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MindMyHouse News 6 March 2008

by Susan Holtham, 9th March 2008

Tune into edition 23 of MindMyHouse News for all of the following: what’s a couple of years? Why we have adjusted our system of age ranges; our new banner advert exchange program with friends of MindMyHouse; vacation rental owners are welcome at MindMyHouse! Introducing our friends at www.vacationrentalscommunity.com; flashing the cash on a new Google Adwords campaign; the so-called ‘war on spam’ has forced us to make a small change to our Terms and Conditions; and finally, a regular slot: hall of shame – here they are for you to throw rotten tomatoes at!

Posted in: MindMyHouse News2008

Dear MindMyHousies,
We are about to turn three! We are excited about this fact and also because we are about to launch our dear little love-job community website as a fully fledged income-generating business. Awwww shucks I hear you all say (gee amazing how much noise over 7000 people can make when they all mutter at once) why can’t MindMyHouse be free forever? Erm…sorry guys, if only we could but without your modest contributions we can’t take our online service to the next level. We want exactly what our 7000+ house sitters want: MORE HOME OWNER TRAFFIC. See I’m even shouting it out! To bring more home owners to MindMyHouse we have to go out and find them wherever they are on the web. This takes money, people, your money. So if you do choose to stay with us when your membership comes up for renewal in 2008 or 2009 think of the twenty bucks (or its equivalent) as an investment in something great in your own future.

Did you have a peek at little ol’ me in the last edition of this e-newsletter? I’m at the bottom looking very upright (but missing the book on my head to prove how excellent my posture is) and not the dear little poppet in the baby carrier! Only two of you wrote in to comment on this ‘un-masking’ of your erstwhile editor. Jean, you are sweet cooing over our new baby (now 16 months) and Ken you are a lark! If you look through the ironwork circle in the wooden wall behind me and Cosi you can glimpse Wellington’s picturesque waterfront circa April 2007.

Tune into edition 23 of MindMyHouse News for all of the following: what’s a couple of years? Why we have adjusted our system of age ranges; our new banner advert exchange program with friends of MindMyHouse; vacation rental owners are welcome at MindMyHouse! Introducing our friends at www.vacationrentalscommunity.com; flashing the cash on a new Google Adwords campaign; the so-called ‘war on spam’ has forced us to make a small change to our Terms and Conditions; and finally, a regular slot: hall of shame – here they are for you to throw rotten tomatoes at!

What’s a couple of years? Why we have adjusted our system of age ranges.

In order to give home owners a very broad idea of who you are we ask you to choose one of six possible age ranges from a pull-down menu when you register with our service.We assumed this system would be fairly simple and straightforward but we have had a few letters from people at the younger end of the 56-70 age range who don’t want to be lumped in with all the good folk at the older end of this second-highest age range.

Hi Guys, I love your excellent new-look site but – I do object to being described as 56 – 70 when I haven’t put that on my advert (I’m 60, my husband is 53).Best wishes, Linda

Linda’s letter prompted us to take a good look at our system of members’ age ranges. We had to admit that our choice of six age groups was a tad arbitrary and what’s more the second highest range didn’t match the others as it covered 14 years instead of 10. We were only trying to be tidy! After thinking about it, we sent Linda the following reply:

We have reviewed the system of age ranges in our pull-down menu and have decided to adjust the top two ranges to bring them into line with the others. We realise that our members can be sensitive about being discriminated against because of their age group. Although the discrimination toward our older members is usually in their favour rather than the reverse!

So, if you were in the former age range of 56-70, you have been bumped into our new category of 56-65. And likewise, if you previously admitted to being 70+, you are now classed as 66-75. There is also a new category of 76+. To all of those good folk who fall in the gaps between our old and new systems, what’s a few years! To select a new age range for yourself, first choose ‘Update contact details’ from the left-hand menu in your account area.

Our new banner advert exchange program with friends of MindMyHouse

We know that we have always been against carrying advertising on the lovingly crafted commercial-free zone that is MindMyHouse but we have had a small change of heart. We thought we would give away some advertising space on the homepage of our Community Area to a number of websites we have become friendly with over the past three years. Of course, we would hope that they would return the favour and feature our gorgeous banner advert on their site but really, the point of this gesture is to show the world that after three years of being good online citizens we have become nicely embedded in our own online community. The next time you tune in to our Community Area homepage to read our current e-newsletter or indeed any of the tons of fabulous content listed there, you may want to click on one of the rotating images in the left and right columns and visit one of our friends. But don’t forget to come back y’all! If you would like to suggest very worthy and related websites you think we should be promoting in this space, please get in touch!

Vacation rental owners are welcome at MindMyHouse! Introducing our friends at www.vacationrentalscommunity.com

We stumbled upon this fabulous community website specifically built for vacation rental owners, vacationers and their service providers. John Romano, a vacation rental owner himself, has set up this site as a very useful resource for those involved in this booming industry the world over. Hurrah! The main feature of this effort at online community building is a well organised forum which invites discussion on all aspects of this industry. We were impressed by the selection of comprehensive resources available as free downloads for vacationers and owners alike, including tax information, sample invoices and rental agreements. Sound like another great website you know and love?

We know that some of our current 1300+ registered home owner members are vacation rental owners. Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly how many as we don’t ask for this kind of information from home owners when they register with our service. However, just off the top of my head I do remember sitter wanted listings that have been published on our site in the past for large guest houses in the Orkney Islands, Scotland and also in Wales and France. We are guessing that even the most popular locations have off seasons in which it is hard to find people willing to rent a vacation rental property. That’s where our enthusiastic and oh-so-flexible house sitter members come in!

