subsequent questions, never using a “do not reply” address.
  • Personalize your responses. I recently placed an order with an online merchant who sent me a series of e-mails, all with the “Dear Valued Customer” salutation. Fail!
  • Follow up on promises. If you tell people that you will respond to their inquiries within 24 hours, follow up on that commitment. The same merchant who addressed me as “Dear Valued Customer” had prominent notices throughout its website that promoted “Free Next Day Delivery via FedEx”; however, after placing my order, I received an order confirmation telling me that I could expect delivery in 7-10 days. Do you think that I will ever purchase from that company again? Not a double fail, a triple fail!

Keeping in mind the “three clicks and they’re out” rule of thumb, try not to violate these common sense usability rules. It is time for you to evaluate your website not as the business owner but as a potential customer. How many customers has your website driven away today? If your webmaster is not on board, fails to understand, or is anything less than fully committed to the end user experience, it may be time to shop around.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

If a Contest on Facebook Sounds Too Good to be True …

September 2nd, 2015

You probably know how that sentence ends. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. In this case, there have been a number of hoaxes that have circulated on Facebook, and it is amazing how many thousands of people unwittingly think these “contests” are authentic before the pages get reported and eventually get taken down.

Over the weekend, one of my friends on Facebook shared a link and commented how she hoped she would be one of the lucky monthly winners of $5,000.00 in travel money being given away by Qantas Airlines. The page looked very authentic but I immediately detected a scam. The page had relatively few posts for a big corporation, all of which dealt with the contest, and I noticed that it had a total of only 14,190 “likes”. That low number of likes is a dead giveaway that you are not at a legitimate page. A quick search brought me to the real Qantas page, with 715,496 likes and, of course, no such contest.

It turns out that this is not the first time that Qantas has had to deal with the public relations nightmare that can result when people think that a business is somehow responsible for a scam in disguise. In an earlier instance this year, a fake page announced that the airline would be offering free upgrades to first class for all passengers through the end of 2015. That bogus page accumulated some 130,000 likes and over 150,000 shares in the first 24 hours of its existence. Yes, people can be very naïve.

Another friend not long ago shared a link to another Facebook page that captured his excitement. It alleged to be Chevrolet and was encouraging people to enter a contest to win a free Chevy Camaro. I noticed that all of its posts involved the fake contest, most extending the entry deadline in order to get more people to “enter”. Once again, I noticed that the page had relatively few “likes”, and I provided my friend with a link to the real Chevrolet Camaro page on Facebook, not surprisingly with 4,407,269 likes as of this writing. Until somebody reports a page that mimics the identity of a legitimate page and violates its legal trademark, scams like this will perpetuate indefinitely.

One way to quickly confirm the authenticity of a Facebook page is to look for the blue checkmark icon next to the page’s name, confirming that the page of a global brand or business, celebrity or public figure, or media outlet has been verified to be legitimate. Unfortunately, Facebook does not offer this authentication option to small businesses like yours and mine.

If you encounter one of these fake pages, you may be wondering why somebody has taken the time to create it. Typically, the pages are built by individuals who are engaged in the practice of “like farming”, hoping that their page will not be reported and taken down before they will be able to increase its value and profit from it in a black market engaged in the buying and selling of this type of content. Visitors to these pages are usually encouraged to “like” and “share” the pages, whether the incentive is a bogus contest, a chain letter, or simply a photo of a cute puppy or kitten. If a page has more “likes”, it will sell for more money to subsequent scammers who can then engage in more nefarious cons. Many of those are engaged in the collection of personal information that only begins with e-mail addresses and Facebook profiles but could very well end in full scale identity theft.

We all know people who have gotten their personal profiles compromised on Facebook. It can be a nightmare, but for a business, this type of violation can be far more damaging. As a business owner yourself, probably with a Facebook page of its own, you need to be vigilant about protecting your company’s online identity. There can be very real costs in crisis communications and the loss of consumer confidence in your brand. Back in 2012, another airline – Jetstar – suffered tremendous corporate damage when a scammer set up a bogus Facebook page and began posting highly offensive responses to customers posting questions to what they thought was its official page. Instances like this are nothing less than corporate sabotage.

