Archives for June 2017 | Aqueous Digital

Archive for “June, 2017”

Photobucket 3rd party hosting warning

Why is Photobucket holding the internet to ransom?

It must have been a slow day at the office when they came up with this genius idea.

“I know, let’s completely change our terms of service and stop anyone from posting their pictures anywhere else on the internet unless they pay us $399 a year”. Brilliant!

Quite how this got past anyone with any commercial sense is beyond me but then the execution of this stupid policy has been breathtakingly bad.

Photobucket P500 errorOver the past five days, people have been waking up to find images that were previously showing on blogs, bulletin boards, auction sites and so on, had disappeared to be replaced with the Photobucket ‘P500’ error image.

One of the biggest issues, however, was that it came out of the blue. No one knew about it. There were no announcements, no emails warning people that it was about to happen and more importantly, no explanation.

Given that their mission statement appears to be “Your photos are our number one priority. It’s our mission to help you share, store, edit and enjoy them — all in one place” it’s a very strange move.

Naturally, the internet is up in arms about it; just search Facebook, Twitter or Reddit to see for yourself. Bulletin boards across the globe are being crippled as previously vibrant threads with detailed images are disappearing. People who have used Photobucket for hosting these images successfully for over ten years are finding that they will have to literally start again with what for some, amounts to a lifetime’s work.

Taking a step back and looking at it from a commercial point of view, there must have been a growing imperative to step away from a model primarily reliant on advertising. With a growth in customer numbers and an increase in bandwidth usage, their cost base must have been spiralling. It’s a by-product of their success.

The solution however surely was not what they have come up with?

Firstly, why make the change with no notice? Why simply change overnight and then dump on your customers?

Secondly, how on earth did they arrive at their pricing point? When so many people use their service specifically for third party hosting and nothing else, why provide this service only at the highest price point you have?

Finally, unless they have deliberately set out to rid themselves forever of customers using ‘free’ accounts then how will they survive the fall out from this?

One commentator on Reddit summed the problem up nicely;

“you cant even begin to imagine what this will mean to internet forums and blogs. older internet users remember what a dumpster fire the internet was when angelfire, geocities, and tripod stopped offering free hosting, broken links everywhere and it was the exact same cause, they started out to give everyone free hosting, but they reached critical mass as more people signed up for the free than the paid.”

The backlash from this decision has only just started but the fallout will be significant. Many people have already closed their accounts and more are planning to do so. When there are so many other alternatives out there it seems that Photobucket are relying on inertia from their customer base to survive.

I doubt they will be allowed to.

From a Marketing Communications point of view, this is rapidly descending into a case study on how not to do it.

Not only did they dump this on their users with zero notice but they are compounding the issue with their communications, or lack of them.

Five days on from the start of this process their Facebook and Twitter ‘Customer Services’ teams are blithely carrying on as if nothing has happened and people are being ignored or stuck into pre-defined responses. People complaining on the Photobucket forum are being asked to email them, at which point they get a ‘canned’ email which amounts to nothing more than FAQ’s. None of which answers any of the questions their customers have.

And to put a tin lid on it when, as a customer, you do get an email warning you that you need to upgrade to continue to use 3rd Party hosting, it comes from an email account called special@special.pbdeals.com. Trust me, there’s nothing special about this deal.

Even the email they sent is designed to look like a warning.

Photobucket P500 3rd Party Hosting emaill

This is nothing short of a P.R disaster and will leave a very bad taste in the mouth for many people. Given that Photobucket was set up as a photo storage and sharing website, removing the sharing option unless you pay $399 seems bizarre. People are feeling that they are being held to ransom.

Which led to this comment on Twitter which seems to sum up the mood of their customers.

Photobucket P500 on twitter

It will be interesting to chart this story as it unfolds but unless Photobucket rethinks this policy then I doubt it will have a happy ending.

Commercial Register Scam – what to do if they chase you for payment

I first wrote about this particular issue in February of this year in an article entitled 10 reasons why Commercial Register is a scam and it seems that they haven’t gone away.

What is the Commercial Register Scam?

For those of you new to this, the scam is simple; pre-populate an official looking letter, send it to legitimate companies across the UK and ask them to confirm that their company details are correct. Sometimes it’s from the England Commercial Register or the Wales Commercial Register but in all cases it’s the same thing.

