Trouble in Paradise for Angie’s List?

Angie'sList

Angie’s List, the pioneer in online reviews since 1995, is facing challenging times with the recent proliferation of free review sites.

Many of the members of Angie’s list (that lists mostly home-improvement services and contractors) feel that the value proposition is quite simple; when they are going to invest upwards of $50,000 on a home renovation or related cost, they are willing to spend a few extra dollars to ensure that they are reaching a network of people who have given honest, real-life recommendations of services they have used themselves.

According to the company’s second quarter 2014 results, Angie’s list has 2.8 million paid memberships as of the end of June, which is up from the 2.2 million the year before and 820,000 in 2011.

Despite this obvious growth in user acquisition, Angie’s List appears to be teetering on the edge of extinction. Why? Just a couple weeks ago, it was reported that Angie’s list had hired a team of investment bankers to do a company evaluation in order to potentially entertain the idea of putting it up for sale. Shares increased by 20% but were still down more than 50% compared to the previous year.

According to a post by Indianapolis Business Journal, the reason is because Angie’s List has never turned a profit. Last October, a report was released that even showed a net loss of $13.5 million for the third quarter of 2013, following a loss of $18.5 million for the same period the year before.

Some of you may be wondering: why hasn’t any of this growth resulted in an increase in profits? It is likely due to the expansion into new markets; Angie’s List is now offered in 253 areas of the country, up from about 200 in 2012.

Angie’s List has also been forced to downscale the price of its memberships in order to remain competitive with other, free-to-use review sites such as Yelp, Google+, Citysearch, etc. You can now expect to pay about a little over $12 for an annual membership, which is over half of the $36 membership fee they were charging ten years ago. And it’s fairly easy to get an online coupon code that will discount that fee anywhere from 30-40% off.

It also doesn’t help that the company recently agreed to a $2.8 million settlement to curb a lawsuit alleging it had renewed subscribers’ memberships at a rate higher than it had led them to believe.

Perhaps at the center of this discussion is the legitimacy of the reviews listed on the site. In fact, much (if not most) of the revenue for Angie’s List is obtained by the very same businesses who are listed on their site, creating somewhat of a conflict of interest. How can a company remain unbiased when the companies funding its very existence are the ones who are supposed to be rated in a non-biased fashion by consumers on their site?

“Almost 70 percent of the company’s revenues come from advertising purchased by the service providers being rated, ” a 2013 Consumer Reports investigation explained.

It’s hard to believe that this funding has no bearing on how these companies appear in search results.

“We think the ability of A- and B-rated companies to buy their way to the top of the default search results skews the results… They get 12 times more profile views than companies that don’t buy ads, ” Consumer Reports criticizes.

Yelp

This is a practice that Yelp has been accused and criticized for many times over. Yelp has continued to vehemently deny this practice and maintains that, “Yelp uses automated software to recommend the most helpful and reliable reviews for the Yelp community among the millions we get. The software looks at dozens of different signals, including various measures of quality, reliability, and activity on Yelp. The process has nothing to do with whether a business advertises on Yelp or not.”

In the meantime, Angie’s List seems to have found the sweet spot as far as the amount it must lower its membership fees by in order to maintain the increase in annual subscribers year over year. The question becomes: Is this sustainable, given the fact that the legitimacy of the reviews listed on the site continues to be called into question?

And is being a paid review site going to continue to be, or become even more of, a challenge given the obvious rising growth of free-to-use review sites such as Yelp, Citysearch and the like?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: http://time.com/money/3452998/angies-list-sale-user-reviews/

Google’s “Pigeon” Release : What You Need to Know

Local SEO - Pigeon ReleaseGoogle SEO Changes: Local Search – Silent but Important Changes

In the past few days, Google has silently rolled out changes to their search algorithm that have a direct impact on local search. Many search experts have dubbed this the “Pigeon” release. Unlike previous Google releases, this update was fairly silent. However, this update may have a significant effect on your business. To find out more, as well as what you can do about it, read on.

What is Local Search?

To clarify, “Local Search” is an industry term used to refer to the component of Google searches that takes into consideration your specific location. For example, if you type “pizza” into Google search, Google will prioritize “pizza” establishments that are closest to you. This prioritization applies to your website, social media pages and review sites (as well as those of your competition). Exactly what shows up first, second or third on Google’s search result depends on Google’s search algorithm. Google updates its algorithm a few times a year and this time, the update had a noticeable effect on the Local Search results.

