Tom’s Story: How ArnimaONE Helped Him Stop Juggling Multiple Vendors

ArnimaOne - all-in-one web presence

All-in-One Web Presence Saves Time, Money & Aggravation

We talked to a lot of our customers and we found that the average business ends up dealing with at minimum 3, usually 4 and sometimes as many as 6 or more providers as they go through the process of getting their company on the web.

Tom’s Story

This is the story of Tom, one of our customers.

Tom had started a small company in the Tampa Bay area and he wanted to establish his company’s web presence. So like a lot of us, he started searching for website development companies online. He found a company that he liked, contacted them, had a series of meetings with them and they decided to work together.

Now, the company he selected did not offer any other service(s) except for website design & development. They had an okay reputation but what worked in their favor was an endorsement from one of Tom’s clients.

As a newbie, Tom was not fully aware of everything he would need to get this site up and running. And, unfortunately, the company he selected did not take the time to educate him about what was involved and what he should expect during the project. The simply started working on his website.

Sadly, this is more the norm than the exception.

As they started the design & development process, they asked Tom for a business logo. He did not have one.

So the website project went on hold and Tom scrambled to find a branding company that would design a logo for him. The design process took several weeks and when it was finally completed, the logo was turned over to his website developers and work resumed on the project.

When it came time to setup a development website for Tom’s project, his website developers asked for access to his website hosting platform. They claimed that they did not maintain any website hosting servers and they always asked their clients to provide access to their hosting for even the development website.

Once again, the project went on a temporary hold while Tom hunted for a website hosting company. Now, Tom did not know much about hosting and his developers did not provide any recommendations or assistance with sourcing website hosting so Tom had to struggle with narrowing down a suitable website hosting company. That took longer than expected and left Tom quite frustrated. In any case, work was re-started after website hosting was established.

As Tom started to learn more about the online world, he realized that he would eventually need an online strategy so he engaged an online presence consultant who actually made many good recommendations. Unfortunately, these recommendations changed the deliverables of the project.

Tom went back to the website design & development company with these changes and was forced to re-negotiate his contract because they claimed that these changes represented “significant project scope increase” that would cause them to do a “lot of rework”.  Not wanting to delay the project any further, Tom reluctantly agreed to the “scope creep” and work resumed.

Next, the website developers asked for website content. Once again, because they had not clarified when they would need website content, Tom had to yet again scramble to find a good content writer. So, a content writer was engaged and after a few days, content was delivered to the development firm.

Stop Juggling Multiple Vendors

By this time, Tom had already worked with 5 providers and was starting to lose his mind:

  1. Website development company to design & develop his website
  2. Branding company to design a logo for his business
  3. Web presence consultant to put together his web presence strategy
  4. Website hosting company to host his website after it was completed
  5. Content writer for content, blog posts, articles, and social updates

To Tom’s defense, it came down a lack of experience and education.

Since this was Tom’s first web presence project, he did not have much of an idea of what to expect and, more importantly, none of the providers took the time to educate Tom as to exactly what was needed and what he could expect to have to do during the course of his project.

By this time, Tom was running on fumes.

Tom had spent most of his time juggling various vendors and because of that he was unable to devote time to his business and that ultimately impacted this bottom line in a negative way. He was so utterly frustrated that he decided to put his so-called new website on a long-term hold while he gathered his wits.

Here are the problems Tom faced during the course of his project that led him to start over:

  • Invariable finger pointing due to multiple parties involved
  • Juggling between different service providers of various competency
  • Dealing with missed deadlines, incomplete and poor quality work
  • Spent an excessive time managing the project on his own
  • Unnecessary toe-stepping and duplication of tasks & costs
  • The project ended up costing him much more than it should have
  • The final outcome had to be scrapped as it simply did not work

Fortunately, one of our existing customers referred him to us. We met. We spoke. We discussed.

All-in-One Web Presence

At that time. we were putting the final touches on ArnimaONE but we decided to show him how it would work. We took Tom through the paces and he liked what he saw.

We took Tom through the paces and he liked what he saw.

ArnimaONE is an all-in-one web presence system that takes care of everything a business needs to get their web presence established on the Internet.

