Catherine "Cat" Seda

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Online Reputation Check

Once upon a time, a potential client called me for consulting. I immediately "Googled" the company and to my shock saw that the firm was being sued by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for advertising false claims. WHOA! Uhhhh, I declined the consulting request. Too risky.

Have you ever checked out a company (or individual) before doing business with them? How did what you found online influence your decision (please don't use their name in your comment)? Did you confront your contact to confirm the information was true before making your decision?

The Internet is a confusing web of truth, lies and fairy tales. Although it's a powerful research tool, be careful when making critical business decisions based on what you see.

12 Comments:

  • I believe that marketing and copywriting people have a moral obligation to not help a client cover up poor business practices if the client is not actively working to correct those wrongs.

    There have been many instances when copywriters have been SUED because they have helped a client sell a product or service that didn't live up to its claims.

    I always check out a company before doing business with them and I even have my VA sift through every page that comes up on the search engines (somtimes the "good stuff" is a bit buried) to make sure. I've spent a lot of time, energy, money and hard-earned lessons to have my business credibility shot to h*ll because we didn't do our due diligence.

    -Lena L. West
    Creator, http://www.TechnologyDiet.com
    CEO, http://www.xynoMedia.com

    By Anonymous Lena L. West, at 10:25 PM  

  • I completely agree with you, Lena!

    By Blogger Cat Seda, at 11:21 AM  

  • Internet users are overwhelmed by the amount of information available to them and actively seek trusted sources to help them filter through some of the noise. Online communities are one of the places they look for this kind of information. Be certain to monitor what is being said about your company, its products and its services in the blogosphere.
    It's also important to make yourself aware of any sites where consumers can post reviews about you and to monitor these, as well.

    By Anonymous Mary Bowling, at 3:21 PM  

  • Hi Cat
    We had a situation where our business development department sold a high level SEO plan to a hotel and then assigned them to the promotion department when the contract was signed. The first things WE did was check them out on tripadvisor - 54 of 55 reviews were horrid, the 1 good review was posted by the hotel manager.

    We were stuck for awhile, and we did the best we could, but the moral of THAT story was we taught Bus. Dev. all about TripAdvisor and Yahoo! Travel!

    Great tip! The best way to ensure successin business is to set yourself up for success. That being said, dont shy away from a challenge, but dont defeat your purpose before you start!

    By Blogger BlizzGirl, at 8:43 AM  

  • Cat, any comments to make on eBay's fee hikes for store owners, and the loud response from many quarters? Do you think eBay stores are still going to be a leading e-commerce solution in the future, or is this a fatal mistake from the giant?

    Phil

    By Blogger Pastor Phil Morgan, at 8:31 PM  

  • Phil,

    Ah...the recent round of eBay fee hikes is creating quite a reaction (some folks now call the company "FeeBay"). I'll admit, I gripe when as a client of any product or service, my fees go up. But a fee hike also forces me to become a smarter marketer. And if a marketing tool remains profitable, we'd be crazy to stop using it!

    With eBay's fee increase, selling low-cost, unique items is an even bigger time and money-wasting move. Focus on higher-priced and higher-profit items. You could also pad your shipping fees a bit but be careful; over-inflated shipping fees could prevent a greater number of higher bids (or sales if you offer a "Buy it Now" option).

    I'm going to ask a few eBay experts to comment here too. Stay tuned...

    Cat

    By Blogger Cat Seda, at 1:47 PM  

  • Hi Phil,
    I am the first person to want to keep all the money I work hard to make, but egads...enough is enough already. In the 'real world' we aren't spoiled with all the incredible tools and amazing security that eBay provides us. Not to mention the over 200 million instant customers. And we definitely aren't shielded from the $100's, sometimes $1000's of dollars in rent hikes, not to mention other increasing expenses in running a real world business. Also, no one in the 'real world', would spend over $4 billion dollars on PPC alone to help drive customers to the 'mall'.

    I recently gave my soundbite about this situation, and it was:
    “I think, above all things that this fee change will make the Stores more competitive, as the sellers lacking understanding of running a business close up their stores, and savvier sellers utilize the powerful tools eBay provides to gain a competitive advantage.”

