OK, so this will be a real left turn kind of post. It has not much at all to do with video production. It has to do with running your business. Especially for agencies, but really for everyone.
In the past few years, a number of review and rating websites have sprouted up claiming to make it easier for clients to find agency and creative partners. Many of these websites are “pay to play”, which has always bugged me. But the insidious one of this new group of agency review sites has really gained ground lately and it is not OK. This one demands that you as an agency owner ask your clients to submit to an almost hourlong phonecall review, during which they are solicited to use this company’s website to find future vendors. Do you want to send your clients to a company that tries to get your clients to hire other vendors? Most important: do you want to waste an hour of your clients’ precious time? I don’t. By the way, all the information they get from your clients becomes THEIR information. Let that sink in. They own it. Not you.
I’ve worked to build PatrickOrtman, Inc. up for a long time, and we are indeed a video production industry leader (see how I just linked to my own company website with keyword-specific text?), so for the past few years, we’ve been one of this website’s Los Angeles and New York “video production industry leaders”. OK. When I log in to their site, I see my company is indeed listed as one of their “leaders”, but we are surrounded by so many unqualified and crappy companies that being on their list kinda feels dirty. And really, how can you compare a company that does $1,000 videos with companies like us? You really can’t. Different audiences entirely.
In a nutshell, their lists are bullshit. And useless.
But wow do they flog those lists. They put out tons of press releases about those lists. They offer to write you blog posts trumpeting your company’s placement on their video production leaders list! With backlinks to them, naturally, to help them raise their company’s visibility in Google.
And Google has not yet caught on, so they get great traction online. They’re always in the top 2-5 places when you search for agencies of any type, despite their information being rather tainted and their listing methodology dicey at best.
What’s more, this company is now scraping the Internet for additional (dubious) information about your business and placing that online without your OK or even trying to verify that information. What kinds of information? I am seeing bankruptcy listings, credit score notes… it goes on. See how this could really screw your business, long-term?
Meanwhile, their true revenue source is getting agencies to pay thousands of dollars a month to maintain sponsorships on their website so your company stands out at the top of their lists instead of being #72 and surrounded by spam companies that taint your brand.
This company is creating information that is not meant to benefit you as a company. You are not the client, you are the product.
Speaking of that, they’ve now added a second revenue stream: getting agencies to bid on client job information. To be clear: not bidding on the job. You’d be bidding for the honor of paying this company to present you to the potential client as a “recommended agency”. No joke.
And agencies take it! They take it! They get down on their knees and beg for more of it! So they GET more of it.
I see no reason to play their games and contribute to their business’ profits anymore. It’s a tough decision, because this company has gotten to where they are an 800 lb gorilla in the marketplace. Luckily, my video agency’s website has stellar search engine visibility in our markets. We’re lucky that I came from the oldschool of the web, where you actually build your business and its reputation through channels you own or at least who don’t have an overt reason to fuck with you.
Agency owners probably are wondering: “Great, be righteous dude. But the question is, does this company work if you pay them and willingly play their games?”. To that I say: we do get traffic from this company’s website. We have not gotten a single decent lead. And many of the “visits” we get from them? Not real people. Bots. Maybe if you paid them thousands a month, they’d work for you in a limited way. Maybe. As they continue to ratchet up the blood they’re sucking from your video agency until you just can’t justify the bleeding anymore.
It is always best to own and control your website and your social channels. And advertising needs to be clearly labeled as advertising. And don’t assume that some scammy company’s “best of” list has anything to do with reality. That’s the lesson, I think.