All-In-One Web Presence by ArnimaOne

To put it mildly, Tom was intrigued.

He realized that working with ArnimaONE would allow him to focus almost 100% on his business while he left the task of getting his company on the web to ArnimaONE.

That made him very happy. So he decided to work with us.

He was our “pilot” customer and he has been helping us fine-tune the product and we will forever be grateful to Tom for his valuable contributions.

So, there we have it. Tom is working with us and we know that he will end up with a great website.

If you want us to keep you in the loop about the launch of ArnimaONE, please head over to www.arnimaone.com and subscribe to our notifications system to stay updated. We will keep you updated. We also promise what we will not bombard you with excessive emails.

Have you dealt with such a frustrating situation where you had to juggle multiple vendors? Please share your thoughts if you have.

Why You Should Never Take Yelp Reviews Seriously

Please Don't Review Us on Yelp

Some Background

One of our ex-clients from over 10 years ago (circa 2005) posted a negative review about our company on Yelp back in late 2014. The first reaction was one of dismay. How the heck did we end up with such a review, and that too on Yelp? We decided to let emotions settle down and after a few days, we sat back and re-analyzed the situation and decided that it was not as bad as it had initially seemed. After all, this review was a complete lie and we had more than enough proof in the form of emails dating back to 2004 that substantiate that. We also discussed the issue with our attorney and he advised us to simply ignore it and move on. Here is a screenshot of the review and here is the link on yelp.com.

Yelp's Recommended Review of Arnima

Then, a second review for our company appeared on Yelp about 3 months ago. This, too, was written by an older client who had worked with us from 2009 through 2014. We received a 5-star review from this client based on what had happened between our two companies and how they felt about working with us. Here is a screenshot of the 5-star review and here is a link on Yelp.com.

Yelp's Not-Recommended Review of Arnima

Not-Recommended

Now, what makes no sense is that Yelp flagged this new, 5-star review as not recommended and they hide it from plain view in a difficult-to-find section with a light grey title that is barely visible. And what’s more baffling is that Yelp flagged, and continues to flag, the 1-star negative review as recommended!!

Se, we reached out to Yelp and told them that the 1-star review was a lie and that we had more than enough evidence in the form of emails to prove our claim and that we would be more than happy to supply them with this evidence. Yelp replied that they had evaluated our statements (it is interesting to note that not once did they ask for the emails that we mentioned as proof) and stated that they would stand by the review and there was no chance of them removing it.

Yelp claimed that they had sophisticated filters in place that evaluated each review and flagged them accordingly as “recommended” or “not recommended”.

We wrote back to Yelp and sent them a link along with access credentials to a password protected URL where we had uploaded screenshots of relevant emails. Yelp wrote back saying that they had evaluated the material supplied and that they were going to still stand by their earlier decision and that they would not pull the review. What really stands out here was that Yelp NEVER EXAMINED OR LOOKED at the material supplied. We know that because we had enabled tracking on the URL and the login credentials supplied to Yelp were never used!!

We wrote back to Yelp and pointed out that the evidence supplied had never been looked at. This time, we received a rather testy reply stating that they were going to let the 1-star review remain and that this case was now closed and that they would no longer entertain any more discussion about this review. Talk about arrogance!

So we turned to Google and did a lot of searching. And this is where things got really interesting!

Yelp is Allowed to Manipulate Reviews

The first thing we discovered is that Judge Marsha Berzon from California ruled that “it is not unlawful for Yelp to post and sequence reviews”. This essentially allows Yelp to manipulate reviews as they see fit. It seems that Yelp penalizes businesses that refuse to spend money on their advertising platform. This is based on tens of thousands of business making the same claim. Let’s think about this for a moment. Why would tens of thousands of unconnected businesses across the country (and the world) make the same claim? Of course, Yelp denies this vehemently but this is something that does make us go hmmm.

For the record, we refused to pay Yelp for advertising and we continue to refuse to pay Yelp for advertising. Hmmm again?

Research

Based on our research, we now know that Yelp reviews should be taken with a grain, albeit, a cupful of salt.  Here are links to a bunch of material we found on the web about Yelp reviews. But does the average person know this? Most probably not.