Thinking hypothetically, what would be the direct – and indirect – impact of hundreds or thousands of people being led to believe that you were giving away free merchandise to anybody who showed up at your business next Saturday? It has been sometimes said that all publicity is good publicity, but it does not take much imagination to realize that this adage can be far from true.

Sadly, it is extremely easy to build an official-looking page with very little skill or talent. A con artist copies and pastes a few graphics and trademarks, registers a deceptively similar page name, then posts something that sounds so good to the unwitting that it goes viral faster than it can be taken down. If your business ever finds itself in this unenviable situation, it is imperative that you immediately report the bogus site and that no time is wasted before engaging in damage control and exposing the hoax as broadly as possible.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

7 or 8.1 to 10: Walk, Don’t Run

August 19th, 2015

If you own computers that are running Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1, you are probably aware of the free upgrade to Windows 10 that Microsoft has been rolling out in recent weeks. It all started with a Windows Update that Microsoft released back in April, an “Optional Update” for Windows 7 and a “Recommended Update” for Windows 8.1. That update, as outlined in Knowledge Base Article # 3035583, was solely designed to install the “Get Windows 10” app on your computer, encouraging you to “reserve” your free copy of Windows 10 which would become available after July 29th. That sounded harmless enough, and almost like a “no brainer”, didn’t it?

If you are one of those people who never installs updates, you are certainly putting your computer and your personal data at tremendous risk by not doing so; however, in this instance, none of this will be of concern to you. If you have not seen the “Get Windows 10” icon in the task bar on your computer, simply do NOT install the update that references KB # 3035583.

There are a variety of reasons that some people may not want to immediately upgrade to the new operating system, preferring to upgrade on their own terms and timetable. What most people did not realize when they opted to reserve their copy of Windows 10 was that they would be triggering a 2.7 to 3GB download to take place in the background – potentially hogging bandwidth and slowing down your network performance – for each computer. If you have a cable modem, this should not be a problem, but for anybody with a limited bandwidth allotment or a slow Internet connection, a 2.7GB download could be problematic (and, potentially, a significant expense.) Both the download and the installation are very difficult to stop, but I will provide you with step-by-step instructions below  .

With respect to the operating system itself, almost everybody knows that you never want to be among the first people to install new software any more than you want to be one of the first people to buy a new car model that has just rolled off of the assembly line for the first time. It is better to let other people play the role of guinea pigs and test dummies. In the case of Windows 10, released on schedule on July 29th after nearly a year of beta testing, there have already been 3 cumulative updates as of August 14th, all intended to resolve early problems. The cumulative updates combined OS updates and security patches, a recipe that can often lead to unexpected results. Some of the widely identified issues involve video streaming problems when using services like Netflix and YouTube, while other users have reportedly been trapped in reboot loops when installing the updates. A Google search for “problems with Windows 10 upgrade” at the time of this post produces 7,980,000 results.

Perhaps the biggest complaint about Windows 10 is its invasiveness. With the exception of enterprise editions of the software, updates under Windows 10 have all become mandatory, automatically installing whatever software Microsoft wants on your computer, whenever it wants. Independent software developers – much to Microsoft’s displeasure – are already issuing third-party patches that will prevent the automatic updates. More tech-savvy users can already find instructions online that will walk them through the process of disabling some of the more intrusive privacy concerns that are built into the default settings of Windows 10, including settings found in a total of 13 screens under the “Privacy” tab alone.

Microsoft is betting that the vast majority of users will never adjust those settings. To the contrary, my recommendation is that people wait until a wider range of third-party software becomes available that will automate and simplify the process of disabling the many very legitimate privacy concerns involving Windows 10. We all know that the vast majority of people will not take the time to go into settings to make changes – or are simply not comfortable or knowledgeable enough to do so themselves.

There is reason for concern that some of the “features” of Windows 10 are suspected to include a wide range of spyware. Perhaps the most innovative feature of Windows 10 is Cortana, the new conversational virtual assistant that is akin to Apple’s Siri. Cortana’s usefulness is built upon its access to such personal information as your location, calendar, contacts and such. Because Cortana is a conversational tool that has merely been made personalized, it is also constantly listening for your instructions. You may want to weigh the costs versus the usefulness.

