Why Online “Reputation” Management Companies are Bullshit

Online reputation management.

It’s a concept that’s pretty silly to me. At least in the way that many companies choose to sell it.

I recently was speaking with a colleague about a new venture they were entering into whereby they would perform a type of “reverse SEO” on search results that their clients found undesirable.

Phew. I think that everyone who has done anything serious online has experienced a post about them that they would like to see disappear.

So these heroes are going to swoop in and make all the bad press go away.

Oh wait. That’s bullshit.

Here’s why:

The search results page on Google for your company name is NOT your reputation.

Sure, it’s what comes up when someone searches for you.

But your REAL reputation is what real human beings think of you. What your customers are talking about. What the press is talking about. And what your leads are talking about.

And all of those things are completely independent of a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) page.

Let’s take a look at an example.

Let’s say you build a product that claims it increases the fuel efficiency of any car. You’ve sold 50,000 units and people are starting to write about you.

The first page of Google for the search term “most amazing, super duper, gas saving, wallet exploding widget” (your stupid product name) comes up with your website, and a few good reviews and a few bad ones.

You hate those bad ones.

I mean how could they say those mean things about your company? Those meanies must not know what they’re talking about.

Time to “reputation manage” them!

You hire a company to push down the ranking of the offending articles, and to boost some other ones that make you feel better about yourself.

A job well done.

Reputation Management 1. Eric Sloan 0.

But is this move really going to increase your sales?

Maybe… a bit.

But what about the sites that people go to when they want a good ol’ honest review of a product [like amazon]? Those customers are going to go to these sites regardless of whether they show up in the search results or not.

And what about the bloggers who have huge audiences that are subscribed to their blog? How are you going to silence them?

And what about the fact that, in the end, you haven’t really solved the problem in the first place…

You haven’t made customers happy

How do I know this? If you were making customers happy, there would be many more positive things said online than negative. If you’re scrambling to drive down articles that speak badly about you, then you probably need to take a good look at how your company is run.

If you were delighting customers on a regular basis would you still have this problem? Or would you have an army of fanboys and girls who were standing up for you on your behalf?

Do you think companies like Apple need to do “negative seo”?

What are you hiding from?

In the end you have to make a decision. Are you going to hide all of the comments from meanies who don’t like you? Or are you going to create amazing products and give great customer support that people might actually dig?

If you focus on making customers happy instead of silencing the loud ones who see through your bullshit, you might just end up with a positive online reputation that is lasting and strong.

And that’s what you wanted in the first place.

5 Quick Ways To Improve Your Online Reputation… for free

  1. Ask for comments and reviews from your happy customers
  2. Produce more content that people find valuable
  3. Engage with people on social sharing sites instead of just announcing your sales
  4. Shed your “professionalism” and act like a real human being
  5. Change your company culture to focus on delighting customers instead of following policies

Let me know your thoughts below.

~E

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How to Complete Google’s Offline Conversion Tool and Track Even MORE Offline Conversions

Google has recently released a new tool that allows you to upload conversion data to Google Adwords. The point of this new tool is so that you can update Adwords’ conversion data with a sale that might have come from an offline source (ie. a phone call).

The tool works great and I’ve already implemented it into the work that I do with Google Adwords. It’s even easier when you use Salesforce, as you can have a report generated automatically for you every few days, and then upload the data directly into Adwords.

Many companies are singing great praises about Google’s new tool.

However, there’s an issue. Google’s new tool will not track ALL of your offline conversions.

It only tracks the ones that you have a GCLID (Google Click ID) for. In other words, you can only update conversions for leads that you got through a lead form.

Let’s look at a few examples:

Example #1

With Google offline conversion tool Diagram

Let’s say Sally comes to your website looking for your widgets. Sally reads your content and is impressed by the information that you have on your website.

Sally signs up to download a whitepaper from your site and fills in her contact information. In the background, your website form grabs the GCLID and saves it in Sally’s file for later.

Over the next week or two Sally is receiving your autoresponder emails. These emails nurture Sally into a qualified lead and Sally decides to give you a call. Your sales team closes the sale (good job!) and Sally becomes a customer.

Without Google’s offline conversion tool you would have a hard time connecting Sally’s conversion with the data that you have in Google Adwords.

Luckily, with Google’s new tool you can grab Sally’s GCLID and upload it back into Adwords (you can do this manually, or there are some marketing automation powerhouses that have jumped on board to automate this process).

Great! You now have updated conversion tracking data in your Google Adwords account. The new tool has worked exactly how it was supposed to and you have just given yourself more data.

But… let’s now look at another example

Example #2

graham

Graham clicked on your ad just as Sally did. Graham liked your site, and liked the content that you offered.

But instead of signing up as a lead, Graham decided to give your sales team a call right away.

Luckily, your sales team kicks ass so they’ve now closed another sale. Graham is a customer.

Too bad you don’t have any way of linking Graham to your Adwords data. Yes, you can setup multiple phone numbers for your adwords campaigns, but if you’re like me and you have 50 different adgroups active at any given time you probably don’t want to have 50 different phone numbers on your site to manage.

