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On the subject of Internet Marketing

google

Adam Adam

March 7th, 2012.

Does Google Places Trust Their Citation Sources Too Much?

Barry from Search Engine Roundtable posted an interesting find from a Google Webmaster Central forums post. The OP pointed out that PC World (a leading electronics chain in the UK) is ranking with “Mothercare” (a leading baby/parenting chain in the UK) as it’s title in search results for the term ‘PC World teeside park':

PC World teeside park serps

 

I’m still very intrigued as to how this happened, but after some digging around I think I’ve found a reason why (which I posted on Barry’s post).

1- It’s showing up for ‘mothercare teeside park’ as well (suggesting it’s not ‘one way’). Both results show a Google Places result with the same address and a phone number: 01642 618325

2- A quick search for ‘01642 618325 pc world’ returns http://uk.wowcity.com/hartlepool/?what=digital+camera+consumer+products

3- On this page the first result for Mothercare links through to PC World’s homepage (although the details are correct for Mothercare). Note this passes through an internal tracking script and isn’t a direct link.

This looks to me like an error in Wowcity’s listing as the cause of the problem, and probably isn’t anything to do with the folks at PC World or Mothercare (or the agencies they may be working with), but is an interesting fine nonetheless.

If my theory is correct it begs the question- Does Google Places trust it’s citation sources too much? Would love to hear your comments (particularly if you work for PC World, Mothercare and Wowcity!) below.

cookies

Martina Martina

February 29th, 2012.

New EU cookie laws – Will you be breaking them?

Those rascals in Europe have really done it this time.  They have dreamt up the most insane law that will render any complicated website practically unworkable.

Their intentions were probably honourable but as the law is a mess but they are happening and YOU DO NEED TO TAKE NOTICE.

The law comes in on May 26th 2012.

There is a £500,000 max fine for non compliance.


Caught with hand in cookie jar
                                                                                                     Image source


It”s all about cookies

Why do cookies always come with consequences? If it isn’t calories you’re trying to avoid it’s breaching someones privacy – you just can’t win!

What are cookies? In short they are a method for tracking what you “do” on a website and where you go afterwards, how you got there etc.   Most cookies are essential for a website to work.  Some admittedly are a bit suspect and it’s not entirely wrong to be doing something about them but the sledgehammer approachby the EU is not the solution we feel.

The new shiny piece of legislation is being enforced as a solution; a way to protect you from the prying eyes of the web owners.

We’re not going to rewrite all the great articles out there already so here are pointers to finding out more about the Cookie Law

Biting off more than they can chew?

Before you get collared by the EU police you can refer them to their own website which is used to announce the legislation and has been criticised for breaking the very same laws they intend to enforce as pointed out (and illustrated with pretty pictures) by the good folks at Code Blog here: “UK Government ‘break’ the law they imposed“.

So, to summarise: This legislation will apply to nearly everything on the web, will probably reinforce the much dreaded “pop-up” and seems to be an overall nuisance.

Undoubtledly it will affect the big boys first.  They, at the moment, are just playing a waiting game to see what everyone else does.  Noone it seems is going to voluntarily prevent people using their website until the user agrees to their cookie policy.

In conclusion, you can choose to do the following:

  • Implement the new functionality to comply with the law ASAP
  • Delay the implementation as long as possible
  • Ignore the law

What do you think?

 

 

google-demographics

Adam Adam

February 22nd, 2012.

Google+ Demographics: A Look at the Top 5 Countries Using Google Plus

There’s been a lot of debate recently about the possible success (or failure?) of Google+. Google themselves have been a little cagey when it comes to giving information on their userbase, and whilst Larry Page boasted 90 million users globally, Larry didn’t quite explain their metrics in their entirety, as this post from Forbes showed.

Last week Website Monitoring shared some interesting research showing the overall demographics for Google+ users, and whilst the findings are fascinating I wanted to find out how these averages differed by country. Having identified the US, India, Brazil, UK and Canada as being the top five countries based on the estimated number of users, I’ve looked at the relationship status, interests, sex and age of Google Plus users based on the locations stated in their profiles.

This has produced some interesting statistics, such as:

  • There are almost as many Indian men as there are Female Americans
  • 76.02% of sampled Indian Google+ users are single, and are more interested in forming relationships and dating combined than networking
  • Brazilian Google+ users have far more ‘it’s complicated’ relationships than the other four countries sampled
  • The trend of 18 – 24 year old users being the most popular age group within Google Plus’ userbase appears to be true across the top five countries sampled, however there is a larger percentage of 18 – 24 year old users in Brazil (69.90%)
  • Plus a whole number of other interesting nuggets!

