01. February 2017 · Comments Off on White Hats, Pink Hats, Black Hats… and the White House · Categories: Blogging, Digital Marketing, Mountain Woods Media, SEO, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , , , , ,

White Hats, Pink Hats, Black Hats and the White House

Many of us in tech tend to be introverts.  We are passionately engaged with our clients. We feel  and experience deeply but you would never know it as we are reticent to speak up, or cause controversy in order to avoid a drop in web traffic, fewer consulting gigs, or trolls from high school taking issue with a mildly progressive meme involving the color pink.  When Googlers this week finally started “marching” in support of immigrant colleagues, this made me smile and also remembering fondly an SEO conference from several years ago.  The SES event we attended involved a meet and greet icebreaker  which involved identifying your firm as to whether it was “white hat” or “black hat”.   “White hat” meant you used technical skills that were above board, slightly less aggressive in order to earn higher rankings but none which would trouble the search giants such as Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go or Facebook.  “Black hat” meant you were not above being scrappy and slightly nefarious by using keywords hidden in white fonts, misdirected pages, buying followers, or other questionable tech tactics.  We were provided real cowboy hats during the event and instructed to both wear them and mingle.  Surprisingly, it was a 50/50 color spectrum.

But when you have always leaned “white hat” and have turned down more gigs than you have accepted due to questionable client ethics, there comes a point when you need to actually wear your sheriff’s badge and come clean.

In the early 90’s I both interviewed and processed grants for disaster victims, for women at risk who had been violated and burned with cigarettes in the trafficking industry, human rights activists in foreign jails housed in horrendous conditions,  and health professionals who had their hospitals and lifesaving equipment bombed by political factions.  Later, as a case manager and small business developer, I went on to help refugees impacted by similar events try to build small family microbusinesses in order to escape tough working conditions from jobs they had to accept once they had been admitted to the US.  Many of these tiny businesses made it.  Some did not.  I was new to understanding the impact of PTSD on many of my clients and looking back wondered if stronger mental health support would have allowed more of these families to thrive.   One client had been chased by gangs with knives through the jungles of Togo.  He was heartbroken to be separated from his wife.  A large man with a broad smile, he came to my office and cried when he was placed in a job with a meat packing plant.  Idealistic, but inexperienced, it took me several years to understand that the knives in the meat packing plant were probably not helping him recover from his experience of being hunted in the jungles of Togo.

So…as I saw people unjustly detained and then finally “making it” through the gauntlet at so many airports in these United States this weekend to cheering crowds, I was haunted by the man with the broad smile.  He never had a crowd to greet him, just me.  And this is how we continue to work.  If we can cheer for your success (and the standards are high) then you qualify for a sheriff’s badge with our “white hat” team.

For someone who has yet to make our “white hat” list, it was indeed surprising that instead of doing a breaking news event on regular television networks, 45 opted last night to switch to Facebook Live.  Maybe he was hoping for a sea of pink hearts rather than angry smiley faces in order to give him his needed mandate.  We are hoping that he received what he needed.   So many do not.

Mountain Woods Media, LLC is both a white hat and progressive firm and will forever remain so.  Pick your hat, giddy up, get out there, design a cool sign, and in the face of injustice, do say something.

~  Leigh M. Drake, President, Mountain Woods Media, LLC

14. October 2016 · Comments Off on Avoiding the Unprofitable Time Suck in Your Business · Categories: Blogging, Digital Marketing, Mountain Woods Media, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , ,

Does it always seem like there’s never enough time to get everything finished in your business day? Where does the time go?

Sometimes, for business owners and operators, there always seems to be a “fire” that needs to be put out. An upset customer or client; some employee drama or your regular six-month check-up at the dentist, etc. and just like that your day is gone.

What happened?

Actually, you probably accomplished quite a bit during your busy day, but if you feel like you are burning the midnight oil; working weekends, etc., and still falling behind on getting work accomplished, perhaps there are some things you can do – and other things you should cut out – to help make your day more productive.

