Archive for marketing

Goodgaragescheme.co.uk: how do you respond to this?

Is Goodgaragescheme a dishonest way of shifting car treatments masquerading as ‘honest’ feedback?

Quite some time ago I noticed ‘The Good Garage Scheme’ when waiting at my local garage. I asked the owner about it. He told me straight that the only way a garage could be ‘in’ the scheme was by agreeing to stock certain engine treatments. What???!!? Being a fan of honest, credible feedback, this naturally made my ears prick up.

I did some research at the time and, sure enough, he appeared to be right. I blogged about it (generously NOT using the name ‘Good Garage Scheme’ in my title to give them the benefit of the doubt) and then left it alone. Today, however, alerted by a Google search bringing traffic to this site, I found the following recent online review:

“If you’ve never heard of the good garage scheme …well it’s a scheme that any garage can join as long as they sell certain products endorsed by the company behind the scheme. They have a website where you can find good garage scheme garages and also , the most important I thought, leave reviews about the garages you visit. Now if you check their website it would be impossible to find any negative reviews posted for any garage that belongs to their scheme. On the other hand most people would probably think that this is because all the garages are good indeed and that’s why there is no bad reviews. That’s not the case though.

I live in St Albans and I decided to visit xxxx xxx x x xxxxx in St Albans to do a simple wheel alignment. The service I got was horrible. There was a 17 year old kid doing the wheel alignment while the boss ( the mechanic) was sitting in his office with his feet on his desk chatting on his mobile phone.Needless to say that the kid messed it up big time and my car was driving in a straight line with the steering wheel at an angle of 20 degrees!!!!! I complained to the mechanic who immediately tried to blame it on my car and a faulty steering wheel. That was not the case though. He did the wheel alignment and he got the car perfect which proved the point that the kid didn’t know what he was doing and in fact he put my life in danger.

Anyway , this is not a review of xxxxx x xxxx xxxxx who are completely irresponsible and dangerous. I tried to leave a negative review for this garage on the good garage scheme website but of course there was nothing posted and my review will never be posted. This is just a scam scheme. What is the point of posting only positive reviews and ignoring negative ones.

I think that trading standards and the watchdog should have a look at this scheme. In the meantime just run away from any garage under this scheme.”

As I discovered the first time I looked into this, the scheme is operated by Forte – a company supplying high-price, high-margin ‘emission-control’ fuel additives to the garages in the GoodGarageScheme system.

We think this is fundamentally dishonest.

The results? Standards of customer care and quality of work that are worse than non-participating garages!

Yes, in a recent Which? survey Good Garage Schemes performed WORST of all in a test in which cars with a list of basic faults were presented at a range of garages. Check out the Independents’ report on this here – and note the poor GGS performance.

Tripadvisor RSS feeds: dumped, apparently…

TripAdvisor’s quiet dumping of RSS feeds raises interesting issues

RSS – on the surface, a great mechanism for delivering your content to a wider world. In reality – as it appears that TripAdvisor has quietly concluded – completely counter-productive for sites dependent on on-site advertising for their revenues.

For a short time, RSS feeds allowed the traveller to monitor a hotel over time to pick up any worrying reports before booking or travelling. A hotel owner could use RSS to have latest reviews delivered so he could monitor and respond to any potential reputation problems as they arose.

It all sounded good – until somebody at TripAdvisor presumably realised that providing RSS feeds of reviews achieved absolutely nothing except keeping the potential clickers at a distance from the on-site sponsors. Doh.

What’s interesting is that now, if you search Google for Tripadvisor RSS feeds, there’s no clear information. TripAdvisor seems to mumble on a bit about RSS being available at various places on the site, but I didn’t see any when I did a quick search just now.

So if you’ve arrived here trying to work out why something that seemed so useful to the general public suddenly disappeared, the answer can only be that RSS, pushing content TO subscribers doesn’t work with the Google Ad Revenue model.

This also hints at something I’ve thought for a while – that online revenue mechanisms default to the Ad revenue model when direct monetisation or other methods fail.

Down the rabbit hole of online reputation

Following the online reputation White Rabbit leads me to ask questions of yet another online business directory

This is what I love about the internet. Follow any White Rabbit that passes, and before you know it, you’re falling down a rabbit hole that leads to only one place: Dodgyland.

Come with me on a journey.