Thus I present:

Google Plus Infographic

Embed this- Sharing is Caring!

Google Plus Demographics InfographicDatadial

Matt

February 15th, 2012.

PPC And Seller Extensions Cannibalising Your Brand Traffic

The star ratings that you often see in Google ads are known as seller extensions. These are now likely to appear in the paid, organic and shopping results.  These ratings are generated when product reviews are submitted either on 3rd party sites such as ReeVoo or TrustPilot, or when Schema.org mark-up is used to tag internal/on-site reviews.

It is often cited that these star ratings can improve click-through rates by as much as 30%, which will not only increase both organic and paid visitors, but an increase in PPC click-through rate is also likely to reduce your overall cost per click.

Now, while the effects of these are obviously positive when dealing with generic searches, consider the impact on organic brand traffic when seller extensions appeared for one of our clients brand searches.

As you can see, organic brand traffic fell by around 49%. Overall brand traffic remained around the same level, the client was now just paying for a much larger proportion of it via their own PPC ads.

The obvious solution in this case is to turn-off the PPC ads for brand search terms. However in this specific case the situation is compounded by other (legitimate and non-legitimate) companies bidding on their brand term, this includes Amazon, an approved distributor who also benefit from seller extensions  in their own PPC ad, so turning-off the client brand ads would probably result in a large share of their own brand traffic diverting to the Amazon result.

 

So what can be learnt from this?

  • Seller extensions have a dramatic uplift in click-through rate
  • Protect your brand/trademark results from unauthorised bidders
  • Prevent affiliates from bidding on your trademarked terms
  • Google are making a lot of money from selling companies their own brand traffic

 

Adam Adam

December 6th, 2011.

SEO Industry Survey Results [Infographic]

A few weeks ago we asked a few folks on Twitter to complete a short (okay, maybe not that short) 22 question survey, looking specifically at the business side to working in SEO. We asked the all important questions, including:

  1. Where are you based?
  2. What kind of business are you?
  3. How many people work in the business?
  4. What other services do you offer besides SEO?
  5. How many clients do you currently manage?
  6. Do you contract your clients for a set period of time?
  7. What is your usual client contract arrangement (i.e. how do you charge for your work)?
  8. Your average charge per month for SEO services?
  9. Typical client retention period?
  10. Biggest issues facing your business today?
  11. Biggest barrier to sales?
  12. Biggest source of leads?
  13. What activities are included in a typical campaign?
  14. Link building tactics- what tactics do you employ for the majority of your campaigns?
  15. Do you buy links? (what SEO survey would be complete without this question? ;))
  16. What 3rd party tools do you subscribe to?
  17. What keyword tools do you use primarily?
  18. How long on average do you spend reporting to a single client?
  19. What metrics do you include in your standard reports?
  20. How did you get into SEO?
  21. What skills do you consider to be the most important skills for an SEO?
  22. Have you ever had a site penalised?

The results of the survey are pretty interesting- take a look for yourself below:

SEO Industry Survey

Click to enlarge

Embed this:

We’ll be releasing the source data as promised in the next few days. Let us know how your company compares to these averages in the comments below!

Adam Adam

October 27th, 2011.

Google AdWords: Updated Focus on Quality Score

Earlier this month Google announced changes to the importance Google AdWords places on Quality Score, which is likely to affect a number of advertisers. Based on tests carried out in Brazil, Spanish-speaking Latin America, Spain and Portugal, Google’s Adam Juda announced that the update will be rolled out globally over the coming weeks.

The update places more importance on the relevancy of a landing page when calculating Quality Score- a component in the formula which determines where your ad displays in search results and your cost per click when competing with other advertisers. Essentially- it’s now more important than ever to ensure that landing pages used for PPC are as relevant and optimised as possible- rewarded by higher positions with lower cost-per-click costs.

In an interview with Search Engine Land’s contributor Pamela Parker, Google’s Director of Product Management- Jonathan Alferness suggests that the current user experience for AdWords users could be improved:

What we’ve seen is that there are ads available in the auction that are as good a quality as the top ads. But the landing pages — the merchant sites, the advertiser landing pages — are of much higher quality than the ads that we see at the top of our auction… This means the user experience isn’t what it could be…

In the end, we believe that this will result in better quality experience for the users.

 

How will this change affect you?

