Saturday, March 29, 2008
Is this cool or what? In Europe, fake reviews and websites purporting to be from customers will soon be banned.
Author beware: the law will also apply to authors who go onto book sites "such as Amazon" to write glowing reviews.
The law is set to go into effect in April.
No word on how regulators intend to track down brothers-in-law, cousins, moms, and hirelings who are asked to glowingly write about your villa. Or whether you're allowed to ask your friends to go and say nice things about your book.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Greg Sterling (via Matthew Ingram) provides full coverage of a brouhaha about a cafe in Oakland that stipulated "no Yelpers"! With Greg, of course I agree that online reviews are here to stay. Yet some business owners seem not to be able to deal with it.
In the field of online reviews I'm deeply involved with -- home renovations -- I don't know if any of you saw the 20/20 episode about the bad contractor in Maryland. He even went ballistic about the private online reviews shared among the membership of Angie's List. This contractor, who had defrauded a bunch of homeowners 16 years previously before being banned from doing business in a county, switched counties and began racking up complaints again. When customers began banding together and expressing their opinion, he became threatening, figuring that his bluster was going to turn out to be bigger than the whole phenomenon of consumer reviews. All that did was land him on national television, painted into a corner.
For businesses that want it all to go one way, there is hope. OurFaves.com, a Toronto-based Yelp-ish creation, encourages users to stick to the positive. At first I was sceptical. But you know what? It works. Most of what I want to post about local businesses is in fact positive, and the ones that go the extra mile, be it the drycleaner who undoes the problems the previous drycleaner foisted on me; be it the great unsung Persian restaurant at Richmond and Spadina, or 1,000 other great local spots... they need all the help they can get from customer advocates. OurFaves.com keeps it light and positive... and I admit, it is growing on me.
Labels: homestars, ourfaves, reviews, ugc, yelp
Thursday, July 12, 2007
I'll be speaking on a new topic at SES San Jose on Aug. 23 - on user-generated content. The reality is, companies that have tens or hundreds of thousands of pages of *useful* content have a huge leg up in terms of natural search referrals. But how to get that, and have it be vibrant, usable, and interesting, without it being duplicate content purchased/syndicated from somewhere else?
Of course that's what has made "UGC" so interesting as a business model. But what are the prominent UGC sites? Well, of course, it runs the gamut from forums, to photo sharing sites, to volunteer edited directories. When you think about it, the most familiar brand names online are often UGC-based. Some huge success stories include:
And yes, any type of community would seem to count - Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc. - some are more accessible to search engines than others. There is obviously a user-to-user and viral component to growth that does *not* rely on search engine stumble-ins, too, but if you look at how some "classic UGC plays" like TripAdvisor grew, it was hugely dependent on long tail stumble-in search engine traffic.
- The Open Directory Project (dmoz) [human edited directory]
- YouTube [without users video it's nowhere]
- Flickr [without users uploading photos it's nowhere]
- Yelp [reviews of local biz, especially lifestyle hotspots, restaurants, spas, etc.]
- Craigslist [to the commercial/transactional side, but also stretches out to all kinds of classifieds including dating, jobs, etc. - the fact is, people have to write titles and descriptions for what they're selling... so... do this en masse and guess what, you get tons of search traffic]
- Kijiji [eBay's recognition of Craigslist's power -- same basic biz model]
- Wikipedia [of course]
- TripAdvisor [user reviews of travel spots, accommodations, you name it]
- Topix [adding community discussion of news items to its basic news search functionality]
- PlentyofFish [dating, with no subscription fee - not only do they have reams of personals with descriptions, they have very active forums]
- Usenet [ :) ]
Obviously the list could go on. Personally, I cut my teeth on some of the tech investing discussion forums dating back as far as 1996 (remember the differences between Motley Fool, Silicon Investor, and Raging Bull? Fool was more folksy and advicey at first whereas the latter two were more free-flowing... second and third movers in a space can grow quickly with very little investment if the community is active).
The job of search engines is often to find deep, relevant content on highly specific topics. UGC sites are often perfect fits for what searchers are looking for. Yet in the world of "SEO," talk is often a narrow, pinched description of "SEO-ifying" a corporate or small business website; or alternatively, of optimizing writer-generated and editorial-generated content for search engines. But the above are obviously the most wildly successful businesses you can imagine, when it comes to the potential for rapid growth through organic search referrals down the long tail. They have their own challenges and success trajectories, and as my friend Mike Grehan would say, it has nothing to do with an H1 tag.
I look forward to continuing this discussion.
Labels: ses san jose, ugc, user-generated content
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