Very few people bother to read the small print which commits them to £863 a year for three years and no real way of cancelling.

A simple search on Google will uncover a number of companies who have been hit by this particular scam and all have the same tale; of receiving letters effectively demanding money with menaces.

Following a conversation with one of these companies this week I now have a copy of the letter that they send which I can show you. On top of this, there are some suggestions below as to why you shouldn’t pay them any money at all.

In this particular case, the letter was dealt with by one of the admin staff in the business and the form duly returned. Even worse, once the invoice arrived for the first year it was paid by the Accounts Team but when it was raised as a query to one of the Directors they realised that it was a scam.

Sadly, this is an all too familiar tale. To try and limit the damage they sent a cancellation email immediately to the company.

This is the letter they got back (Please note that in this letter and all others I have redacted the company name and other identifying details).

Commercial Register Scam Letter 1

A few things stand out clearly on this.

  • The letter appears to come from the ‘Legal Department’ although we very much doubt that such a department exists. This is supported by the fact that there is no named individual at the bottom, only ‘Legal Department’
  • The signature is illegible so you cannot enter into a conversation or correspondence with an individual
  • The official looking handstamp in the middle actually contains a spelling mistake [Note to scammers – always check your spelling, it’s a giveaway…]
  • They have a disclaimer at the bottom telling you that they have moved their web address for ‘commercial reasons’.
  • There are a series of characters arranged vertically in the right-hand margin which is supposed to look official but their purpose, other than that, is not immediately obvious.
  • Finally, it threatens to pass you to their ‘debt recovery and litigation firm’ if you don’t pay up.

The next page is slightly more interesting as it gives you some more information about the business.

Commercial Register Scam Letter 2

We can see that they have a bank account (which means that any fraud agencies reading this should be able to nail them quite quickly….) stating;

Account Holder: Direct Publisher S.L.U.

Bank: Ibercaja Banco S.A.


IBAN: ES87 2085 9285 6703 3035 2169

You could also send a cheque to this address;

Direct Publisher S.L.U.

Calle Fuencarral 160, Entpta. 7

28010 Madrid


This is crucial evidence;

The address is an apartment in a block in Madrid which looks like this;

Calle Fuencarral 160, Entpta. 7 28010 Madrid Espana

In all probability, it’s a rented apartment and the chances of finding anyone there who will admit responsibility for this scam is slim but…. as we will see later, they could actually be in here.

We now also have their complete bank account details which should make it fairly easy to pinpoint.

In this case, the firm disputed the charge, not for the first year which they had already paid but for subsequent years.

They received an email back from someone calling themselves Ella King from the Customer Service Department, highlighting the fact that as they had paid the first instalment they were liable for the rest.

Commercial Register Scam Letter 3

It’s worth noting that they were using what appears to be a dubious email account drp133-1@emaildp.com which hardly seems legitimate.

The email suggests that there is no getting out of the contract and that the company must pay up or else. It also suggests that by paying the first invoice you are liable for all others which is incorrect.

If you don’t pay up then they send another letter saying that it will be placed in the hands of their International Debt Collection agency. This threat of debt recovery frightens many people into paying up.

Before we drive a wedge into this scam let’s be clear; you should not pay them a penny.

In the case of the business we spoke to, then even if this was a legitimate advertising scheme there are significant holes in this agreement. Specifically, we note that;

  • The form is not signed by a director or authorised signatory of the company, therefore, it cannot be an official order.
  • If you read the small print the contract is virtually impossible to cancel. According to the small print in point 1, it states that “To be valid, cancellations must be effected in writing by registered mail with confirmation of the receipt”.
  • The big problem with this is that even if you were to send a Registered Letter via Royal Mail, as soon as the mail is passed to Correos in Spain it is completely out of Royal Mail control. Correos cannot guarantee a signature and so neither can Royal Mail. Without the signature, according to their T&C’s, you don’t have a valid cancellation. On this basis, you will never be able to comply with their condition which makes it unreasonable and therefore invalid.
  • They have not delivered what they promised. The original contract and letter was for com-reg but they have mysteriously moved to comm-reg and the original com-reg domain has vanished without a trace. There is no valid explanation for this nor is there any redirection on the old site to the new one.
  • Payment for year one does not make you liable for all subsequent years, especially if they cannot deliver what we first promised (an advert on com-reg)

Now, if we use a UK based example to draw a parallel, imagine if you entered into a contract with yell.com and suddenly overnight, the website disappeared but there was a new website called yelll.com on which your advert appeared.