It all begins with noticing a tweet on my Twitter search widget (over there on the nav bar) about ‘online reputation management’.  I click the link which takes me to a blog page about managing your reputation by creating fake identities and fake content to test the ‘Google’ visibility of certain platforms and directories. Mmmm ok. I have views on that, but another time. Read on.

I note the name of the poster: Ehud Furman. A quick Google search shows Ehud is the founder of a service called ‘LookUpPage’ a service that seems to offer you a business web page with a claim that ’95% of LookUpPage Pro users are featured on the first page of Google’. Uh-oh. That’s torn it – you went and triggered my ‘online directory’ alarm! Blast it – now I’ve just got to go and have a closer look :-)

So I delve into the business directory, determined to test the benefits on offers to a random premium (paying) member.  I scroll down to find our lucky winner, one Mr. Jimmy Petruzzi who appears to be a NLP practitioner in Manchester.

So, first of all, I take a look at Jimmy’s LookUpPage page. I notice he’s attached a custom domain name to it. First thing that strikes me is that it’s all a bit messy, but, hey, if it provides useful Google visibility for his business, then maybe it’s worth it?

How can I tell if it’s worth paying for a premium listing in an online business directory?

You can use my time-honoured Deek-O-Matic Online Directory Tester:

1) First I search Google for “nlp trainer manchester” – the kind of basic search phrase you’d think Jimmy would want prospects to find him for. However, neither his own website or his LookUpPage appear on the first couple of pages for that phrase.

2) I then look at his LookUpPage header to see what key phrases are in it and then do a search on ‘Jimmy Petruzzi’ and ‘NLP centre of excellence‘ both of which return his LookUpPage on P1 of Google.

It appears that for his money, all Jimmy gets is listings on P1 of Google for two completely uncompetitive terms: his own name and that of his company. Waaah. He could – and in fact, does – achieve this same result with his own website. Doinggg???

There’s an important point to make here: the average directory punter who doesn’t quite get how Google works thinks that this is a result. It isn’t. The whole point of search engine marketing is to be found in Google search results for the keywords that the prospects you want to do business with actually type into Google. Being found for your own name or the specific name of your business ISN’T an achievement for two simple reasons: 1) because they’re not hotly contested key phrases and 2) because people typing them by default already know you and your business exist. Doh.

Anyone giving you the impression that getting your name / business name into P1 of Google results will generate business for you is seriously misleading you – not least because you could just as easily do this yourself (as Jimmy already has).

So what is the benefit to him of paying for this service? You tell me.

Conclusion

This test shows that a premium listing with this directory brings Jimmy no real-world benefit at all because it doesn’t offer him any Google visibility to new prospects (people who don’t already know him & his business). 

But it points to a bigger problem: that customers of this kind of directory, by definition, don’t understand the distinctions I’ve just made. With that in mind and coupled with sales pitches that strongly suggest increased business as a benefit of membership (as was the case in a recent well-document case on this site) it’s hard not to conclude that this lack of understanding suits online directories.

You can tell I’m being restrained here. To be blunt about Google marketing, there’s no easy or cheap way to get your products into the public eye in a competitive market.

Something else I don’t think Jimmy understands is that LookUpPage adds a final, self-serving twist to his premium listing:

You can see the company that sells the listing has used half of the meta description to promote itself. Nifty.

I’ve been doing this common-sense test for years now, and the majority of the online directory services I’ve tested don’t appear to offer any benefits.

If I’ve got it wrong, please let me know. I don’t mean come here and get angry and defensive; I mean come here, read my critique carefully then respond in testable, black and white terms exactly what the benefits on offer are.

Jimmy, if you’re reading this, I hope business is going well. If you have a view on anything I’ve written here then please feel free to comment.

Hotel horror stories: more worrying marketing from Tripadvisor

Nothing pulls in viewers like a bit of shock horror, right Tripadvisor?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; this isn’t a good marketing strategy.

Hey, what do I know?

All I know is that this approach to pulling people into the Tripadvisor site does nothing to build my trust in either Tripadvisor’s motives or its methods. Sadly, it’s following that time-honoured, downward trend of all things internet: the more lurid, tacky, salacious and shocking your content and methods, the more money you’ll make.

Pardon me for being…well, not surprised, I suppose is a way of putting it.

