- Directories and Search Engine Optimization
- Internet Business Strategies – Creating a Valuable Portfolio
- Online brand reputation crises – the case of Nestle
- The 4th milestone for Internet businesses
- Social media and the need for data
It is one of the points that everyone mentions as a minimum for Search Engine Optimization. However, it is also one of the points where most people do mistakes. And mistakes during the process of selecting directories can sometimes prove fatal.
The two main online directories, DMOZ and Yahoo Directory
So,one of the things that SEO professionals rarely mention, is the method they use for selecting quality directories. Where should you submit your website? Let’s check some of the basic steps:
- Most (but not all!) directories have a paid fee. Make sure that the fee is paid for a review and not for submitting your link. In other words, the fact that you pay the directory does not necessarily mean that you will be included – you pay just having the editors review your website. This also means that editors can reject your website, for various reasons (i.e. for including unacceptable content).
- Editors can change the position and description of your website. This is usually stated quite clear in every quality directory’s guidelines, and is a sign that the directory’s editorial team aims to improve the results.
- To move into more practical steps, check the websites that are submitted in a directory. The quality of these sites reflects the quality of the overall directory. If they are spam, it is more than likely that the directory is considered spam as well by search engines.
- Another check is for premium listings or sponsorships. This is usually considered a sign (but is not a definite factor) that the directory is manipulating the results, because of its monetization strategy.
- Pagerank. This is a rather old trick, but it still works in many cases.
This analysis will show you the category to which the directory belongs:
- Quality directories: clear guidelines, as mentioned above, quality websites listed and a fee (if applicable) that is for reviewing only. This is a win – win situation, and you definitely want to get listed here.
- “Innocent until proven guilty” directories (as mentioned by Rand Fishkin): these directories is like playing with fire – search engines may cut them out on the first sign of guilt. Chances are that their editorial policies are not clear, or that they use aggressive tactics for promoting specific websites.
- Junk: submit your URL here if you find skydiving without parachute an interesting option. The best outcome is that you will not receive any benefits – the worst is that you will give a warning to search engines that your website is a spam as well.
And never forget, the most practical tip of all: if you ever have any doubt about the directory you are browsing, search for its name on Google. If it does not appear, leave that directory – it is probably flagged already, and submitting your website there can possibly harm you.
Directories can prove an important part of your S.E.O. strategy, one of the first link – building activities that you will use. But, same as having friends, the directories you use reflect your website’s quality – so, try to stick with the best ones, if you do not want to find yourself playing alone in the largest backyard available.
In the previous post we talked about the wave of emerging strategies for Internet businesses. Today, we will use this post as a starting point for presenting a framework, which allows researchers to understand the ongoing activity in a better way. Recent actions came to verify our post and so, by the time this post is written, Google has announced its entrance to the payment sector with a much anticipated move, the Google Wallet, by applying NFC technologies.
These moves are impressive and certainly make the already complex field to seem quite messed up, so what would be the best way to identify and compare the strategic moves of internet companies, other than using some kind of “map”? Of course a “map” or more formally, a symbolic depiction highlighting relationships between elements of a space, has been created by O’ Reilly – a well-respected publisher and influencer on IT topics- for its WEB 2.0 summit. Additionally, CrunchBase’s categorization reassembles a lot these strategic points and offers a complete list of companies that operate on every category.
These points are:
• Infrastructure (Hosting)
• Platforms & Mobile (Hardware)
• OS & UI
• Social Activity & Location
• Identity & Consumer Web (e-mail, etc.)
• Commerce & e-Payment
• Content & Media & Games
• Enterprise Solutions
This sort of empirical proof can be used as a starting point for a more rigorous and systemic analysis on the interaction among the companies.
The first observation someone would make, while trying to categorize a company, especially one of the big players, is the difficulty to choose the category that best describes it. For example, what is the relative position for Google? Should we use its core business (Search) as criteria or should we place it evenly among the sectors in which it operates?
Our point of view, and one of the basic principles that we are going to use on our follow up posts, is that we should stop viewing the operations-products of companies as “black or white” and move on to an “investor” approach. Under this scope, companies make investments on several sectors, thus creating a portfolio. The most impressive point is that each portfolio has unique values because it forms combinations that create additional value.
In order to sum-up all the above we will use an example based on Microsoft’s’ Live Office and the competitive relation it retains with Google Docs. In a brief overview of both companies’ portfolios, MS and Google, one can observe that in a hypothetical improvement of the characteristics of Office Live, users would be encouraged to replace/ abandon Google Docs to Office live in order to take advantage of the improved characteristics. A more systemic examination however would reveal that this improvement could probably “damage” Windows 7. This conclusion may be reached by taking into account that the hypothesized improvement would thin the transition barriers of users in incorporating Chrome OS, which only works in browser environment, due to the fact that users would be able to use these features of Office Live in Chrome OS.
It’s been 14 months since Nestle faced one of the first serious online brand reputation crises. Long story short, environmentalists targeted Nestle for the use of palm oil in its products, and started posting negative comments on its fan page. Some of them went a step further and created different versions of Nestle’s logo (which were relevant to the criticism).
Of course, Nestle decided to defend their copyrights and especially their logo on their facebook fan page. But starting deleting comments from users that use an altered version of the logo is not considered a wise strategy. Even worse, Nestle went a step further and started deleting comments from people who have not used an altered logo.