ABC Chicago

ABC Chicago posted an article in March 2015 entitled”Yelp Reviews. Real or Fake?”. Read this article at http://abc7chicago.com/archive/9458431/.

Be sure to look at the comments since they shed much more light on the questionable practices of Yelp.

Here are some comments that make one wonder:

Yelp-ABC-Comments Yelp-ABC-Comments-2

Forbes

Forbes published an article in August 2012 entitled Think Yelp is Unbiased? Think Again!.

Read the Forbes article at http://www.forbes.com/sites/jimhandy/2012/08/16/think-yelp-is-unbiased-think-again/

Here is  a screenshot from the article that put things in perspective:

Yelp-Forbes-Comments

 

Boston University

This article was published on BU Today in November 2013. You can read it at http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/yelp-reviews-can-you-trust-them/

Search Engine Journal

We found the following article on Search Engine Journal at http://www.searchenginejournal.com/yelp-filter-positive-reviews-business-refuses-pay-advertising/98695/.

Search Engine Watch

We found the following article on Search Engine Watch at http://searchenginewatch.com/sew/opinion/2364585/court-rules-yelp-may-demand-money-for-adding-and-removing-reviews/

SF First

Next, we found the following articles on SF First, a San Fransisco based publication:

http://sfist.com/2014/09/04/yelp_is_allowed_to_manipulate_ratin.php

East Bay Express

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/yelp-and-the-business-of-extortion-20/Content?oid=1176635

Yelp Sucks

http://yelp-sucks.com/

The very fact that an actual website about Yelp Sucks exists speaks volumes about their unfair and nefarious practices. Hundreds, if not thousands, of small businesses have been hurt by Yelp’s practices. Many have had to even shutter their doors! Most claim that Yelp pressuirizes then to pay for advertising. And if they don’t then the good reviews disappear and the negative ones show up.

Review Trackers

http://www.reviewtrackers.com/business-owner-delete-bad-yelp-google-reviews/

And Much More

There are  many more articles about Yelp and their unfair practices that it would lead to a 5,000 word blog post and that is not the intention here. We suggest that you read the above articles and decide for yourself how much credibility you actually want to put into Yelp.

Conclusion

In conclusion, we would like to advise our readers to NOT blindly trust reviews on Yelp. Not because the reviews are necessarily “bad”, rather, because of the questionable is the so-called filtering algorithm that Yelp has implemented.

What are your thoughts on Yelp’s practices? How would you keep Yelp honest for businesses and reviewers?

11 Lessons Learned When We Did Not Update Our Website for 3 Years

11 Lessons Learned When We Did Not Update Our Website for 3 Years

We did not update our website and our blog for about two and a half years.

There are many reasons. Some valid. Some not.We learned some very harsh lessons and we wanted to share them.

During this time, we learned some very harsh lessons and we want to share them with you.

So, here goes…

What do you think happened when we did not update our website? Our rank dropped on all search engines. That was expected.

We lost a ton of traffic. That too was expected. Our inbound leads dried up. That, also, was no surprise.

We did not sign up a lot of new customers. Our competitors leapfrogged right past us. Our call volume decreased. Our bottom line was affected. Again, all expected.

And then, there also a few things that we did not anticipate.

Here’s a detailed look at that happened:

Outcomes that were Expected

1. Search Rank Drop

Back in early 2013, we ranked in the top 10 on Google, Bing and Yahoo (see below) for over 200 search terms. We were actually at #1 for some 50 search terms, ones that are most relevant to our business. This generated a ton of traffic and inbound leads.

Fast forward to 2015. We currently rank in 40+ position for the same search terms and that is pretty much useless for all intents and purposes.

Google, especially, has become adept at identifying web properties that do not remain relevant because of a lack of fresh content and blog updates. It is a well-known fact that content updates are critical so you can maintain proper search engine rank.

Here is our Rank in 2012/2013. You can see that we were in the top 10 search results on all Bing/Yahoo and Google:

Arnima's SEO Rank in 2012

As of the writing of this article, at best, we are in the 50 – 100+ for the above keywords.

Lesson Learned: Search engine algorithms are very sophisticated and can very quickly flag websites that have “stale” content. So make sure you update the content in your site regularly.