Tripadvisor’s slogan used to be ‘Get the truth and then go’. That’s since become ‘The world’s most trusted reviews’ – which is convenient, since it’s now only one small step to change it again to ‘The world’s tackiest reviews’.

Tripadvisor no doubt feels safe behind its US internet libel laws which (to this layman) seem to offer considerable protection to anyone publishing anyone else’s comments about anything. Add the penchant for anonymity in the world of reviews and you have a recipe for sleaze and manipulation.

Yuk.

Several reasons why not to use the first image you find in Google

SEO companies: if you grab the first image you find…

You’ll all end up looking the same!

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17

I’ve always been interested in how people use Google images in the building of their websites. Now, I know how tempting it is to use the first image you come across when you’re in a hurry to get your page built.  But if you do, then one day soon, we’re all going to be using the same image.

A couple of years ago I noticed a rash of companies all local to Plymouth in the UK, all involved in the same broad business networks using one single set of ‘smiley young corporate business people’ pictures – and they didn’t know it. Incredible.

Ok, so you might think heck, that other company’s over there in Canada, so what’s the likelhood of anyone noticing we’re both in the same line of work using the same picture? Mmm, right. This is the internet we’re talking about isn’t it?

I’m not making a judgment whether or not people are paying for the images they find in Google.  That’s between you and your own conscience.  What I would say, though, is if you’re going to use things you find without paying for them you might want to consider taking a tiny moment to rename them.

The sites (above) are a quick collection of a few SEO companies who have all used the exact same image to sell their search engine marketing services.  These were all found by a quick Google image search on ‘internet marketing’ in the order I found them (except No. 1 which is the local company I saw the image in the first place):

These are just some of the businesses that have used the image without bothering to change the name.  There must be plenty of others in the same field that have changed the name.

If you’ve arrived here because of one of these links, welcome.  As you can see, you’re in good company :-)

FriendsReunited: what’s it really worth?

FriendsReunited is worth about as much as RMS Titanic shortly after it hit the iceberg.

titanic4It doesn’t matter how big or fancy your ship is – or how many souls there are on board. If it’s sinking, it’s worth nothing in a financial sense. You can’t do anything with it except watch with grim fascination as it slips beneath the waves.

But there is a lot to be learned about social media from its demise.

FriendsReunited started with a great idea – to use the web to reconnect people with other people. Nothing wrong in that – it’s what people want to spend all day doing, given half a chance. So where did it go wrong? Two big – simple – mistakes.

1) Horrible, clunky, counterintuitive and frustrating user interface. Yes. It was an awful experience. Whenever I used it, I had no idea where I was or what I was doing. The site developers couldn’t see past their own thought-processes. Full steam ahead, no matter what was happening around it.

2) Even the free membership wasn’t worth the effort, so there was no chance for those poor people in First Class. Ok, that’s stretching the Titanic analogy a bit but developers beware. If you’re trying to charge for what other people do better for free, you’re history.

Meanwhile, expect to see the social media war become anything but social over the next couple of years as the big players seek to herd all the people in the world on board a single, um, unsinkable network. :-)

A guide to Social Media for absolute beginners

Welcome to our shorthand guide to Social Media for beginners…and I mean ‘beginners’

What is all this about social media?  Why is everyone talking about it?  What’s it for?  What could you use it for? What are the dangers? And where’s it all going to end?

What is ‘Social media’?: Stuff that people create and share through online networks.

What are ‘Social Media tools’?: Software applications designed to allow people to network online and share their own and other peoples’ content

Why’s everyone talking about it?: Because pretty much everyone can do it and is doing it.  Because the possibilities for marketing products, services – and ideas – through Social Media appear to be immense.  However… (see last point, below)

What’s it for?: It’s definitely about making money. Social Media people are always talking about ways to ‘monetize’ Social Media sites and the content produced through them.  And it’s also about connecting people in networks of niche interest.

What could you use if for?: You could use it to build or connect to networks of people who might be interested in  your products and services.  You could use it to find out things you need to know from a particular niche (or market).  You could use it to add some colour to your persona online and build relationships with existing customers and prospects.  Or you could use it to keep people in your huge, multinational organisation connected and up-to speed with the latest developments.

What are the dangers?: On the one hand, Social Media is an open, democratic network of people connecting with each other and creating and sharing content.  Nice.  On the other hand, it’s all about creating revenue for Google.  Why? Because all online content ultimately turns into data for people like Google and Facebook to monetize through online advertising and other people (affiliate marketers and small business bloggers) to monitize through affiliate schemes and other things.