    I took a look at the comments & Stores owned by this vocal minority fussing about the eBay Store fees and was a tad humored to find the following:
    1. Not a single one of their Stores were set up correctly to take advantage of the strong marketing and SEO tools eBay gives you for $16 a month.
    2. They had no business sense. The buyers do not care that the fees are going up and they certainly aren't going anywhere. But I found numerous people saying, 'we'll show eBay and go to noname.com where it's only $8.00 a month and no other fees' (this was an exact quote). That makes absolutely no sense...unless you went into business to simply 'fuss'. I went into business to make money, and a ton of my customers are on eBay.
    3. They wasted an amazing amount of time and energy posting day & night to the eBay discussion boards and listing protest auctions(that eBay just pulled down anyway). I don't have enough time as it is to run my business - why would I waste more protesting, what many eBay sellers (just not as vocal) are calling a justified fee increase and a smart business decision on eBay's part.

    The smart eBay Store owners have come to experts like Catherine and myself and asked how they could set up their Stores correctly for the most optimization (not only for eBay, but for the search engines too!) and how to utilize the powerful marketing tools that are included for free in your Store. One of my eBay Store clients just ended up in the #1 position on MSN's natural search for what she sells...!! No where else, for $16 a month, are you going to get a website, free newsletter tools, powerful SEO, over 200 million instant customers, branding, AND (if you set it up correctly) eBay will pay YOU to have an eBay Store - no joking! 75% off your Final Value Fees!!

    So, Cat's right on target here about how powerful an eBay Store is - you just have to run it like any of your other businesses...strong, lean, powerful. "Treat it like a garage sale...and you'll get garage sale prices."

    BTW, if you would like some tips on setting up your eBay Store correctly, here is some help:

    Watch the taped eBay Stores class from eBay Live this year - http://www.ebayuniversity.com/features/ebay_live_2006/?ssPageName=CMDV:AB#

    99% of eBay Stores are set up wrong - Get your FREE eBay Store report, "I Want To Be That 1% - 5 Quick eBay Store fixes" at http://www.JanelleElms.com/eBayStoreTips and then DO those steps.

    Let eBay pay you to have an eBay Store and reduce your fees by up to 75%! – utilize the Store Referral Credit program - http://pages.ebay.com/help/specialtysites/referral-credit-steps.html

    No spaghetti tests – don’t throw your auctions up to the world of eBay and hope they stick to a buyer. Utilize your eBay Store reports to find out when your buyers are buying, what they are looking for, how they are finding you and more http://pages.ebay.com/storefronts/tracking.html

    Do you want to sell to the 200+ million customers on eBay, or do you want to sell to the world? Set up your Store correctly for search engine optimization so that your Store will rank high on MSN, Yahoo and Google - http://pages.ebay.com/education/SEO-eBay-Store/index.html

    How many newsletter subscribers do you have? These are buyers who have asked to spend money with you in your eBay Store. Send out weekly newsletters inviting them to do just that - http://pages.ebay.com/help/specialtysites/email-marketing.html

    Join eBay Store’s Group for Brown Bag discussions concerning other features and tools - http://forums.ebay.com/db2/thread.jspa?threadID=100288&tstart=0&mod=1182150

    Additional education on eBay Stores is available for free on eBay’s workshop page (& archive) - http://pages.ebay.com/community/workshopcalendar/current.html

    Hope this helps,
    my best,
    Janelle
    www.janelleelms.com/ebay - for all your eBay resource needs

    By Blogger Janelle Elms, at 9:02 PM  

  • Thanks to both Cat & Janelle for your responses.

    Actually, the way I came upon Cat's site and blog (and Janelle's) is that I sat and watched all those eBay live videos, and have been doing my best to implement the things you've listed again in your comment, Janelle. I've also run a couple of pay-per-click campaigns, Cat. It's all superbly helpful stuff you've both given us. (BTW, we hit #2 spot on Google for a word search yesterday - which I discovered by "drilling down" a traffic report on our store.)

    I think we can still improve our store, but you've both already helped us a lot. I should say that we're in the very early days of our eBay business.

    Glad to hear you're both positive about the future of business on eBay regardless of the increases. And I do take the point, Cat, that it just drives us to become smarter with our marketing.

