Category Archives: Reputation Management

Google Wants High Quality Content, But What Does That Mean?

Okay writers and webmasters, you’re good, but you continually challenge yourself to better.  This post is ready to be a resource to you.  We’d like to explain the following:

  1. The crux about quality from the recently leaked, March 2014 Google rater’s guideline manual.
  2. What high quality means.
  3. The attributes of low quality content.
  4. What you can do to improve your website’s content.

The Rubric- Google’s 2014 Search Quality Manual

Behind the scenes, an army of quality raters double check the accuracy of Google’s algorithms before and after updates. These raters are issued guidelines, which steer their evaluations and reflect what the juices are in the current or upcoming algorithm changes. The latest handbook, version 5.0, was recently leaked. We wrote about the 2011 version, and gave an overview of the new version at Relevance. What’s important for you to know is that E-A-T, or Expertise, Authority, and Trust are now key factors when determining Google search engine rankings.  Most insiders have known that the reputation of one’s brand is an important ranking factor, but this manual gives a detailed look at the factors that determine site popularity- well, popularity isn’t even the right word.  It’s more about the culminating signals behind your site’s reputation.

If you’re the Director of Marketing, you’ll want to download your own copy of this handbook at scribd.com because it talks about design and functionality elements, too.  Since My Web Writers focuses on content creation, we’re going to drill down into that aspect of the handbook.

Definitions of Highest and High Quality Pages

I really like how Google defines quality and provides so many specific examples.  It says,

“Highest pages are very satisfying pages which achieve their purpose very well. The distinction between High and Highest is based on the quality of MC <each site’s main content> as well as the level of E-A-T and reputation of the website. What makes a page highest quality? We require at least one of the following: <1> Very high or highest quality MC, with demonstrated expertise, talent, and/or skill.  <2> Very high level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (page and website) on the topic of the page. <3> Very good reputation (website or author) on the topic of the page… We will consider the MC of the page to be very high or highest quality when it is created with a high degree of time and effort, and in particular, expertise, talent, and skill. Very high quality MC may be created by experts, hobbyists, or even people with everyday expertise. Our standards depend on the purpose of the page and the type of content. The Highest rating may be justified for pages with a satisfying or comprehensive amount of very high quality MC.”

This means that as a writer, if you are writing outside of your area expertise and don’t do your homework, your average content could sink a website. Conversely, if you’ve specialized in a certain area, interest, or hobby, you could see a surge in demand for your knowledge after people get familiar with this document.  Writers, don’t be deterred from tackling new subjects, but when you do, do your homework.  Talk to experts and include their testimonies in your articles and quotes. You also can’t slop through the writing process.  Check your spelling.  Get the subject and verb agreements right.  Go deeper than what the culmination of five articles say about the topic.  Nobody wants to read repurposed articles when they’re looking for new angles. Pick up the phone and dig up unique quotes or tidbits of information that no one knows.  Google tells raters that,

“Highest quality pages and websites have a very high level of expertise or are highly authoritative or highly trustworthy. Formal expertise is important for topics such as medical, financial, or legal advice. Expertise may be less formal for topics such as recipes or humor. An expert page on cooking may be a page on a professional chef’s website, or it may be a page on the blog of a home cooking enthusiast. Please value life experience and “everyday expertise.” For some topics, the most expert sources of information are ordinary people sharing their life experiences on personal blogs, forums, reviews, discussions, etc. Think about what expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness mean for the topic of the page. Who are the experts? What makes a source trustworthy for the topic? What makes a website highly authoritative for the topic?”

Google would also like to see secondary content on high ranking websites, if possible.  From videos to games to reviews, find ways to help users delve a little deeper and engage a little longer. Not every high ranking site has to have secondary content, but if it has good secondary content, that’s a plus.

The Attributes of Low and Lowest Quality Content

Compare what content needs to achieve top scores to what deserves low scores. First, it’s important to note, Google recognizes intent.

“We have very different standards for pages on large, professionally-produced business websites than we have for small amateur, hobbyist, or personal websites. The type of page design and level of professionalism we expect for a large online store is very different than what we might expect for a small local business website. All PQ rating should be done in the context of the purpose of the page and the type of website. The following sections discuss page characteristics which may be evidence of Low quality. Occasionally, these same characteristics may be present on smaller amateur or personal websites and are not a concern. Please use your judgment when deciding whether these characteristics are evidence of low quality on the page you are evaluating, or merely a sign of non-professional but acceptable small, amateur, or personal website design, for example, “Uncle Alex’s Family Photos” website (a hypothetical High quality example).”

