Last updated 2 years ago
Today ReachLocal is excited to be announcing the official launch of ReachCast, a web presence optimization service for small businesses. With this launch, we’re announcing that ReachCast is now available across the U.S. as an affordable solution to help small businesses address the growing demands of marketing their business in a digital landscape.
If you’ve been keeping up with our blog, you know we talk a lot about how small businesses can build a dynamic web presence, boost search discovery, manage their online reputation, and market their businesses using social media.
With ReachCast, our goal is to help small business owners accomplish all this and more using a unique combination of our proprietary technology and a team of experts we call Web Presence Professionals.
Our Web Presence Professionals work directly with the business to develop strategies, put those plans into action, and report on the results on an ongoing basis. On the technology side, the ReachCast platform includes:
- A Cast page, which is one centralized site that serves as the hub for the SMB’s Web presence
- A real-time publishing and syndication engine that distributes – or “casts” – content across the Web, including the Cast page and social sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
- A content library that provides centralized management of business information, blog posts, rich media, social media engagement, offers, reviews, and testimonials
- A proprietary radar technology that features a single stream that monitors the Web for mentions, keywords, reviews, and more
- A reporting engine that tracks progress over time to empower robust Web presence optimization
All this works together to power search discovery, reputation management, and social media marketing for small business owners, giving them more time to focus on running their business.
“Simply put, our goal with ReachCast is to help our small business clients publish more content in more places so they can acquire, engage, and retain more customers,” said Alex Hawkinson, General Manager and Senior Vice President of ReachCast.
You can learn more about ReachCast in our official press release or at http://Ca.st.
Last updated 2 years ago
This year, online reputation management has grown in importance for small, local businesses marketing their business online. Not only has Google begun to place more emphasis and prominence on user reviews, but cases of online reputation management gone wrong have gained a lot of attention in the public eye – for companies from large to small. Learning how to properly manage your online reputation is important for all small businesses. And one great way to learn is to look at the mistakes others have made. So, to arm you with loads of what-not-to-do, we present 10 online reputation management mistakes from 2010, in no particular order – along with a few take aways on how to avoid these missteps yourself!
1. Décor my Eyes – One recent online reputation management case highlighted the case of a New York businessman who was intentionally mean to customers to build publicity and drive traffic to his website. This bully not only attacked customers on review sites, he was so bold as to tell upset and wronged customers – some of whom he stalked! – that their negative comments were helping him build his business. The SEO world began to buzz about his claims that a negative review could boost his business. Days later, Google announced a change to their algorithm that addressed the issue to ensure that negative reviews would not actually help a bully of a businessman work the system in his favor.
The Take Away: There really is no substitute for excellent customer service. Those who treat customers well will win online. In other words, being a bully is a complete reputation management #fail.
2. BP – The BP oil spill earlier this year created a wealth of reputation issues for the company – both online and offline. But the creation of a fake Twitter account BPGlobalPR (not an official BP account) by one bystander mocked the company and its many PR blunders online and grew exponentially more followers than BP’s real twitter account – BP_America – and highlighted the company’s struggles to address the public’s concerns.
The Take Away: Working to build a positive reputation online is important. Start by making sure you claim your company’s name on sites like Twitter and Facebook, so nobody else can claim to be you. And always keep in mind that a good online reputation must be backed up by a great company.
3. Cooks’ Source Magazine – What started out as one blogger’s post about a small, regional cooking magazine’s unauthorized publishing of a recipe she had blogged several years prior turned into an all-out, full-scale reputation crisis for the magazine when its editor emailed the blogger. The editor belittled the blogger’s writing and had the audacity to claim that the blogger should pay the magazine for all the work it did to revise the stolen post up before publishing it! The response sparked outrage, and people from all over the country got involved, some even calling the magazine’s advertisers urging them to pull support. When all was said and done, the reputation of Cooks’ Source magazine was more than tarnished – within a matter of weeks, the magazine closed.
The Take Away: Ethical infringements aren’t just an issue big brands have to deal with. In today’s digital world, the ethics of small businesses can come under fire too, creating online reputation management problems. How the business responds is one of the biggest factors in whether or not a full-out crisis will emerge.