So how do we get Graham’s data into Adwords (and hopefully analytics)?

Get the data through the receipt process

After Graham has made a sale, your sales team needs to send them a receipt. If you do this via email, you have a prime opportunity to grab some data.

Instead of including the details of the receipt right in the email you send to your customer, send them a link to an online receipt that is located on your website.

Include your Google Adwords conversion code on this receipt page and VIOLA, you have your conversion data. As an added bonus, you can now add Google Analytics’ e-commerce code onto this page so that you can track exact sales through your analytics account. The advantage with this is that now you’re tracking offline sales for all other traffic sources as well.

In the name of better data, good luck!

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Talk soon,

~E

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Institutionalized Workers

Workers (like prisoners) can become institutionalized.

When a worker is exposed to an environment where every decision is made for them, you end up with employees that don’t think for themselves.

Micro-management, strict policy and aggressive bosses all contribute to this culture.

It’s fine if you want to dictate every move that your employees make. It’s fine if you want your company to have the vision of just a single person.

But if you want to build an enterprise that grows and becomes it’s own entity. If you want to build a business that combines the ideas and experience of the many and thrives and changes in turbulent times.

Then you need to set your workers free. you need to allow them to make decisions.

Remove the shackles. Hire people who are bigger than you are.

And grow.

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What Will You Test This Week?

It’s Monday. The week is full of potential. The only question left to ask is “what are you going to do about it?”

  • What are you going to test this week?
  • What are you going to learn about your customer base?
  • What conversion rate increase are you going to win today?
  • What mistakes are you going to learn from?
  • What new content are you going to write and share?
  • What are you going to teach?

Now go, and test like hell.

 

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Thought of the day: Keep Your Wheels Moving

A few days ago I got into a situation while 4x4ing that was rather… ‘anal clenching’.

I was driving down a steep hill and the truck slipped out of low gear. For those of you who don’t know what that means, I was suddenly in an uncontrolled slide down a very steep hill with no way to slow down.

Brakes don’t work in this situation.

The only thing going through my head as the truck bounced and slid down this hill was: Keep The Wheels Moving.

Had I slammed on the brakes trying desperately to stop, the truck would have slid sideways and possibly rolled over. Instead, by keeping the wheels moving, even though I had no way to slow the truck down, I was still able to basically control the truck.

The same goes for your business.

If you run into a problem and hit the brakes in panic, often times you will lose even more control of the situation. You could end up sliding into a crash.

However if you keep your wheels moving, you can ride through the problems and at least keep moving in a controlled direction. It may seem more uncomfortable at the time, but panic and fear are no way to run a business.

Or drive down a mountain.

As always, #testlikehell.

~E

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Build A List Or Die

Skeleton © by Loozrboy

So many lost opportunities.

Companies work so hard for traffic. SEO, PPC, Inbound marketing, Infographics, RSS feeds. The list goes on and on.

But of all the noise around getting eyeballs on your website, very few companies effectively build a list of leads that they can continually market to after the fact.

With attention spans getting shorter, and the amount of high quality content going up on the web there is a lot of competition for browsing attention.

Bounce rates go up, engagement goes down.

That’s why new websites need to be damn good at capturing visitors and building a list. Build a list or die.

How to start building a list for your company

If you have absolutely no list then you need to find out what they want. Whatever you do, DON’T ASK YOUR STAFF.

Ok ok, you can ask your staff, but once they answer, completely ignore them. What you need are answers from your customers, not your staff. If you have recordings of customer phone calls then listen to them. You will find insights that your staff would not relay back to you.

The best way is to go right to the source, and there are a number of excellent ways to get feedback from visitors to your site. My personal favorite is Qualaroo.

Qualaroo allows you to setup small questionnaires right on your website so that you can ask visitors specific questions about what they’re looking for.

Ask your visitors questions like: “What is the single biggest issue that we can help you solve” or “Is there something we could do today that would solve a problem for you?”

You’ll be amazed at some of the answers.

Turn these answers into a solution

The next step is to take this feedback and turn it into something that your visitors can use. In the case of a marketing agency this could be a whitepaper that solves one single marketing issue for their visitors right away. If you are a landscaping company create a video that shows your visitors how to solve the big issue that they told you about in the survey.

The most important part of this step is to make the solution simple and easily applicable. Choosing to solve one single, quick issue is way more powerful than giving away a 30 day course or a 200 page ebook covering an entire array of topics.

Once you have your downloadable giveaway it’s time to start building that list.

Solve their problem by giving away the solution

Next create a landing page to promote your giveaway. This one step is probably the hardest part but don’t be afraid of putting up a really basic page. If the solution you are solving is a big problem in the eyes of your visitor you will not need fancy graphics and copy in order to get signups.

Sign up with an email marketing service like aweber and start collecting lead information. You can use this information to continue to market to your visitors long after they have first visited your website. This will help to keep your traffic numbers up and keep you fresh in the minds of your prospects.

