One retailer, who goes out of his way to rankle customers, swears this is true.
Business owner provokes customer complaints, on purpose
An article in the New York Times, penned by David Segal and titled “A Bully Finds a Pulpit on the Web,” reports that the owner of an online designer eyeglass purveyor is using the unconventional tactic of inciting bad word of mouth to increase his search engine rank.
This merchant is downright gleeful when disgruntled customers complain about his company on the web. He even gloated about it online, where he boldly proclaimed, “I just wanted to let you guys know that the more replies you people post, the more business and the more hits and sales I get. My goal is NEGATIVE advertisement.”
Exploiting a SEO loophole
I’ll refrain from printing the name of the business owner, or the company — why play into his hand? The guy practically encourages customers to kvetch about his shoddy service on consumer advocacy and consumer review sites. He told the Times reporter, “I’ve exploited this opportunity because it works. No matter where they post their negative comments, it helps my return on investment. So I decided, why not use that negativity to my advantage?”
One factor that’s known to affect search engine rank is how many times your name is mentioned and linked to on the web. More mentions and more links, especially from sites that a search engine views as reputable, means you get more points in the SEO-meter. The bigger a reputable site is, all the better. Plenty of mentions about your business on a busy well-regarded consumer site garner lots of referral points from a search engine.
It does not seem to matter if the mentions are positive or negative.
Does Google factor in sentiment analysis?
The Times reporter contacted the 800-pound search engine gorilla — Google — to ask if negative sentiment adversely affects its ranking system. Google doesn’t like to give away too many clues about how its algorithm works, and this instance proved no exception.
The reporter then contacted Danny Sullivan, who oversees the most excellent web site, Search Engine Land. Sullivan said he doesn’t think Google employs sentiment analysis, and he reckons that’s a good thing. Even so, Sullivan said he believes Google can do a better job of integrating consumer reviews of e-commerce sites, much like it already does with local business search results.
Until that happens this mischievous retailer benefits from angry customers venting their frustrations online.
Page one or bust
The notion of using negative sentiment to your advantage isn’t new. We’ve got that old saw: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
Celebrities are often accused of doing bad things just to get their name in the press. The tactic may not always work as planned, but many times their stars do rise.
The art and science of search engines being able to serve up the most relevant results in the optimum order is improving, but in the scheme of things, it’s still got a ways to go. When researching topics, many is the time I wind up finding the most pertinent link on the second and third page results.
The vast majority of searchers don’t go beyond page one. If you can game the search engines your search rank rises, even if your lofty position is based on consumer complaints.
The situation may be outrageous, but apparently not egregious enough to get a business penalized by Goggle’s algorithm. FYI, Google does claim to punish your site if it catches you engaging in certain unscrupulous black-hat search engine tactics.
Turning lemons into lemonade
Meantime, that Times’ article that hardly paints a positive picture of the eyeglass enterprise? Well, the story mentions the owner’s name and that of his company numerous times. It includes lots of relevant keywords. That means more links and mentions from a leading reputable news source.
Talk about squeezing out search engine juice.
- Deni Kasrel
Should search engines factor in negative sentiment? Is this guy just playing by the rules? What do YOU think?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Seeing as we all seek out information by hitting the web – frequently using a search engine as our guide — you can bet people other than the press are discovering and reading your releases.
Most PR practitioners, however, still write press releases in a rigid format specifically aimed at reporters. It’s a style developed long before the web came into being and best suited to the printed page.
Press releases posted online should be in web style
News flash: Web content should be written for the way we read web content. Or rather, how we glance over web content. Studies show when we first hit a web page we scan it. Our eyes skip around looking for clues to see if the page has information we can use. If it takes too long to figure out we hop off and scan elsewhere.
This applies to all areas of a website. Including the press section.
Press releases as information, plain and simple
OK, this is not groundbreaking news: Jakob Nielson, a pioneer of web usability, has beaten this drum for years. He’s posted numerous articles on the subject, including How Users Read on the Web.