4. Price Chopper NY – When the employee of New York-based food chain Price Chopper saw a mildly negative Twitter post about their experience in a Price Chopper store, the Price Chopper employee took matters into their own hands, requesting from that the customer’s employer discipline them for the remark! This led to blog posts and lots of negative attention for the chain. The company responded that the employee didn’t have the official authority to send the tweet, but the company is still under scrutiny causing further missteps to be called out online.
The Take Away: It’s important for any employee who uses social media on behalf of your business to know whether or not they are authorized to respond to negativity online, as well as how far to take the response.
5. DKNY – On Cyber Monday, PETA staged an attack on the Facebook page of DKNY labeling the company “Bunny Butchers” on their own Facebook wall by coordinating supporters to change their avatars to the letters of the message and post comments in reverse order to spell out the message. Though PETA has a history of outrageous protests, this clever digital attack spurred fans to post negative comments on the brand wall, resulting in DKNY shutting down comments on the site – leaving only the most recent negative comments up for fans to read.
The Take Away: In industries prone to controversy, the social media space can be difficult to navigate. But it’s better to be a part of the conversation than to let others control the message about your brand by avoiding engagement online.
6. Amy’s Baking Company – It can be tough to know how to respond to negative reviews online. For one small business in Scottsdale, Arizona, the business owner’s curt reply to a one-star customer review on Yelp was not only inflammatory and full of insults, the response was picked up by the local news and went on to become the subject of many expert blog posts about how not to respond to negative reviews.
The Take Away: Fighting fire with fire when it comes to negative reviews can be a recipe for reputation management issues. Our best advice? Don’t type the first thing that comes to mind when you read a negative review! Take a deep breath, and learn exactly when and how to respond instead.
7. Dark Horse Café – A small exchange between a coffee shop patron and this small business may have been fairly harmless – the patron complained via Twitter about the lack of electrical outlets for customers using laptops (but without using the company’s Twitter handle). Then, the business sent a series of curt tweets that conveyed the message loud and clear: that the business of running their store was more important than the business of serving customers. Though this case is not a jaw-dropping, profanity-laden example, it’s important to note, because this type of interaction is where many small businesses get customer service via social media wrong. Taking a defensive position rarely works, and in the worst case, your exchange may be seen and commented on by others, escalating a minor issue into a reputation problem. For this business, the exchange became a case study that marketing expert Scott Stratten shares around the country.
The Take Away: The small, daily interactions you have with customers online are important not just because of what they mean to that specific customer, but what they say to the general public about how you treat your customers. Plus, who wants their brand to be a case study in what not to do online?
8. Nestlé – When Nestlé faced Greenpeace criticism in early 2010 for the company’s environmental practices, they did not respond well to negative comments on their Twitter and Facebook pages. After protesters began posting altered versions of the brand’s logos that depicted negative messages about the company, the company posted the following message: “To repeat: we welcome your comments, but don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic—they will be deleted,” and other remarks that weren’t taken well by the community. While the company was within its rights to protect its trademarks, the curt and unfriendly way this was handled only brought more backlash against the company. Eventually, Nestlé realized the opportunity to address the customer concerns over their environmental practices, but the case is well cited in how not to handle reputation issues online.
The Take Away: When dealing with reputation management issues, always lead with addressing customer concerns, and keep your tone friendly. This can go a long way in stemming any further issues.
9. Marie Claire – When Marie Claire writer Maura Kelly wrote a post expressing disgust for overweight couples portrayed on television, it created an all-out reputation disaster for the brand. Over 3,000 comments were posted in reply, most of them upset about the post. While the blogger apologized, the magazine did not reprimand her, citing the fact that the post represented the author’s personal feelings on the subject. Some commentators say this position may have damaged the magazine’s brand.
The Take Away: Getting involved in controversy in social media can be dangerous for brands. For small business owners, the decision whether or not to discuss topics like politics, religion, or other deeply personal issues should be considered very carefully, especially if the business owner’s brand is a big part of the company identity.