We have chosen a sister site to this brand new website as the first to feature in our free banner advert exchange program. Look for their banner advert in our Community Area homepage and click through the image to their site if you are at all interested. In an effort to bring some more targeted home owner traffic to our site, we will be working hard to reach the world’s vacation rental owners. If you have any suggestions on how we can do this, we would love to hear from you!

Flashing the cash on a new Google Adwords campaign

We realise that to compete on the world stage for the attention of home owners worldwide we are going to have to ‘flash the cash’ and commit to our very own Google adwords program. Of course, we can’t spend this money until you start renewing your house sitter memberships with us. Here’s hoping that you choose to stay with us when your membership comes up for renewal in the next twelve months.

Here’s a lovely concerned message from one of our members that has inspired us to get cracking and get visible!

Hi Susan, I just wanted to thank you for your incredible website, but have to offer some feedback simply because I think your site absolutely excels over any other one online in terms of function, ease of use, aesthetics…However, your site has by far the fewest ads and that shouldn’t be!!! (Right now one site has almost 300 more than yours.) You guys should be the most popular (in my opinion ;-) so other than stating the obvious, I wanted to tell you that unless I type in “house sitting” or “house sitter” into Google, you don’t even come up on the top two pages, and then it’s only your community blog, which wouldn’t make me think necessarily you have a service like the other. Also, many of the other sites have theirs on Google Adwords and they show up regularly in my Gmail on the top and sides, which might be something to consider to drive more traffic your way…Just some suggestions because I really want you to succeed! ;-) You guys deserve to have ALL the customers – especially since it’s free for home owners! Anyway, that’s my ramble for today. I hope it helps. If not, apologies and keep up the good work!

Now that we have more than 7000 of your good selves registered with our service we feel that we have a great deal to offer home owners worldwide. Come one come all! If you do a search for our top four keywords (see following) you should see our Google adwords sponsored listing in either the right-hand column or along the top of the list of websites that your search has returned.

house sitters
house sitter
house sitting
house sit

If not, our advertising program has reached its spending limit for that particular 24-hour period, so check in later! MindMyHouse is already routinely ranked among the top four sites for our best performing keywords so all that a sponsored listing will do is give us a bit more credibility. A good thing! Of course, we will be monitoring this advertising campaign very closely, it may be that there are more cost-effective ways to bring home owner traffic to our site.

The so-called ‘war on spam’ has forced us to make a small change to our Terms and Conditions

In order to be responsible online service providers and compliant in the war against spam we have had to add a new paragraph to our Terms and Conditions.Here’s the short version: if you report any mail from us as spam to your email service provider, we are now obliged to immediately remove your account from our database.

Please don’t report our mail as spam! Be assured that you have complete control over the types of mail and the amount of mail you receive from us.

To view this new paragraph in our Terms and Conditions visit the following URL:http://www.mindmyhouse.com/advice/terms_and_conditions.php

We know that people often habitually select all the mail in their spam folder and delete it with one click. Before you do this, please be aware that our system generated mail often ends up in your spam folder. You would be doing us a great favour if you would look for our mail in your spam folder and mark it as ‘not spam’. That way, you are sending a message to your email service provider that our mail is wanted mail and not just another fake message for a ridiculous ‘enlargement product’. Once you have done this a few times you might even get our system-generated mail in your inbox. Wackadoo!

Hall of shame – here they are for you to throw rotten tomatoes at

It seems that the squillion dollar Internet-based fraud industry in Nigeria has had a shake-up recently courtesy of a major international investigative effort. I heard of one little gang of Nigerian fraudsters who were discovered to have amassed US$240 million in a Brazilian bank account. What?! Here’s the scene: someone sends out a bulk post of badly written email spam promising the recipients a huge sum of illicit cash. Which persuades how many (?) dupes to give an anonymous source their life savings. Huh?

Anyhow people, the moral of the story is: ‘send no money!’. Our service is based on the principle of free pet and house sitting services for the privilege of free accommodation. If a home owner seems to be offering you a whole lot more than accommodation, please forward their email to us. We love to deal harshly with these people!We only have a handful of fraudsters to expose to the world in this regular ‘Hall of shame’ section of our e-newsletter, which must be a good thing! Here they are, bless them:

mrbruce_benson777@yahoo.com
johhnny09@yahoo.com
charlesquartz@yahoo.com
dorajakes@yahoo.com
brones_chris@yahoo.com
fabioalonti100@yahoo.com
welch@operamail.com
emma4love24@yahoo.com
ackvas@gmail.com

I have had two people write to me thus far in response to this regular slot in our e-newsletter with messages of thanks. Both the photographer in North Carolina, United States and the nanny in Brazil had found a match with their fraudulent client’s email address and the list of losers that we like to expose regularly in MindMyHouse News. Gotcha!Happy house sitting (or best of luck with your sitters!)

Susan Holtham, Wellington 2007.

Susan Holtham
aka the team at MindMyHouse

About the author: Susan Holtham

Susan Holtham

The editor at MindMyHouse is a fun gal, intrepid traveller (in a former life), holder of three passports and enthusiastic house sitter. A book editor by trade, she did a three-year stint with Lonely Planet Publications at the start of her career. During her time at LP she shepherded many titles through the production process. Baaaa-aaaa-aaaaaa! Now that two gorgeous little girls call her mummy she's a very busy woman tending to their needs and to the occasional cries for help from among our 5000+ membership. No really, she's always keen to help!