For instance:

  • Stay off Facebook and other social media platforms. This is such a huge time suck. A post here; a picture there and before you know it you’re comparing bushy squirrel tails to Donald Trump’s hair.
  • Constantly checking e-mail. Again, this is also a time-wasting task. Checking e-mails and immediately responding to them gets you off-track. It also lets the receiver of your email know you’re available for a back-and-forth e-mail conversation. Try to get into a habit of checking your e-mail once in the morning (when you get to the office); once at lunch and then at the end of the day.
  • Get organized. If you can, plan tomorrow’s tasks and “to do” list at the end of the day. Then, when you start your work day, you have a plan. Follow the plan.
  • Try to avoid other distractions. This includes checking sports scores; playing online games; scanning the news websites; watching YouTube videos, etc.
  • If you schedule and conduct meetings, sales calls, etc., schedule them for less than one hour. If you’re hosting a meeting, get to the point and move on quickly. Your clients will appreciate it, too!
  • When possible, conduct meetings via mobile phone or through an online meeting software platform. This will save a ton of unproductive travel time.
  • Take your lunch. Not only is this a budget-minded issue, but going to a restaurant; ordering a meal; waiting for your meal, etc., also burns 45 minutes or more per day.

Are you guilty of any of the aforementioned time sucks? Trim it back. Get things done. Be more productive and more profitable.

01. March 2016 · Comments Off on How to Best Work with Your Online Reputation Management Firm · Categories: Mountain Woods Media, ORM · Tags: , , ,

Your company has hired an online reputation management firm (or consultant) to help you solve your negative reputation be it negative reviews; unfavorable mentions in the local media or a harsh complaint in the Ripoff Report website.

~ Wikimedia Commons

Problem solved right?

Not quite.

When you engage with an ORM firm, you should expect:

  • a project assessment.
  • a strategy on how they plan to fix your problem.
  • a project update each week.

Behind the scenes, any reputable reputation management firm is:

  • Creating new websites; blogs; social networking accounts; photography sites and more for your business or for you as an individual (if you have an individual reputation problem).
  • Writing and publishing tons of unique content on your behalf.
  • Building “white hat” links pointing to positive URLs about you and/or your company.

Reputation repair is SEO on steroids and, depending on the severity of the problem, you shouldn’t expect your reputation problem to be repaired in one hour, one day or one week. Remember: while it takes years to build a good reputation and five minutes to destroy it, it could also take months (and sometimes longer) to repair your reputation.

Businesses and individuals should support and help their online reputation management firm by:

  • Sharing pictures and videos via Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. suitable for republication.
  • Finding in their files professional white papers, how-to guides, old press releases, term papers, resumes, positive publications they have authored that could be converted into shiny, new digital content.
  • Writing and refreshing stale company blogs.
  • Increasing social media efforts in Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others.

Yes, we understand that your online reputation problem can be viewed as extremely important to your bottom line or for making your next career move. However, contrary to what you might think, your situation is probably not unique and online reputation firms have usually seen your specific type of reputation problem many, many times over. Excessively emotional correspondence or a bombardment of telephone calls; e-mails and virtual meeting requests can equate into more billable hours for you and your company – none of which is helping to repair your reputation problem.  Make sure to treat your reputation project like a military strategist. Keep your hurt feelings in check, stay focused, and help your ORM firm generate an artillery barrage of positive content. It will help you win your battle quickly.

* * *

Mountain Woods Media, LLC specializes in online reputation management and repair for companies and business professionals. Contact us for more information or visit our Training page to see our online reputation courses.

 

27. January 2016 · Comments Off on Negative Reputation – You Can Run But You Can’t Hide · Categories: Mountain Woods Media, ORM, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , , , , ,

This is an online reputation example of a business who thought they could take the easy way out and run from their negative reviews; customer complaints and media coverage.

Zombieland Zombie chase via FanPop Wallpaper

Before we get into the mud, the business discussed here will remain anonymous as there’s no reason for us to make their online reputation matters worse. In addition, for the record, this isn’t a client of ours nor have we ever been retained to consult with or help improve their online reputation.

Here’s what happened:

The company, which we will refer to as “The ABC Company” is a retail establishment with a single store location on the East coast.

When searching for the company’s name in Google, the first two results are secured by The ABC Company’s domain name. From there, however, it gets worse.

50 reviews in Yelp averaging two (out of five) stars.

Two negative blogs

A complaint filed with the Ripoff Report

All on the first page of Google search results.

So, rather than try to clean up its reputation, The ABC Company opted to purchase a different domain and changed their business name slightly to “The ABCD Company.”

Guess what? That strategy never works.

You see, your negative reputation will always follow you. If you (as an individual) or your business didn’t get it right the first time, then chances are good you’re going to fail the second time.

The “new” business continued to earn poor reviews; negative complaints; media coverage as well as an onslaught of comments informing everyone that “The ABCD Company” is the same as “The ABC Company,” etc.

The “new” business has secured the top two results in Google with their new domain name, but a fresh batch of negative posts follow, including:

Back-to-back negative news stories.