Imagine then if they didn’t put a link between the old and new websites and offered no explanation on the old website as to why they had moved. Would you still be happy to pay for your advertisement?

What are your options if they demand payment?

Just say no.

No one can be sure what will happen and it could end up with debt collectors as they promise. Given the size of the debt, however, it’s unlikely that they will pursue you, especially as if they do and you take it to court they will have to reveal who and where they are.

Report them to Action Fraud on 0300 123 20 40 and keep a record of doing so. The more people who do this the bigger the requirement for them to take action.

Don’t enter into correspondence with them. Ignore their letters and they should go away. There doesn’t appear to be a single instance anywhere online of anyone who has been pursued for this ‘debt’.

If you have already started corresponding with them then stop it immediately.

If they persist then get the best Lawyer you can to send them a letter threatening them with legal action unless they cease and desist.

Keep a record of the time you have spent dealing with this. If it ever did come to court then if you have tracked the time spent you can make it clear that you will invoice them for your time spent dealing with their fraudulent claim

If they persist tell them that you are involving Trading Standards and the Police. There’s more about this on the Companies House website

Who is behind this Commercial Register scam?

The original domain had all its details hidden but since it has disappeared the good news is that the registrant’s details have miraculously appeared online.

They are as follows;

Domain Name: COM-REG.COM

Registry Domain ID: 1955882685_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN

Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.godaddy.com

Registrar URL: http://www.godaddy.com

Update Date: 2015-08-28T09:39:19Z

Creation Date: 2015-08-28T09:39:19Z

Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2017-08-28T09:39:19Z

Registrar: GoDaddy.com, LLC

Registrar IANA ID: 146

Registrar Abuse Contact Email: email@godaddy.com

Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +1.4806242505

Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited

Domain Status: clientUpdateProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientUpdateProhibited

Domain Status: clientRenewProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientRenewProhibited

Domain Status: clientDeleteProhibited http://www.icann.org/epp#clientDeleteProhibited

Registry Registrant ID: Not Available From Registry

Registrant Name: Fernando Mancho Palacios

Registrant Organization:

Registrant Street: Fuencarral n.160, Entreplanta, 7.puerta

Registrant City: Madrid

Registrant State/Province: Madrid

Registrant Postal Code: 28010

Registrant Country: ES

Registrant Phone: +34.656314215

Registrant Phone Ext:

Registrant Fax:

Registrant Fax Ext:

Registrant Email: email@gmx.com

Registry Admin ID: Not Available From Registry

Admin Name: Fernando Mancho Palacios

Admin Organization:

Admin Street: Fuencarral n.160, Entreplanta, 7.puerta

Admin City: Madrid

Admin State/Province: Madrid

Admin Postal Code: 28010

Admin Country: ES

Admin Phone: +34.656314215

Admin Phone Ext:

Admin Fax:

Admin Fax Ext:

Admin Email: email@gmx.com

Registry Tech ID: Not Available From Registry

Tech Name: Fernando Mancho Palacios

Tech Organization:

Tech Street: Fuencarral n.160, Entreplanta, 7.puerta

Tech City: Madrid

Tech State/Province: Madrid

Tech Postal Code: 28010

Tech Country: ES

Tech Phone: +34.656314215

Tech Phone Ext:

Tech Fax:

Tech Fax Ext:

Tech Email: email@gmx.com



DNSSEC: unsigned

URL of the ICANN WHOIS Data Problem Reporting System: http://wdprs.internic.net/

>>> Last update of WHOIS database: 2017-06-23T11:00:00Z <<<

Even though this website no longer exists the registrants’ details are now in plain sight and we now know it is Fernando Mancho Palacios who, surprise, surprise, lives at Fuencarral n.160, Entreplanta, 7.puerta, the very same address to which you can send a cheque for payment.

Perhaps we have our “Entrepreneur” at last?

