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Archive for November, 2018

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Using Add to Cart Proxies

Normal proxies have been around for many years, indeed the first servers were more commonly known as gateways.  Installed in large corporate networks the proxy would act as a gateway server to an application service.  Later as the internet developed a proxy would usually be used to control and facilitate access to the internet.  Instead of each individual workstation accessing the internet directly it would be routed through a proxy server.  This would be usually be done by specifying the route directly into the browser configuration using the IEAK kit or by deploying then through Windows Group policy for example.

The advantage of this was two fold to the network administrator, firstly it made the perimeter of the network much more secure.  Instead of lots of individual internet connections visiting sites with no control or checks, every connection went through a proxy server.  This meant you could restrict access to any website which was not appropriate, also any files or downloads could be checked for viruses.  Most sites would install antivirus software on the clients and use the AV check on the server as an additional protection. Employees would also be less likely to use inappropriate sites if they are aware their activity is being monitored.

 

There is another advantage to using proxies in a corporate network environment too which is that it can be used for caching.  The reality is that many people visit the same websites from their internet connections, for example in the UK many people visit popular sites like the BBC.  However a proxy server can be used to store popular sites and send it to clients directly which greatly reduces the amount of inbound network traffic.  So when the first request is sent to the BBC server, each page is stored locally on the proxy server.  When the next request for that page is received, the proxy sends the page therefore no additional bandwidth is used.

Away from the corporate networks, proxies usually have a different role being used by individuals online.  Most focus around bypassing filters and blocks or providing anonymity online, sometimes a combination of both.   At the most basic level a proxy will sit in between a client computer and the website they are visiting.  Instead of communicating directly the proxy acts as an intermediary so that they never directly connect to each other.  If you don’t use something like a proxy, the web sites you visit will have access to lots of information about you including your IP address.

Proxies are thus used to access resources which are normally blocked, for example millions use proxies to access the BBC from outside the UK. Other people use them for more specific purposes including entrepreneurs for online commerce.  If you are trying to buy goods from a server which has some country or quantity restrictions, then you can use a proxy to bypass these.  Commonly people call these Add to Cart proxies as they are designed specifically for people making purchases from popular online e-commerce servers.

Although the core functionality of the proxy servers are the same, ATC proxies have several distinct characteristics.   Firstly they are designed usually to operate against a specific target server, for example you could have an ATC proxy designed to work with Supreme’s e-commerce servers.   These could then be used to make multiple purchases, often using automated software called bots.  A Supreme ATC proxy would be situated as near as possible to the Supreme servers, and also would be configured so that concurrent connections are not made from the same IP addresses.  Its also important that the IP addresses are registered in the correct location – for example the USA.

 

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Using Proxies to Market on Instagram

If you’d got into some serious marketing on Instagram two or three years ago, chances are you’d have made quite a bit of money.  As long as you’d done it right, as we all know it’s also very, very easy to waste time and money on any sort of online marketing.  Yet those who really cracked it made serious amounts of money, running literally thousands of accounts with even more followers.  Briefly there it was the online money making paradise, yes Instagram was that great – huge number of users and very little policing of online marketers.

 

Of course, that changed pretty much as soon as I started with the platform!  After noticing that none of the people under 30 seemed to be using Facebook anymore, I discovered one of the sites they were using was Instagram.   It started out as a photo  sharing site and has developed into a fully fledged social network. What’s more it’s perfect for promoting businesses, products and services through images and videos.   There’s no real surprise that it was briefly a real gold mine for online entrepreneurs.

Indeed it still is to some extent but there’s one aspect which has got much, much harder for Instagram marketers – the ability to grow your accounts.  To be more specific, it’s really the ability to artificially both grow accounts and manage multiple Instagram profiles too.   It was very simple, there were only the most basic IP address checks which were easily circumvented.  Plenty of people I know were managed dozens of really large accounts with very little thought and effort with regards hiding their tracks.

That’s all changed now and you have to be very, very careful if you’re trying to build multiple accounts on Instagram now.  Using a basic multi-homed proxy server with a couple of IP addresses isn’t going to hack it anymore.    Instagram have seriously upped their game to block marketing companies and agencies who operate any sort of self promotion on their platform.  There are several aspects now to Instagram marketing but probably the most crucial is which proxies you use.

For most purposes proxies with basic off the shelf datacentre IP addresses are not going to work anymore.   This is unfortunate as they are the easiest and cheapest to obtain.  Most marketers now who use Instagram on any scale,  use proxies with residential addresses and you still have to be careful.   Loading up an Instagram Bot Free trial with a fifty accounts and using a couple of residential IP addresses isn’t going to work either.  You may get away with it for a little while, following and liking other peoples photos but if you try posting you’ll get actions blocks and your account banned very quickly.

The ratios change all the time, but current testing seems to suggest that anything above a one to one ratio isn’t going to work out well.  That means that one residential IP address per one Instagram account, which is unfortunately quite an expensive resource.   If you’re going to use any sort of Bot or Instagram marketing tool like Jarvee for instance then you’ll need to load up the software with proxies before you start.   It’s especially important when posting or creating accounts, and aggressive spamming on Instagram doesn’t work in any circumstances any more.

There are other considerations when choosing the right proxies and it’s worth just being aware of them.  Some people are tempted to use rotating proxies because they help lower the cost of buying large amounts of residential IP addresses.   The  problem with this is that it does’t look natural especially if the addresses are registered in vastly different locales.  Imagine that you post an item on a European IP address, two minutes later your account follows a few people while connected via a New York based address – does that look natural to you? It’s unlikely to work, also you have to be careful that these IP addresses are not shared concurrently with thousands of users.  The problem is that it would be likely that some of them would be using Instagram too – which would be a huge red flag on your accounts.

It’s debatable now if all the time, effort and expense is really worth it on Instagram at the moment.   Some marketers have figured out options that make it feasible, some for example are only using 4G IP addresses which seem to be much more forgiving.  There is a certain expectation that mobile users IP addresses will change more often which is of course the case.  Again finding an inexpensive source of these addresses is difficult though so you need high value Instagram accounts.

The reality is that Instagram know they can’t stop all marketers without actually blocking real users.  However what their intention is to to make it so difficult and expensive that few people bother, which seems to be happening.

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