Google lowers scores if main or secondary content is distracting or unhelpful.  For example, too many ads are distracting and appear to have the purpose of monetizing the site rather than helping users. If the site lacks supplementary content, this too can lower the site’s score. Poor page design or a lack of website maintenance (meaning broken links or slow load images) can hurt your site’s score.  As much contact information as possible should be added. Google tells raters that,

“We have different standards for small websites which exist to serve their communities versus large websites with a large volume of webpages and content. For some types of ‘webpages,’ such as PDFs and JPEG files, we expect no SC <secondary content> at all. Please use your judgment… Here is a checklist of types of pages or websites which should always receive the lowest rating:

• Harmful or malicious pages or websites.

• True lack of purpose pages or websites.

• Deceptive pages or websites.

• Pages or websites which are created to make money with little to no attempt to help users.

• Pages with extremely low or lowest quality MC <main content>.

• Pages on YMYL <Your Money or Your Life> websites with completely inadequate or no website information.

• Pages on abandoned, hacked, or defaced websites.

• Pages or websites created with no expertise or pages which are highly untrustworthy, unreliable, unauthoritative, inaccurate, or misleading.

• Websites which have extremely negative or malicious reputations.”

Image courtesy of Flat earth Society

Image courtesy of Flat earth Society

This list seems fairly straight-forward and yet, one could see where rater subjectivity could get the better of a site. Pages or websites that are “untrustworthy, unreliable, unauthoritative, inaccurate, or misleading” could tank a business or individual with rogue opinions or controversial views.  The overall checklist appears reasonable, however, if Christopher Columbus had a website back in his time, I wonder how he’d score? Taken in whole, the document is fairly clear that raters should look at how well you, as the content’s creator, did your homework and presented information or opinions; but, the “unreliable, unauthoritative, inaccurate, or misleading” phrase on its own should be considered a warning shot fired about appearing half-baked in the public arena.

Definitions of Lowest Quality Content

The writer who has the depth of a baby pool probably shouldn’t be assigned very heady topics.  As a manager, find each writer’s strengths and let each write about those topics. Google says that,

“The quality of the MC <main content> is one of the most important considerations in PQ <page quality> rating. In this guideline, we’ll judge the quality of the MC by thinking about the how much time, effort, expertise, and talent/skill was involved in content creation. If very little or no time, effort, expertise, or talent/skill has gone into creating the MC, use the lowest quality rating. All of the following should be considered either lowest quality MC or no MC:

• No helpful MC at all or so little MC that the page effectively has no MC.

• MC which consists almost entirely of “keyword stuffing.”

• Gibberish or meaningless MC.

• “Auto-generated” MC, created with little time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users.

• MC which consists almost entirely of content copied from another source with little time, effort, expertise, manual curation, or added value for users.

Finally, the distinction between low and lowest quality MC is often human effort and manual curation. If you are struggling between ‘low quality MC’ and ‘lowest quality MC,’ please consider how much human effort and attention the page has received.”

When writing this article, I struggled with how much content out of Google’s manual I should quote.  My reasoning to go ahead and use as much as I have is because to date, not much has been written about the manual and not everyone, who is in a position to change their website, will read the 160 page document (though they should) or if they do, they might want further insight about it.  Thus, I think the amount of quoted handbook content is justified, given the extra value added with insight around the quoted content.

However, this is different than copying and pasting half an article without attribution or even with attribution and not adding further value to what already exists on the web. Nothing is worse than paying a writer to create original content and discovering that it is backwash.

Google says,

“Important: We do not consider legitimately licensed or syndicated content to be ‘copied’ (see here for more on web syndication). Examples of syndicated content in the U.S. include news articles by AP or Reuters. The word ‘copied’ refers to the practice of ‘scraping’ content, or copying content from other non-affiliated websites without adding any original content or value to users (see here for more information on copied or scraped content). If all or most of the MC on the page is copied, think about the purpose of the page. Why does the page exist? What value does the page have for users? Why should users look at the page with copied content instead of the original source?”

What You Can Do to Improve Content

Deliver what you promise for each keyword query you target. If you want to rank for the term “Arabian Horses for Sale” your page ought to have pictures and descriptions of several Arabian horses. You’ll want other websites to have great reviews from customers about your previous transactions. You should be registered and a thriving member of Arabian horse registries. Don’t let your content get off topic, but do make it be so rich that users will want to return and will recommend it to others. Make sure you spell check your work and don’t stuff the content with too many keywords.