2. Web Traffic Decline

Traffic went down. Seriously. For the most part, traffic depends on search engine rank (among other factors) and if your rank drops, your traffic will more than likely drop correspondingly. It was actually quite painful to watch search engine rank decline ever-so-slowly and to also see traffic decrease accordingly.

Here is a look at traffic stats for January 2013:

GA-2012

Now compare that to traffic stats for the six 6 months of 2015. You will see a 90% decline across the board!

GA-2015

We went from about 300 unique visitors per day down to less than 10 unique visitors per day. That was a loss of more than 90%.

Lesson Learned: Visitor traffic is heavily dependent on your search engine rank. If people cannot find you, your website will not get traffic. If visitors don’t like what they see or cannot find what they are looking for, they will leave.

3. Decline in Inbound Leads.

Our inbound leads declined. We went from 15-18 inbound requests per day down to 2-3 requests per week.

As an Internet marketing and website development company, we are dependent upon good quality inbound leads. Of course, we also do outbound marketing activities as part of our marketing efforts those are limited and inbound marketing still takes the cake. The decline in search engine rank corresponds to a reduction in traffic and that translates into significantly fewer inbound leads.

Lesson Learned: As a business that is highly dependent on inbound leads, it is critically important to monitor, manage and search rank along with social presence in addition to continuous content updates.

Arnima OldWebsite Non Mobile Friendly

4. Mobile Visitors

This is how our website appeared on a smartphone.

Because our website was not responsive and because we didn’t have a dedicated mobile website, we were losing close to 90 to 95% of all mobile visitors. The new website is 100% responsive and automatically scales to fit the screen of the device accessing it.

We have kept the design and layout simple and easy to work with. We have successfully avoided the temptation of excessive visual elements, however, we are conducting split A/B tests and that may change in the near future.

Lesson Learned: Your website should be 100% mobile-friendly. Google has a nifty tool that lets you check the mobile friendliness and will give you a breakdown of any issues that it discovers. A responsive website is the best way to go.

5. Loss of Credibility

This is an interesting one.

Credibility is dependent upon search engine rank, traffic stats, inbound leads, portfolio and such other important signals. Essentially, everything is tied at the hip. So if you lose rank, you lose traffic, you automatically lose credibility because you are no longer found in the top listings on search engines.

Lesson Learned: Sure, search engine rank is important but what is almost as important is your credibility. You can learn more about the importance of credibility in Rajeev Ratra’s Paid Advertising vs SEO article

6. Loss of Existing Customers

We slowly started to lose credibility with existing clients. Because our website was dated and not maintained properly, we actually lost few existing clients to competition. This was probably the most difficult issue to handle.

Lesson Learned: They say that it is more effort and cost intensive to acquire new customers and it is so much better to keep existing customers happy. A lot of what we do is subjective and if we feel that the company we are working with has lost its edge, we will look elsewhere. Work hard to keep your current customers happy.

Not-so-obvious outcomes

7. Former Customers

We periodically reach out and contact former customers to follow up and see if they need any assistance with their online presence.

They would want to see our website to refresh their memory, or perhaps to see where we were placed on search engines. After all, that was how they had found us in the first place! Due to the rank drop and due to a dated website that was not updated, we had a hard time engaging with some former customers.

We also did actually lose a few deals because of an outdated website.

Lesson Learned: We work hard to maintain contact with former customers. Typically, we call them, or email them once every so often. Since there is a level of trust with former customers that left “happy”, it is best

8. Social Profiles

Our social likes and shares literally came to a standstill. Social media is all about sharing in a timely manner. Current events drive social interaction and most people are not interested in yesterday’s news.  We have not updated our social profiles nor have we shared updates for just about as long as we have not updated our website.

Lesson Learned: Social media is unforgiving when it comes to certain things, especially dated or old/stale information. 

9. It Became Embarrassing 

Over time, it became embarrassing to have a dated website. We would hesitate to give our business cards or draw attention to our website because it was so dated. I clearly remember a call earlier year from a prospective client who actually reprimanded us. Quoting him verbatim: “You guys really need a new website! How can I work with a website design and internet marketing company when that cannot even manage and maintain their own website? Why should I trust you to take care of my online presence?”