Of course, in a Web 2.0 world, the reaction was immediate. Nestle’s fan page was bombarded and there was at least one tweet every minute about the issue on Twitter, for the next days. Nestle continued to ruin its presence, by stating something along the lines of “this is our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus”. Later attempts to apologize were in vain – once you lose the heart and mind of people in social media, it is too hard to regain them. Later that year, many dissertations were written about the issue, which was one of the first clashes in the online world that hurt a brand so much.
Nestle’s later reaction to the comments
Now, what insight do we get from this story? The following are some points that, people responsible for your brand’s online reputation should consider:
- Be positive, not negative. Several studies have shown that people prefer positive than negative things on the Web. Therefore, you should deal with your customers’ complaints in a positive way. Our clients from the hotel industry can share dozens of stories with you, about the comments they get on Tripadvisor, and the way they reply. Bottom-line is: everyone hates whiners, so try not to be one.
- Offer real solutions and honest answers to the problem/enquiry.
- Under no circumstances should you delete user – generated content. This a cutting point, a pass/fail. People invest time and effort in writing a comment. More importantly, they speak, so they devote a part of themselves to answer. Do not delete their answer and do not be afraid: online users have unique ways to find out who is just trying to harm your brand and creative ways of how to cut him/her out.
- Deliver superb experience. Reach each customer personally, following steps 1 and 2. People do not expect brands to answer to them, therefore, doing so will ensure a superb experience, because you will show customers that they are important to you (and you can even turn them to passionate advocates, about your brand and its customer – driven strategy).
Managing your brand name online is a difficult task, but paying attention to the points mentioned above can help changing people’s attitudes towards your brand, from negative to positive ones.
The academic literature is full of case studies, regarding successful companies from the ICT sector. These case studies can be divided into three groups, based on their chronological order:
The first group includes cases of companies, which realized the potential and benefited from the rapid growth of the ICT during the early stages of development. Microsoft, Apple and IBM stand out as the companies that laid the first foundations of what is now called “personal computer”.
The second group includes companies that have contributed to the development of the Internet, sometimes even beating their equivalent “conventional” companies. Typical examples are Amazon VS Barnes & Noble and Netflix VS Blockbuster, which showed that new business models could flourish on the Internet and offer valuable services.
Finally, the Internet’s penetration, both in developed and in developing countries, created a new generation of companies which are at the forefront of events. This generation takes advantage of the large number of users and focuses on the interactions between them and the content they create. Examples include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and others, which created a huge base of users and content, thus managing to become a part of their daily lives.
Despite the fact that the third “wave” is still active, the last two years saw the attempts of many of the aforementioned leading companies to infiltrate other industries, thereby creating direct confrontation of established “players”, with significant implications both for users / consumers and for the entire industry.
In some areas, such as tablet devices, one can easily spot the competition between Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, HP and RIM, which all try to become the market leaders, each using its own competitive advantages and starting from completely different positions.
We therefore observe a series of conflicts in various sectors, from companies that are in different stages of their life – cycle, have completely different culture, different revenue streams and different aspirations for their expansion strategy.
Through this blog, we will attempt, on a weekly basis, to analyze and evaluate developments in this “war” in the online setting. Many of the models which we will be using are based on “conventional” methods, such as the Porter’s 5 forces, while others, such as ARA and Systems Methodology, will allow us to analyze the whole concept with a wider view.
So, stay tuned as a new series of developments has begun.
There are currently thousands of social media experts, professionals, gurus and so forth. This is not surprising – it takes no more than some hours to understand how Facebook Pages work (at least their main functions). As a matter of fact, if you dedicate 3-4 hours every day for a week, you will be confident enough to speak in front of a group of people willing to launch a Facebook Page. But it is not about posting and getting some comments and likes. It is not about uploading photos or having a lousy status update – there are millions of people who can do this thing and they are no experts or professionals. Guess what, they are called users.
It is about numbers. Data, insights, analytics, measuring or whatever word you want to use. Because marketing should always be data – driven, otherwise it is just guessing. If you ever have a lunch with a social media “expert”, trying to sell you his/her services, follow this practical tip: listen to him for 15-20 minutes and check if he said any of the above words even once. If not, consider a visit to the bathroom and never return (pay the bill of course).
If you do not measure your activities, how do you know what to do next? Analytics are an integral part of marketing, because they allow you to see which of your activities are performing well and which ones do not. In a social media context, the number of friends/followers/fans you have is not enough, nor is the amount of comments and likes you get. The three following points are just an example of some metrics you should consider using:
- What is the impact of each specific piece of content? The fact that you over – performed this week, does not mean that every piece of content you shared was successful. Which one was the most successful? Repeat and check again, in an attempt to optimize your content strategy.
- Timing. Now, this is something most people forget, but you should check the days and times your audience is engaging with your brand. You will be surprised by the numbers (and yes, many people engage with your page outside office hours). This is of prime importance to companies with a global audience.
- Leads. Define what your leads are, and then try to measure what percentage of your audience becomes a lead. This is one of the first things you should do, in order to reach for the holy grail of ROI.
As mentioned, the above are only a fraction of the things you should know about your social media presence. Failure to do so is like walking on a rope, blind – folded. Yes, there are chances you will make it to the other side, but do you want to try?