We recommend reading the raters’ guidelines to learn more about how to improve the content of your website. You’ll find additional insight about what it means to have high quality content. ~Jean

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Filed under Algorithms, Branding, Business Strategy, Editors, Keywords, Reputation Management, SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Reader Comments: How to Get to Real Insights (An Interview with Miami University’s, David Wells)

Image courtesy of Lane Memorial Library in Hampton, NH

In 1690, Benjamin Harris edited a paper that only lasted for one issue before it was shut down by the colonial authorities. Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick filled only three of its four pages so that readers could write their comments and share the paper with another reader, creating a written discussion of the paper’s stories. Miami University journalism instructor, David Wells, uses this anecdote to explain how social networking is not a new phenomenon. He asserts that each technological advance in journalism from moving type to the iPhone serves to “get the news out faster and it’s made it possible to reach a wider audience. The wider the audience and the faster you get it out there the more interaction occurs with it.”

If you write in or manage an online space these days, chances are reader comments are either the bane of your existences or a boost to your traffic. Or maybe a bit of both. While readers discussing your writing can help the story grow or the piece go viral, managing online traffic and comments can prove difficult.

Managing Online Comments

Wells was the Editorial Page editor at the Cincinnati Enquirer from 1999-2009, a period when many newspapers started to make the transition to the online platforms. In the transition, the paper focused on creating a “community conversation” and decided that historically the Editorial pages were where that had happened via letters to the editor. The team decided to publish letters to the editor online. As with the traditional print-based letters to the editor, the online letter to the editor page required people to include their real names and which neighborhood of the city they were from. Some people at the paper thought the requirement would deter submissions, but the paper received up to 100 letters a day, showing that people were as willing to include their names in the online forum as they were in the printed paper. Wells argues, “If people were going to put their names on it they’re going to be more responsible about it than they would be otherwise. And people do want to have their voice and speak up and they’re glad to have the forum.”

Monitoring the online comments to other stories proved more complicated. Not only were there far more comments to comb through, but with the ability to post anonymously, people would write such hateful things that some local public figures started to decline being interviewed by the paper. To Wells, the anonymity of online comments is linked to the likelihood that people will post inflammatory or untrue statements. “I think the anonymity of the comment is a bad thing,” he says. “The excuse is always that people will get in trouble because the boss will find out they differ in political views. You know what, people need to be responsible for what they say. There is such a thing as free speech and the boss isn’t supposed to be able to fire you.”

Many publications share Wells’s views and many, such as the HuffingtonPost, are starting to require the use of Facebook accounts to post online comments. Further, a recent study published in Journalism Practice found that there was a direct correlation between anonymity and “uncivil” comments. Specifically, when online newspapers allowed readers to make anonymous comments, 53% of the comments made were uncivil or inflammatory. That rate dropped to 29% when the user interface required the reader’s real name or a link to their Facebook account.

Crowd-Sourcing and Engaging Reader Response

Wells notes, however, that when flagging and removing offensive comments, it is still important to listen to the questions and the input of the readers. He recounts going into meetings and asking, “This story that the police reporter wrote got 150 comments. Did you read any of those comments? There are a couple of comments in here that are pretty interesting that suggest this is similar to some other crime. Have we checked that out? That’s a tip.” Reporters would tell him they didn’t have time to read all the comments and Wells would reply, “You don’t have time not to.” He asserts that reader comments provide a space for crowd sourcing to help a story develop: “You will find out new information which you should turn around and use to enrich your own reporting, just like if you heard it as a tip over at the police station.”

Drawing In Readers

Wells points out another way that reader interaction and digital readership is affecting writing: the pay wall. In an effort to counter financial losses after content moved from print to online, many publications have instituted a pay wall, allowing the reader to only read a portion of the story, or a limited number of stories before requiring a paid subscription. According to Wells, the pay wall can put the writer in a tricky situation. “What’s your role as a journalist?” he asks. “Is it just to provide teasers to get someone to buy a subscription so they can read your whole story?” Wells, like many instructors, teaches his students to get the news up top so that “if you just read the lead you should get the gist of what the story’s about.”

Tips for Web Writers

What does this dynamic mean for web writers? Careful management of online comments, flagging inappropriate or libelous comments is important, but listening to readers’ points also matters. Further, as more online publications move to draw readers into stories through sensationalist headlines or building a pay-walls, there are important decisions to be made about the integrity of your writing and how you are addressing your audience.

Know what your approach to reader interaction and user comments will be and communicate this vision to stakeholders. How will you set the tone without censoring your audience? How will you draw readers in without sacrificing the quality of your writing?

~Kasey

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Capturing Audience, Reputation Management, Social Media

One Cannot Not Communicate- Is Silence Golden?