People who have read the fine print in the EULA (end user licensing agreement) for Windows 10 find even more reason for concern, reporting that it allows Microsoft to scan your computer to disable any software that it feels is not properly licensed, including software used in various online and cross-device services such as Xbox Live. It also says that Microsoft “will access, disclose and preserve personal data”, including “the content of your emails, other private communications or files in private folders” and “may refer the matter to law enforcement.” The key operative word is not “may”, but “will”.

Just in case you now have second thoughts about installing Windows 10, and you have already “reserved” your copy thanks to unwittingly installing that update, here is how to stop the upgrade from downloading and installing … until you are absolutely sure that you are ready to do so.


First of all, start Windows Update. You may see that Windows 10 is already downloading. If you see a screen that says “Windows 10 is downloading!” and “Download – In progress”, click on the “View download progress” button. On the next screen, click on the “Stop download” button.


You may also see that Windows 10 has already fully downloaded and is ready to install. If so, do NOT click on the “Get started” button (unless you have decided that everything that I have written is nonsense.)


In either instance, click on the “View update history” link on the left of the Windows Update screen, then click on “Installed Updates”. You can use the search box in the upper right corner to look for kb3035583. Click on it in the search results, then choose “Yes” to remove it. You will need to restart your computer (which may take longer than usual.)

When your computer has restarted, go back into Windows Update, and you will see KB3035583 once again appearing as an optional or recommended update. To get Windows Update from nagging you endlessly to re-install the update, right click on it then select “Hide this update”. If Windows 10 has already finished downloading, right click on that as well, then select “Hide this update”. For the moment, you will have taken a few small steps toward maintaining a degree of control of your computer and your personal privacy.


Update: August 27, 2015

This morning, it appears that Microsoft will not allow a user to install important updates (in this case, an update to Windows Defender), unless you first allow it to download and install the Get Windows 10 app. The following screen shots show the endless loop that I just encountered when attempting to download and install the important update, without re-installing the update that I do not want.


Click on the “Show all available updates” link:


Check the “Important” update that you want to install, then click OK:


Back to where you started, with Microsoft attempting to force you to install the Get Windows 10 app:


I am sure that there will be more to come. In the meantime, shame on you, Microsoft!


Update: August 28, 2015

Here is how to solve the problem outlined above. Click on “Show all available updates”, click to see the Optional updates, then UNCHECK “Upgrade to Windows 10 Pro”.


This will allow you to download and install the updates that you want to install, without installing the Get Windows 10 App. You will probably have to do this every time you run Windows Update.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Beware of Some of the Latest Scams

August 17th, 2015

I always try to do my best to warn readers to avoid getting entrapped by any of the wide range of scams that are prevalent today. We read about them in the newspaper and hear about them on the TV news, but most of us think that they could “never happen to me”, that they only victimize the elderly or people of lesser intelligence. Guess what? Scam operators are good at what they do, and they are getting better all the time.

The way that scams succeed is by being as believable as possible. People fall for the house rentals on Craigslist because the houses are actually there at the addresses listed. They are simply not available for rent, and they are not owned by the crooks who want to collect the first and last months’ rent and security deposits. As people become more aware of the scams, the scammers do a bit more research and become more creative in order to increase their odds of finding their mark.

419 Scams

I recently received a half dozen e-mails from a “woman” who expressed an interest in having a website built, a project that at first glance appeared to be a perfect fit for my company. One of “Jennifer’s” first questions was whether we accepted credit cards. (Had my answer been “no”, I am sure that would have been the end of the e-mails.) The scammer claimed to be based in South Carolina, had an established business importing specialty agricultural products from South America, had a “project consultant” who would be providing us with a logo and text, had a very generous budget, and was very anxious to get the project underway. What was vague was the actual identity of the business and her credentials, other than a fictitious business name.

