You might need more than just web content

Today I was writing for a tour company in the Rocky Mountains of the USA. They offer horseback riding and ATV tours and lodging. They’re trying to pitch their services for catering and events and I think they need more than just a team of content writers bringing traffic to their website.  Here’s what I was able to find in just five minutes of poking around online:

Keep in mind that over 75% of the reviews were five-star reviews.  So this place doesn’t suck in general, they’re getting excellent reviews 3/4 of the time. It’s just not enough.

I didn’t find a single positive review of the ATV tours on any travel review site anywhere. It seems the owner of the company was a bit militant about maintaining a low speed and the guests thought he was rude and the experience of creeping along slowly was boring. One likened it to being part of a chain gang or a funeral procession.

To solve this: I’d recommend he market it as a slow tour and make sure the guests aren’t expecting something different. There’s nothing wrong with a slow ride in general, but there is something wrong with failing to live up to a customer’s expectations.  There’s something about the term ATV that implies off-roading and even mud splashing. If that’s not what you’re offering, make it clear before they book the tour.

Reviewers had legitimate complaints about the customer service they were greeted with over the phone.  I suspect it was the owner of the property, in which case… tsk tsk… You need to stop answering your own phone or retire. Either way, each of these review websites allows the property owner to log in and respond.  At the very least, he could log in and say “I’m sorry, my dog died that day and I was crabby to everyone. My bad.”  If the reviews aren’t true he can deny them (although that always looks like lying).  Instead of hiring an online reputation management company to provide him with customer feedback and respond to negative reviews, he looks like even more of a jerk ignoring them. His effort to hire content writers to help promote a business that appears to have around 50 reviews a month seems misguided. What percentage of visitors leave reviews? He’s booked through the season. He doesn’t need to increase his web traffic through Search Engine Optimization, he needs to take better care of his guests.

Finally, I visited their Facebook page.  In several of the reviews, customers mentioned one gifted tour guide by name. “He was the best,” and  “he was so much fun,” and “he made sure we all had a great time.”  On the company’s Facebook wall, I could see that he recently commented on an event the facility hosted.  I clicked on his face to reveal his personal profile and found him bemoaning the fact that he had to fish a tampon out of the toilet at work using catering tongs.

Yeah, I’m sure that’s good for their catering business.

Yuck.

The lesson here is to ALWAYS be completely mindful of what your online presence is saying about your company.  Adding more company blog posts to your website won’t always solve the problem. As content writers, there’s nothing we can do about the bad reviews the company is ignoring or the fact that their catering equipment works double-duty in the outhouse.  As a freelancer, however, you can bet I’ll be sending him a complete impact assessment of his web presence.  Cha ching.

That’s the difference between a content writer and a freelancer.

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