Maybe Mom Wasn’t Always Right

The first of Paul Watzlawick’s five axioms is simple- “One Cannot Not Communicate.” Wanterfall says,

Even when you think you are not sending any messages, that absence of messages is quite evident to any observer, and can itself constitute quite a significant message. Not only that, but we usually transmit quite a few non-verbal messages unconsciously, even when we think we are not sending any messages at all.

What do you, as a professional, communicate when you choose not to communicate?

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Photo courtesy of Bonoz

Perhaps your mother used to say, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” When your new friend with long, braided hair entered your home, she bit her tongue.

Did her silence mean, “I wouldn’t let my son wear his hair that long, but since I have no association beyond his association with you, I’ll make you feel comfortable enough without offering approval?” Her tongue biting left wiggle room- both for your friend’s eventual haircut and her possible opinion change.

While the intent behind silence might be noble, its very form is deceiving – a mask for a mix of thoughts and emotions forming in the sender or else a sign of ignorance. Silence is golden because it buys the sender time and it offers the receiver little information- or so is the hope.

What are the Effects of Non-Responses in Digital Communications? 

One cannot not communicate with social media. Not following a customer or fan on Twitter or G+, for example, could be construed as a slight. You’re too busy, too important, to ignorant to use the tools to follow and interact. Not having your social media in order says a lot about the organization behind your organization. Your brand communicates that it does’t embrace or understand the mediums or struggles to find funds. The receiver never really knows why you’re silent- just that you are and the resulting message is up for interpretation.

Internet marketer, Jay Baer, suggests:

Further, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. Is your company prepared to handle social media inquiries within the hour? A few are. Most are not, in my experience, which potentially creates a disillusionment gap between customers’ anticipated response time, and your actual ability to provide a response.

Having a workforce to handle your social media interactions could be just what you need to reduce the stress in your customer service department.

One cannot not communicate with blogs. You haven’t written a blog post in weeks. Maybe there isn’t a lot happening in your company or industry – yeah right. You’re too busy, too underfunded, too unorganized. You were in the hospital. Whatever the reason, a lack of action or words communicates a message. Is it the message you want your fans to receive?

Darren Rouse looks at blogging this way:

The more posts you publish over time, the more doorways you present readers with to enter your blog.

1 post a week means you’ve got 52 doorways at the end of the year – daily posts means 365 doorways at the end of the year. This means people are more likely to see your content in RSS readers, in search engines, on social media etc. Over time this adds up.

Contracting out some of your brand’s writing work to writers can keep opening doors verses closing them in silence.

One cannot not communicate with correspondences. Two candidates fly out to your company for second interviews. You extend an offer to one. The chosen candidate receives your full attention. The other doesn’t. The one who didn’t get the job sends an email to you. No reply. This happens once. Twice. Three times. Surely, not communicating is a soft let down, right?  According to Career Builder,

56 percent of employers admitted that they don’t respond to all candidates or acknowledge receipt of their applications; 33 percent said they don’t follow up with candidates they interviewed with to let them know they didn’t get the job.

What does a lack of response communicate? That from the top down, your company’s communication process isn’t clear or even rude when not in need of a person, service, or product. It communicates disorganization and incompetency in the HR department. Don’t think for a moment that the candidate won’t remember the lack of communication when they’re in a better position.  According to the HT Group:

If you’re guilty of this and other bad hiring habits, beware your actions could complicate your recruiting efforts and even damage your company’s overall reputation. Here’s how (according to the same study):

  • Job seekers who don’t hear back after applying for a job are less likely to continue buying products or services from that company.
  • Did a job seeker have a bad experience with you? Half will tell their friends about it.
  • An overwhelming 75 percent of job seekers use traditional networking such as word-of-mouth to gather more information about a company.
  • More than 60 percent will check out your company on social media to find out if what you’re telling them about your culture is true.
  • More than two-thirds of job seekers would accept a lower salary if the company had exceptionally positive reviews online.

One cannot not communicate. What are the unintended messages you send just by choosing inaction or silence with your digital marketing strategies or relationships? From creating blog posts and social media posts to staying up with emails and correspondences silence is not usually golden.  Rethink if you’re clearly, consistently, and honestly, as well as tactfully communicating.

 

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Filed under Audience, Blog Writing Tips, Capturing Audience, Content Job Boards, Customer Profile, Leadership, Marketing, Project Management, Reputation Management, Resumes, Social Media

How to Sway Negative Sentiment through Social Media

By My Web WritersMeters

Social media has opened up a whole new world for the marketer. How do you partner social media with traditional marketing and media opportunities? Who’s responsible for the social media side of your business? How often should you post? What content should you include? Or, perhaps the greater question is, what happens if you’re not on social media?

