Not long ago, it was rare for a retail or service business to be publicly criticized. If businesses appeared in the news at all, it was usually because they had applied for zoning variances, sponsored a softball team or opened a new outlet.
Then the Internet came along and consumers were suddenly free to share their opinions about the service they had received from their auto mechanic, the quality of their new flat-screen TV or the trustworthiness of their lawn service.
In the early days of the Internet, companies thought they could sue consumers into silence by filing lawsuits against sites like ours. This not only doesn’t work, it produces even more bad press when, invariably, consumers’ right to free expression is upheld in court. More recently, small businesses have been falling for pitches like that from Done! SEO, a search engine optimization company that claims it can make consumer complaints disappear from sites like ConsumerAffairs.com.
Retailers and service providers sometimes pay thousands of dollars a month for these “removal” services before they realize their money has been wasted.
Despite what some SEO firms claim, they are not able to somehow obliterate complaint pages on our site. They can generate tens of thousands of pages of fraudulent content claiming to be from real consumers but this is a) illegal and subject to civil and criminal prosecution and b) ineffective, as all of the major search engines are quick to detect attempts to spam their results with bogus postings.
Taking all of this into account, ConsumerAffairs.com has recently instituted new programs that make it easier for companies to engage constructively with their customers.
Specifically, our “Accedited Business” program requires local retailers and service providers to subscribe to a Code of Good Practices and to respond promptly and proactively to customer complaints. And, our “Reputation Management” program for larger businesses establishes a direct, public communications channel that facilitates fast, efficient exchanges with aggrieved customers.
Our founder and editor likes to say that “a good reputation can’t be bought, but it can be earned.” Can’t say it much better than that.
How are your experiences with SEO scam? I am looking forward to your comments below!
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About the author:
Ryan Eslicker is head the Consumer Affairs small business outreach department. Ryan interacts with consumers and small businesses to understand obstacles they currently face. He generates and manages content that educates all of our consumers about these complaints. Ryan has an Undergraduate degree from Oklahoma State University in Finance Masters in Business Administration from University of Tulsa. He also has experience in managing and marketing websites.
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