When my searches for both “Jennifer Mark” and “DW Fresh” came up empty on Google, Manta, LinkedIn, and other online resources, I explained that we would need to review a full credit application and be paid a substantial deposit before any work could commence. Then came the kicker: The scammer offered to roughly double the required deposit, but needed me to do her a “favour” by paying her “project consultant” a $2,800.00 cash payment so that he would release the creative materials while she was “presently in the hospital for surgery”. In other words, I was supposed to accept a $6,500.00 deposit (most assuredly on a stolen credit card), then pay the scammer nearly half of that, with the funds gone from my account before the charge was declined due to the card being identified as stolen.

This type of advance fee fraud is what is generally referred to as a “419 scam”, based upon the section of the Nigerian penal code that addresses fraud schemes. It can involve letters, faxes or e-mails, and – as I have just demonstrated – it has gotten very creative, not necessarily involving extremely large sums of money or trips to Nigeria. What they all have in common is some sort of advance fee. If you run a campground, you could be contacted by somebody who wanted to reserve a block of 100 sites during your off season. That would be welcome income, but curb your excitement unless all of your questions are answered to your satisfaction and there is no suggestion of funds flowing in the opposite direction for any reason.

Officer Ray Fleck

Another scam that has been making the rounds lately has been a robocall from “Officer Ray Fleck”, allegedly working in the audit division of the Internal Revenue Service. I have received these calls. The caller, in a very brash and threatening voice, claims that the Internal Revenue Service is filing suit against you, and that it is imperative that you return the call to make a credit card payment that will satisfy your alleged tax obligations and prevent the filing of suit in your local court. Needless to say, the IRS does not employ a force of thugs who call citizens and demand their credit card numbers, but some people are easily intimidated, making this scam highly successful for its perpetrators.

Windows Service Center

Finally, the “Windows Service Center” scams are still alive and kicking. The callers – usually with heavy accents – claim that they are calling from Microsoft. They are hoping to reach people who have little technical experience and who are coincidentally experiencing some sort of problem with their computers. I received such a call from a person who identified himself as “Jim Sparkle”, and who said that he had been “monitoring my computer” and found that it had a “major problem”. He said that he was “doing his duty” because my computer was “ready to crash down at any time”.

What these scammers want is not only your credit card number but also remote access to your computer, allowing them to install spyware and steal sensitive information. They have various “service plans” that will solve your computer problems, of course suggesting the “lifetime” service plan which was, in my case, discounted to $299.00 and would cover any computer that I ever owned over the course of my lifetime. If you receive one of these calls and have some time to spare, act dumb, and string the caller along a bit (which can admittedly be a bit of fun). You will typically learn at the end of the call that people in other countries have an extensive vocabulary of English language profanities.

The point is that you need to remain vigilant and cautious whenever you are contacted under circumstances that just don’t feel quite right. If you receive an unsolicited contact by anybody who asks you for a credit card number, it is time to end the conversation and continue with business as usual. Scams will always be with us, but with a healthy dose of skepticism, you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Domain Name Registration Pitfalls

August 11th, 2015

Recent events have encouraged me to revisit a topic that I first brought to the public’s attention back in 2010. There is quite an online industry involved with domain name registrations, the buying and selling of domain names, and the consequences that involve expirations. Generally speaking, the people involved in these practices spend very little money while in search of tremendously large profits.

About a month ago, one of our clients – a campground in Connecticut – asked me to check into the availability of a more desirable domain name to replace the domain name that they had been using (but that was actually under the control of another individual, with the strong potential for a future dispute.) When I checked the new domain name, I found that it was listed as “for sale” at a price of $500.00. My client authorized me to intervene on their behalf, willing to pay as much as $400.00. Over the next few weeks of shrewd negotiations, I suddenly found that the domain was released, and I immediately registered it on behalf of our client for our standard fee of $35.00 – not the $400.00 that they were willing to pay or the $500.00 that the alleged seller wanted. What happened?

Let me answer that question with another question. Have you ever received an e-mail from a company offering to sell you a “premium domain name” that is similar to your existing domain name? They contacted you because you were listed as a contact for your own domain name, and they were looking for a likely buyer who was willing to take the bait. I have had instances where I have received several consecutive offers from different companies, all offering to sell me the same domain name. The fact is that, in nearly every instance, none of these sellers actually owns the domain names that they are offering to sell. Sound confusing? Read on!