Still, even companies that follow good web style elsewhere on their website often disregard it in the press area.
That’s a mistake. Usability studies by Janice (Ginny) Redish — as noted in her excellent book Letting Go of the Words: Writing Web Content that Works – show the general web user is confused (and even frustrated) by traditional “wall-to-wall text” press releases that appear online.
And so, with hat tips to Nielson and Redish, here’s a handy list of guidelines for writing press releases for the web.
Best Practices: Writing Press Releases for the Web
1. Write short paragraphs
Keep it concise. Nielson suggests having one idea per paragraph.
2. Increase scanability with subheads in bold type
Subheads give instant clues about the full content of the release. Readers can know right away if the content is of interest, or not. Suggested length for headings is eight words or less.
3. Break up information with bulleted or numbered lists
Bullets act as graphical elements that stand out from blocks of text. Our eyes are naturally and psychologically drawn to lists with brief chunks of information.
4. Display data in tables and graphs
It’s difficult to digest lots of data rendered in paragraph format. You’re better off putting this information into tables and graphs that are more readily understood.
5. Use the same template as other informational pages
As noted, the general public does not make a distinction between press releases and other useful web content. A press release should have the same look and feel as other informational pages on your website.
6. Include hyperlinks and external documents for additional information
Provide more value to a release by linking to other areas of your site with related information.
If you need to go into more depth with statistics or research findings, create and post documents with these details. Write the press release as a summary fact sheet and put links to these documents in the release.
7. Include keywords
Use language that appeals to your customer base. Put special emphasis on terms and phrases someone might use to find your product or service through a search engine, a.k.a. keywords.
8. Be mindful of who’s listed as the company contact
Typical press releases list the person in your public relations/communications department who wrote the release as the contact for additional information. But is this the right person to respond to queries from the general public? And what happens when this PR flack leaves your company? Do you go back and changes all the releases?
Once a release is posted on the web you may want to list your main PR office number, and identify it as such, to better field calls that come in response to the release.
- Deni Kasrel
What do YOU think? Comments welcome.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )
Tell Me Something I Don’t Already Know
The survey was conducted by Pear Analytics. Their process was to randomly sample Twitter’s public timeline for a two-week span. They put tweets into six categories that aside from “pointless babble” included “conversational,” meaning messages that go back and forth between people or attempt to spark conversation (questions or polls), and “pass-along value,” which covers any re-tweet. Items the Pear people qualified as “news” had to come from national mainstream sources, such as CNN and Fox. News on social media and anything published on TechCrunch or Mashable did not make the cut.
There are other specifics, but suffice to say, the whole thing is highly subjective.
My reason for covering this less-than-scientific research was to point out that even if there is a lot of babble on Twitter the platform offers value to businesses.
I didn’t think the actual finding was surprising. Anyone who watches Twitter’s public timeline for maybe 10-15 minutes can come to the same conclusion.
Colleagues made the same observation. Some noted that in the scheme of things most conversations, and messages received via email, are not particularly important. So why pick on Twitter?
Why pay so much attention to a report that states the obvious?
It’s All In How You Say It
For starters, consider the word choice: “pointless babble.” How great is that? It’s not insignificant content or something equally mundane. ‘Tis trash talking the twitosphere.
Naturally, this spurred tweets galore. And it made for a terrific story hook.
Next, look at how Pear conveyed the win, place and show results:
What a fun punchy graphic.
It’s All Very Official
Now take a gander at another image that shows a correlation between the type of tweet and the day of the week it tends to occur:
It’s good to have graphs and charts with numbers in a report to reinforce the idea that this is real research.
The study includes additional data from other sources. These stats and diagrams make it even more official.
I don’t have access to Pear Analytics’ financial statements but best guess is it’s a small business enterprise. Hats off to whoever dreamed this study up — it surely draws attention to the company.
The point about the pointless babble on Twitter states the obvious.
Slick packaging makes it newsworthy.
- Deni Kasrel
What do YOU think about getting attention by stating the obvious? Comments welcome.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
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