10. Southwest Air – When actor Kevin Smith was booted from a flight for not fitting into the seat, he went directly to Twitter to share the situation with his fans, creating a lot of negative buzz online – not to mention some negative press – for Southwest. The details of the situation, and the fact that Southwest was only following their policy, did not gain as much attention as the celebrity's choice to share the entire upsetting circumstance with his loyal Twitter following. The company apologized about the situation, but still had to endure the negative attention a celebrity brought to their seating policy.
The Take Away: While this company is often lauded for its many social media successes, this case is a good reminder that reputation management issues can befall any business. It also highlights the importance of giving all your customers the “star” treatment – because you never know just how much influence some of your customers may have online!
Managing Your Reputation Online
These 10 reputation management cases illustrate many different types of issues businesses can face online. Overall, these situations underscore that we have truly entered the age of the customer and emphasize the importance of actively and properly addressing problems if they arise. Plus, they are a good reminder that sometimes, negative feedback can actually help you assess if there are ways your business can improve.
Enjoy this article? Subscribe today to stay in the loop on managing your online reputation, or get updates straight to your inbox. And, share it with your network on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn!
About the Author: Tiffany Monhollon writes about social, marketing, and small business success as the lead blogger for ReachCast, a service that helps local business owners develop their web presence.
Last updated 2 years ago
Earlier this week, we shared with you an extensive post on all the changes Google’s been making lately that affect Small Business owners like you, changes that could be daunting for any business. So, today we want to share with you some of the top things that you need to consider as part of your online marketing plan so you can position your business to perform well in this new search environment.
1) You MUST rank organically in search engines like Google.
Even before the recent changes to the search landscape, for any given search, almost 90% of searchers click on one of the top 5 search results. While a well-rounded online marketing plan leverages the speed and control of paid advertising WITH a strong organic effort, recent changes like Google Place Search and Google Instant have further rewarded and underscored the importance of ranking high organically. If you aren’t showing up well organically, it could dramatically affect your search discovery, meaning fewer people finding your business online, which could ultimately affect sales.
Google Place Search, along with a slew of other ongoing Google algorithm changes, are eliminating the effectiveness of once popular gimmicky SEO efforts. Now, solid organic search ranking will only come through an authentic, steady flow of relevant content supported by adoption of a number of underlying technology standards.
The bottom line is that as a small business, you need to rank well organically, and no silver bullet will enable you to achieve that without a significant investment of time, energy, and expertise. The dawn of the age of web presence optimization is upon us.
2) You must have an extended web presence that will support the “hub pages” that Google displays within search results.
Maintaining an extended and up-to-date web presence that supports this emerging world is not just essential for ranking organically, but also for showing up with rich information that is surfaced to Google and other search engines in ways that will drive users to click through to you versus your competition. Businesses that have a wide distribution of relevant content are more likely both to rank well organically and to receive higher click through rates as a result of the “hub page” format of Google Place search.
Essentially, what this means is that it’s more important than ever to create a steady flow of relevant content that is distributed from a hub to many different destinations around the web – a static website is simply not enough. It is critical to claim your listing on Google and other local listing sites, as well as to have a dynamic presence across social sites like Facebook and Twitter. That means more than simply claiming your stake on social sites. It’s critical to be posting a constant stream of interesting and relevant content, keeping your brand front and center to consumers – and to Google.
This process – which we call Web Presence Optimization – plays an important role in helping consumers find and engage with your business when they search, surf, and socialize.
3) Customer service and listening online are more important than ever.
Your reputation is going to follow you everywhere. There are no shortcuts or silver bullets for reputation “repair.” You need to engage in an ongoing process to fully manage and join the conversation around your business reputation:
- Listen to and engage with prospective customers across the web wherever they are spending their time. The web is not just a medium for broadcast, it is a medium for true engagement. To deliver great customer service, you need to engage. To engage, you need to listen and respond as much as you broadcast your own messages. To do this effectively, you need to use tools that will help you listen and respond across your entire web presence – from your site, to your profile pages, to your social media accounts, to review sites, and more.
- Give your happy customers the tools to share their experiences online. Make sure that each element of your web presence encourages people to engage with you and give you feedback. Positive reviews can become testimonials, and simple engagement such as Facebook “likes” or Twitter “retweets” amplify your voice online.