Protect your existing domain name.

First of all, protect your existing domain name from potential hijacking. Unless you are certain where your domain name is registered, know that it is locked to prevent transfer, and know its expiration/renewal date, do yourself a favor and perform a whois lookup. Go to and enter your domain name. Confirm that YOU are listed as the registrant and that the domain status includes the words “Transfer Prohibited”, “Update Prohibited” and “Delete Prohibited”. You might be surprised to find that your webmaster or hosting company is the actual registrant (owner) of your domain name – the scenario that our client faced and something that needs to be corrected immediately; that the e-mail address associated with your name is an old AOL e-mail address that you have not used in years; or that your domain is unlocked – which is roughly equivalent to the carelessness of leaving your parked car unlocked on the streets of a major city.

Whether you or your webmaster handle your domain name registration renewals, you will know if it has been allowed to expire because your website will suddenly become inaccessible. That in itself is not a reason to panic; however, you do not want to ever allow your domain name to go beyond the Redemption Grace Period (RGP) status as outlined in guidelines set forth by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). The guidelines (not rules) allow for a 30-day RGP term, after which your domain goes into “Pending Delete” status for an additional 5 days. At the end of those 5 days, it is purged from the registry database and becomes available for anybody to register. That could be anyone from a business with the same name in another state to one of your more vindictive competitors.

Unfortunately, some registrars add their own unique rules to the guidelines that have been put forth by ICANN. For example, GoDaddy will make you pay an $80.00 “redemption fee” on the 19th day. On the 26th day, they will enter your domain into a 10-day “Expired Domain Name Auction” and, if there are no bidders, will then enter it into an additional 5-day “Closeout Auction”, seeking every opportunity possible to profit from your oversight and increasing the likelihood that you will be unable to recover your domain name. Only if there are no bidders at this second auction will they release the domain.

Network Solutions has an even worse policy, stating that your domain name is subject to deletion at any time after it has been allowed to expire. They say that they “endeavor to provide a grace period that extends 35 days past the expiration date” but that the “grace period is not guaranteed and can change or be eliminated at any time without notice.” Network Solutions states that “a Redemption Grace Period (RGP) is not guaranteed and customers should renew their domain name registration services in advance of the domain name registration expiration date(s) to avoid deletion of domain name registration services.” Just when you thought that GoDaddy’s $80.00 redemption fee was outrageous, Network Solutions’ fee is far worse. Their policy continues, “If we decide to provide the redemption service to a customer, we charge a fee of $299.00 to redeem and renew a domain name registration during the RGP.”

The bottom line is that you should never allow your domain name to expire.

What happens when your domain is in this Redemption Grace Period? Basically, it enters a domain name limbo otherwise known as the domain name aftermarket, sort of like an enormous used car sales lot or automobile auction. What happens is that vultures appear out of nowhere. The practice is referred to by a number of names, with domain tasting and domain front running being the most common descriptions. Many registrars also encourage a process called “backordering” which allows interested buyers to move to the head of the line during the RGP. Some of these same registrars have also been known to provide information directly to these domain tasters, whenever somebody performs a whois lookup, checking on the availability of a domain name but then failing to register it immediately. Returning a few days later, you find that the domain name appears to have (not coincidentally) just been registered and is suddenly listed for sale at a very high price. The seller is hoping that you will still want the domain name and will be willing to submit to what is essentially highway robbery.

Typically, domain tasters work with a registrar that will even allow them a 5-day grace period to cancel out of the registration if you, the potential buyer, do not agree to pay their fee. However it is handled, these are people who are trying to sell you domain names that they usually do not even own, in many instances running auctions of their own, driving up the price if they find more than one interested potential buyer.

Knowledge is your best defense against fraud.

Understand that there are three basic components when you own a website: The site construction fee (usually the most expensive component, unless you have built a do-it-yourself site), the annual or monthly hosting fee, and the domain name registration fee. The domain name registration fee is by far the least expensive of those three components – unless and until you lose your domain name, when its recovery can be very, very costly. Our client was lucky in this instance, and I have successfully intervened in many similar circumstances, but nobody in business wants to rely simply upon luck. Follow the steps that I have outlined, and do everything necessary to prevent the loss of your domain name from ever occurring.