If you’re not building your list, you’re dying.

As always, test like hell and leave me a comment.

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Good Design vs. Good Copy

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TEST LIKE HELL

I’ve had my hand in the affiliate marketing industry for a while now and I have mixed feelings. That is a story for another post, but one thing I’ve always noticed with new folks who come into “internet marketing” is that they love the idea of affiliate marketing.

I mean, it sounds like a perfect solution.

You sign up as an affiliate for product X. Send some traffic over, and when people buy the product you get paid.

No website, no customer service, no hassles.

The trouble is, there’s also no value.

The real value in affiliate marketing comes with testing.

And more testing.

And more testing.

And… well, you get the idea, there’s a shit load of testing.

But instead of testing, so many people head out to find a magic bullet. A secret solution to affiliate marketing riches that is easy and repeatable. They want to invest no thought or value into the project, and just extract value for themselves.

Trouble with something that is repeatable, is that it will stop working. The true value in any kind of marketing is bringing something to the table that has not yet been done before.

That’s why you have to stretch the boundaries of best practices. Become an un-professional.

And TEST LIKE HELL.

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How To Improve Overall Trust In Your Products

Trust is a funny thing. It can take a long time to build up, and be destroyed in an instant.

Marketing campaigns, community outreach, company policies, customer service, these things are all meant to build trust with the public for a company. Many large companies have huge budgets for the simple purpose of building trust and maintaining trust with the public.

But what do you do if you aren’t a large company with a huge budget?

You need a plan.

And it starts with taking a look at your company and the many ways that it interacts with your customers AND potential customers.

Building Your Plan

Start by figuring out every contact point that your company has with both customers and leads.

On the web, this list may include:

  • Your Website
  • Landing pages
  • Email campaigns
  • Thank you emails
  • Thank you pages after a lead has signed up
  • Your customer service department
  • Your customer service AUTO RESPONDER
  • Your sales team
  • The follow-up team
  • Your product itself
  • Privacy Policy
  • User Manual

Think about how each of these items will speak to your customers. Do they align with your business goals? Do they align with your company culture? To they inspire trust?

Think about your product and how it looks when someone receives it. Whether it’s a digital product or a physical one, is the experience aligned with everything else about your company? Does the personality of your company translate into your product’s packaging?

How can you improve this interaction? How can you improve that “warm and fuzzy” feeling about your company that your customer gets when they love and trust you?

Ideas To Improve Your Contacts

They key is to take every opportunity you have to make an impression. Many customers will not read each email you send out, or every instruction that they need to follow. You never know which part of your company is going to stand out in a customer’s mind, so make sure that every contact point between your company and the customer is a pleasant one.

Don’t just have your copywriter focus on the sales and thank you pages. What about the manual? Add some personality to it.

What about your email newsletter confirmation email? Those things are usually boring as hell.

What is the experience like when someone submits a support ticket? Do they get 2 or 3 emails stating that it has been received? Do they have to jump through additional hoops to get an answer? Do they get told to call a different department? Maybe you can include common answers to questions on the confirmation email. Or spice it up with some well written copy and a brief mention of the amazing support team that will be answering their question.

How can you improve the feeling of buying the product? Does your product reinforce the idea that the customer has made the right choice by purchasing your product? Or are they filled with instant buyers regret?

Welcome them into the tribe that your company has created. Make sure they know that your customers are a community of like minded people and they have joined the community with their purchase. Provide support and community links to promote interaction and provide regular content not just to potential customers, but to existing ones.

Bottom Line

By improving the quality of every contact point you have with a customer or potential you slowly build more and more trust. Trust that you can use to strengthen your tribe and to make more sales.

Let me know your thoughts below.

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No One Cares About Your Jargon

Are you one of those people who fills their emails with words that make your point seem more sophisticated?

Don’t.

You’re wasting my time by saying something in 6 sentences that could easily be said in 1. And your excess words aren’t fooling anyone.

You may think that you’re sounding more “professional” and I guess to some, you may be right. After all, if you are writing your long and drawn out emails to another who does the same thing, maybe they think you’re smart.

Who cares.

Get your point across quickly. Send emails that connect by writing the way that you talk. Be an anti-professional. The people you work with will appreciate it.

Do you really think that very successful people talk that way? They don’t. They are to the point. Every busy, successful man or woman that I have dealt with replies to emails with one or two sentences that get their point across quickly. They don’t have time to be writing out emails that are full of fluff.

The only people who write really long emails with extra words and sentences are people who like to fill their time with busy work. Busy work is the work that you do because you think that you have to. Busy work is constantly checking your web stats or tweets, replying to Facebook comments the minute that you see them, or reading over every email 5 times to make sure it’s “professional” enough.

How to get out of this habit

Getting out of this habit of jargon filled, wasteful emails is easy however. Focus on getting things completed. Complete your projects, complete your sale, complete your emails.

Let me know your thoughts below.

~E

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