ABC Motor Credit raises $66,000+ for Walk for Babies


There are many happy families in Ohio tonight.

On Sunday, September 24, ABC Motor Credit held a Walk for Babies campaign in support of the NICU at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, OH. This was the 5th year participating in the event with nearly 1,000 people participating on 98 different teams. Each team blazed a safe path around the lions and the tigers at the Akron Zoo.

Collectively, ABC Motor Credit raised $66,796 for the NICU at Akron Children’s Hospital, bringing the 5 year grand total to over $250,000.

Presto Reviews was a proud sponsor of the event which helped ABC Motor Credit continue to raise money for a needy and worthy cause.

ABC Motor Credit

Is Google a monopoly? Thoughts on September 21, 2011 Senate Hearings.


The September 21, 2011 Google hearings were very interesting and brought a few things to light worth mentioning.

The first item is that the Senators representing the Judiciary Sub Committee had limited knowledge of how the search giant works, but they do have able staffs who helped prepare them for the hearings. Conservative Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah was a great example as he arrived at the hearings loaded with screenshots and analyses for various shopping keywords and questioned how Google owned shopping sites came up third on page one, in almost all cases. Not one other shopping site he listed in his presentation including Nextag, Price Grabber or Shopper had such a consistent track record of appearing third for a sampling of 650 keywords, and Sen Lee actually asked Google CEO Eric Schmidt if he “cooked it so you are always third”. The answer was obvious from Schmidt, “Senator, I can assure you we have not cooked anything”, but some real damage had been done to Google with the presentation. It was an admittedly eye opening example of how Google may be manipulating search for their own products. Senator Lee was by far the most critical of Google at these hearings.

Democratic Senator from Minnesota, Al Franken also conducted an interesting line of questions. What made them intriguing to me was that in his opening statement he said “I love Google” for the record, and proceeded to launch his own attack via questions about how Google had treated Yelp unfairly in the past and asked very specific anti Google questions of expert attorneys who were present. One such attorney was Susan A. Creighton, Partner Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, PC Washington, DC, a pro Googler, who shared her thoughts on why the company was not a monopoly by her definition and the other, Thomas O. Barnett, Partner Covington & Burling LLP Washington, DC was clearly in the opposite camp. He had in fact represented Trip Advisor in an effort to block Google’s purchase of ITA (a competitive flight search software company Google had recently purchased) and considered Google to clearly be a monopoly worthy of government intervention. The line of questioning by Franken elicited his support for Barnett’s opinion. His distaste for Ms. Creighton’s thoughts was evident in his words and reactions to her comments.

The entire hearing was fascinating but I chose to include only 2 videos, both about about Yelp, mainly because they are so intertwined in our industry (for better or worse). The hearings demonstrated an important challenge that Google will be facing after these hearings; the ability to scrape content without authorization under the guise of organic content delivery.

The first is Jeremy Stoppleman’s opening statement regarding the hearings and why he thinks it is important that Google be challenged by the government.

Listen to Stoppleman tell his side of the Google/Yelp saga in which he claims Google scraped Yelp’s content-unauthorized, and re purposed it on Places. Once Yelp spurned Google’s $550 million dollar offer to be purchased, it appears as though the relationship soured.

As mentioned, the hearings were very anti Google and for better or worse I think we are in for some more significant changes in organic search and Google Places because of them.

My own opinion (and I have been sharing it for the last year or more with all three people who listen :)) has been that Google Places is “Under Construction”…it is a very important piece of a reputation management strategy, but it is not the only one. There are 2 primary reasons for this as I see it:

1) Google Places has little to no direct support internally and those that do work on it apparently aren’t finished building it. How many changes have we seen occur in the last 12 months alone? How much more blind faith can we put there after what we have seen (even prior to a recent FTC investigation launch and the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on their practices)? Case in point, July 21, 2011, reviews that once rolled up to Places stopped rolling up and no longer counted in the number of stars showing on a business profile. The numerous dealers who relied on Dealer Rater to push their reviews to Places were left holding the bag. No fault of Dealer Rater who promoted this as a cornerstone of their product, but how do you think dealers and businesses felt who hung their hat on this strategy to build their star rating?

Dealer Rater trusted Google and the dealers trusted Dealer Rater. It wasn’t Dealer Rater’s fault this happened, but it did. So now dealers are focusing all of their attention on getting reviews to show on Places with a direct approach by getting reviews written in the dealership via a Google account. This is a better plan, but how many people remember, or are even aware that Google originally lost tens of thousands of reviews in Oct 2010? What if it happens again? Then what?

2) Google Places does not allow for syndication. Are we really counting on all of our customers ONLY seeing reviews on Google Places? What about Presto Reviews or Dealer Rater, Merchant Circle, or your own website, or a string of page one grabbing microsites you could build to showcase these great comments. If you aren’t doing business with a review company/platform that allows for near total syndication, then I would suggest moving them down the list of important vendors. This type of content is designed to be grown in a “hub and spoke” environment and showcased on the digital highway…until Google sees other wise I suppose.

The point here is that dealers and other businesses need to be aware that the review/reputation management landscape is constantly changing and that there are many “experts” promoting various agendas and “flavor of the days ideas”. Some are worth listening to while others offer sugar water for a quick boost of energy.

Take the time required to learn more about important strategies and companies who promote themselves in this space. Word of mouth marketing will continue to become more and more important as an entire generation of tech savvy children grow up and start consuming your products. How will they find you? And more importantly, what will their friends be saying about you?

Click here to see the entire Google Anti Trust hearing.