    Thanks again and kind regards,

    Phil

    By Blogger Pastor Phil Morgan, at 10:58 PM  

  • Hi Phil,
    Congrats!! I am so impressed with your hard work. I head out on tour again here soon and am definitely going to use you as an excellent example of determination, creativity, and pure entrepreneurial spirit. Nice job!
    BTW, I will have a complete (multiple hours!) eBay Store how-to video coming out this fall. I have a waiting list a mile long already, so I have been lighting a fire under the video production company to hurry up and finish it. It looks to possibly be an October launch. woohoo. If you want to get in on the 'special Janelle's newsletter' pricing...make sure you are signed up at www.janelleelms.com/newsletter.
    Also, Phil...if you post your eBay Store, I would be honored to further assist you in your success by posting feedback for your Store if you would like.
    thanks again,
    Janelle
    www.janelleelms.com
    www.janelleelms.com/ebay - THE resource for all that is eBay

    By Blogger Janelle Elms, at 9:31 AM  

  • OK, Janelle. Check us out at www.styletimers.com

    Starting up from scratch has been a challenge - customer confidence is everything. But we've made a half dozen sales this week, so hopefully the feedback will climb, and get us moving.

    We're already on your newsletter list.

    Thanks so much, Phil.

    By Blogger Pastor Phil Morgan, at 2:40 PM  

  • Hi Phil,
    Wow - congrats...for a 'new kid' on eBay, you (& your beautiful wife) are doing absolutely fabulous. Your Store is already set up better than most of the other stores on eBay. Excellent job.
    Here are just a few tips off the top of my head to keep you headed down this track:
    1. When I type in your URL www.styletimers.com it redirects to your eBay Store - excellent for branding. I just want to make sure you have the referral id at the end of it (redirected too fast for me to see). You have to have the referral id at the end in order for eBay to pay you the 75% referral credit fee. If not, then utilize tip #6 in your FREE eBay Store report, "I Want To Be That 1% - 5 Quick eBay Store fixes" at http://www.JanelleElms.com/eBayStoreTips
    2. Remember your three big areas for SEO in the eBay Store setup are: The title of the Store, the description, and your categories. For the title of your Store, you have 35 characters - all of which the spiders pick up when they are searching. Right now they are picking up Styletimers - which is perfect for branding purposes...but since you are given 35 characters to work with, you might want your Store title to be Styletimers clocks watches store (or something along those lines) just to get those other search words in there.
    For your description, you'll also want to utilize all 300 characters here as well. You have an excellent start...but use inventory.overture.com or www.goodkeywords.com as tools to find even more to fill up the 300 characters.
    3. The MOST important thing (after seo) that a Store can utilize is their free newsletter campaigns. I love your promo box at the top - but break it into two and put your newsletter sign up list there as well. Newsletter customers are your MOST valuable customers because they already want your products...then you can email them once a week with updates, info about different brands, historical stories about clocks, etc.
    Here are two great examples:
    http://stores.ebay.com/Geenogee

    http://stores.ebay.com/FastbackStack-Classic-Mustang-Parts

    In my monthly eBay Success Newsletter that is (hopefully – lol) coming out later this week…I’ll talk about a whole bunch of ways to get customers onto your newsletter list.

    Your layout & wording for the 3 newsletters is already fabulous...just bump them to the top!

    4. Excellent job on already utilizing your custom pages. Those are also seo'd and are an excellent free source of getting picked up on the natural search of the major search engines.
    5. When you get past your 30 days of being a 'new kid', you might want to change your user id to be your Store name as well for additional branding. Simply log into My eBay, scroll down the left hand side to personal information and edit your User ID. All of your feedback comes with you.
    6. Two other areas you'll eventually want to look at are Reviews & Guides (http://reviews.ebay.com/) and having a blog specifically set up for your eBay store. Both of these areas are also heavily seo'd.

    You are doing an amazing job - couldn't be more pleased when I saw all the hard work you had done. Keep up the excellent work!

    P.S. I will be hosting the eBay Store's workshop series on eBay starting Sept 25. Watch the workshop announcements for further details (http://pages.ebay.com/community/workshopcalendar/current.html)
    Thanks & all my best,
    Janelle

    By Blogger Janelle Elms, at 8:12 AM  

  • Thanks for taking the time to look the store over, Janelle. Thanks for the feedback, and the encouragement. We really appreciate it. I'll spend some time on the store again this evening working on those points you've listed.

    I'll also look forward to getting your tips on building those newsletter lists.

    Phil

    By Blogger Pastor Phil Morgan, at 3:52 PM  

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