A Response to Haters

The truth is, even without a social media presence, your business still has an online existence. Social media sites allow consumers to share their best experiences—and their worst—with anyone who will listen. These customer reviews can appear on a company’s Facebook page, on a Twitter feed, on a product sales page on your own website, or anywhere else they are able to share. But what do you do when that feedback is negative?

Do you create a video like “Thank You Hater” as a response?

Fact: Most Consumers Believe Reviews

Nielsen study found that 70 percent of consumers trust online reviews, compared to only 47 percent believe traditional broadcast and print ads. Social media truly rules the roost when it comes to public perception of customer experience.

Turn a Negative Comment into a Positive Outcome

Many reputation management companies suggest that it’s possible to turn negative sentiment into winning customer experiences. Beyond the Arc, a consulting firm, recommends going the extra mile—beyond an apology or refund—by offering a special gift or new benefit will “win back the customer’s loyalty and motivate them to praise your brand to others.”  Consider the risks and missed opportunities of not responding to customers; Prioritize negative feedback to focus your communications appropriately; and Transform negative situations into positive engagement.

Take a deep breath and don’t respond when charged with an emotional reaction. Social Distillery offers this advice: Address the situation publicly so there is a record of the company’s response and so your company is seen as responsive and accountable, but take the conversation offline to better understand the consumer’s position.

The Right Now Retail Consumer Report found that “68 percent of consumers who posted a complaint or negative review on a social networking site after a negative holiday shopping experience were contacted by the retailer. Following that contact, 34 percent deleted their original negative review, 33 percent turned around and posted a positive review, and 18 percent became a loyal customer and bought more.”

Damage Control Action Steps

So what should you do with negative sentiment comes to play? My Web Writers suggest these action steps:

  • Make sure you have a process determined before you take the social media plunge. Do you respond to negative sentiment? If so, who manages the process?
  • Create a posting policy for your page, and keep it visible to all who visit.
  • Stay on top of your social media pages – that means all day and night, every day.
  • Keep tabs on your frequent commenters. Some may always leave positive feedback, and that’s great! But it’s quite possible there will be Negative Nellies in your community who will never have anything nice to say. Weigh the consequences carefully before engaging with these individuals.
  • Publicly respond to a legitimate complaint quickly, and then take the conversation off-line.
  • Once the issue has been resolved, leave a comment on the original post letting followers know the issue has been fixed.

Oftentimes, negative sentiment is coming from those who just want to be heard, so show consumers that you hear them. Allow them to drive the conversation and listen to what they want. And remember, converting a naysayer to a brand loyalist is possible!

~Joanne


Other Posts:

Are You an Entitled Customer?

Social Media TMI – To Share or Not to Share?

Cyber Bullying Verses Constructive Criticism – Understanding the Difference

Corporate Holiday Email Do’s and Don’ts

Managing Social Media in a Crisis – Best Practices and Case Studies

Improve Customer Service and Reduce Complaints through Web Content

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Filed under Reputation Management, Social Media

Generate Traffic with Killer Consumer Reviews

By My Web WritersLeaving a Review

From buying a car to picking a restaurant, reviews are a useful tool for helping us to make purchases both big and small. Web sites and entire social platforms have been created with the intent of providing valuable and useful reviews right at our fingertips. This also allows us the opportunity to voice our opinions and share our experiences with other potential customers. But the quality of this content relies heavily upon our own ability to write helpful reviews. Here are just a few of the most important concepts to keep in mind the next time you go to craft a glowing review or constructive comment.

Keep the details relevant

When relaying an experience you’ve had with a product or service, it’s easy to get caught up in the details. To you, giving a play-by-play of information may seem relevant, but to someone else reading the review, it just seems long-winded. Keep your review concise and to the point. People often skim the information or only read the first part, so be sure that the most important and relevant details can be found in the first couple of sentences.

Choose your words carefully

When you’re trying to describe an experience with words, much can be lost in translation. Remember that your definition of “good” can be vastly different from someone else’s. To write the most useful review, stay away from ambiguous words that could be misinterpreted. If you’re going to say a service was “good” be sure and further qualify this statement with a description as to what actually occurred. Why did you consider it a good experience – and not exceptional or mediocre, for example.