- Structure your information so that it is amplified and positioned well in Google and across the web. Make sure that Google and other environments are able to recognize positive customer feedback and engagement by supporting rich snippets and other relevant formats.
- Listen to negative reviews and authentically engage where you can to overcome problems. A negative review is not something to hide from (nor is it possible to do so). It is at the very least an opportunity to have your voice represented, but very often is an opportunity to engage with the unhappy customer and convert them into a passionate fan by listening to them and addressing their needs.
4) Get ready for new forms of advertising that seamlessly blend organic and paid options.
Tags, Boost, Deals, and more new forms of advertising are coming down the pike. These will increasingly be blended seamlessly with organic web presence, and your online strategy will need to encompass BOTH web presence optimization and efforts to take advantage of these new paid marketing opportunities to reach the right customers at the right place, at the right time, and on the right device.
ReachLocal and ReachCast Can Help You Address these Needs
The scope of these changes is daunting even for small businesses that are adept and active on the web, let alone the ones that are just getting started or are still suffering from a stagnant, outdated, stand-alone web site. I firmly believe that traditional SEO efforts, web sites, and many paid marketing programs are out of their league in this new world. It’s time for new approaches and new solutions.
And that is exactly why we’re so crazy focused on building an incredible web presence management platform, an end-to-end advertising management platform, and the turnkey services to go with it all. My goal is to make it simple for every small business in the world to naturally follow the recommendations outlined in this post.
Here are just a few of the things that we’re already doing to be out in front of these trends for the businesses that we work with:
- Creating an innovative web presence management platform called ReachCast, that will remove the complexities and technical roadblocks that exist between your business and full participation and engagement across the web.
- For the many small businesses that don’t have the time do it themselves, we’re building a team of experts and service packages that can help you to take advantage of all of these trends while focusing on running your business.
- Support to help you claim, set up, and manage your Google Place Page, Facebook Page, Twitter account, and other key parts of your extended web presence.
- Building a network of professional content developers that can work with our customers to help bring their voice onto the web with a flow of high quality, engaging content that can be used across an extended web presence.
- Making it simple to say what you want to say with the Cast box. Whether you’re communicating a short update, launching a new product or service, or trying to promote your latest offer, the Cast box will take of the details of translating that content into the forms that it needs to be in for many web destinations, syndicating the content out, and letting Google and other search engines know that it exists.
- Providing our customers with Cast pages as a next generation content hub that they own and which will stay ahead of SEO best practices across both web and mobile devices. All of the key technologies mentioned above (e.g. rich snippet and micro-format data support, mobile friendly presentation, and more) are built into Cast pages automatically.
- Our Universal Feed and Radar give you (or our team that is supporting you) the tools needed to listen across the web, engage and create fans out of prospective customers, and actively manage your reputation.
- Building tools to keep track of it all. Our ReachCast Content Library keeps track of all of your Casts and our reporting engine helps you to know exactly what’s working and what you need to do to make progress.
- And of course we’ve built deep integration with our paid advertising platform that will enable our customers to seamlessly blend organic web presence optimization with the newest forms of paid advertising
We don’t have all the answers, but we are incredibly passionate and committed to investing and staying on top of the rapidly changing world of online presence and advertising so that the small businesses that we work with can take advantage of the massive opportunities that await.
You Can Win with the Right Google Strategy
Andrew Shotland wrote a post titled “Google Place Search Winners, Losers & WhoKnowsers” that really did a good job covering many of the implications, challenges, and opportunities that are being created in the wake of this wave of Google change:
“For local businesses that focus on both organic and local SEO, at first blush, this change appears to offer even more opportunity to acquire qualified traffic. If I were a business focused on local customers, I would be truly excited about the possibilities.”
The only thing he missed is that the “Losers & WhoKnowsers” can readily join the Winners with tools like ReachCast.
If there is one thing that is clear, it’s that this space is going to continue to evolve rapidly. So stay tuned and let us know your thoughts and questions in the meantime!
About the Author: Alex Hawkinson is GM and SVP of ReachCast at ReachLocal, helping small businesses to build and optimize their web presence.