Meanwhile, the new website has its details still hidden but there are some contact details including a phone number. The registration appears to be in Barcelona so it could be their new web hosting company.

Domain Name: comm-reg.com

Registry Domain ID: 2108868468_DOMAIN_COM-VRSN

Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.entorno.com

Registrar URL: http://www.entorno.es

Updated Date: 2017-03-28T14:50:35.0Z

Creation Date: 2017-03-28T10:23:49.0Z

Registrar Registration Expiration Date: 2018-03-28T10:23:49.0Z

Registrar: Entorno Digital, S.A.

Registrar IANA ID: 696

Registrar Abuse Contact Email:

Registrar Abuse Contact Phone: +34.935942101

Domain Status: ok https://www.icann.org/epp#ok

Registry Registrant ID:

Registrant Name: Entorno Digital S.A. (Whois Privado) .

Registrant Organization: Entorno Digital S.A. (Whois Privado)

Registrant Street: C/ Santa Anna, 32

Registrant City: Cerdanyola del Valles

Registrant State/Province: Barcelona

Registrant Postal Code: 08290

Registrant Country: ES

Registrant Phone: +34.935942101

Registrant Fax: +34.5921445

Registrant Email: entorno4621982@servicio-whois-privado.com

Registry Admin ID:

Admin Name: Entorno Digital S.A. (Whois Privado) .

Admin Organization: Entorno Digital S.A. (Whois Privado)

Admin Street: C/ Santa Anna, 32

Admin City: Cerdanyola del Valles

Admin State/Province: Barcelona

Admin Postal Code: 08290

Admin Country: ES

Admin Phone: +34.935942101

Admin Fax: +34.5921445

Admin Email: entorno4621982@servicio-whois-privado.com

Registry Tech ID:

Tech Name: Entorno Digital S.A. (Whois Privado) .

Tech Organization: Entorno Digital S.A. (Whois Privado)

Tech Street: C/ Santa Anna, 32

Tech City: Cerdanyola del Valles

Tech State/Province: Barcelona

Tech Postal Code: 08290

Tech Country: ES

Tech Phone: +34.935942101

Tech Fax: +34.5921445

Tech Email: entorno4621982@servicio-whois-privado.com

Name Server: ns1.entornodns.com

Name Server: ns2.entornodns.com

DNSSEC: unsigned

URL of the ICANN WHOIS Data Problem Reporting System: http://wdprs.internic.net/


It seems unlikely that this cam will be going away anytime soon. Businesses all over the UK will still receive these letters and be fooled into a £2,500 contract for a tiny advertisement on a nondescript and invisible website.

If you have received one of these, don’t fill it in and return it.

If you have done so then ignore any demands for payment

And finally, if in doubt, get a good lawyer on the case. Given that this scam emanated from Spain the chances of them actually pursuing you through the UK courts is tiny.

If we hear anything more about this we will write another article to update you.



Aqueous celebrate our 6th birthday!

Aqueous celebrate our 6th birthday!

What a year. It’s been an amazing journey over the last twelve months and there is so much in the pipeline it’s hard to know where to begin!

This time last year we published this blog post in which we outlined our plan to grow the business to £1,000,000 turnover by the end of 2019. One year on and we are on target to achieve this mark. In fact, if everything goes according to plan (and you know what they say about the best-laid plans….) then we could even do it a year early!

When we set the business up in 2011 in a small office with no customers but big aspirations, the aim was always to provide a service that customers would want, value and gain benefit from. Six years on and we have hundreds of successes behind us and customers still with us who have been with us almost from the start.

In the last year, we’ve seen more of our customers get more number one positions on Google than ever before. We’ve expanded the team so there are now nine of us and we’re still recruiting and we’ve retained our Google Partner status for the fourth year running.

The team gained more Google qualifications than ever before, we took on a Head of Sales and we won the Halton Business Awards Marketing Excellence Award. We’ve even shifted our social media followers from under 1,000 to over 10,000 in total.

It’s been amazing. But the plans for the next year are even more exciting!

Right now, are looking to recruit two new technical heads for our office, to add to our in-house SEO and PPC expertise and we will be taking on more office space in the near future. We are also recruiting for two more sales people in the next six months.