With added emphasis on landing page Quality Score, it’s important to be aware of this change and now is the time to assess your current landing pages. We can expect to see an initial change within AdWords as this change initially rolls out to the rest of the world:

As the changes roll out, some campaigns will see variation in keyword Quality Scores and typical ad position. Within a couple weeks, things should stabilize and we expect most campaigns will not see a significant change in overall performance.

Past this, sites with lower quality landing pages may expect to see lower quality score values, lower ad positions, and possibly higher cost-per-click prices when competing against advertisers with better quality landing pages.

LINK

Martina Martina

October 25th, 2011.

How to ‘Think Link’

linkbuilding
Image Source | Featured Image

Are you aware just how many kinds of links that are relevant to building the Page Rank of your own website? Are you convinced that  mindlessly spamming Joe Bloggs’ blog (see what I did there?  Ha! ;-) ) with comments totally unrelated to the topic at hand, in hopes to receive some free link juice in the form of a back-link is the answer to success?

If this still works on particular blogs, chances are they are not very high quality ones, are probably unmonitored, and are places where your comment & anchor text are left to dwell in the company of other usually very dodgy peers.

So what other links exist & how do you create them?

Here is a list of a variety of different links available to a website with a quick breakdown of how they work:

Reciprocal Links

As suggested by name, these are links gained in return for giving links. This can be achieved by guest posting for instance, where you write content for another blogger which they include on their blog and somewhere within the body of that content, you include a link back to your website. Usually the blogger writes some content for you too, leaving their link; hence it’s reciprocal as you are exchanging links.

One Way Links

As their name suggests, these are the opposite of reciprocal links. You receive a link to your site but do not give a link from your site. Think of it like following a celebrity Twitter profile that doesn’t follow you back, the numbers show the power here. Search engines catch onto this and class your site as valuable and useful because other sites wish to promote you asking for nothing in return. Ranks can dramatically improve with such links and they also help to generate a good amount of direct traffic to you.

If you can achieve these naturally you are on to a winner.

Authority Links

An authority link is a back-link from a site Google trusts in terms of its Algorithm. Trust comes from a site being detected as an authority (because of its page rank, it’s number of strong back-links and many other factors) the beauty of such links is that the sites they are placed on  get more visibility in search engine results for keywords that are both related and non-related to the sites topic.

Directory Links

These are links submitted to and contained in web directories which are an online resource specialising in linking to other web sites and categorizing those links. Links can be searched for and found on in a way similar to a search engine search engine however this is not to confuse the two as unlike a search engine, which uses automated methods to index it’s web-links, directories usually use humans, you know people – to do this. This is good news in terms of quality, as someone actually deciding that a site is quality leaves less room for undeserved sites to rank highly through use of “spammy” techniques.

‘Run-of-Site’ Links

Less popular in recent times, these kinds of links are (or were) in used in footers on websites or links in “blog-rolls” usually in seen in the left of right panel of a bloggers site. As the site grew, gaining back-links and content, the worth of your link would grow too. The name ‘Run of Site’ comes from the fact that the link remains in the same place throughout the entire website (in that left panel or footer).

This had its time. A person could have their link planted on a website that grew to have 1, 000 pages & the link would count as 1, 000 back-links. However, search engines smartened up which has resulted in any one link only counting once in these positions.

Edu. & Gov. Links

The birth of the Internet came about from successful research funded primarily by the American government and educational institutions who shared information with each other.  When it was ready to give to the wider world, these government and educational sites were its main content and were later followed by directories and search engines which were initially built to catalogue these sites.

The older algorithms were less advanced than today’s and once it became obvious that the best way to increase Page Rank was through linking, techies started using edu. And gov. links to spring to the top in terms of ranking for keywords. This has changed however as webmasters began to crack down on people spamming for links, making it difficult to achieve these days.

‘Presell’ Page Links

Without the jargon, these are paid links.
A presell page is one that you create yourself, complete with titles, descriptions, content and of course, links!
You then hand over cash to similar sites in your niche and hope for them to put it up on their domain, link to it from one of their pages and pop it on their site-map too. It totally goes against Google’s guidelines because unethical methods such as ‘cloaking’ are usually used among other things so probably isn’t something you want to be getting into.

Dofollow links

The opposite of nofollow links, (which are crawled by “spiders” in the same way, but are not given any “link-juice” or value once the nofollow tag is added because search engines do not follow them) these are links that webmasters allow spiders to crawl with the intention of giving some authority to the link. When spiders crawl a dofollow link, that link gains a little “juice” because search engines are being told that that site is trustworthy, which helps its Page Rank. Over time, as you build up a list of links to your site that are “followable” your site will grow in authority. You are likely to find dofollow links in the comments section of blogs and profile links on some social media websites.