Summary of Changes

  1. Google “Listing Packs” disappear
  2. Search results depend more on website authority
  3. Ranking boost seen for (non-Google) review sites

Google “Listing Packs” disappear

The most noticeable difference in the recent update is the disappearing act of the “Google Listing Pack”. This was a frequent component of search results. These listing “packs” could be seen in a grouping of related listings. The group previously would include anywhere from 2 to 7 related listings. Of course, clicking on the local icon would take you to the related Google+ page for that business. While listing packs still appear on some searches, it appears far less frequently.

At the same time, it also appears that the Google Carousel is slowly gaining more visibility. In the examples provided here for the search term “coffee reviews, Los Angeles”, you can see how the Google Listing Packs that appeared in previous searches, no long appear. Most noticeable is the prominence of the Google Carousel in the results of this particular term.

coffee reviews los angeles

coffee

Website Authority

Traditional search results (i.e. non-Local search) use the “website authority” in their calculation. Website authority has many factors, including quality content, diverse quality backlinks, social activity, and website age. Relevant textual information on your site that includes the category of your business, description of services provided and, in the case of local search, the address and city of your business. Now your website, for your local business, will be more subject to the “Website Authority” rules for traditional Search Engine Optimization.

Review Site Rankings Increase

Google refers to Review Sites as “Local Directories.” Examples of these “Local Directories” include Yelp, TripAdvisor, RateMDs, HealthGrades, and many more. It appears that Google Local Search now prioritizes these “Local Directories” higher in their search results. You may find that search results for your business may show more of these local directories.

What Should You Do?

The results for every business will vary based on dozens of factors. However, there are several good practices that you should maintain to stay ahead of the competition and get better local search results. These include maintaining consistent listings on prominent review sites in your category, getting more reviews, maintaining positive reviews and harvest a steady stream of new reviews from your customers/patients/clients. ReviewInc’s services help monitor all of these factors which you can read more about in this recent article: There is New Life in SEO.

Final Note

Inevitably, expect more changes from Google. However, if you maintain good practices, you will not only be unaffected, but you may benefit when Google makes their next change.

 

 

Connecting Your Google+ Business Page To Your Google Maps Listing

Google now allows people who have Google+ business pages to connect their page to their local business listing on Google Maps.

Google’s help page gives detailed directions on how to connect your Google+ business page to your Google Maps verified listing. This will connect your current page to Google Maps. All the business information, including the business address, the Google Maps reviews, business hours and more from Google Maps will apply to your page. The followers, posts, and managers of your page will also remain intact.

Many businesses have a few Google+ pages listed in their Google+ manager page, but this will help combine at least two of them.

Follow the steps below to connect your Google pages:

1. Log in to Google+

2. Select ‘Pages’ from the drop-down menu on the left.

3. Click ‘Manage this Page’ on the Google+ Local page.

4. The local page will look almost identical to your current page. However, it will include a verification shield next to the name of a page. If you hover over the badge, you will see “Verified local business”.

Google 1

5. Click ‘Manage this page’

6. From the drop-down menu on the left, select ‘Settings’.

7. Scroll to the ‘Profile’ section. Next to ‘This page is connected to Google Maps’, click ‘Connect a different page’.

Connect to a different page

8. In the “Link a different page to this location” dialog, pick the page that you’d like to connect to Maps and click ‘Next’.

9. You’ll see a list describing the changes to the newly-created page you’re connecting to Maps, and the local Google+ page you’re disconnecting from Maps. Click ‘Confirm’.

The page that’s newly connected to Maps will:

-Display the name and verification badge from the former local page.

-Display the business information (hours, phone number, etc.) and reviews from the former local page.

-No longer display prior owner responses to local reviews. Your existing reviews may take a few hours to show up after connecting the page.

-Carry over followers, posts, and managers.

-Carry over the custom URL (if you’ve set one up).

-Possibly remove ad campaigns associated with the page.

The former local page will:

– No longer display on Google Maps

-No longer display local business information or reviews

-Be renamed to “Backup of page name”

-Still be visible on Google+

-Retain followers, posts, and managers from the former local page

-Retain the custom URL from the former local page (if you’ve set one up)

-No longer display AdWords Express campaigns associated with the page.