On top of this, we have a new Aqueous Digital website under construction (watch this space!) and we are investing heavily in a training programme for the business. We are also investing in IT, infrastructure and unified communications to help us provide an even better service to our customers.

With all that going on you’ll understand it when we say that today, in the office, it will be a low-key affair. No streamers, bunting, cakes or champagne. But we do have big plans in the pipeline for the next two weeks so follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to see what adventures we get up to!

Social commerce in 2017

Could 2017 be the year we see social commerce take off?

With social media platforms like Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram introducing increasingly personalised and innovative new features to encourage product discovery, alongside the rise in popularity of ‘contextual commerce’, could 2017 be the year we see social commerce take off?


What is contextual and social commerce?

For those unfamiliar with the two terms, they can roughly be defined as:

Contextual commerce – The implementation of purchase opportunities into everyday environments and activities.

Social commerce – The use of social media platforms to assist the online buying and selling of products.


Social commerce in 2017

How many times have you discovered a new product, brand or service on social media, either through ads or a recommendation from a friend or contact? Chances are you’ve purchased something that you’ve discovered via social media at least once in the past, but how easy was it?

In the past when discovering new products on social media we’ve had to move away from the platform or app to a search engine to try to find the product or business in question.  The journey from discovery to purchase has not always been smooth or easy, meaning many people give up before they’ve even found the product.

This is now changing as leading social media platforms are trialling and launching exciting new features to help connect businesses and buyers more seamlessly on social media.  Here at Aqueous, we’re excited to see how social commerce progresses this year!


Benefits of social commerce

  • New social commerce features allow in-app purchases that make the journey from product discovery to checkout quick, seamless and frustration-free.
  • Allows customers to make quick and impulsive in-app purchases; leaving less time for cart abandonment.
  • Increases the number of conversations about your business/products/services online.
  • Using the vast amounts of customer data stored on social media platforms can help you to show the right products or services to the right people at the right time.
  • Customers are more likely to trust and buy into products/businesses/services recommended by their connections.


Getting started with social commerce

If you’re ready to start incorporating social commerce into your business plans for the year ahead it’s very important to first do your research and pick the platform most suited to your business or products.  Learn more about the most promising social commerce features now available from Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram below.



Facebook store – This feature is still being rolled out and so may not be available to everyone quite yet.  Facebook stores appear as a tab on your Facebook business page and allow customers to buy products directly from your page without any need to leave the Facebook app.

Facebook Messenger payments – Businesses like Dominoes pizza are already using this feature to allow customers to quickly place orders and pay for them all within the Facebook Messenger app.



Instagram shoppable tags – Since late last year Instagram have been testing shoppable tags.  These tags allow users to get additional details about products featured in images and direct them to a page to purchase the product direct from the app.



Buyable pins – Allows users to buy products they see pinned on Pinterest without ever leaving the app.

Shop the Look – A brand new feature to Pinterest; Shop the Look is just starting out and we’re excited to see where it goes.  The new feature allows users to browse products, buy in-app and get recommendations for similar items.  The feature is currently aimed at businesses selling fashion or home decor products only.


Want to find out more about social media for businesses or get some advice on starting out with social commerce? Give us a call on 0800 285 1424 to speak with one of our social media experts, or contact us here

Pagerank and relevancy in 2017

Is Google PageRank Still Relevant in 2017?

Although many people think otherwise, Google PageRank is still in use and will continue to be one of the most important ways of determining a website’s ranking on the internet. The main reason why people mistakenly believe that PageRank has disappeared spring from the fact that last year, Google got rid of its toolbar PageRank widget.


Toolbar PageRank was, as the name suggests, a way for websites to check their ranking merely by glancing at the display on their toolbar. Toolbar PageRank used to be updated three or four times a year and was invaluable for SEO practitioners to be able to identify how successful their efforts were in increasing a site’s ranking.


So, although Google PageRank is certainly still relevant in 2017, its results are no longer available to anyone outside Google, so it can’t easily be utilised. Here is a list of the three most important ranking factors that, even though we can’t see the results, play an important part in your Google PageRank.




In recent years, where content is concerned, there has been a move away from keyword-saturated copy to content that is relevant and written in more natural, human language — better-written content if you like. This trend is set to continue throughout 2017.