RSS Links

RSS feeds can be rather helpful in aiding your SEO and enhancing your ranking efforts because of the fact that they get picked up by search engines quite quickly. Feed results can appear for the keywords that your website is ranking for and often such feeds are actually more likely to appear than a regular SEO result for other pages on your site simply because news feeds are updated more frequently (think blogs). To achieve this, ensure you have a feed/subscription option on your site and ensure this is not written in javascript, as search engines cannot crawl these.

Article Marketing/Author Biography Links

This can certainly be effective if the article you write is a good one, contains the link to your website in the biography snippet and gets a considerable amount of traffic. This is because  the more your article is linked to acorss the web, the higher the amount of links there will be to your site from other peoples sites which is the key to ranking success.

Three-Way Links

These links work the same way as reciprocal links whereby each site links to another. With this kind of link however, there is a third site in the equation and the process works by website A linking to website B, and website B not linking back to A. Website B does however, link to website C and instead of C linking back to B, it links to website A (see image above). Reciprocal links are very common and it isn’t unlikely that search engines aware of them might question how natural they are over time. The 3-way link provides the same benefits whilst looking as natural as possible to search engines, which will improve your site rankings.

 

So, now you know how to ‘think link’ – go get ‘em! :-D

Matt

October 24th, 2011.

The Importance Of The Long Tail – 16% Of Searches Have NEVER been Typed-In Before

Google claim that 16% of more than a billion queries entered every day have never been seen before may sound hard to believe, but perhaps a closer look at how people search online is warranted first.  450 billion new, unique queries have been handled by Google since 2003. All of this begs the question what are users doing that results in such a large number of new and unique queries each day?

Credit SeoMoz

Firstly we need to look at how people actually use search engines. In their early experiences with search portals users tend to put in short, generic terms into the search engine. As users become more skilled in searching for the items or information that they want, their search terms become more specific and descriptive.
Instead of using short, generic keywords when searching for a pair of shoes for instance, the user might be inclined to be more descriptive of the type of shoes they are looking for using far more adjectives, e.g. light brown, leather, high heeled ladies court shoes, in the hope that it would be more specific to get exactly what they want.

It is also worth considering the search buying cycle as this especially impacts upon conversions.

Firstly think about how you yourself might behave online when you’re researching buying a product.

Taking a typical online purchase for something like a television. You might start with a search query for a very general phrase like TV or television. You’ll see that there are several irrelevant results for our purpose such as the BBC and ITV results, but using the informational properties such as Wikipedia, or the Google shopping results you may then make a decision that you’re looking for a plasma TV rather than an LCD TV.

Of course you may also decide to visit one of the commercial websites listed for these queries, or buy from the PPC listings, but it’s more likely you’ll want to research a bit more first.

Next you’ll probably search for Plasma TV, this is looking a bit more promising, there are several relevant shopping results some reviews websites and a few more relevant commercial sites appearing. After reading a few of the sites you decide that the Panasonic 50PZ800B looks fairly impressive and you want to find out a bit more about it.

Of course you search for it, possibly adding terms like review, test or comparison to bring up the more informational resources.

It’s about now that you feel you’re happy with your choice, you have compared it against other makes and models, you’re happy that it’s what you’re looking for and you want to go ahead and purchase.

To find online shops selling that specific model you may use buying trigger search terms such as buy or cheap, or possibly even adding geographic search terms such as London or UK.

As a site owner you need to be prepared to be targeting as many of these longer tail phrases as you can with your main site, no easy task when you don’t even know what they are!

Try to develop good (great) content on your site, category and product pages warrant special attention for this. Getting this right will result in high levels of targeted, focused, converting visitors.

 

Adam Adam

October 20th, 2011.

Google Trusted Stores

Google trusted storesTrusted Stores is an ecommerce certification program that Google launched early in October. The idea behind the program is that it will give people more assurance in buying from online retailers. At the moment the program is still in beta those ecommerce stores that attain Google qualification will be able to add a badge to their site, proclaiming them a Google trusted store. The program is backed, more interestingly, with a consumer purchase protection package worth $1,000.

Those retailers interested in applying to become a trusted store will need to furnish Google with certain consumer information as the company is of the opinion that retailer’s data is more trustworthy than customer surveys. In order to qualify for the Trusted Stores status internet retailers will need to demonstrate good customer service and a record of shipping goods on time. In terms of customer service retailers must have evidence of resolving any customer issues and disputes in a timely manner.