Lesson Learned: Search engine algorithms have become very sophisticated and can very quickly flag websites that have “stale” content. So make sure you update the content in your site regularly.

10. Prospective Employees

We stopped getting emails from prospective employees, freelancers and people looking to partner with us. On average, we used to get 12-15 such emails or phone calls each week and that has gone down to 0 as of now.

Lesson Learned: Search engine algorithms have become very sophisticated and can very quickly flag websites that have “stale” content. So make sure you update the content in your site regularly.

11. Solicitation E-mails and Telemarketing calls

There was one positive! We used to get a ton of unwanted solicitation calls every day. These dried up pretty quickly as people were not able to find us and had no need to contact us.

Lesson Learned: Search engine algorithms have become very sophisticated and can very quickly flag websites that have “stale” content. So make sure you update the content in your site regularly.

The Bottom Line

Update Update Update

In conclusion, we cannot stress enough that you need to stay on top of your web presence. And,  if you rely on the Internet for any business or if inbound marketing figures in your overall marketing strategy, make sure that:

  • You update your website regularly with relevant and meaningful content that your visitors find interesting
  • Your website has a design that is consistent with current trends; older designs look dated and lead to people clicking the close or back button
  • Your site is responsive for mobile-device friendliness so it can adapt to the screen size of any device being used to access it
  • Your website has relevant social media presence by selecting the right social channels that make sense for your business
  • You collect search engine traffic stats, bounce rates, heat maps (if you use them) and other data to proactively identify and correct issues

If you blog, follow a regular schedule and update your blog consistently. Otherwise, don’t blog.

We have since completely overhauled and updated our website, and we are blogging on a regular and consistent frequency.

The best advice I can give you is to update your website regularly and consistently. If you are running WordPress, stay on top of code, plugin, theme and other updates as well.

Have you ever gone a long time without updating your website? If yes, what has been your experience?

The Effect of Google’s Panda Update

The Effects of Google's Panda Update

The latest update from Google is poised to transform the world of search engine optimization (SEO). With this update, Google’s search engine ranking algorithms will take into account not just the popularity of a website or web page, but will also take into consideration the overall user experience of that website or web page.

Using the technology of machine learning, search engine spiders will focus on more than just the quantifiable markers of a website’s popularity or relevance. Essentially, a website will now have to provide an overall positive user experience to gain and maintain top search engine rank.

Prior to this update, best SEO practices were focused on traditional techniques such as:
-increasing the number of inbound links using link building, directory submissions etc
-ongoing content optimization and keyword improvement
-regular updates to content, such as a blog

Sure, these things will still continue to matter but not as much as they did before. The Panda update has, more than anything, taken some of the power away from the purely technical SEO company and handed that to the human user!

A website or web page must now provide an overall experience that will satisfy a human end user:
-Is the design attractive?
-Is everything in the right place?
-Is what is being looked for easy to find?
-Is the content not only interesting but varied enough to be of real value?
-Will the content entice the user come back multiple times?
-Did the user give a vote of confidence to the website or web page?

The job of an SEO (Search Engine Optimizer) has transformed into that of a WPS – Web Presence Strategist – as the disciplines of web design and development and search engine optimization now converge. Whilst an SEO specialist could previously focus on solely the technical aspects of SEO, he or she now must include much more to get a website to rank well on Google.com.

SEO companies will start to deal with machines that learn which websites are liked better by human users. It will be important to focus on this human element in addition to continuing to work on the traditional elements of SEO. Social media is expected to play a critical part and the likes and dislikes of human users and this will surely have a serious impact on the search engine ranks of websites.

The bottom line is to provide maximum value for human users – attractive design, simple and easy navigation, great usability, uncluttered layouts and interesting – and relevant –  content. All of these will matter. The Panda update has ensured that new referrals will come to businesses in a much more organic way, i.e., via recommendations, Diggs, Facebook likes, Google +1s, etc. No longer will people just find a new business based only on its technical adherence to search engine optimization algorithm specs.

As a Florida SEO company, Arnima, is strategically positioned to assist you with making sure that your website continues to rank well by incorporating the essential aspects of the Panda update into your website marketing strategy whilst maintaining the traditional SEO technical elements.