Studies have shown that the importance of keywords is falling every year and that Google ranks pages and evaluates content according to how relevant it is. What this means is that detail counts. The more relevant information you have on your page, the higher your ranking is likely to be. What this means is that long-form articles are becoming more popular. Therefore in 2017, content needs to be both relevant and comprehensive.



Over time, Google has developed its ability to sort bad links from good links. Generally, more links still mean a higher ranking, but only if those links are from a variety of different and authoritative sites. When content on your site has a large number of good-quality backlinks, three crucial ranking signals come into play:


* number of links

* link authority

* link diversity


You will read lots of different ideas about building backlinks, but really there’s no way around what you actually have to do, which is 1) Create quality content, and 2) Promote it.


Pagerank and SERPS 2017Mobile Optimisation

Google’s move to mobile-first indexing has been one of the most important changes in the past year. What this means is that Google’s index now crawls the mobile versions of websites first, and the desktop version second. Therefore, mobile optimisation is becoming a massively important ranking factor.


In 2017, it’s more important than ever that all your online content is responsive across all mobile platforms, as well as being identical to your desktop site content. It’s no longer enough to think mobile-friendly. You should now be thinking mobile-first. Also, never launch a mobile version of your site until you’re sure it’s ready. Launching with an incomplete or broken version could end up damaging your ranking.

In conclusion then, although Google PageRank continues to be important, it’s no longer something in the public domain. However, to make sure you perform well in Google search results, be sure to incorporate the above factors.


What social media platforms should we definitely be using?

The problem with social media is that it’s very easy to spend a lot of time experimenting with different platforms and ultimately to receive no return on that investment of time (and therefore money). If you don’t really know what you’re doing, it can feel like you’re floundering around and achieving no real results. So, how do you make sure that you’re devoting your limited time and resources to the right social media outlets, those that will provide the most benefit for your business?


Research, that’s how. Which is why you’re here. Without further ado, let’s take a look at which social media platforms might be best for your business .


* Facebook

Facebook is still huge and despite the rise of alternatives, it doesn’t look like going anywhere soon. However, as it’s the first really successful social media platform and has been around the longest, it skews towards a slightly older demographic, with more than 50% of its users falling into the 25-55 age category. If the target demographic of your business is under 25, then concentrating on Facebook might not be the best use of your time. However, if you target a slightly older customer, then Facebook is still an extremely valuable tool, with around 50% of users checking the site several times a day.


* Instagram

Instagram has more than 500 million active users, 59% of whom check the app at least once a day, so there is no doubting the phenomenal reach of this platform. However, the app’s most recent algorithm change means that content is no longer viewed in chronological order. What this has done is to take away a large degree of control from companies who post content, making it difficult to determine exactly how many people will actually be exposed to your content. Another drawback is that there are no clickable links in individual posts, so getting followers from the app to your website is, to say the least, a challenge. Instagram is best used therefore as a tool for building your brand rather than a marketing tool.


* Pinterest

If you’re based in fashion, food, home decor, art or anything else where beautiful images are the order of the day, Pinterest is probably the best social media platform for you. It’s also particularly relevant for female-focused companies as it has significant reach with women of all ages. Plus, it features the Pinterest buy button, which means that your followers can see something they like and then move to purchase it with a single click of a button.


* Snapchat

According to official statistics, 71% of Snapchat users are under 34. 45% are between 18 and 24. So this is a very young market and the first thing you have to decide is whether this is a market that’s relevant to your business. If millennials are indeed your target market, then Snapchat is probably worth a punt. Companies who use Snapchat do so to share unique video content, including interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, or they might choose to share new products or collections. Used successfully, it can be a worthwhile marketing opportunity and a great way to build up a faithful following.


* Twitter

While there’s no doubt that the importance of Twitter has dwindled in the past year as user engagement has decreased, it’s still a viable platform for businesses. It’s also worth remembering, however, that the average click-through rate on links in tweets from accounts with over a million followers is less than 0.5%. So, don’t get your hopes up.


Finding which platforms fit your company best and putting all your efforts into just a couple of platforms will yield better results than spreading yourself across all platforms.


Aqueous-Digital.  We don’t sell services. We create partnerships with clients who are in it for the long haul. Come and discuss your business needs.