When customers move their mouse over the Trusted Stores badge, they will see the store’s customer service and shipping grades. Unlike the Google Checkout the company states, there is no connection between the new program and Google Adwords. Google further reiterated that the program is still in its early stages and too soon to speculate on how the program might be enhanced and expanded.

With respect to the purchase protection package mentioned earlier, it appears to work in a similar way to credit card companies that extend manufacturer’s purchase warranties. Google however, does not offer guarantees rather the $1,000 is potentially money back where retailers fail to resolve problems. The customer can only benefit from this package if they have chosen the free purchase protection option. The consumer should contact the retailer first where there is a problem, if this is not resolved, then the customer can call on Google to deal with it, or be able to claim money back. The fact is that Google is capable of getting retailers to find quick problem resolutions.

While Google have stated that their motive for introducing the program was to increase buyer confidence in online retailers, some may suspect the company of having hidden motives. Notions of a future tie in with Checkout or Adwords are at the moment, pure speculation. As yet it’s unclear precisely what data Google will be capturing, but if customers choose the personal protection, the retailer is more likely to have a record of the transactions.

Adam Adam

October 20th, 2011.

Review Sites- How to Deal with Negative Comments

When it comes to setting up and establishing a local business, there are a number of milestones. Getting your business letterhead, a merchant bank account and customers who aren’t family members, are just some of the hurdles that spring to mind. As soon as your business has grown sufficiently to warrant a mention on Google Places or Yelp, then you start to get customers’ versions or reviews of their experiences. The comments on your Yelp page should make you smile due to your conviction that you’ve provided people with excellent service.

The initial glow of customer reviews may not last, while it’s great to read the rave reviews about your business, it’s likely that you’ll see some that are bad, and possibly even a fiction of the writer’s imagination. The following should give you an inkling of the experiences of review sites that have befallen business consulting clients of mine.

  • Customer is unhappy not to receive a refund when they have eaten their meal at an eating establishment, and to further his argument, adds other fictional complaints.
  • Competitors who believe that bad mouthing someone else’s business is a valid marketing strategy.
  •  A negative review that was actually about a business other than yours

We could go on, but you get the picture. To some extent the kind of reviews you get will vary depending on what type of business you’re in and where it’s located. In some cities bar owners try to get along by arranging to have special nights or offers at different times, while in others the thing is to try and beat your competitors to the floor. No matter what your experience, you will need to find means of dealing with reviews of your business, and below are a few tips.

 

1. Even if a Customer Declares War, They are not Your Enemy

When there is a customer dispute, especially in the current economic crisis, and following reports of labor abuses, the business owner is always in the wrong.

Don’t respond to negative reviews and even downright lies with more of the same, if you do, you will harm your business even further. Take an approach that assumes the customer is genuinely mistaken, and maintain a professional manner.

 

2. Offer to Find a Solution to the Problem

If you want to safeguard your reputation, don’t admit to any wrongdoing, but offer to help the customer with their problem. If you’ve had a false detrimental review, try responding with something like the following (depending on what business you’re in)

Hi Paul, sorry to hear you thought we overcharged for your Pizza. We do our best to ensure that customers get exactly the toppings they order and all the prices are listed on our menu. We’re actually on the list good value for money pizza parlours. Please contact me, either by coming into the pizza parlour or giving me a call on the above number to see whether we can resolve this situation. Look forward to hearing from you, Steve.

If you already know the customer, it’s probably easy to get hold of them, sort out the problem and you may even persuade them to take the review down. You need to be careful when you contact a customer directly as it requires more tact than you might need on a review site, so take a sympathetic approach to the issue.

 

3. Be Ready to Accept that There Might be a Real Problem

While I’m not suggesting that the customer is right, if there is even a hint that the complaint is legitimate, then you still have to resolve the situation, and you need to ensure that the same thing never happens with another customer. You may find that your staff need retraining or you might even have to let a person go. Managing and training staff is extremely important, especially when they are in constant contact with customers and only earning minimum wage.

Perhaps your ingredients are not as good as you thought and you either need to improve them, change the supplier, or lower the price you charge. Sometimes it is possible to contact the review site and have a review removed, especially if the reviewer seems to be making a personal attack on you alone. If you have lots of positive reviews than the impact of one bad one should be minimal, ask all your satisfied customers to leave reviews as this will further boost your credibility against the occasional bad one.