This post was written by Peter Pelland

Referring Sites Bark Up Some Traffic

August 4th, 2015

The challenge of any website is to convert traffic into buyers who take the site’s prescribed call to action. Whether it means putting an item into a shopping cart, signing an online petition to save the whales, making a charitable contribution, or reserving a campsite for the third weekend in August, if a site lacks traffic it has no chance of converting those numbers of visitors into buyers. Fortunately, there are many ways to drive traffic to your site.

Many businesses have become convinced in recent years that the key to traffic is strictly a matter of search engine optimization (SEO). In desperation and out of confusion, they fall prey to a host of companies (who often initiate contact through spam or from a telemarketing boiler room operation) offering so-called guaranteed search engine placement or keyword analysis services that usually run automated software. Some other companies act like they possess a uniquely secret talent, with one recently proclaiming itself to be the “official SEO company of the campground industry”. The claims can get pretty preposterous. I actually received a telemarketing call a while back from an outfit in India called “BS SEO”. The name says it all!

With the decreasing role of search engine traffic, the role of referring sites becomes ever more important. The cumulative impact from established referring sites is not only measured directly by the traffic that they generate but also from the listings and their positive influence upon search engine rankings. With that in mind, one of your goals should be to ensure that your website is listed in as many online resources that are relevant to your business as possible. More importantly, check to confirm that the listings and links to your website are correct and unbroken.

Where to List

The best way to start is to compile a list of resources where your business should already be listed as one of your benefits of membership. Never assume that these listings are correct and up-to-date. Check them individually, and you will often be surprised by outdated content that could be negatively impacting the effectiveness of your listing. Start this list with your membership listings on any local, regional, or state chambers of commerce and tourism boards to which you belong. Check for details like current e-mail addresses, as well as your correct Web address, ideally including a direct link to your website.

Next on the checklist for campgrounds and related businesses are the state, regional, and national associations where your business maintains membership. These include National ARVC’s Go Camping America website and your state association website. When checking listings recently on three of the largest campground state association websites in the United States, I was shocked by the number of broken website links that I encountered. Most of those were the result of programming errors within the sites, a few were the result of spelling errors, but others were the result of updated information that was never passed along to the association by the owners of the individual campgrounds.

There were also several instances of campgrounds that had lost the domain names that were listed, even though they had new websites built under new domain names. Rather than sending people to their new (and presumably improved) website, visitors encountered either a “404 file not found” error page or a page indicating that the old domain name was for sale – either way leading many people to conclude that the campground is out of business and permanently closed. In one or two other instances, I found campgrounds with new domain names and who had not lost control of their old domain names, but did not provide redirects from the old to the new.

I should also mention that I encountered many websites with e-mail addresses that were invalid, making any attempt to contact the businesses bounce faster than a basketball. I have also encountered phone numbers that go to voicemail but that are either not set up to accept voicemails or have mailboxes that are full. Why not just lock your doors and find another line of work?

Each of the state associations has a member services website, usually password-protected, where you can enter any listing information that may be incorrect, incomplete, or entirely missing. Check your listings, and get ensure that they are as complete, correct, and up-to-date as possible.

Those are some of the most obvious resources where your campground would expect to be listed. Next, it is time to get listed in any of a wide range of specialized directories that relate to your business. Be sure to include performers who are scheduled to appear at your park. Almost all of them have their own websites, where they list their upcoming performance schedules. Provide links to them on your website’s activities schedule, then insist that they provide reciprocal links to your site. Many fans of these performers follow their schedules and could become first-time guests at your park.

Dog-Friendly Online Directories

There are many websites that list campgrounds that cater to specific types of camping. Some, for example, list campgrounds with yurts. Others list campgrounds with free wi-fi service. Others list campgrounds that are pet-friendly, and I will concentrate on these. Pets are indisputably the new family members. If your park is pet-friendly, there are many online resources that will help you to spread the word. Some of these sites even offer free listings or free trials. To save you time in researching these resources, I have compiled a comprehensive list of sites that cater to pet-friendly travel. I have excluded any sites that appear to be down, list only hotels, or are tied into another paid service.