Keep things in perspective

The purpose of a review is to share your opinion, so it’s easy to get carried away with the thought that your opinion is the only one that matters. To write the most useful review, it’s important to keep things in perspective. If you had a terrible experience at a restaurant, at least consider the other side of the story. Ask yourself what factors led to such an experience. Was is due to one bad server, was it a problem with the management or was the food overpriced? Offering readers both sides of the story will help boost your credibility and the credibility of the review.

Find a balance of negative and positive

The most valuable reviews combine negative and positive aspects of the experience or product. Just as we mentioned telling both sides of the story, you also want to consider both pros and cons when writing your review. A glowing review has room for constructive criticism just as a terrible review should include at least one positive remark. If you can’t think of a single pro, consider offering a way in which the product of service could be improved. This balance boosts the credibility of the review and shows a sense of fairness.

The bottom line when creating a review is to put thought into what you’re writing and to always consider whether you would find this review helpful if you were reading it as a potential customer. Though this is an opportunity to voice your opinion, it is not necessarily a soap box for you to stand on. The most useful reviews communicate critical information with both balance and perspective.  ~Stephanie


Other Posts:
Niche Blogs With Quality Content

How Can I Better Manage My Company’s Social Media Accounts?

Improve Customer Service & Reduce Complaints with Content

Video Basics: Hosting, Sharing, and Content

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Filed under Local, Reputation Management, Reviews

Are You an Entitled Customer?

By My Web Writers

I Want My Lemonade.

Image courtesy of Revenue Journal.

Women come and go at ten in the morning from their social gatherings and sporting matches at this typical, upscale, American country club. On Tuesdays, ladies golf brunch day, the women play 18 holes, stop in the locker room for refreshments, and then later have lunch in the locker room’s dining space.

On most days, lemonade and trail mix are provided. Rumor has it that the men even have a bar, finger sandwiches, popcorn, and soup in their locker room.

On one off Friday, someone didn’t put lemonade in the women’s locker room. What ensued was comical.  Apparently, the ladies golf brigade decided to play that Friday.  As they filtered into the locker room for quick stops between holes, they noticed that there was no lemonade.

One such lady in her sixties was distressed.  She frowned and muttered under her breath something about there being no lemonade. Then, she hurried out the door to her golf cart.

Another threesome came in and proclaimed, “My goodness, where’s the lemonade?” and they frantically started opening cabinets.  One of them remembered it was Friday and there was no one to set up the lemonade.  Should they complain?

In the 1980s, Wendy’s capitalized on customer entitlement with the “Where’s the Beef?” commercial. Times have changed, but the desire for more hasn’t:

Provide What’s Expected Everyday

It’s human nature to expect what has always been.  Altering the quality of what’s delivered is disconcerting to most people.

When businesses sell quality products or services, customers will soon move from appreciating the products or services to expecting the same quality, price, or delivery each and every time.  If the standard declines, customers might leave business relationships feeling frustrated enough to share their discontent with circles of thousands.

In the search industry, some SEO companies have even repositioned themselves to be content marketing or digital marketing firms with de-emphasis on search engine results, in order not to promise something that would be difficult to deliver.  The marketing and salesmanship remain, but their packaging of expected results changed.

The Definition of Entitled

There are, of course, benefits to not creating angry customers and many steps businesses can take to satisfy unhappy clients.

In the case of the golfers, the lemonade was always provided and they, thus, felt entitled to the lemonade because it was a perk they expected with club membership.  But, how should one act if an entitled thirst isn’t quenched?

What does it mean to be entitled?  According to the Free Dictionary, the adjective means “qualified for by right according to law” and the Collins English Dictionary defines entitled as, “having the right or permission to do something.”

The connotations we associate with the word vary. To some, entitlement flows from positive self-worth and an uncanny ability that puts one at the top.  Entitlement is a result of hard work, a drive for perfection, and knowing how to “park yourself.”

Interestingly, this Audi commercial distances itself from the negative connotations that are inter-mingled with “entitlement” or “expected.” It rebrands “luxury” to mean progressive and forward-thinking.

To some, “entitlement” is associated with an adult who acts like a child.  Advertisers exploit the negative connotations of self-absorbed entitlement, as seen in this commercial’s pitting of two women’s lifestyles against each other.

Customers Don’t Like Change or Costly Surprises

Should we feel entitled?  Ask that question at your next luncheon and you’ll hear a variety of perspectives.

With regular frequency, a payroll company raised the rates of its services.  One frustrated customer wrote to the company to receive a discount.  He received this letter from the payroll’s customer service representative:

Good morning,

I hope this email finds you well.  I apologize for the delay in responding but as you likely know I was out of the office last week.