 

Adam Adam

October 17th, 2011.

Paid Ads Get 37% Improved CTR on Tablet vs. PC

Findings from Marin Software’s Paid Search Quarterly Benchmarking Report, suggest that if you use one of the new tablets, as opposed to a PC, it’s possible to increase the click through rate on paid ads by more than a third. The research was based on a mapping of how much was spent on paid search by almost a thousand agencies and advertisers across the world, giving a total for all of £1.3 billion.

More than 90% of the annual cost of spending on paid search came from PCs, tablet users spent only 2% and the other 5% cam from smartphone users. The trend tracking was undertaken in the third quarter. According to the report the CTR or click through rate for the ads on tablets was much higher than on PCs. However, when it came to the advertiser’s average CPC or post per click the rate on tablets was 29% less than on smartphones and PCs. The volume of clicks for advertisers with Bing and Yahoo was up 43%, yet there was a drop of 10% in CPC.

The growing use of tablets could mean a shift in advertisers’ strategies for paid search ads, according to Ed Stevenson, the Managing Director of EMEA and APAC for Martin Software He further added may change their strategies for advertising and spending to cope with the shift in browsing habits to things like the iPad. More importantly, advertisers may need to work on device specific programs to improve results. Coincidentally this report was released at the same time as the quarterly report from Google, stating that in the three months finishing the end of September, earnings rose to £6.16bn ($9.72bn), a rise of 33%.

Matt

September 6th, 2011.

10 Of The Biggest Social Media PR Disasters

This is not a top ten list. This is not a countdown. You can’t really try to rate something as detrimental as a social media PR nightmare, because each disaster is just as much of a mess as the next and either way the damage is done until management comes up with a campaign to redress their image.

One thing about the internet, it’s much like bad Facebook photos. Sooner or later, your internet activity can come back to haunt you. So don’t think of this list as a countdown. Think of this as a checklist of what not to do for businesses.

1 Rats in the Taco Bell-February 2007

What started as a simple laugh amongst employees led to Taco Bell’s and KFC’s being shut down across the state of New York and outrage amongst the public, who were now questioning what exactly went into the gorditas. It started in Greenwich Village. After receiving an anonymous tip, TV crews arrived at a Taco Bell/KFC franchise and broke out the cameras.

What were they hoping to film, you ask? The assembly line of tacos? A special piece about the employee of the month? Unfortunately for the Bell, none of the above. The guest on this particular live feed was not human nor an employee, at least not a paid employee. The special that day focused on rats. Now one rat would have been bad enough, but it wasn’t just a single misplaced rodent. The film crew that day caught footage of dozens of rats scurrying all over the floor of the restaurant, scattering across the floor, climbing over the tables where people sat and ate, and, even worse, in the back where the food was prepped.

And it was broadcasted live.

Taco Bell’s and KFC’s all over were slammed with heaps of health code violations and Yum Brands, the mother company that owns the chicken and tacos, were ordered to clean up their restaurants or risk being shut down for good. All of this on the tail end of an E. coli scandal which sickened several people back in 2006. Stocks took a serious tumble for Yum Brands, and Taco Bell is still recovering even a few years later.

2 The Whole Foods Blog-July 2007

Whole Foods is known across the states as a Safeway of sorts for the organic and natural food industry. They have been happy to take up flags supporting the green movement, providing recycled and reusable bags to patrons, and advertising themselves as supporters of healthy living. But, like any other major food company or provider, there is competition in the field of healthy living and organic farming. So the company chief came up with a great idea to increase consumerism and productivity: assume an internet identity named “rahodeb” and troll forums and review boards of his main competitors and publish bad (i.e. false) reviews of their products.

Now that’s a great idea when you’re a kid still living in your parents basement with no ambitions and nothing to lose trolling that guy who keeps beating you on your Ebay auctions; not so great when you are the C.E.O. of a multi-million dollar corporation and the Federal Trade Commission files a lawsuit.

It turns out Mackey had been up to this “rahodeb” business from about 1999, haunting food blogs and the reputation of several companies and raised a few government eyebrows in the process, because “rahodeb” had a lot of bad things to say, none of them about Whole Foods. It really got suspicious when “rahodeb” made a thinly veiled prediction about the buyout of a competitor, Wild Oats, by Whole Foods that eventually came true a month later. Mackay resigned from his chairman position in 2009.

So if you find yourself trolling review boards trying to find the right stuff for organic, healthy living, and you see the name “rahodeb”, remind yourself that healthy living also requires a clear conscious and pure business ethics.

