Don't Let This Happen to You
Welcome to the third article about the importance of controlling your company’s online reputation. In this article, we will explore some poorly executed marketing strategy examples and their impact on a real business. Let the Google search results page or SERP of a business that lacks a proper online marketing strategy demonstrate exactly why a quality company website is so important.
You will see exactly how automatically generated profiles from the countless directories, social media and review websites can steal your customers. These websites leech your profits by riding the coattails of that reputation you have worked hard to earn. I would advise reading the previous articles if any of these terms or concepts are unfamiliar or confusing.
Did you know that a lot of the information on the internet about your business is incomplete, outdated or just wrong? Imagine if someone heard about your business and searched online for more details, but only found conflicting information scattered across a few websites. How likely are they to become a new customer after all that confusion? If you are not writing the story of your business on the internet, someone else is doing it for you.
Robots say the most about your business on the online. I’m talking automated computer programs that are operated by various internet search, review and directory companies. These computer programs generate and publish the profiles on your business by harvesting publicly available information. The main source of information is usually the official website of the company featured in the profile. However, if the company lacks an effective website these robots will build the profiles from public records and whatever chatter the internet has to offer on their subject.
These websites leech your profits by riding the coattails of that reputation you have worked hard to earn
Why do these directories and business profile websites exist and how are they hurting your business? I wish I could tell you that these websites had your interests at heart, but they don’t. These websites were created to generate advertisement revenue by selling competing products and services to your potential customers. When you don’t have a proper website or online marketing plan in place these directory websites will be the first thing your customers find about your business. Directory profiles have just enough information about your business to fill the search results of someone searching for your services or products. Once someone visits your profile on these sites, they are met with very basic information about your company and a bunch of ads of your competitors. By using your company name and reputation to draw visitors, they are able to funnel those visitors to similar businesses (your competitors) and earn a commission.
Google is so big in the search industry that its name has become a verb in the Oxford English Dictionary. That means Google is usually the first place a potential client or customer will go to look for more information on your business. When a customer types your name into Google they are greeted with a wealth of information. Without a well-designed and optimized website, you have almost no control over any of the information Google will serve up. If your business does not have a website at all, those advertisement ridden directory and review websites will be the only thing customers see.
These websites were created to generate advertisement revenue by selling competing products and services to your potential customers
That’s more than enough theory and review. Let’s jump into that real life example and see what a customer would experience. In this example I will be using the results for a roofing company, I have taken steps to remove any identifying information.
I have searched for the complete name of the roofing company on the day this article was written. Google is known for serving different results depending on many factors, but the results should be similar for a business in this position.
The first image shows the “above the fold” search result for the business. The fold refers to the bottom of what a user will see on a website without scrolling. So, whatever content fills the screen of your computer or device on a website is located “above the fold”. 100% of users will see all the content above the folder and studies have shown that most customers form an opinion of your company based on what is seen on this single screen of information.
Google brings up a lot of information on this Business. We see a generic business profile from the Better Business Bureau , customer reviews , phone numbers, addresses and even a possible picture of the front of the business. There were multiple addresses and phone numbers listed  for this business, but who knows which one is correct? Having an incorrect address listed will annoy customers that cannot find your office or store, driving them away. What happens when a customer looks up your address on Google to mail a payment or important document and finds multiple addresses and no working phone number to call?
How about the “See outside” photo , is that the correct photo of your business? If it is correct, is it a flattering picture, or does it poorly portray your business? If you did not take control of your Google profile, that image was probably pulled from Google Maps and may be years old.
With a properly designed and configured website, the robots will find high quality and correct information. Slight corrections and edits will still be required, but making your website the primary source of information is always better than a dozen obscure sources. Would you rather have a customer get the story of your business from you, or piece it together from a dozen different strangers?
Studies have shown that customers will form an opinion of your company based on what is seen on this single screen of information
Below the picture , it reads, “Suggest an edit – Own this business?” This tells people that the information was generated by Google and not the business owner, meaning it was never verified. This is more handy work from our internet robot friends.
Harvesting data by scraping other websites is the backbone of Google and other services that millions of people use every day. The robots that scrape the data for these profiles will search the deepest parts of the internet if they must. They don’t need a lunch break and have billions of profiles to create across the globe, so what does this mean to you? This means that without access to information from your official website this data can come from strange places and that is why it is often incorrect or outdated.
Result #1 – Better Business Bureau
This directory listing that has been generated by the BBB and looks pretty harmless. In the first example image, we get the address, phone number  and it even lists the BBB rating as A+ , which sounds impressive. The address and phone is blurred in this example, but as it conflicts with some other listings, how will the customers know which address is correct? They probably will not be very happy after going to the wrong side of town in an attempt to meet with the owner.
The second image from the BBB example displays a bunch of generic company details that were harvested from some random data source . Is some of this data correct? Is any of this data correct? That is the puzzle that is left for any potential customers to solve. Let’s dig deeper into the search results and their dirty tricks with the next website on the list.
Result #2 – Angie’s List
The second search result leads us to Angie’s list. What pops out at potential customers as soon as they load this page? That’s right, “Compare quotes for up to 3 roofers!”  This clever advertisement aims to take visitors that want to hire you and deliver them directly to your competitors instead. It is a huge, eye-catching attempt to steal your customers and livelihood. Angie’s List does include a tiny “Contact Us” link at the bottom of the page, but who knows if the information is correct or if anyone will even notice it.
