The following are four cases involving reputation management. The paragraphs are long because (i) they were written that way and it felt natural (ii) I’m too lazy to edit (iii) most importantly, we’re all suffering from shorter attention spans. I promise you good content if you read on. Some definite lessons to be learned about proactive reputation management for those of you who are attentive to detail.
Adviso: I was supposed to meet Jean-Francois Renaud, founding partner of Adviso, for coffee and a chat. We had met at FacebookCamp Montreal, where he told me that he was interested in chatting SEO, after which we set an appointment to chat. JF was late, so when he showed up and found no one (I had gone looking for him at other nearby cafes, in case I had gotten the wrong place), he called my place to see what was up. I’d left a note for him with the helpful people at the Couche-Tard/cafe, whereupon he went looking for me.
He apologized for being late and bought me a hot chocolate. He showed he was checking my blog by congratulating me on going to SMX, which was an impressive touch. Then we had a good chat, he taught me some stuff I hadn’t known, I shared some tips of my own and we called it a night. Until he caught up with me though, I was pissed. I’ve had other business meetings where I’ve been stood up and when that happens, someone is telling you that your time isn’t valuable.
Thinking J-F had stood me up, I was mentally getting ready to send Adviso a bill for my time and write a nasty blog post. Instead, I’m here highlighting Jean for his proactive approach to reputation management and making amends.
All too often reputation management is called in to clean up a mess. When you’re proactive like J-F, messes don’t happen and you save a lot of money. Compare the cost of an apology, a compliment and a cup of hot chocolate with the cost of paying just one staffer to write a response blog post and comment here and any other places that might have picked up the story. If the average SEO staffer makes only $35 an hour, the ROI is about 7 times!
Dreamhost: To begin with, I’m in love with these guys. I registered for a basic hosting plan. Did I get follow-up spam sales calls? No. Domainsarefree.com (a shell company for Glob@t) do that, in my personal experience, and John’s gotten the same from GoDaddy.
Do Dreamhost they hide their support away? No sir! There’s a UVP to use against Netfirms! Netfirms are my former hosting company whose support reps are MIA unless you’re canceling their auto-renewal and reminding them that they can’t bill you for the domain that they included for free in your hosting package. Better yet, their support has responded within a half-hour and sometimes within 15 minutes to all my support requests to date, and there’ve been a few! I don’t mean auto-responders either. This is good quality, human written stuff that answers your problem with specifics (rather than referring you to some stupid FAQ that is supposed to answer your question but usually doesn’t *cough Netfirms cough*).
Recently, all this built-up goodwill nearly got blown sky-high in a way would have made great fodder for some harshly critical blogging. Dreamhost billed me for next year’s hosting 9 months in advance. This would have been a terrible mark on their reputation if it had been left unattended. Lucky for them, I quickly got a follow-up email stating that they had made a mistake, apologized for the error and had reversed the charge.
I’ve learned my lesson about domain names and hosting: you get what you pay for. And Dreamhost offers the best damn web hosting around! (Note: Godaddy’s phone support, which I used once, was decent. The guy was friendly and though he didn’t know the answer to my question, he got it from his boss in a few minutes.)
1 and 1 Internet Inc. Where do I begin? Should it be the fact that every domainer alive hates 1 and 1′s guts? Or perhaps that their generous CPA program promotes 100% BS affiliates, like this one: 1and1.ReliableHosts.org. On a related note, for you, PPC managers, note that they’re using a subdomain in the PPC, yet aren’t redirecting it to the actual landing page/homepage? That’s not a newb mistake, that’s a dumb-arse mistake. Speaking of which, I wonder if that’s not even 1and1 Internet’s own site, and they’re just trying to get a review that looks good when people decide to look around the SERPs. I mean, “1 and 1″ isn’t a genius keyword to come up with and bid on, yet other affiliates are noticeably absent from those PPC results… On a related note, look at how Google treats those SERPs, and which keywords it bolds. And is bolded in the PPC listings, but not the organics. Interesting news, if you care about stop words. (Or use them in the anchor text.)
My story with 1 and 1 started innocently enough. Like most of their customers, the cut-rate domains drew me in. As I was getting into domaining, I bought more domains with them than I should have, including some clunkers. That’s my fault though. What’s not acceptable is their billing out of the blue months after the last time I ordered a domain. WTF? I got that charge removed from my card, and moved on, thinking it was just a mistake.
But then they’ve got your domains on auto-renew (little did I know) and thus charge you fees even for the domains you’d like to just allow to drop. The misleading cancellation instructions – which I had to request by email as they’re by no means obvious within 1 and 1′s setup – that list a number of steps then have a link with the filename ‘for more information’.
As it turns out, that more information is REQUIRED for you to cancel the auto-renew on their domain names. I couldn’t show my bank that I canceled the domains, and after trying to resolve it with 1 and 1 and my bank’s challenging, incredulous dispute officers (I suppose after challenging the other claim for a few bucks, they put me on some watchlist; totally undeserved as I never ordered anything around when I got billed the first time), I gave up on it. That was $45 and change.
But you can bet your high-horses that I’m rooting for Elliot Back’s expose on 1 and 1 ‘s scandalous business practices to rank all the way at the top for their name. He’s right: 1and1 Internet sucks! He points out that Digitalpoint has also noticed how much One and One Internet suck, ditto this 1&1 critic, and this smart fellow explaining when 1 and 1 makes 3! See also 1 and 1 is the devil, and how dramatic action was required to fight 1 & 1 Internet. Please do link to those sites as well and help pass the word along to other webmasters about how crummy a company 1 and 1 Internet really is! (Even Domains Are Free don’t do that stuff! Zing!)
Network Solutions: These guys are a catastrophe! Everything Network Solutions does they get wrong. Seriously. And their wannabe participation in the conversation is a joke. Just not a particularly clever or funny one.
Before I conclude, I’d like to point out my friend Susan’s recent post on Amazon adding video reviews to their site. While video game sites have done this for ages, it’s new to Amazon and potentially very powerful. Reputation management will gain a new dimension with that. And like I said, with attention spans getting shorter, it’ll be interesting to see how much footage per video is actually watched. Also, if your attention span lasted until now, check out Andy’s five steps for recovering from a reputation management crisis. Smart and practical, his tips are like these 7 Habits.
One final comment: I’m reading A Random Walk Down Wall Street. In Chapter 10 on Behavioural Finance, the author shares a study showing that people are 2.5 more loss averse than they are inclined to gain. That probably helps explain Susan’s observation that reviews are skewed negative – consumers are trying to help others avoid the loss and are frustrated and angry at their own loss. The losses 1and1′s caused to hundreds of domainers and webmasters and web newbies generally are a case in point for the community feeding back angrily.