 3 Belkin’s “Positive” Review-January 2009

Alan Parsa was studying for his degree in documentary film making from Chicago’s Columbia College. Like any normal college student today, he needed a little extra cash in his pocket, so he went cruising on Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk for a quick buck or two. He clicked on a link to a possible job and imagine his surprise: there was an ad to get paid, provided he write a 5/5 positive review for any of Belkin’s products. With his internal bells and whistles going off that this probably wasn’t an honest thing to be paid for, Parsa did what any self-respecting internet person does: blog about it.

In just a few hours, the story broke across the internet. Belkin was very slow to reply to request’s for personal comment, which gave plenty of time for the Belkin hate wagon to pick up steam and really get rolling. By the time Mike Reynoso, Belkin’s president, posted an apology, the damage was too far gone and The New York Times had grabbed the story. People were quick to boycott Belkin products soon after and really, aren’t bloggers the last people you want to piss off when you are in the market of producing internet equipment?

 4 Domino’s Falling-April 2009

You’ve had the job. We all think about it. Spitting on the burger meant for the obnoxious customer at the counter. Pouring Diet Coke instead of regular just to be a jerk. If you’ve had that kind of fast food job, you’ve had that bad day and you’ve thought about doing exactly those pranks that would normally get you fired. But you were never stupid enough to actually do them. And even if you did, you weren’t dumb enough to film it and put it on YouTube.

Kristy Lynn Hammonds (31) and Michael Anthony Setzer (32) at Domino’s Pizza in North Carolina apparently didn’t get the memo. Late one night, and probably not in their right minds, the dynamic duo taped themselves sticking their hands in prep stations, shoving cheese in their noses, waving meat by their (ahem!) rears, and performing an array of other juvenile antics with the produce in the back of the store. What was meant as a prank video gained more than one million viewers within a few days and spread rumors of poor management and business ethics on Domino’s Pizza’s part. The Domino’s employees were, of course, fired, and consequently brought up on felony charges.

 5 There’s A Comcast Technician on My Couch- June 2006

Brian Finkelstein needed some technical help with his Comcast modem, so he called the cable company and asked they send a man over. The technician arrived awhile later…and promptly fell asleep on Finkelstein’s couch. Maybe he was out too late partying, maybe he was too worn out from night classes. But instead of doing his job, the tech decided his beauty rest was more important than attending to the original problem he had been sent out there for.

Annoyed and irritated that his modem was still not working and certainly wasn’t going to get fixed on its own, Finkelstein broke out the camcorder and recorded the tech asleep. After some careful editing and cutting the film to “I Need Some Sleep” by Eels, the D.C. resident uploaded the video onto—you guessed it—Youtube. The fifty-eight year old employee was fired but too little too late. People were already climbing out of the woodwork to make their own comments about Comcast’s poor customer service and low quality technology. Apparently a sleepy technician was only the latest in a long line of complaints, but this was the one to finally get the ball rolling downhill all over Comcast’s public image.

 6 “Dell Lies; Dell Sucks”- June 2005

You would think that the first rule of running a business would be to keep the customer happy, especially when if someone writes a bad review long enough, loud enough, and with a catchy enough title, the customer will make sure the whole world hears about it. Dell had already suffered enough from the embarrassment of the “Dude, you’re getting’ a Dell” guy getting busted for marijuana, and then customer Jeff Jarvis published “Dell Lies; Dell Sucks”. With words like “lemon” and “the service is a lie”, Jarvis’ blog was read by many others who also felt they were the victims of faulty products and less than admirable customer service and the growing internet following of Jarvis’ blog tore Dell a new one.

Who didn’t read the blog? Anyone and everyone at Dell.

Lesson learned here: follow up on what the customers have to say about your products before you find yourself in the middle of an internet firestorm and not even realizing it.

 7 Johnson and the Red Cross-August 2007

You hear the name Johnson & Johnson and you think of the tear free shampoo, or the tagline “a family company”. You think of fresh smelling babies or dish soap that leaves your hands feeling smooth You think of the Red Cross, you think of relief efforts in Louisiana for Hurricane Katrina and first aid. So why should these two good natured well effort companies have anything against each other? For Johnson & Johnson, it was what the two companies had in common that was the problem: the iconic red cross.