 

(via Search Engine Land)

ReviewInc Consumer Survey: “First Reaction” Results

We conducted a consumer survey where we surveyed over two thousand people to find out what their first reaction would be when they have bad or good experiences with a business/service (such as a plumber, doctor, lawyer, etc), and these are the results:

Overall

Good

Bad

Overall Observations & Conclusions:

-The desire to give feedback for negative experiences is 17% higher than for positive experiences

-Customers prefer to give feedback privately by a factor of 3x more than writing a review on Yelp or Google

-18-34 year olds are twice more likely to write a review on Yelp or Google than older generations

There is New Life in SEO – It’s called REVIEWS

Leaf

Just do a web search for “Is SEO Dead” and you will find pages upon pages of articles about the supposed “death” of SEO. So is SEO really dead? Of course not. The rules have just changed. Whether you are new or experienced with SEO (if you’re new to it, see the explanation below, then come back and see what the big fuss is about), you’ll see that it can be hard to keep up with all the trends concerning SEO.

Google Search

Over the last 10 years, search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo have consistently tuned and re-tuned their “algorithm” so that you can easily find what you are looking for. Google, the king of all search engines, sets the standard by which SEO experts “dial-in” their websites so that the Google search engine may find them.

In the days of old, there were many tricks that could be used to increase the effectiveness of SEO. But Google has been playing a cat-and-mouse game with many of these “experts” to the point that the search engine is actually ignoring some websites. So how is SEO still alive? Google search has given great preference to quality content.

Google Maps

Essentially, videos and high quality articles stand out as SEO magnets. When it comes to LOCAL SEO that helps you get your business found, it’s all relative to the extent of your reviews and review site listings that matter. MOZ conducted an outstanding study on local search and concluded that at least 50% of LOCAL search is influenced by LOCAL SEO.

Their study is not for the faint of heart, so we’ll try to boil it down to the following SIX FACTORS:

• Breadth
• Consistency
• Recent
• Sentiment
• Keywords
• Quantity

Let’s explain each one:

Firstly, it’s important to have your business listed on lots of review sites. We call that the BREADTH of your listings. The more places your business is listed, the better. But we suggest that you have listings on at least 10 review sites that matter (such as Google, Yelp, Yahoo, CitySearch, YellowPages, etc.).

Next, it’s important that your listings be CONSISTENT with your business Name, Address and Phone Number (also known as a “NAP”). Since most of the review sites also display your web address, make sure that it’s the correct address as well.

That’s the easy part, the next four are a bit harder but can have a huge impact on your SEO. They are based on getting reviews on those review sites that matter most.

The reviews should be RECENT. The older the reviews, the less weight they will carry with the search engine.

BalanceThe reviews should lean also toward the positive. Negative reviews will rank lower. The reviews don’t have to be perfect, but they should be balanced. In fact, the MOZ study suggests that balanced reviews (rather than perfect “5 stars” or “all negative”) carry more weight from an SEO perspective.

The text of the reviews should mention the name of the business and the services and/or products provided by that business. A restaurant that sells “steak” would benefit if the reviews had the word “steak” in them. (But beware of *keyword stuffing.)

Lastly, each review site should have several reviews on them. One or two reviews on a review site will have little impact on SEO. ReviewInc suggests at least 10 reviews on each review site, with at least one of those in the last 30 days.

Subscribers to ReviewInc’s service can access their SEO Impact analyzer which is updated daily based on a business’s reviews. Here is a sample chart provided by the ReviewInc’s service:

SEO

Whether you are an existing ReviewInc subscriber or want to know more, just call us and we’ll be happy to discuss how we can help.
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Search Engine Optimization

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” listings on search engines. Local SEO, is a specialized kind of online marketing that increases visibility for businesses interested in ranking for geographically-related keywords. A large part of Local SEO involves ranking in the Local algorithms, as well as ranking well in the organic results for Local keywords.

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing is considered to be an unethical search engine optimization (SEO) technique, which leads to banning a website from major search engines either temporarily or permanently. Keyword stuffing occurs when a web page is loaded with keywords in the meta tags or in content of a web page. The repetition of words in meta tags may explain why many search engines no longer use these tags.

via Wikipedia.org.

Related Video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Dewcef19q8