I have reviewed your account and do remember our discussion from mid-April.  At that time I applied a X% discount to your account that was to be effective for one calendar year.  I have confirmed the X% discount was applied correctly and is applied to your current invoice(s).  I do however notice that there was an ‘across the board’ pricing increase in early April and that is why your billing after the discount is still above X payroll.  Your current billing is totaling X+ and this includes the discount.  Our normal billing for a monthly payroll processor is X++ .

After careful review of the situation, we are unfortunately unable to offer any additional discounts at this time.  You are currently saving over XYZ a year with the current discount compared to our normal pricing.

If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Should one roll over when a company says, “we’re, sorry, we can’t meet your expectations?”  Many company policies, discounts, and procedures are man-made and arbitrary; thus, don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.  The customer did not believe that the rep just happened to notice an “across the board price increase.”  The discount given was basically offset by the price increase.

Is the customer right to feel entitled to a better price?

Yes and Maybe.

Yes, great customer service bends over backward to please and to save customers.  If the customer doesn’t believe he’s receiving the appropriate value for what he’s paying, he should, of course, feel free to express that fact and leave, if necessary. A superior customer service rep would not let a relationship get to that point.

But also, maybe.

Businesses size up their customers with scrutiny, too.  Is the customer worth the business’s time?  Is he high-maintenence? The above payroll company rep might think that his company is already competitively priced or that the customer’s business is easily replaced. While not very customer-friendly, the rep’s reasoning may be very profitable in the short-run.  Some customers cost more than they’re worth.

But the cost of not reaching out to please the customer can result in much more than the loss of one customer.

Entitled or Just Rude?

Having high expectations is fair, but life owes nothing.  Stomping one’s foot might win quick results, but lose long-term benefits.  Don’t underestimate the value of each positive relationship in life.

A business woman parked in a spot right in front of a small, downtown hot dog stand and then started walking across the street to eat at a competing restaurant.  The hot dog restaurant’s owner came out, waved to the business woman, and instructed her to move her car.  The business woman snapped back, “I can park where I want to park.”  She was right, but just to stick it to the hot dog stand’s owner, the business woman parks in that spot each and every time she goes downtown, even though she never buys a hot dog and there are spots closer to the restaurant she does patron.

Most would say this behavior is rude, but it happens.  Why?

Jamie Lee Curtis once called out Paris Hilton’s parents for not teaching their daughter basic rules of civility in society. She wrote in a Huff post:

What we need to do is look long and hard at our part in all this. Where did our children get the message that the rules don’t apply to them? And where did we, the Mothers, get the message that if we abdicate our responsibilities as Mothers, the Universe will do our job for us? And it does, but without any of the love and tenderness and compassion that we could have given, along with the lessons.

The Psychology of Entitlement

From a human psychology perspective, according to Dr. Alice Boyes, there are nine types of entitlement tendencies:

1. The rules apply to others, but not to you.

2. You feel inconvenienced when others need something from you, but then expect others to do favors for you.

3. The world revolves around your agenda.

4.  You disregard rules meant for others’ comfort.

5. You freeload.

6. You feel it’s okay to upset or to offend people.

7. You receive more from volunteers than you volunteer.

8.  When working in groups, you need to be the leader or the one to get the credit.

9.  Cancelling appointments or reservations without considering the affect on others is not a big deal to you.

Clearly there’s a line to understand and to respect.  That line may be different in one country, region, state, workplace, or family verses another, but there are some common parameters.

A Civil Challenge to Customers

If you’re a customer, who expects to be treated as number one, consider following these guidelines before shopping elsewhere:

  • Clearly Communicate the Issue:  Start talking, whether through email or over the phone.  The business can’t change its practices if it doesn’t understand your issue and how it affected you.
  • Remove Emotion:  This is usually much easier said than done.  Imagine that the person on the other line is going through a health or personal crisis.  Sometimes we’re much more forgiving of people when we see them as people instead of as objects meant to serve.
  • Talk to a Decision-Maker:  Before airing your frustrations to ten friends, find who can help you and talk with that manager.  Customer service reps always want you to think they’re the final authority.  Just keep using the phrase, “Who is your manager? I’d like to talk to that person.”
  • Don’t Wash Laundry Over Social Media: Unless there is no other means to solve the problem, don’t attempt to hurt a brand’s reputation.  Just move on.  If you’re earning a reputation as a professional complainer, your words won’t hold as much weight in the long run.
  • Know What You Want:  Clearly explain the price, procedure, or quality of what you want.  Say, “I expect or want to have X.”  In some cases, you’ll need to put your requirements in writing.
  • Bend or Walk:  Sometimes a business just can’t give you what you want.  Deal with it or be willing to dust off your feet and walk out the door, (but as a fair warning, the competition might be worse than what you had.)
  • Be the Customer You’d Like to Have:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  If you’re snippy to others all day long, that energy will find its way back to you.