What does that mean?

It means that whatever else Social Media is about, it’s not primarily about creating a better world of communication for you and your mates.  It’s driven by people looking to monetize it.  Including you, if you’re a small business wondering how you’re going to use Social Media.

Where’s it all going to end?: “We’ll be successful when you guys stop talking about us” said a Twitter boss recently.

Teenagers don’t talk about ‘Social Media’.  To them, it’s invisible. They just talk to their mates on it.  The people who talk about it are the people trying to make money out of it; whether it’s the ‘work-at-home’ people, the ‘get-rich-quick’ dreamers, the affiliate marketers, the online developers or just plain, regular businesses.

It will all end when people realise that there’s no ‘get-rich-quick’ and this madness dies down.  Just as you can’t all be at the top of Google for a competitive keyword, very few of you can make a fortune out of Twitter either.  Hell, even Twitter hasn’t been able to do it -yet.

Real-world networking doesn’t work when you try to use it to sell your products and services (unless you’re a bully) and nor does Social Media.

The problem is, there are literally hundreds of millions of desperate people trying to do it as a way out to beat the system and make a fortune.  That alone guarantees that Social Media will be stuffed to the gills with junk content and spammers trying to sell you stuff ranging from the unwanted to downright fraudulent.

For me, the promise of social media is its potential for developing relationships – and in that, nothing has changed since the good old days.  What we’re seeing is the first rush of prospectors to a place where the gold is pretty thin on the ground and we already know the names of those sitting on the rich veins.

And the real implications for Social Media are barely even being talked about yet.  What are the implications of one or two businesses sitting atop the richest, deepest, most personalised resource of freely-given global marketing data ever amassed?

Go figure, as they say.

Good luck!

TripAdvisor Bali hotel review singled out for ‘horror story’ marketing

Is Tripadvisor in danger of damaging it’s own reputation by exploiting negative reviews?

This morning I got an email from TripAdvisor entitled “Hotel horror stories you won’t believe”.  The first told of a live mouse swimming in a hotel toilet bowl.  I clicked the link and found myself on the TripAdvisor page for the Conrad Bali Resort & Spa.

picture-6The mouse-story reviewer slated the hotel with a negative review and a 1 out of 5 rating.  But a quick check of the overall listing for this hotel showed that out of 191 reviews, an overwhelming majority (138) rated it 5 stars, 35 rated it 4 and only 18 (a small minority) rated it 3 stars or below.

The fact that 38 out of 65 (!) travellers found the review ‘helpful’ is an indication of the potential damage that this review could to this hotel – despite its clear track record of excellence (above).  In addition, more than half of the 65 people who rated the review rated it useful - which means they take it seriously.

Someone at TripAdvisor thinks that this was a good marketing move.  I don’t agree. Using an email to drive traffic at a negative and completely unrepresentative review for a particular hotel doesn’t feel balanced to me.

TripAdvisor already has quite a few enemies in the hotel industry.  Some are simply the owners of badly-run hotels who have lost business as a result of reviews on the site.  Others are angry at what they see as TripAdvisor’s lack of accountability and regulation.  And some allege that TripAdvisor’s system permits – and then protects – malicious and fake reviews posted by competitors.  Those are serious charges indeed.

So, in that climate, I would have thought that TripAdvisor needs to do everything it can to maintain and strengthen its impartiality – and therefore, its credibility – not erode it.

I think today’s email was a step in the wrong direction.

Spy sunglasses – surveillance video recorder

Thinking of making a ‘day in my life’ video podcast?  These spy sunglasses just made your job a million times easier!

If you’ve ever wanted a ‘brain-off’ head-mounted video camera to make a ‘point of view’ video podcast, this is the gadget you want. Thanks to Jorge Salgago-Reyes of Allied Detectives for posting this on Facebook.

There are many neat gizmos you come across but not many you can see working in action.  This is a great example from someone I trust.  As a result, I’m 100% closer to buying because of that combination of demonstration and recommendation.

Marketers, take note of the power of that combination.  Forget spammy affiliate schemes – real recommendations from people you trust is where it’s at.

BTW – if you need a P.I. take my recommendation and visit Jorge at Allied Detectives. Tell him Sam sent ya.