Google’s Gary Illyes has made it official: Google Authorship is no more, says Steven Wyer. After a relatively brief deployment, Google’s idea to match original content with a writer’s online presence has fallen out of favor with the search engine. Was it ever in public’s good graces? Steven Wyer believes not.
From the beginning, Steven Wyer says Google Authorship suffered from a lack of user interest. Authorship’s roots date back to 2007 and the implementation of Google’s AgentRank. Steven Wyer describes AgentRank as Google’s author ranking program, working in a similar fashion as Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). AgentRank essentially gave authors a viable connection between pieces of content, strengthening their position as an authoritative voice.
AgentRank persisted as a theoretical idea until Google adopted schema.org markup standards in 2011, explains Steven Wyer. The same year, Google unveiled Google+ and announced that the newly implemented Authorship markups would be universally connected to an “agent” via their Google+ account. However, Steven Wyer notes that even in-depth video tutorials by Google failed to give webmasters and everyday bloggers the technical ability to tag their content correctly. According to Steven Wyer, just under 1/3 of the users who would have benefited from Authorship used it, and many of those did so without success.
With more than 10,500 financial service companies out there, professionals are more exposed than ever to the backlash of negative online reputation damage. When words such as “scam”, “fraud”, “thief” or “criminal” are even casually mentioned in the context of a financial services entity, the company almost always takes a hit to the bottom line.
These comments are not to be confused with information on sites managed by state agencies or federal government and regulator sites such as the SEC and FINRA. Nearly every state provides a site to file either a formal or informal complaint against those involved in financial services. Many of these sites provide online forms and even extend office hours for convenience. If services provided fall within the broad definition of insurance then each state has an insurance commissioner to oversee such regulated businesses.
With Google’s most recent changes to its local listings functions, users are once again left to figure out exactly what it all means. For the small business owners dependent on local reviews, stars, smiley faces and other rating indications this may be one of the most frustrating aspects of using the Internet as a core-marketing tool.
An attempt to understand basic concepts of search engine optimization (SEO) is daunting to most daily business users. Expanding on that platform in an endeavor to discuss local search and SEO quickly sends local businesses heading for the exits. Dozens of consultants, vendors, college students and friends-of-friends all offer to clarify exactly how to benefit from these various services and search algorithms – for a fee. In the middle stands small business. Owners who are focused on the challenges of day-to-day business understand that the Internet is changing the way business is done but have little time to learn a whole new set of skills. Read more
By now, nearly everyone I know has purchased a Groupon discount coupon. I’ve started to receive daily discount offers from competitors like LivingSocial and Moolala and my family is taking advantage of discounts to places we might not otherwise consider. We try new restaurants, get our cars detailed, wedge in a massage or two; the merchants get a new customer and Groupon heads toward an enormous IPO. What could be better? Perhaps a lot.
The thought is that a deep discount coupled with a positive experience will deliver repeat customers. While this theory seems to be widely embraced, I believe that the assumptions are wrong. From my perspective, it is Groupon that owns the customer loyalty, not the merchant offering the services. The deal seekers and bargain shoppers come in with the expectation of getting an incredible deal with no less than top-notch service. And there is evidence to indicate that they are very willing to jump to online review sites and let people know how (bad) their experience was.
However, a dramatic influx of customers can slow customer service and irritate this new, Groupon-acquired customer. Service levels decrease due to volume and the next thing a business owner knows, their business has been reviewed poorly on Google.local, Yahoo.local, Citysearch or one of a dozen other consumer rating sites. Smiley faces turn to frowns and five-star reviews deteriorate into one-star ratings.
Groupon customers have very little loyalty to a merchant yet, as I mentioned before, expectations for service are high. Think about it: when a business is overwhelmed (having sold 1000 half priced dinners/haircuts/tans/car washes, etc.) the door opens for bad experiences all around. Disappointed customers are already online-savvy or they would not be participating in these discount programs. The ever-increasing numbers of review sites available provide many opportunities to express disappointment. In fact, based upon many conversations with Reputation Advocate clients, we believe that customers who have a positive experience seldom go online to offer complements. In many ways there is no way for a small business owner to win in this business model.
Adding insult to injury, statistics support a growing reality that repeat business is almost non-existent. Customer retention is low. In short, a merchant receives 25% of the retail value of the product or service. That amount is paid out over the timeline of the redemption period, not up front. The business is stressed, and may be forced to compromise service levels, disappointing new customers and triggering bad online reviews. I admit that I may be one of the few that see it this way. In fact, Groupon reported that as of Sept 2011 they had a backlog of 35,000 companies that hope to promote their products and services through this channel.
Be aware: online complaints can come from many sources. Former employees, competitors – or new (discount) customers coming with high expectations, little loyalty and a willingness to quickly let the world know of any disappointment experienced.
Steven Wyer is the Managing Director of Reputation Advocate, an online reputation management company based near Nashville, Tennessee. He is also the author of Violated Online, a book offering practical tips about protecting your online reputation. For more information about how Reputation Advocate can help repair your online reputation, visit the company website at http://www.reputationadvocate.com