Pubcon Austin 2015 – The State of Online Reviews By Thomas Ballantyne

Thomas Ballantyne is an expert on local search. In addition, he also has some great expertise and insights into online reputation management. At Pubcon Austin 2015, he shared some insights into online reviews and how they not only affect businesses, but how businesses can affect them for good or for bad. Here are some notes I took during his presentation …

Thomas Ballantyne talks about online reviews and online reputation managment at Pubcon Austin 2015.Thomas Ballantyne is an expert on local search. In addition, he also has some great expertise and insights into online reputation management. At Pubcon Austin 2015, he shared some insights into online reviews and how they affect businesses as well as how businesses can affect them for good or for bad. Here are some notes I took during his presentation:

  • You can rate anything online – even stocks on The Motley Fool
  • User-generated content = reviews
  • Bazaarvoice found that millennials are 84% likely to be influenced by online reviews
  • User-generated content is more influential than website content by brands
  • Basically, millennials won’t buy without input from other online users
  • Consumers own your brand messaging!
  • Amazon has been doing reviews for 20 years and is the largest single source of reviews
  • Consider what your online reviews look like today if you are considering your online reputation
  • 88% of users say they look online before they shop – but most businesses don’t think online reviews are not important or “not fair”
  • 70% of internet users have never written an online review according to AYTM Market Research
  • Stars = clicks in the SERPs – we’re visual, so star ratings stand out
  • Stars also equate to more revenue
  • You can use Schema.org tagging to incorporate star ratings
  • Most businesses need a C.L.O. … a Chief Listening Officer
  • You don’t have a review problem, you have a business problem
  • Billing problems are the #2 reason for negative reviews – Customer satisfaction is the #1 – according to Yelp
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews … ask your customers for feedback

Hire people that will love your customers – that’s a great way to get great reviews

I think that last quote is extremely important. If you don’t encourage your team members to take great care of your customers, your online reputation will eventually suffer. I see this almost every day in my own ORM work.

Photo courtesy of Pubcon.

The Saturday Summary – 5/9/2015

There was a lot of news around search this past week, as well as about mobile search, Apple’s apparent foray back into search, Yelp and Facebook’s content publishing initiative. Here are the articles that caught my eye during the week May 4-8 2015 …

There was a lot of news around search this past week, as well as about mobile search, Apple’s apparent foray back into search, Yelp and Facebook’s content publishing initiative. Here are the articles that caught my eye during the week May 4-8 2015:

Monday

I remember several years ago, a handful of brands abandoned their websites in favor of a “Facebook First” online presence. At that time I thought it was a terrible idea (still do, too). Apparently those brands changed their minds since they’ve all relaunched websites. This week came some details about Facebook’s new “Instant Articles” platform that would allow content publishers quicker placement of their content. While I can certainly see the upside for Facebook, I really don’t see much of an upside for the publishers. You can read more about it in this WebProNews piece by Chris Crum: Facebook Instant Articles: More Details Emerge.

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • There are some who get really bogged down in the details regarding the length of META title and description tags. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s important to understand the variances in what Google and Bing do with those tags. To that end, Dr. Pete Meyers shares the results of some tests he’s conducted around description lengths on the MOZ Blog: I Can’t Drive 155: Meta Descriptions in 2015.
  • Apple has confirmed they are crawling the web to gather data used in Siri and Spotlight Search results. Applebot 0.1 has been seen out in the wild, and Barry Schwartz tells us the details on Search Engine Land: Apple Confirms Their Web Crawler: Applebot.

Thursday

Indications are that Yelp is looking for a buyer. Greg Sterling on Search Engine Land reports that revenues are down for the leader in the online review space, which is causing some disappointment among investors. Speculations are that Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and others might be interested in the property. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. WSJ: Yelp Seeking A Potential Buyer.

Friday

Google has been telling us for several months that they are able to render JavaScript in web pages and understand how the pages will render to users. Among those I talk with, the question has been “Oh yeah? How much?” Adam Audette shared the results of some tests he participated in that indicate Google can render JavaScript pages quite well – well enough to understand the content and index it properly. While I’m not ready to tell clients that it’s OK to fall back into the JavaScript camp for menus and such, this is very good information. Check out We Tested How Googlebot Crawls Javascript And Here’s What We Learned on Search Engine Land.