Last updated 2 years ago
It’s been a little over a month since Google rolled out their new Place Search. Place Search comes amidst a whirlwind of other rapid changes that together represent a complete change to the way that Google helps consumers to discover local businesses.
We’ve seen a lot of confusion about what these changes are and what they mean for small businesses that need to be found in local search results. The purpose of this post (which we call a “cast”) is to try to convey some of the basics about Google Place Search and other critical Google updates. Then, in part two of this series, we’ll share our thoughts on the implications for our customers and what we’re doing to help them be well positioned in this new environment. Let’s begin with an overview of Google Place Search.
Understanding the Basics of Google Place Search
Launched on October 27, Place Search represents a complete overhaul of the interface and presentation of any search results that Google deems to be “local” and related to consumers trying to find businesses.
Google’s official blog post does a decent job of explaining the scope of the Place Search changes, but Greg Sterling's post titled “New Place Search Shows Google’s Commitment To Local” and this short video from Don Campbell show the changes in action.
From my perspective, the three biggest changes that are part of the initial rollout of Google Place Search include:
1) A Completely New Layout.
Starting with the obvious, the layout and presentation of local search results has completely changed. Here’s a comparison of the new versus the old layout side by side.
A few things of note:
- The “7 Pack” is gone. The small links with addresses and phone numbers sitting next to a map have been completely eliminated in the new interface.
- Results for individual businesses with pins next to them are much more substantial and completely reordered versus the previous ranking algorithms for the “7 Pack”. More on organic ranking and these new “hub pages” below.
- The map is on the right and follows you as you scroll down the page.
- There is an expanded area opened up on top of results for AdWords and Boost ads (see below for more on Boost).
- Right column AdWords ads are pushed to the lower right below the map and can often be covered up by the map as a user scrolls down the page.
2) A New Emphasis on Organic Ranking.
All results for individual businesses are now determined by organic search rank. Here is an example video that demonstrates just how radical this change is for many businesses:
Essentially, businesses that rank high in organic search results are substantially rewarded and those that don’t will pay an even greater penalty.
There are fewer and fewer ways to “game” organic results, so small businesses will have no choice but to focus on full web presence optimization to be discoverable in this new environment.
3) Hello, “Hub pages.”
As mentioned, the “7 Pack” is gone, and the full results set is now filled with organically ranked “hub pages” which are listings focused on individual businesses but filled with clusters of results from around the web. Links to relevant selected third party sites are clustered with the listing and the Google Place Page and aggregated reviews (if available) are displayed to the right of each listing in a very prominent position. Here’s a real-world example:
These listings now contain four to five times the number of links displayed on a given page of results. How does Google discover which information is included? It’s all based on the beginnings of the “semantic web” and new underlying data formats that add an additional layer of complexity that will further obviate the existing web sites and skills of many local web developers. Learn more about how Google Places Search will shake up local SEO.
As a result of these changes, any small business that doesn’t have an extended and up to date web presence including a Place Page will be at a substantial disadvantage.
Place Search is Just Part of the Tidalwave of Google’s Recent Updates
Marissa Mayer, the long-term leader of the search business at Google, shifted in mid-October into a new role overseeing Google’s local products. There has been a lot of speculation about what this means, but the conclusion is pretty straightforward when seen in conjunction with the monumental changes outlined in this post: geo/local is a massive opportunity that has not yet been fully tapped.
In light of that, the pace of change is not going to abate anytime soon. Here are some of the other Google highlights that need to be on the radar of small businesses:
Google Tags are small graphic elements that you can add via Google Place Pages that will show up next to the search results for your business. You can tag information like coupons, videos, and links to business information. These are important because they let you provide more information to your Google Places listing when it shows up in search results.
Tags have been around for a while, but they continue to emerge as an important element of these listings and are made even more important in the new world of Places Search. Tags don’t change the organic ranking of a business, but evidence suggests that they do drive increased click-through rates and engagement by making the listing of an individual business stand out more prominently.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was just September when Google rolled out Google Instant, a new interface to the search box that attempts to predict what users are searching for as they type while displaying results that are updated in real time. I have posted some of my thoughts about the impact this may have. What’s important to realize is that the core impact of this change is that it further amplifies the importance and benefits of ranking organically within the top set of results.
