Yikes! Help or Yelp for Customer Service Issues?

In working with franchise clients on integrated franchise marketing strategies, including social media, a large part of our effort is directed towards improving Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Google Real-time Search Results play a big role in this and as we know, these results are based upon social media activity and content.

Another aspect of SEO that goes hand-in-hand with search rankings is Local Business Listings Management which basically addresses local search results through a plethora of sites, including many customer review sites such as Yelp! But, what to do about negative customer reviews is always on our minds when they push their way towards the top of the search results. Especially, if the negative review is unwarranted. Or, if the negative review was legitimate, but the issue resolved. Should a negative mark be left out in the open for all the world to see? What are the potential repercussions if the comment is posted and tweeted throughout social media channels and we know this activity will be picked up in Goggle’s Real-Time Search Results. Potentially, this becomes a Circle of Life that we want to avoid. But, at what cost? Yikes!

Well, as the old Fram Oil Filter commercial states, “You can pay me now, or pay me later.” Translation for the franchise community: Dedicate some resources towards improving customer service practices now, or pay to try to remove the negative comments online later, which is not easy to do for a variety of reasons. Some of which may not be the most ethical as the customer review sites feel they have control of your destiny, and want you to pay dearly to relinquish the control back to you. Yikes, for sure!

The following post about one of the more popular review sites, Yelp! and such practices, was written by franchisEssentials Guest Author, Megan Erickson of the Dickinson Law Firm. As you may know, Megan is the author behind the recently launched Social Networking Law Blog. Previously, we posted an article by Megan that proved very popular in franchise circles, Employer Social Networking Policies.

Yelp! Faces Federal Class Action Lawsuit

Bad online review? Interested in buying your way out of it?

Yelp is a popular interactive website allowing its users to create and access reviews of local businesses and services.  The site now faces serious accusations of unfair business practices.

After Yelp! received some bad press for what many believe to be shady advertising practices, a class action lawsuit was filed yesterday in a California federal court. According to a press release posted on the Yelp Class Action Website:

“The lawsuit alleges that Yelp runs an extortion scheme in which the company’s employees call businesses demanding monthly payments, in the guise of ‘advertising contracts,’ in exchange for removing or modifying negative reviews appearing on the website.”

I first learned of the lawsuit via this post by Bradford Schmidt.

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Local Business Listing, Search Engine Rankings and Mobile Devices

The following article has been submitted by Guest Author, Melih (“may-lee”) Oztalay. Melih is CEO of SmartFinds Internet Marketing, an internet marketing company known for developing very creative marketing strategies. Before starting SmartFinds, Melih ran one of the Detroit Metropolitan area’s premiere Internet Service Providers (ISP), SpeedLink, from the early 1990’s where he served for nearly a decade as President and CEO. In the new century he has pursued taking the creative and marketing services from his experience in the 1990’s to businesses via SmartFinds Internet Marketing. franchisEssentials is honored to have Melih as one of its Guest Authors.

local-listingLocal Business Listing, Search Engine Rankings and Mobile Devices
by Melih Oztalay, CEO at SmartFinds Internet Marketing

There has been an ongoing difficulty for small local businesses to benefit from the Internet. Particularly if they are completely dependent upon the local market. Yes, those businesses still do exist and will continue to exist. As technology has been developing, there is an answer for the local business. It comes in the form of the major search engines having free local listings.

What Are Business Local Listings? In summary this is your free yellow page listings by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft. Do you still need to advertise with the Yellow Pages? This need is definitely dwindling. The upcoming generations are using the Internet and their mobile phones. Most probably are not familiar with the hard copy yellow pages. Baby-Boomers are a growing group of mobile device users…and certainly EVERYONE is using the Internet.

Why Use the Local Business Listings? There are a number of reasons why the Internet local business listings are important to the local business.

1. Listings can show up in search results
2. Helps advertise business for free
3. Helps promote any discounts, offers, promotions
4. Displays on Mobile maps (e.g. iPhone)

The benefits help to increase your exposure through the Internet with this free listing. It can help you reduce your yellow page costs and makes sure you can get in front of your customers when they need you through the Internet or their mobile devices as they are around town.

Additionally these local listings help give you the opportunity to get more information in front of your customers than the yellow pages can ever offer. This would include your menus, your products, services, photos, videos, coupons, offers, promotions to mention a few.

Did we mention this was a free listing? Did we also mention you can update this listing anytime you want? And, lastly, you get statistics about your statistics. Now we’re confident the yellow pages cannot provide statistics. The benefits far outweigh the costs from the hard copy yellow pages.

Do you need your own website? No. Would it benefit you? Possibly, but dependent upon your business. Your free local business listing could be your website. The reason for having your own website would be because the free local business listing is not allowing you to add everything a customer may wish to see.

Like everything else on the Internet, it is best to work with a professional firm that can help get this setup for you. You have to be sure to have the right keywords for your business, along with knowing how to get the listing up to date so it benefits with immediately. Once the local business listing has been updated you can either maintain the information yourself or continue having a low cost monthly fee to have it maintained and monitored for you.

Monitoring your listing is very important as customers have the ability to post reviews about your products, services and business. Of course their ability to review you are not limited to the local business listing and include everything from Angie’s List to Complaint Boards on the web. While this may sound like a negative, you can turn customers with problems and complaints to long term relationship. You have to address their concerns and have them reach out to you instead of the Internet with their emotional frustrations.

Whether you are a single store, have multiple locations, are a franchise or a bank with multiple branches, you will want to learn more about local business listings. Learn more about Local Business Listings and submitting them to the search engines and other local related business websites and directories at SmartFinds Local Business Listings.

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