Pubcon Austin 2015 – Let’s Get Visual … By Krista Neher

Are you using images strategically in your online marketing efforts? If not, why not? There are many very good reasons to do so, and Krista Neher of BootCampDigital shared some of those reasons along with some excellent ways to optimize how you use images. Here is some of the information she shared …

Krista Neher shares information on using images in web marketing during Pubcon Austin 2015.Are you using images strategically in your online marketing efforts? If not, why not? There are many very good reasons to do so, and Krista Neher of BootCampDigital shared some of those reasons along with some excellent ways to optimize how you use images. Here is some of the information she shared:

  • Your brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text
  • People have more messages being thrown at them than ever before.
    • There is lots of noise to push through.
    • Visuals serve a purpose to help us process information faster
    • But, the images have to have a purpose, tell a story
  • 3 Rs of visual content
    • Real pictures
    • About real things
    • Taken by real people
    • Brands aren’t just competing against “competitors” – they are competing against EVERYONE
    • Images don’t have to be “perfect” – they just need to be real
    • People know a professional photographer can make things look great – people want to see how things really look
    • Look at the Pure Michigan Instagram for a great example of how this is done: https://www.pinterest.com/puremichigan/
  • Look to have images that are contextually-relevant to the content for image sharing on sites like Pinterest.
  • Your image strategy has to start with your website. Think about social sharing and how many images are included with those shares.
  • Use Pinterest as a research tool for a social media content strategy
    • You can get some great ideas for content from repins
    • There are a lot of ways to find things that interest real people
Photo courtesy of Pubcon

Pubcon Austin 2015 – Social Media Measurement By Adam Proehl

Many who work in online spaces wonder what kind of ROI they are getting from social media. Some look to customer service as the main reason for participating, others look to sales or to drive traffic to their website. Whatever the business goals, it’s important to measure social media activity and see if the efforts are having the right effect. Adam Proehl shared some great information during his presentation at Pubcon Austin 2015. Here are some notes I took …

Adam Proehl shares some outstanding information during his presentation at Pubcon Austin 2015.Many who work in online spaces wonder what kind of ROI they are getting from social media. Some look to customer service as the main reason for participating, others look to sales or to drive traffic to their website. Whatever the business goals, it’s important to measure social media activity and see if the efforts are having the desired effect. Adam Proehl shared some great information during his presentation at Pubcon Austin 2015. Here are some notes I took:

  • What you can learn from social metrics:
    • You’re loved and why
    • You’re hated an why
    • Either of these can help you make improvements to your business
  • Things like numbers of followers, fans, likes, etc. are somewhat useless
  • Lots of “cookie cutter” tools don’t have actionable insights
  • Monitoring & Research
    • Is there an audience and do they care?
    • Trendsmap shows geographic-based Twitter trends
    • Checkins are very valuable to watch … more so than followers
  • Don’t just watch your “@” account on Twitter, look for your branded terms, too.
  • Don’t just look at the first layer of data, dig in for more insights
  • Tools
    • Check out SharedCount. Basic information, but valuable
    • Before you invest in a tool, just listen using the native tools
  • Can social help with links?
    • Maybe not for SEO, but they do help your great content get shared by and in front of the right audience
    • Even though they are “nofollow” – the links can still be valuable
Photo courtesy of Pubcon

Verizon Customer Service Failure

My mom has been a Verizon customer for several years. So have I. We may not be for much longer, though. My step-dad passed away last week. Part of the insane amount of paperwork that needed to be done to finalize his affairs was to turn off his mobile phone and put the account under mom’s name. She also wanted to add a line to her account and put my sister’s phone on her account. To get this all accomplished, they headed over to a local Verizon store. Here’s are two of the many things that went wrong trying to complete the goals …

My mom has been a Verizon customer for several years. So have I. We may not be for much longer, though.

My step-dad passed away last week. Part of the insane amount of paperwork that needed to be done to finalize his affairs was to turn off his mobile phone and put the account under mom’s name. She also wanted to add a line to her account and put my sister’s phone on it. To get this all accomplished, they headed over to a local Verizon store.