Users who occasionally browsed to the second page of search results now do so even less frequently than they did in the past. As a result, ranking high in organic results becomes even more critical. In fact, experts say the changes in Google Instant and Google Place search will require even more effort from small businesses to rank well and avoid drops in website traffic.
In November, Google rolled out Instant Previews as a complement to Google Instant. Instant Previews enables users who are searching on Google to hover over individual search results and see a preview of the web site to which each search result links.
This applies an additional layer of pressure for businesses to have clean and professional web sites sitting on the other side of the organic results, because consumers will now be able to see the site before they choose to click on it. As though just getting ranked organically wasn’t enough of a challenge! Fast Company wrote a good post about Instant Preview to refer to for more details.
Google recently rolled out HotPot as a lightweight and simple method for collecting and displaying reviews of businesses that are socially and contextually relevant to any given consumer. Essentially, HotPot is a “location-based recommendation engine powered by you and your friends.”
This is integrated closely with Android and Google’s mobile interfaces and is going to increase the number of reviews taking place and being displayed across Google around every local business.
Reviews Impact Ranking
In the past week, Google has made changes to their organic ranking algorithms, and there are indications that reviews are now influencing results. This creates pressure for businesses to deliver great customer service and is a wonderful opportunity for those that do. Taken together with the launch of HotPot, reputation management is emerging as an essential component of web presence optimization.
Google recently rolled out Boost as an advertising pilot with the aim of making it more straightforward for small businesses to purchase paid advertising through their Google Place Page. Boost is being piloted in a handful of cities in advance of a broader rollout.
Anyone who’s followed business news in the past several weeks has seen the speculation about the possible acquisition of Groupon by Google. As of this post, Groupon has reportedly turned down the offer. But, it’s still important news to consider, because it tells us a lot about where Google could be headed. Groupon is the fastest growing company in history and would have been Google’s largest acquisition to date. I believe that this combination would have gone far beyond the “deal of the day” roots of Groupon. Groupon’s own posts and recent moves with Groupon Stores and the Deal Feed enable you to get a glimpse of what the future may hold. If this type of capability were integrated with Google Place Pages, advertisers would be in a position to create an ongoing flow of special offers that would be promoted by Google in a completely different model where Google takes a cut of local transactions rather than up front advertising fees.
So Many Changes, So Little Time
That’s a lot of change! If you’re a small business, any one of these things might be daunting, but all together it may be a recipe for major headaches, to say the least. But ignoring these changes is not an option.
So, don’t miss our next post to discover what changes Small Businesses need to make and what ReachLocal is doing to help.
About the Author
Alex Hawkinson is the GM and SVP of ReachCast at ReachLocal, helping small businesses to build and optimize their web presence.
Last updated 2 years ago
We are so excited to share with you that ReachCast has been nominated for a Mashable Award – Best Social Media Service for Small Business! We are now Top 5 Finalists in our category, and the final round of voting is open! You can vote every day from now until voting closes on December 15.
The ReachCast team here at ReachLocal is incredibly grateful to everyone who nominated us for this award and everyone on our team who makes ReachCast what it is. We are bringing social media marketing to small businesses across the U.S., and we want everyone to know!
So, if you’re a fan of ReachCast and you want to help us win the award, there two few things you can do!
1) Vote for ReachCast.
Every day between now and December 15, you can vote for ReachCast on the Mashable Awards page using this handy pre-populated link! All you have to do is click on the link, authorize your Twitter or Facebook page to post your vote through the Mashable Awards site, and hit “vote.” It’s that easy! and don't forget, you can vote once a day.
2) Spread the word.
Help us spread the word about voting for ReachCast! You can post the link to our award voting page on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and anywhere else you spend time on the web. Here are a few quick soundbytes you can share:
Vote for ReachCast as Best Social Media Service for SMBs in the #MashableAwards! http://bit.ly/VoteRC
Help crown ReachCast as the Best Social Media Service for Small Business. Vote Now! http://bit.ly/VoteRC
Thanks again to everyone who helped us get this far in the Mashable Awards process. We’ll keep you posted (and if you follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook, we’ll send you a few reminders about the voting over the next few weeks.)