Biggest Texting Scam In US History of $150M+
Do you like carrier billing and subscription messages? So does Zhenya Tsvetnenko. You should meet him.
Well, actually, you can’t meet him personally because he’s being extradited to the US. So, it would be hard to shake his hand. But, at least, you should know his story.
This is one of those case studies we would encourage you to *not* follow. Because while the ROI can be nice at first, the ending isn’t so happy.
Zhenya started making his first bread by inventing an automated SMS delivery service. What a genius, huh? He started making more than $4M a month in under two years. Out of his bedroom. Say what!?
However, the Manhattan Federal Court doesn’t consider him a genius. Rather, a criminal. Now, you’re going to discover why he’s being extradited to the US from Australia, where he currently lives.
The American court charged him with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The entrepreneur engaged in a multi-million-dollar scheme to defraud mobile phone customers by placing unauthorised charges for premium text messaging services on their bills, in a scheme known as auto-subscribing.
He charged hundreds of thousands of mobile phone customers $9.99 per month for unsolicited, recurring text messages about horoscopes, celebrity gossip and trivia.
The US Attorney’s Office says the “auto-subscription” scheme generated more than $150M in illegal dividends.
Over the years, Zhenya used this money to fund his lavish lifestyle: lambos, expensive holidays and parties with Snoop Dogg and other celebrities. At least he can say he lived life to the fullest. Though for a short amount of time.
Sometimes, taking a walk on the dark side may pay big amounts. But often times, in the end, it doesn’t pay off.
So why is this relevant for you? Zhenya was also the founder of TechMpire, once the owner of Mpire, the affiliate network. But don’t worry… Because Mpire Affiliate Network has been acquired by ClearPier, a Canadian advertising company.
Warning for Amazon affiliates! And how the attribution system works
Amazon got a big space in today’s newsletter. And whether you’re an Amazon affiliate or advertiser, there is something for you.
Are you buying media space from the e-comm giant? Then you should have a look at their attribution system.
Whereas, if you promote Amazon products with their affiliate program, be careful! Because they might keep a part of your sweated gains.
Don’t let Amazon withhold 30% of your affiliate payments.
If you are an Amazon affiliate outside the US, this might be a very useful update for you.
As spotted by Stéphane Kerwer in this FB group, Amazon has been found to be quietly changing the tax status of affiliates. As a result, they can withhold up to 30% of your affiliate payments.
PS: If you notice/fix the issue after the payment was issued, you will never get the missing 30% back.
How to check if you are affected?
- Go to your Amazon Payment History page.
- At the bottom of the page, check the line: “Your current tax withholding rate is…”.
- If the number displayed there is 30%, it means they’ve arbitrarily invalidated your previous tax information (without sending an email notice about it).
How to fix it?
- Go to Account Settings > View/Provide Tax Information.
- Even if it reads “Current Tax Status: Completed”, your tax status may not be validated correctly.
- Click on the link to update your tax information.
In the future, remember to go through this process again at least once a year to make sure they don’t withhold your commissions again.
Got questions? Catch Stéphane in the FB group shared above, and he may be able to help as he’s spent a considerable amount of time with Amazon support trying to solve this issue.
Amazon advertising attribution
Did we not convince you to advertise on Amazon already? Maybe you heard that buying media on the e-commerce giant might be difficult.
Yeah, Amazon Advertising Attribution might be a bit complex. But don’t worry, we have some more insights about its attribution modelling and how it works.
Amazon Sales Attribution is when Amazon assigns credit for a sale to a specific campaign. For example, when a user clicks on one of your ads and buys a product within a certain time period such as 7 or 14 days, the “sale” is attributed to your Amazon campaign.
First of all, to advertise on Amazon you can use three dashboards:
- Seller Central
- Advertising Console
- Amazon DSP
And Amazon tracks attribution differently depending on the platform you’re using.
Let’s start with Seller Central:
- Sponsored Product (SP) Campaigns:
- Sales attribution is measured on a 7-day click-through attribution window.
- Sales are attributed only to the last ad the user clicked.
Sponsored Brand Ad (SBA) campaigns:
- Sales are measured over 14-day click-through attribution window.
- Sales are attributed only to the last campaign the user clicked.