Here are two of the many things that went wrong trying to complete the goals:

  • There were several computer glitches during the process of turning off the one phone and transferring the accounts. At one point, the person helping mom was on the phone, presumably to Verizon’s tech support team. At one point, whoever he was talking to hung up. The guy looked at my mom and told her the person cussed at him and hung up before the problem was fixed.
  • While using my mom’s phone on speaker, the guy at the store was talking to another person from Verizon. The Verizon person said there was something outstanding on the account having something to do with an item that was sent in for warranty service and a replacement was sent back but there was no record of Verizon receiving the defective item. This was something that happened almost a year ago. The item in question was shipped to Verizon before the replacement was sent, so it was hard to understand what the problem was. The person from Verizon said (while on speaker, mind you), “Let’s assume for a minute the customer isn’t lying about this.”

At this point, my mom took the phone from the store person, hung up and walked out.

So, let’s review:

  • A member of the tech team charged with helping the stores function verbally abused one of the people who work hard to support the customers who, ultimately, pay their salaries.
  • A member of another team charged with helping those same store personnel accused a customer of lying about a transaction right in front of the customer.

Needless to say, my mom was pretty ticked off when she got home. She was in the store for 3 1/2 hours and accomplished nothing. As she relayed her story to me, I got pretty ticked off myself. I decided to sent out a tweet:

Screen shot of first tweet to Verizon.


I got a reply fairly quickly:

Screen shot of reply tweet.


To which I replied:

Screen shot of my reply to Verizon's tweet.


Which elicited this response:

Screen shot of other reply from Verizon.


At this point, I thought to myself that we might be able to get some issues settled. So, I followed and DMed. Here’s the conversation that ensued:

6 2015-03-19_22-19-51


I thought the link they DM’d to me would be some sort of easy way to communicate with the “Correspondence Team.” The link actually led to the regular “Contact Us” page on Verizon.com. I went over it several times and couldn’t find an email address or a form with which to submit my complaint – only phone numbers and live chat. I didn’t have time to deal with a phone tree or a live chat.

My last DM received no response.

What were the problems here? There were several:

  • The tech team member was verbally abusive to the store team member – What is up with that? Both of these people are really on the same team – the Verizon team. This is certainly a leadership issue. You cannot expect good team members to stay good or stay with you if you allow this type of behavior. The team members will either leave or become so disillusioned that they will be ineffective; neither of which is a good option. The fact that this was done in front of customers made this even worse.
  • Another support team member accused a customer of lying while the customer was standing there listening – Anyone who has worked with customers has been tempted to complain about them with their coworkers. It’s one thing to wait until the customer leaves and then go into the back room to blow off some steam. It’s quite another to do so right in front of the person. This is another leadership issue. This type of demonstrated bad attitude needs to be quickly dealt with before business is lost. All it takes is one incident to lose that customer and, potentially, anyone who that customer tells.
  • There was no follow through on the customer complaint – I’ve written in this space before that you cannot limit the ways you are willing to communicate to customers. I preferred to email my complaint to Verizon, but it appeared that I was not able to do so. That is a huge problem, especially for a media company that provides email service. The fact that no one responded to my last DM was also an issue.
  • The Social Media team was not empowered or equipped to handle the problem – This is related to the previous issue. When I read, “… so we can report their behavior” I rather expected some action. There was none.
    • I understand that there may be a third party vendor monitoring Verizon’s social media. That’s pretty standard and a good practice. If that’s the case, it’s understandable that the people responding on Twitter are not equipped to handle email from customers. If that is the case, though, there should be procedures in place to escalate complaints and allow for a smooth transition between the social media team and those who are able to deal with issues. That can be done in a way that’s nearly transparent to the customer.
    • On the other hand, if the social media team is part of Verizon, then this is completely inexcusable.
    • The people who have front-line contact with customers need to be empowered and equipped to handle issues or have a clear way to escalate customers’ problems to those who are.

So, maybe someone at Verizon will read this and do something about these issues. They may lose my and my mom’s business, but maybe they can make some changes and keep their other customers.

Update: Someone at AT&T is on the ball. Within minutes of me tweeting out a link to this story, I received this response:
Screen shot of tweeted response from AT&T


Too opportunistic? Perhaps. Maybe I’ll check them out a little closer as I look for another provider.