It’s not wrong to want the lemonade and to ask for the lemonade, but have a little humility.  And, if the lemonade is provided as a bonus to make you feel important, then, when it’s not available, take a deep breath and pour yourself a glass of water.

~Jean


Other Posts:
Reactions from an Alumna; What if NIU Wins the Orange Bowl
Overcoming the Beautiful Little Fool
What Would History Say About Google Authorship Profiles?
How Do You Find Good Content Writers and How Much Do They Cost?
Writer Tips for Google’s Penguin

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Filed under Business Strategy, Customer Profile, Leadership, Project Management, Reputation Management

How to Make Your Blog a Brand

by My Web Writers

Your blog is made up of much more than the words which appear on each post. It’s made up of colors, logos, themes and the interaction you have with your readers. Once you’ve committed to launching your blog, don’t stop short of building continuing to build it into a brand. A brand has the power to communicate across posts and resonate within seconds with your readers. It is a critical differentiation between what turns a good blog into a great blog. Here are four essential starting points for turning your blog into a full blown brand – and it begins with some of the most basic details:

Choose a Signature Image & Color Scheme

One of the most essential ways to help brand your blog with your audience is to establish a signature image and color scheme. A signature image could be a logo, but it doesn’t have to be. It could also be a photo of something that represents the theme of your blog, maybe a pen and paper for example or it could be the initials of the blog’s name. If you’re choosing to brand the blog by your own name, consider using a head shot of yourself as the signature image to which readers can relate. As for the colors, this alone can define a blog. Think about your writing style, the topics you’ll be covering and the audience you’ll most likely be reaching. All of these factors will impact whether you choose a color scheme that is bright, upbeat and cheery or a color scheme that is dark, more professional and serious. Overall, your signature image and color scheme should become an extension of your brand and provide an accurate preview as to what readers can expect to find if they choose to read on.

 Develop Specific Themes

 When building a readership for your blog, you should narrow your topics enough to maintain the interest of your core audience. Ideally a blog should have 1-3 core topics with no more than five.  An example might include a blog which themes are Business & Success, Entrepreneurship and Social Media. All three of these topics easily intertwine but are also broad enough to allow for wide range of writing for years to come. What should be avoided is blog posts that jump around from reviews of television shows to talking about household chores and tips for job searching. These are too broad and unrelated to pull in a loyal audience that will be interested in what you write week after week. This also greatly hinders your ability to build a well-defined brand.

 Name Your Blog – And Use It

 Once you define your themes, what you should name your blog will become much clearer. A name should be short and creative above all else. If it is too long or unmemorable, it will be difficult to brand your blog with your audience by its name. You simply won’t use it – it won’t stick. Why is a name so important? Just as after so long our names begin to define a part of our personality and how others refer to us, the same is true for your blog. And just as knowing a name has the ability to turn a stranger into a familiar friend, as your readers connect with your blog and remember it by its name it too will become a familiar friend. Spend some time (but not too much) in this area and really give thought to your blog’s name. Choose something that’s meaningful to you and allows you to take ownership of it and then be sure to always refer to your blog by its chosen name!

 Create Blog-Specific Social Media Accounts

Your personal social media accounts are a great starting point for marketing your blog, but after a while your blog will be ready for its own social media accounts and ability to recruit its own network. Facebook and Twitter are great for blogs because you can promote every single post to people who might not yet be subscribers and reach a massive audience. This also allows you a platform for which you can start a discussion, ask for input or seek guest bloggers. The importance in separating your personal social media from your blog’s social media is that this allows your blog’s social media accounts to be solely dedicated to promoting its content and nothing else. You can and should still continue to promote your blog on your personal pages, but ultimately drive this traffic to your blog’s Facebook or Twitter accounts. A final benefit to doing this is that it allows you to design your blog-specific pages with the signature image, color scheme and name and provides additional ways to be found in search engines.

These core steps provide a great start toward branding your blog. With an easily identifiable brand, you will be better equipped to draw in new visitors and build a loyal reader base. The bottom-line of any effective branding is to remain clear and consistent so that your readers can form a relationship. With this relationship, you and your blog will become like a good friend they look forward to hearing from week after week.

~Stephanie

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Filed under Blog Writing Tips, Business Strategy, Marketing, Pictures, Reputation Management, Social Media