The way it goes is this: the family company, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), filed suit on August 7, 2007 for copyright use of the red cross which appears on first aid kits and other various products that J&J claimed competed against their own first aid line. The family company wanted all paraphernalia with the cross emblem destroyed and for the American Red Cross to pay punitive damages for dollars lost and legal fees for filing the suit which was their idea in the first place. Red Cross argued its name was licensed to first aid kit makers to advertise readiness for disasters. J&J threw around words like “violation of federal statutes” and went on to insist that the commercial Red Cross went outside the span of historically well-agreed use of the image.

Never mind the fact that the so-called “family company” was attempting to sue one of the most well known and charitable humanitarian corporations in the world, but here are a few facts that came to light that doomed J&J’s case. First of all, the American Red Cross was founded in May 1881; Johnson & Johnson didn’t start using the cross image until 1887. Second, the American Red Cross founder, Clara Barton, had already signed a deal J&J in 1895 that recognized the company’s use of a red cross as the trademark for chemical, surgical, and pharmaceutical goods.

A judge ruled against Johnson & Johnson’s case on May 14, 2008. In June of the same year, both companies agreed that both could have access to the trademark red cross image and everyone has been pretending like it’s never happened, like a bad drinking binge.

 8 United Airlines Guitar Non-Hero-July 2009

You almost feel sorry for the airline industry. After September 11th, 2001, airports all over the nation went into a massive upheaval of security protocol and travel procedures. Many feel their privacies are being violated. Airline industries have suffered financially from the economy and a few of the major airlines flirted with bankruptcy. You almost pity them. That is, until the airline breaks something important to you in transit like, let’s say, your guitar.

Baggage handling is notoriously sketchy, but Dave Carroll, a country singer from Canada (there’s a few words you never thought would go together) added a lyrical quality to it. In 2008, Carroll was flying on United Airlines from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. He and several other members of his band, Sons of Maxwell, witnessed the baggage handlers literally throwing their guitars around on the tarmac. Carroll’s own guitar, a $3,500 Taylor, was badly damaged to the point he couldn’t even play it.

Carroll fought for almost a year trying to get United Airlines to take responsibility for the damage they had caused. When that didn’t work, he took the Youtube route, writing a song and directing music video detailing his woes with the airline. Nine million views and one iTunes track later, United Airlines was running damage control, apologizing through Twitter and offering to replace Carroll’s guitar. The Canadian instead requested they donate their money to the Thelonious Monk Jazz Institute. United gave a total of $3,000 but there has been no word yet on whether this has had any impact on how baggage handlers handle your valuables.

 9 Chrysler All A-Twitter- March 2011

“I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the motorcity and yet no one here knows how to (expletive) drive.”

No, this wasn’t posted by someone riding the coattails of afternoon rush hour road rage. Believe it or not, the tweet came from someone who worked for Chrysler Group LLC automotives in Detroit, Michigan. Now you might start bemoaning any person should be allowed to openly vent on their own Twitter log. Free speech, the first amendment, personal expression, all of that applies, and it certainly does. The problem is the off-brand topic expletive tweet was listed on Chrysler Automotives own Twitter feed.

Whoops.

The irony of the situation is the tweeter was actually employed by New Media Strategies, a company there to specifically serve Chrysler’s social media needs, i.e. reach a new audience through current social media networks. Chrysler was quick to release a statement that said the company would not tolerate such language or behavior. The worker was fired, the expletive tweet was deleted, and Chrysler dropped NMS.

 10 Asus Kissing- July 2009

To help generate some buzz for their products, computer manufacturer Asus decided to hold a competition. In this contest, randomly selected bloggers would be given a kit of Asus products to review and blog about. Followers would be encouraged to vote for the best blogger of them all and the winner would get to keep the Asus kit provided. The competition was going smoothly enough and the fans had voted in a winner: by most popular vote, it was Gavyn Britton.

For some reason, Asus did not approve and oh so intelligently and diplomatically announced a decision to change the rules right at the end of the contest, proclaiming a new winner through new voting polls which did not include the popular vote which was initially what would decide the outcome.

Within a week, Asus was flooded with complaints and understandable outrage at this turn of events. Many who had participated in the contest felt used like cheap whores. They accused the Taiwanese company of manipulating the system and the voters for their own benefit and gain with little to no cost for the company. The story picked up mainstream attention but Asus was reluctant to admit any wrong doing on their part. They insist there was no intention to mislead the public, but little has been done in the PR department to effectively rectify the situation and the computer company’s reputation remains bruised.

Here’s an idea: when you write out the guidelines for a competition, you stick to the way they’re written instead of trying to backtrack at the very last second.

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