In each instance, I am listing the website’s URL, its number of yearly visitors (as shown at, its annual listing fee, and the cost per thousand yearly visitors. This last number is an apples-to-apples way of comparing the cost-effectiveness of each site.


Yearly Visitors

Annual Fee

CPM 280,320 Free $0.00 1,540,665 $119.00 $0.08 1,177,855 $249.00 $0.21 592,760 $150.00 $0.25 598,965 $199.00 $0.33 77,745 $129.00 $1.67

Somebody searching for camping accommodations on one or more of these sites is an excellent prospect to become a guest at your campground, probably a camper who has not stayed at your park before and would be unlikely to choose your park without this referral “nudge”. Since most people probably refer to only one of these resources – rather than searching through multiple resources – listing your park on more than one site is probably going to significantly expand your reach.

Building your presence on referral sites is only one of many ways to attract new guests. Now that you have this information at your disposal, put it to use!

This post was written by Peter Pelland

The Evolution of Two Industries

July 2nd, 2015

The 2015 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report from the Outdoor Foundation includes a breakdown of outdoor participation by activity for everything from Adventure Racing to Wildlife Viewing. In summary, it reports that 48.4% of Americans participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2014, translating into 141.4 million participants engaging in a total of 11.8 billion outdoor events. These are impressive numbers, many of which are skewed – either positively or negatively – by weather patterns; however, it is important to examine individual industries in order to get a better grasp regarding trends.

With the gathering of statistics going back to 2006, the report includes 3-year changes within individual activities that provide a quick snapshot of either increases or decreases in participation. There are similar trends exhibited between Alpine/Downhill Skiing and RV Camping. Putting aside the reported 3-year changes, I think that it is even more compelling to compare the 2014 participation numbers with the high water marks within the 9-year survey period. Measuring people ages 6 and up, skiing peaked in 2010, when there were 11,504,000 participants, decreasing 24.8% to 8,649,000 participants in 2014. Similarly, camping peaked in 2009, with 17,436,000 participants, decreasing 16.1% to 14,633,000 participants in 2014.

Beyond Blaming the Weather, What Is Happening?

I have been working with the family camping industry since 1982, although I started my business in the New England ski industry back in 1980. With an intimate understanding of both industries, one of my most fascinating recent reads was Hal Clifford’s “Downhill Slide: Why the Corporate Ski Industry Is Bad for Skiing, Ski Towns, and the Environment”. In this compelling exposé, Clifford documents the evolution of skiing from its roots in Scandinavia, through a growth spurt following the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid (New York), through the development of Sun Valley (Idaho) as the first destination ski resort back in 1935-1938, through the return of World War II’s 10th Mountain Division veterans, through another growth spurt following the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley (California), through the “industrial tourism” that it became in the 1990s – when 3 major companies then controlled 24% of ticket sales from coast to coast. I believe that there are parallels between the downhill skiing and family camping industries.

The ski industry in the United States was essentially given birth in the first three decades of the twentieth century, including the development of Sun Valley as the first destination resort by railroad magnate W. Averill Harriman. By 1938, Harriman understood that there was far more income to be generated than what could be realized through lift ticket sales, adding tennis, golf, fishing, rodeo, hiking and swimming. The “golden age” of skiing took place in the 1950s. This was the period of time when 2,000 veterans from the Army’s 10th Mountain Division returned home from the Italian and Austrian Alps to kick-start the post-war ski industry, founding, managing, or running the ski schools at 62 American ski resorts. In New England alone, there are 605 former ski areas (most operating in the 1950s) that are documented by the New England Lost Ski Areas Project. Most of these were “mom and pop” operations run on snowy hills, with rudimentary rope tows run by the likes of tractors or old Packard automobile engines. In Massachusetts alone, my company has at least two campground clients with campsites that are partially located on the remnants of the slopes and trails of former ski areas.