Those same 50 bad Yelp reviews (reviewers helped Yelp connect the new company with the old company).

A negative blog.

A legal matter.

Two more negative blogs and a negative Facebook Page attacking the new company round out the Top 10 search results.

Overall, the reputation for the “new” firm is worse than the original company.

Where do you start?

Well, besides shuttering your doors and never going into business again, this is an online reputation problem from a very dark place. It would require the following:

  • There’s obviously more here than just an upset customer or two, so other problems exist within the company itself. Processes, products, services and staff need to be corrected; modified and re-trained internally first.
  • Develop and implement a strong public relations campaign. Only new and fresh online media coverage (print and video) can outrank old negative URLs appearing in search results.
  • Blog every day. Maybe twice a day. Work on your company and brand name.
  • Share a ton of positive photographs in social media (Twitter; Flickr; Facebook, etc.).
  • Film and share your own positive videos on YouTube and in other social networks.

This online reputation problem can be fixed, but it will have to start internally and then publicly.

 

22. December 2015 · Comments Off on The Opportunities for Building Positive Reviews for Your Business Just Grew Exponentially · Categories: Mountain Woods Media, SEO, Social Media Consulting · Tags: , , ,

by Leigh Drake, President, Mountain Woods Media, LLC

As a way to do some Facebook limitations testing and as a means of coming up with a new way to test potential interview candidates for our social media staff team, for a couple of weeks each morning I pushed myself to play with the Facebook Editor (https://www.facebook.com/editor) . This is an area of Facebook where you suggest areas or “edits” for improvement for business and place pages within the Facebook garden. The business pages suggested start out as places where you can make local business page editorial suggestions. As you become more adept (and pass Facebook’s muster) they will give you pages to suggest edits in far flung locations…like bars in the Texas desert, marketing businesses that are spamming keywords in alternative categories such as dentists, and fake pages you can report.

By helping me better assess Facebook activity for our clients’ various industries, it is also a funny way to pass the time over coffee — especially for business and media geeks. Facebook has succeeded in crowd sourcing a global editorial team that provides free edits of “business categories” to their business pages as a means of encouraging businesses to improve their business page content. There is a global team contest going on for the month of December, but you can still participate as an anonymous individual and the app will reward you personally with new levels and an accuracy rate. Am now just up to Level 12 with an 86% accuracy rate. I would probably have a higher accuracy rate if I hadn’t made some of my earliest edits “rebellion” edits for Trump Towers and businesses I had recently been burned by…but that’s another topic for another blog post.

Facebook Professional Services

As I started doing this for a few weeks, I became curious as to “why” Facebook was mobilizing and incentivizing a team of editors for all of these business pages. My question was answered when both Search Engine Land and WIRED magazine wrote articles regarding Facebook’s soft roll out of their “Professional Services” pages.

Facebook Takes on Yelp, but Doesn’t Get a Thumbs Up Yet by Brian Barrett on 12/15/15

Is “Facebook Professional Services” Facebook’s Stealth Project to Beat Yelp? Unannounced desktop-only feature gives people the ability to find the highest-rated businesses in a given area. by Martin Beck on 12/14/15

Apparently Facebook saw a window of opportunity for grabbing market share as there have been numerous rumors about Angie’s List being bought out or absorbed and Yelp and Google reviews enduring a plethora of small business lawsuits. We also wrote recently on our blog how Google Plus is Dropping Small Business Reviews.

This new Professional Services feature in Facebook is available to users anonymously via desktop by going to this link https://facebook.com/services . Visiting this link via Safari on a mobile device, took us to the page, but asked us to login to our Facebook account first. Visitors to the Professional Services area in Facebook are presented with a page saying “Find Local Businesses with the Best Facebook Reviews and Ratings” that has their current location pre-determined via a form box. We were a little puzzled as to how location suggestions were being routed as Facebook directed me to businesses only in Erlanger, Kentucky which is not really a “normal” shopping area in our area. For the sake of privacy, my Facebook profile is intentionally set to say I live in Northern Kentucky which is “normal” for 4000 users in our area. When we attempted to use the location override and insert our actual city location, we got the same thumbnail pictures results for Erlanger, KY which indicated the same businesses. But the sub-section of the page did serve up a logical assortment of business categories like wedding planners, business consultants, dentists, electricians, day cares, etc. Once I clicked on a specific category, I obtained better localized results for businesses in our area.