- SBAs follow what Amazon calls “Brand Halo” sales attribution. This means that if the user clicks on your ad and buys any of your products, Amazon will attribute the sale to that campaign.
Then, jumping to the Advertising Console dashboard, you have to know that all the units in the Advertising Console work based on Amazon’s Brand Halo attribution.
Sponsored Product campaigns, Sponsored Brand ad campaigns and Product Display ads, they all have the same rules:
- 14-day click-through attribution.
- Amazon Brand Halo sales attribution.
For the DSP dashboard, there are few different ways that Amazon attributes sales.
First, if you are advertising a product sold on Amazon, there are two types of reporting metrics or values to measure your return on ad spend: Product Sales and Total Sales.
- The Product Sales metric is calculated on a 14-day view-through attribution window. This means the ad only has to appear on the screen, it doesn’t actually need to be clicked.
- Viewable impressions are based on the Media Rating Council’s (MRC) viewability standards.
- De-duplication applies: Meaning if they saw a DSP ad but then clicked on an SP ad, SP would take the credit for the sale, not DSP.
- Total Sales is calculated on a 14-day view-through attribution window.
- Deduplication applies.
This is how Amazon Advertising attributes the sales to your campaigns, but if you want even more details, head over here.
Amazon doesn’t look like a huge ad platform now.. However, with all the buying data they have, and the effort they’re putting into developing their platform, they’ll surely grow!
And our suggestion is: It’s always better to enter a new market/business when it’s early than when it’s too late!
A few more ad slots and a new Q&A section on SERP. And Google’s own SEO strategy
Today, we have a handful of updates from Google. Touching on updates to its SERPs, both from an organic as well as inorganic point of view.
Let’s begin with our 1st update.
Google is testing mobile SERPs with 14 Ads
SEO is dead, Ads are the only way ahead! Just kidding, but you’ll know what we mean.
Google was spotted testing more ads in a single mobile search results page. How many more than its usual 5-7? Fourteen!
4 ads followed by 2 organic listings, then 7 more ads in a row, followed by 6 organic listings. And then 3 more ads before arriving at the “More results” button at the bottom of the screen.
That’s right! 14 ads on a single mobile SERP. The objective of this test might be to find out just how many ads users can possibly tolerate before tuning out.
Spotted by Fibre Marketing, here’s the video recording of the test SERP page.
Imagine if the number of ad clicks from this test outweighs the negative feedback received. Would that mean we will see more SERPs like this in future? Now you get our “SEO is dead” joke, right?
Okay, now to calm down you SEOs, Google also has something to make up for it.
Introduction of Q&A section in its SERPs.
Google’s search engine team has not been low on productivity either. They rolled out Knowledge Panels, Position Zero slots, Reviews, Stories and many other slots on its Search page. And the new entrant is “Q&A on Google”.
It will show up for the question-specific-queries. And for now, it will show up on both mobile and desktop, somewhere in between the search results. Though it won’t pull up answers from blog posts or websites. Rather, user answers will be pulled from its own “Q&A on Google” section.
You can also find more related questions, answer them and even like or dislike the existing answers if they don’t address your questions properly.
You SEOs still think the above 14-ads update still outweighs the Q&A update? Advertisers still have an upper hand?
Okay, Google is extending its other arm to give you a warm hug. They revealed an inside look into how it manages SEO for its own Google properties. Yay!
Google Reveals Its In-House SEO Approach
Google says they don’t like to play by “Mah game, mah rules” thing. Staying on top of SERP is no different for them than it is for other website owners. They receive the same treatment on SERPs as any other site does.
They own around 7000 websites and make over 200 changes every day to maintain their own SEO. Google works hard, bruh!
Here are the 3 key details about its own SEO strategy that could potentially help other site owners:
- Focus on small changes: The “Google My Business” marketing site, for example, saw its visits doubled, partly because the team implemented a number of web fundamental best practices, such as showing search engines what URLs to index by implementing canonicals.
- Embrace change: Users’ search behavior is always changing, so should your approach. Always experiment and don’t shy away from changes. “For example, last year we focused on fixing Google Search Console errors, implementing structured data, and adding AMP to the Think with Google site. After we fixed one common AMP error on a number of URLs, those impressions increased by 200%.”