In the 5 years following the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, skier days increased by 50%, with the greatest increase going to destination reports. The handwriting was on the wall for the mom and pop areas attempting to compete. A decade later, in 1975, there were 745 ski areas in the United States, a number that would drop to 509 by the year 2000. Despite the advent of snowboarding, total visits to ski areas stagnated in the 1980s and 1990s, numbers which would have witnessed double-digit declines if not for snowboarding. According to Clifford, only 15% of beginners go on to become serious skiers. Although 33 million Americans considered themselves skiers or snowboarders (at the time when the book was written, in 2003), only a third of them actually go out even once in any given year.

Part of the problem with the ski industry is the aging of the post-war baby boomers. Statistics have shown that, once they hit the age of 44, the average skiers hang up their skis for the last time. The changing population does not bode well for the ski industry. People today have less leisure time, less disposable income, and new interests – such as fitness clubs and the Internet. Another strike against skiing is that it requires a learning curve, and most people today want instant gratification.

Lift Tickets Equate to Campsites

It is a well-documented fact that most of the ski industry is no longer in the business of selling lift tickets. Even with single-day lift ticket prices topping $100.00 at many ski resorts this past season, those ticket sales cannot begin to cover expenses. In the year 2000, a Poma detachable quad chairlift would cost just under $3 million to install, plus another 15% for site preparation. Then it would cost about $14,000 per month for the electricity to turn the lift. At the same time, an 8-place gondola carrying passengers only 2,200 ft. would run about $6 million, with a monthly electric bill of about $20,000. Not pocket change, even some of the biggest corporate players have faced economic challenges.

Then there are snowmaking costs. Again in the year 2000, the air compressors to run a bank of snow guns cost about $250,000 each, basic snow guns cost about $1,000 each, fan-driven snow machines cost about $10,000 each, and the electricity to make the snow might cost a large resort $1,000,000 per season. Clifford cites an interview with the general manager of Sugarbush Resort (Vermont), who said at the time that his snowmaking costs were $1,000 per acre per inch, with a monthly electric bill of $300,000 to $400,000. For all of this money, skiers and snowboarders get snow conditions that are as predictable as a MacDonald’s hamburger … something that not every skier actually wants. Whether or not skiers demanded the industry improvements, or whether they got caught up in the competitive one-upmanship of corporate skiing, the industry has changed. Just like the cruise industry, the theme park industry, and perhaps what is beginning to happen with camping.

In the ski industry, the profit center is now real estate development, with million dollar building lots for second homes, condominiums for every middle-to-upper income level, fractional ownership, absentee homeowners, and artificial “ski villages” that are designed to keep all of the dollars spent in the resort’s pockets. People who were once attracted to authentic ski towns and their ambiance have found those towns displaced by the new manufactured village concept, with bars, restaurants, shops and hotels all designed to capitalize upon that now lost romantic notion of the ski towns of yesteryear.

At one extreme is the relatively new concept of the private membership ski resort. The Yellowstone Club, in Montana, is only open to members who can demonstrate a net worth in excess of $3 million, paying an initiation fee of $250,000 and an annual $16,000 membership fee – along with the mandatory purchase of property at the resort. Then there is The Hermitage Club, in Vermont, (located at the former Haystack Mountain, one of my favorites back in the day), with an initiation fee of only $75,000 and billboards along Interstate 91 in Connecticut and Massachusetts touting “your own private ski resort”.

The good news is that there is a backlash in the ski industry, with a growing popularity of back-to-basics skiing, often cooperatively owned, at ski areas like Vermont’s Mad River Glen, California’s Bear Valley, and British Columbia’s Shames Mountain. There are also many of the healthier “mom and pop” areas that are still maintaining their niches in their markets.

Yes, there are many parallels between what is happening in the ski industry and the family camping industry in North America. I will leave it to my readers to connect the dots. The bottom line is that there are forces that are driving up the price of camping, that profits cannot be based solely upon campsite fees, and that there is plenty of room for diversity. There are many definitions for the “perfect camping experience”, and it will continue to be the goal of every campground to effectively market itself within its niche target market. Define your park’s experience, and then do everything you can to get the word out, helping the people who want precisely what you are offering to find you.

Change might be inevitable, but the survival – and continuing success – of your business is held within your own hands.

This post was written by Peter Pelland