From the standpoint of building positive reviews; however, what was interesting is how many business results appeared with very few completed Facebook profiles, or reviews. Clearly, small businesses in our area need to get on board with enhancing their business profile pages within the Facebook walled garden. We see this as a golden opportunity for building positive business reviews for your business.  Take a look at your own business profile in Facebook and make sure it is what you want your customers to see.  If you are overwhelmed with the task, contact us and we can help.

Contact Mountain Woods Media for help with Facebook

 

11. December 2015 · Comments Off on Improve Local SEO, Increase Website Traffic and Earn More Sales by Publishing Videos · Categories: Mountain Woods Media, SEO, Training Courses · Tags: , ,


Customers, clients and website visitors all love videos. In fact, videos are getting more attention these days than photographs.

Videos keep customers on your website longer, especially when the video is informative and entertaining.

Don’t worry: you don’t need to hire an expensive video crew with fancy cameras; giant lights with all the glitz and glamor. And, you don’t have to buy an extra piece of equipment or software in order to create videos for your website.

Instead, for starters, use your smart phone along with free software to help get you started.

Customers don’t need flashy graphics and scrolling text. What they are looking for is information about how to solve a problem or how your company can help them with your goods and services.

Videos can be short (even one or two minutes), but try to keep them under 5 or 10 minutes if you can. Introduce yourself; explain the problem and offer the solution. Done!

Publish your videos on your company YouTube Channel and on your website (like we did in this blog post). Share your videos via your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).

You can see more of our videos on our YouTube Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBrvlgZtguugEfgmuYD-jcw)

24. November 2015 · Comments Off on Buy a Course, Get Free Consulting · Categories: Mountain Woods Media, ORM, SEO, Training Courses · Tags: , , , ,

How to get Free Consulting with Mountain Woods Media, LLCWhile there are huge advantages in e-learning and taking a course online, it’s always nice to have the option to ask additional questions and seek further help.

This is especially true if you’re facing battling a negative online reputation; want to improve your business reviews, or prefer to have a second opinion on your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

It’s because of these reasons, that we have decided to offer free consulting – yes, free – to anyone who purchases one of our courses on Udemy.com.

Here’s how our free consulting offer works:

  • Purchase any of our nine (9) Udemy courses. You can find a complete list here: http://bit.ly/1R3XQKX
  • Complete at least 10% of the course.
  • Receive an invitation link to connect with us on our private Slack.com account.
  • Consulting is limited to the topic relating to the purchased course.

Once you sign up for one of our courses, we’ll be sending you a “thank you” e-mail and remind you of our free consulting offer.

Slack.com invitations are sent out weekly to those who have completed the minimum requirements.

Consulting can include questions; evaluations; analysis; tips; tactics and ideas – anything that we can do to help you with your project or problem (other than actually doing the work for you, of course!).

Our Udemy courses are updated regularly as we are adding new lectures; new content, and updated lectures.

12. October 2015 · Comments Off on Yes, You Can Also Review Jails and Prisons in Yelp · Categories: Mountain Woods Media, ORM, SEO, Training Courses · Tags: , , ,

reviewing jails on YelpRestaurants; beauty salons; chiropractors and many others can all receive good and bad reviews via customers on Yelp.com.

And so can prisons.

Lawyers, inmates and visitors have left reviews for prisons worldwide rating everything from the quality of food; power-hungry prison guards; lack of personal grooming supplies (i.e., toilet paper) to dress code policies for family members during visitation days.

Yelp allows anything or anyone to be reviewed as long as it has a physical address and the reviewer followed the site’s terms of service.

While you would almost expect every prison and most reviews to be negative, there are a few jails that regularly receive good reviews (see our video on YouTube at: https://youtu.be/byPwKWgOfOE). For example:

  • The West Hollywood Jail has three reviews (as of this blog post) with an average of 4.5 stars (out of five). Reviewer Jim A. “highly recommended this place,” while D.W. says “the exclusive West Hollywood Jail provides far better accommodations than what you might expect.”
  • The jail in Santa Monica has one five-star review as the reviewer says he spent “one relaxing night there last month.”
  • The Atlanta City Detention Center has earned 3.5 stars from three reviews. Unfortunately, the reviewer offering five stars gave a simple explanation unsuitable for printing here.

Most prisons and jail profiles on Yelp have been properly claimed and include directions; public transportation opportunities; visiting hours. Some have added a few photos.

Yelp doesn’t offer any statistics about correctional facilities in terms of how many profiles exist or how many total reviews are currently published (Yelp is currently available in 13 countries), however the “review-a-prison” idea is gaining a little bit of steam.