Google Maps for Android


Google Maps for Android has announced the completion of an update to version 5.10.0 which includes two new features: the ability to attach photos to Google Places reviews and the option to see Google Places that you have rated with a 4 or 5 star rating. Both of these additions are yet just another indicator that business reviews are becoming more and more important as users begin to lean towards businesses that have more positive reviews online. Google’s recent update, which allows user generated photos to be posted directly on a Google Places review, has given more accountability to a business’s reputation management strategy by opening up the flood gates to more user generated content.

But beware. The Google Maps application for Android does come with a bit of potential controversy.

By allowing users to upload photos to a venue’s Google Places page and into their review, the flood gates for “spammers and scammers” swing wide open. Photo uploading with a consumer’s review can also potentially be viewed as an open invite for unethical business practices, such as a local business or disgruntled former employee posting a photo of their business information on your business’s Google review. We can only hope that Google will have some sort of flagging system in place that allows a business to report certain photos that are deemed inappropriate (i.e. photos of other businesses, spam photos, etc). Google’s algorithm cannot decode what content is in an image; it can only see that the file is an image file and Google displays it just as an image should be displayed. Therefore, it will be important that each business actively checks their Google Places page and the reviews associated with it to ensure that your business is not being unfairly targeted by “haters” and “spammers”.

On the flip side, Google’s addition of displaying 4 and 5 star rated reviews for businesses that a consumer had previously reviewed is a great way to retain a loyal consumer base. Encouraging your customers to give you a high rating on Google is the equivalent of asking them to put a reminder in their phone about your business. After they have rated your business, that consumer would always see your venue in their Google Maps application when they were within a short distance of your business.

As Google moves further into allowing user generated content to be posted on their Google reviews, it will be interesting to see how their photo submission methods and their displaying of previously rated 4 and 5 star businesses truly affect future business performance. And with Google’s recent purchase of Zagat, it is likely that we will see Google Places continue to evolve into more of a focus on user generated content and social media integration features as social media and reviews written by other customers within that users own social network become more and more relevant within Google search results.

SURVEY: Four of Five Consumers Reverse Purchase Decision Based on Negative Online Reviews


BOSTON – At a time when 89 percent of consumers say they find online channels trustworthy sources for product and service reviews, new Cone research reveals four-out-of-five consumers have changed their minds about a recommended purchase based solely on negative information they found online. This is up from just 67 percent of consumers who said the same in 2010, according to the 2011 Cone Online Influence Trend Tracker. Positive information has a similar effect on decision making, with 87 percent of consumers agreeing a favorable review has confirmed their decision to purchase. But, negative information is gaining traction and is now just as powerful in tipping the scales against a recommended purchase.

Data from the survey underscore the growing power of online reviews to lead consumers to the cash register or, conversely, drive them away. As compared to one year ago, consumers are more likely to open their wallets when they can find online recommendations to support offline advice (85% versus 77%).

“The increasing impact of online content on buying decisions cannot be ignored,” noted Bill Fleishman, president,Cone. “We work with a range of clients from Fortune 500s to entrepreneurs, and our message remains the same. Today’s marketers, no matter the product or service, must learn how to sway the conversation by connecting with those who have significant influence over their peers and will champion the brand message.”

Survey data suggest this year-over-year increase in online verification may be attributed to near-universal access to the Internet and the pervasiveness of the smartphone. Today, online product or service information is literally at consumers’ fingertips with nearly three-out-of-five (59%) reporting that they are more likely to research recommended products online because they can easily access applications on their mobile phones, and 81 percent crediting wide-spread access to the Internet.

The increase in online purchase verification may also be attributed to careful spending. Americans are nearly 25 percent more likely to verify recommendations for high-cost purchases, such as cars, today than they were in 2010(89% today vs. 72%), while moderate- and low-cost purchases did not experience the same jump.

“Today’s consumers want reassurance before loosening their purse strings, and personal recommendations alone are just not enough to guarantee a purchase,” explained Mike Hollywood, director of New Media, Cone. “The explosion of online word-of-mouth channels and the adoption of online verification have forever changed the marketing landscape. Targeting the right people is a marketer’s first step toward influencing the conversation.”

When logging on to learn more about a potential purchase, Americans are increasingly putting their trust in articles and blog posts. In fact, consumers are 50 percent more likely today than in 2010 to look to articles and blogs for recommendation verifications (42% in 2011 vs. 28% in 2010). Articles and blogs may still lag behind product information (69%) and consumer reviews (64%) as preferred sources of information, but they are growing in importance. And this may continue because consumers say a trustworthy source is less about the channel and more about the author. Americans say the most trustworthy sources will have used the product or service before (69%) or be considered a credible expert in the space (60%). Reporters and bloggers who have gained recognition as subject-matter experts through product/service trial and error have the opportunity to draw consumers in with their informed recommendations.

For a copy of the 2011 Cone Online Influence Trend Tracker fact sheet, please contact Andrea List (alist@coneinc.com) or visit www.coneinc.com/2011ConeOnlineInfluenceTrendTracker.

About the Survey:
The 2011 Cone Online Influence Trend Tracker presents the findings of an online survey conducted June 27-29, 2011 by ORC International among a representative U.S. sample of 1,054 adults comprising 505 men and 549 women 18 years of age and older. The margin of error associated with a sample of this size is ±3%.

About Cone:
Cone (www.coneinc.com) is a Boston-based public relations and marketing communications agency engaged in building brand trust. Cone creates stakeholder loyalty and long-term relationships through the development and execution of Cause Brandingsm, Brand Marketing, Nonprofit Marketing, Corporate Responsibility and Crisis Prevention and Management initiatives. Cone is a part of the Omnicom Group (NYSE: OMC) (www.omnicomgroup.com).

Original article posted at Cone Inc.

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