This is the first example of how directories are using the good name and reputation of your business to advertise for your competition and get paid for doing it!
Result #3 – Yelp
Yelp is a popular review platform that has been in business for many years. Direct your attention to where it says “Unclaimed”  at the top center of the first example image. This means that the page is completely generated by the robots that work for Yelp. This profile could be corrected by the business owner, but they have not done so.
The next section  has an address and phone number information that may or may not be accurate. There is also a button  to “Request Quotes” and it goes straight to your competitors while earning ad revenue for Yelp. This website may look helpful, but it was created solely for the purpose of misdirecting your customers for profit. Never forget, the most effective advertisements are the ones that look nothing like a paid ad.
In the second example image, we see what happens when a visitor clicks on the button to request a quote. It clearly tells your potential clients and customers that you’re not interested in them, but 10 other providers  will gladly serve them. How many sales have you lost by sending customers to your competition? Maintaining a proper online presence for your business is all it takes to plug that leak and increase your sales.
Many small and medium businesses do not have a large marketing budget, but ignoring this issue will be very costly for your bottom line. Imagine how much of your profits are lost from customers that are sent to competitors by websites like Yelp. Take control of your online marketing strategy and brand. Do not let inaction fund the marketing campaigns of rival companies.
Result #4 – Facebook
Facebook shows up with yet another generic company profile as the fourth search result. We also see the same “Is this your business?” option to claim the page and make corrections . Facebook offers the standard hit or miss phone and address information in addition to hours of operation . I have found no actual website for this company, so I am unsure where the hours were scraped from or if they are remotely correct. The last part of the page  is the familiar sight of yet another company using your business name and reputation to market competing companies, starting to see the pattern? Everyone online is earning money from your business and reputation, except you. Where is your slice of the profits?
Result #5 – Roof.info
The fifth search result is a little more interesting. These directory sites are extremely popular with lawyers, doctors and other service professionals. There are dozens of business directory websites for almost every imaginable industry, but remember that they only exist to earn ad revenue. Without a working website, your hard work is fueling their profits by allowing them to be the main point of contact for your customers.
Result #6 – Manata.com
The sixth and final result we will be analyzing is manata.com, a non-industry specific directory service. However, this directory has the same goal of stealing attention and customers away from your business and brand to sell paid advertisements. Manta uses basic organizational information about your company to rank for your brand name on search results and lure in visitors.
The address they have on file  differs from some of the other results, yet again adding confusion. Manta continues to rattle off assumed facts, such as annual revenue  and how many workers your company supposedly employs. They claim only a single employee works for this roofing company. While that would be impressive, I feel it is incorrect.
I feel that the worst offense is the likely incorrect employee count. Imagine someone looking to hire this company to replace or repair a roof. Shortly after reading Manta’s employee count information and believing it to be an accurate fact, they may decide to pick another company. Would you hire a single worker to strip and install a new roof? While it is possible, most will be turned off by the added time from not hiring a full crew that can finish in a day or two. Would you hire a moving company with a single employee? I assume this company has a skilled team of roof installers, but how would the customer know that for sure?
Just like all of the other directories, Manta takes ample amounts of space to advertise simple ways for your customers to reach your competitors . This directory seems to be the most ad-heavy website that we have seen throughout this entire analysis. I am not attempting to single out Manta.com, because many worse offenders may be in the search results for your company. Notice how the contact info for our roofing company example is written in smaller text that blends into the background? Meanwhile, Manta makes use of the color red, bold text and many attention-grabbing graphics to highlight your competition. This was carefully designed to be extremely effective at skimming your customers and profits.
The last example image for Manata.com is just plain lazy. It would seem that they needed some filler text to offset the numerous paid ads and decided to rehash the company info . This is the definitive proof that this website and all of the others are auto-generated by computer programs. With only a limited amount of your business information available, it will often repeat itself to fulfill the mission of stealing your customers.
This page finishes up with yet another block of eye-catching ads  that lead to your competition. It is not difficult to outrank this search result and stop it from stealing your sales, but it will require action on your part.
I will not be covering the rest of the search results, because they tell a similar story. Most search engine users will select one of the first six results above the fold and spend their money with that company.
What can we learn from this analysis? The take away is that information matters. If are not in control of the story of your company, other websites with gladly write it for you and steal your customers. I’m not on a crusade against directory or review websites. I believe that most of them do not purposely attempt to mislead visitors with poor information about your business. Review and directory sites can only use with the information that is available and this information is often incomplete at best.
Most customers will spend their money with a business from one of the first six results on Google
Making the decision to take control of your online marketing and branding puts you in charge of your own online reputation. The armies of data scraping robots would much rather pull accurate details of your business from your website than from multiple sources across the internet. If they are going to try and steal your customers they can at least get your name correct and details correct, right?
We want your business to represent itself and prominently display your official website when a customer searches for you. The directory and review websites will still appear in the results, but if we push them below the fold, they can’t hurt your business. That means taking the first steps to reclaim your online business identity and Call One Tech Solutions is glad to lend a hand. Contact us if you are looking to build the first website for your business, improve an existing page or just take control of less than flattering directory and review site profiles.