Prisons aside, if you want to learn more about your business and Yelp, check out our Udemy course “Promote Your Business and Earn More Sales By Mastering Yelp” at http://www.udemy.com/mastering-yelp.

02. October 2015 · Comments Off on Don’t Worry About The ‘Haters’ When It Comes To Business Reviews · Categories: Mountain Woods Media · Tags: , , ,

HatersOnline reviews – both positive and negative – can go a long way when it comes to earning new customers and trying to maintain an ongoing positive online reputation.

Unfortunately, some businesses choose not to participate in the online review process because they fear an onslaught of bad business reviews. Let’s go ahead and put this myth aside:

  • Customers can leave reviews for your company whether you claim and confirm your business profile in Yelp, Manta and other review sites. Just because you haven’t claimed your profile, doesn’t mean it won’t be active in review websites. It’s best to participate so you can communicate with your customers and earn higher rankings by completing your profile.
  • Former employees and “haters” might indeed leave bad reviews for your business. However, review websites (such as Yelp) have algorithms in place to recognize and hide negative reviews from profile view. Even so, most intelligent customers can easily spot a fake review (good or bad).
  • Competitors might also leave your business a bad review. Yelp will automatically remove reviews that are proven to have been written by a competitor.

Overall, don’t let a few worrisome reasons keep your business from claiming, confirming and optimizing your business profile in review and mapping websites. The benefits far outweigh the negatives. For instance:

  • For each business profile you claim and optimize, you’re giving your business another opportunity to be seen by a future potential customer. Overall, there are approximately 50 good review websites that allow businesses to set up free profiles.
  • For each business profile you claim and optimize, that’s one more inbound link from a reputable website pointing back to your company’s website.
  • Many review websites, such as Yelp, rank high in Google on local search terms. Therefore, if your business can earn a higher position in Yelp, it will automatically earn a higher spot in search engine rankings.
  • Since more and more people are relying on smartphones and tablets, they are also using review apps, such as Yelp, in order to find restaurants; coffee shops; hotels and other businesses. You’ll want make sure your business is visible and up-to-date so future customers can find you in various review apps.

Learn more about online reputation management; Yelp and earning more local traffic to your website by previewing (free) these courses in Udemy.com:

“Online Reputation Management: Handling Negative Reviews”
https://www.udemy.com/online-reputation-management-negative-business-reviews

“Promote Your Business and Earn More Sales By Mastering Yelp”
https://www.udemy.com/mastering-yelp

“Earn More Sales By Increasing Local Traffic To Your Website”
https://www.udemy.com/earn-more-sales-by-increasing-local-traffic-to-your-website

 

 

30. September 2015 · Comments Off on Online Review Websites: How They Work and Why They Are Important For Your Business · Categories: Mountain Woods Media · Tags: , ,

online review websitesThere are dozens upon dozens of online review websites that encourage participation from both individuals and businesses. These include sites such as Yelp, Manta, City Search, Google+ Local and many more.

Individuals (your potential customers) can create free accounts and use review websites to find more information about your company; get directions and leave reviews, etc.

For businesses, review websites are extremely important in gaining more local customers. Participation is required if you want to take it to the next level with local search engine optimization (SEO).

Here’s why:

  • Review websites, such as Yelp, for example, give your business more visibility to more local customers. Some users are addicted to the Yelp app on their smartphone and only use it for locating businesses or for finding products and services they need.
  • There are approximately 50 (or more) high-quality and high-traffic review websites – all of which give you another opportunity for your business to be found in Google search results and in other search engines. For example, if a customer is searching for “Greenville, SC florist,” your website might be ranked high in search results, but the review website might also be ranked high. This gives your business another opportunity to be on front of a local customer.
  • Participation in review websites gives your business another online source of generating new traffic to your website.
  • Review websites create inbound links pointing to your company’s website. The more review websites your company is listed in, the more links you have gained from credible websites pointing to your company’s website. SEO experts call this “link building” (the act of one website publishing a link pointing to another website).

Unfortunately, some businesses refuse to participate in review websites. Why? Because they fear potential bad reviews might be published for their company. However, individuals (again, your customers) can add your business to any review website and they can also leave reviews for your company whether you choose to participate or not.

As a local business owner, you need to claim and confirm your business profile in review websites and begin taking control of your company’s image in Yelp, Bing Local, Yellow Pages and other business listing websites. Once you “own” your business profile, you can then start optimizing your profile for better rankings and improve online conversations with your customers.