- Consolidate multiple properties: “Creating one great site instead of multiple microsites is the best way to encourage organic growth over time.” That’s what Google did after realizing it had developed a large number of near-duplicate sites.
Real-time auto-optimizations for native media buyers
Combine an agency’s worth of media buyers and five networks into one platform.
This is what Maximus does for native advertisers.
You set the rules and goals for your campaigns and let Maximus do everything else. Maximus runs 24 hours a day, meaning you can focus on other sides of your business.
Here are just a few of the features this tool brings to any native media buyer:
- Patent pending Fire & Forget™ technology: You set rules based on CPC, EPC, clicks, budget, campaign performance, and day parting, and Maximus automatically scales your campaign up or down based on that.
- Cross-platform campaign management on a single dashboard: Work on one dashboard to run campaigns on all major native ad networks like Outbrain, Taboola, Yahoo!, content.ad and RevContent. No need to log into those networks to create or edit your campaigns!
- Full reporting: Complete campaign logs allow you to see changes made by both Maximus and human media buyers.
- Tracking pixel: Get real-time estimates, without the network delay! Depending on how you buy your media, you can also completely replace your tracker with Maximus, which also offers rigorous and detailed campaign performance reports.
But it’s much better if you have a look for yourself.
Book a 15-minute demo call with Maximus to see the tool in action and ask any other questions you might have.
Then, if you like what you see, or if you’re already convinced, try it FREE for 15 days!
The “underground” move you should make
Sometimes, to take over your competition, you have to think outside the box. And that’s why, sometimes, we like to share with you some underground advertising platforms to leverage.
Today we’re talking about Quora. Maybe Quora is not so “underground” anymore, yet the amount of media buyers doing business with Quora is still relatively small, compared to Facebook, Google and others.
Then, if you were thinking about an up-stream move, you have a selection of key audience insights at Quora. Insights you can leverage to grow your biz.
As we said in the past, one key factor of Quora is the intent. People go on Quora to ask questions, share knowledge and understand the world better. They are on Quora with a clear purpose. Thus, you can take advantage of this.
Another thing you might consider is the competition: The number of advertisers are only in the thousands. And compared to the 300M+ monthly users, it could mean a lot of blank spaces you can fill.
But let’s go to the most popular topics on Quora. And how you can hit them.
- Dating And Relationships: 13M followers and almost 800K questions. What about running those dating offers to this audience?
- Fashion and Design: 42M followers! It’s huge compared to the number of advertisers. Maybe you can use this to grow that POD store, right?
- Health: This will cause some debates online like that Snapchat post. But here you can find 73M of users interested in health. Now, if you run nutra offers, we know you’re already creating your business account on Quora… WTAFF, finish reading this email first!
- Travel: 57M followers interested in travel. And 827K questions.
- Shopping: 12M followers. Exactly, 12M of people interested in spending their money, and you can target them.
- Marketing: 29M followers. Maybe you can leverage this audience to generate leads for your agency. Or maybe you’re building a personal brand and you can use Quora to drive more engagement. In every case, don’t forget to say thanks to The WTAFF Crew.
- Everyday Life: 86M followers. Here you can find clients if you’re dropshipping those weird everyday-life-solutions products.
Well, based on our readership, we think these are the most interesting audiences to look for on Quora.
However, there are more groups of people with common interests you can target, like Politics, Technology and History.
Hoping that you’ll find your unicorn, never forget: If you’ll reach your goals on Quora, you owe us a drink!
Cool tech, (funny) business, lifestyle and all the other things affiliates like to chat about while sipping cocktails by the pool.
“We know what you did last night!”
Hello, proud iPhone owners!
We heard you talking to your grandma last evening. That was quite an adorable chat.
And who orders pineapple pizza for dinner, eww. Disgusting!
Well, we didn’t really hear that but some people were talking about it. Thanks to this very bad bug in the Facetime app running iOS 12.1.
One can actually listen in to the conversations remotely without you answering the call.
We won’t share the exact steps here but it’s already out in the open.
Well, we care for your time and privacy. Whether you are Poolside or on the wrong side of the bed.
Disable Facetime on your Apple devices until this is resolved. Or not. That’s your call to take. But you see, you don’t have to take the call as this bug works either ways!