What do you do when you want to improve your ranking across search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing, encouraging your prospects and customers to find you when they search for the products and services you offer?
Some companies choose to work with professionals; PR agencies, digital companies and SEO (search engine optimisation) consultants. Although this seems like a reasonable suggestion there is a definite need for businesses to choose who they work with wisely.
As social media tools become a viable source of information for those who want a review or recommendation, more companies are recognising the value of this for businesses and in particular those working in industries such as hospitality, leisure and of course food.
With the simple click of a button, an opinion can be formed based on the feedback given relating to the experience of a single individual. We all have bad days and sometimes things go wrong and this is where posts and comments can have a real impact on the success of a company.
As an invaluable platform for some people with sites such as Trip Advisor being considered the fountain of all knowledge when it comes to holidays, these are no longer sites that brands are able to avoid. If there is a bad comment then the first thing we suggest is that a response is given from the brand and if necessary a meeting is arranged or an explanation is given.
With social media the simple fact of the matter is that ignorance is certainly not bliss!
But it’s not all about the comments that people post, which provide a genuine insight into the experience that they have had. Things are much, much worse than that. You see not all agencies or consultants are quite what they seem. Although the grass can look very green when a company is securing permanently positive references and five star ratings, what you are actually looking at is Astroturf.
This isn’t the stuff that bloody knees are made of – oh no. Astroturf is another term for ‘fake reviews’. As many of these tools rely on ‘grass routes’ feedback, the term Astroturf is used for false recommendations or criticism. Basically those who claim to be ‘experts’ are actually paying freelancers or individuals that they know to post reviews without necessarily having ever experienced the brand or purchased products from the business.
Not only does this give a distorted view of a particular company but it is very dangerous. An example of how this can go horribly wrong featured recently on the BBC website. The Local Attorney General’s Office created a completely fictitious yogurt shop.
They then asked a selection of companies offering SEO services to support the brand. As a result 19 companies have now been fined £218,470 after creating false profiles and posting inaccurate and libellous comments about the yogurt shop, which didn’t exist.
What’s even worse is that the individuals that were encouraged to post their reviews of the shop, in some instances, didn’t even live in the same country!
Like anything else, SEO companies should have credentials that they can share to prove that they know what they are doing. If you really want to pay someone to support you with SEO services then make sure you have done your checks and that the content that is being created is delivering a return on investment and adding value to your brand and business.
Unfortunately as the internet is so vast and collates information from so many different sources, SEO is absolutely essential for some businesses. All we would recommend as an agency is that if a brand is considering working with a consultant or team that offers SEO’s services, is that they ensure that all content is real, which in turn makes it credible. To do anything else won’t just be creating an inaccurate picture but it could just come back to give you a nasty shock that will hurt far more than a couple of bloody knees!