Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How The BBB Helps With Your Internet Marketing & SEO

This blog post was written by Phil Singleton, Founder & CEO of Kansas City Web Design, a Kansas City BBB A+ rated accredited business.  For more information click here: web design kansas city

There are so many reasons why businesses should join the BBB.  Most of these are well-known and self-explanatory.  Yet,  BBB Accreditation provides your business with many online benefits that are often overlooked.

The BBB is a highly trusted website.  The search engines know that BBB members go through an extensive vetting process to become accredited.   The information on your BBB Business Review, including the link back to your company’s website, provides search engines with important information about your business.  While a BBB listing is by no means a ‘magic bullet’ that ensures high search engine rankings, it can help to boost your overall Internet marketing efforts and provide other benefits as well.

Here’s why:

1. BBB is a PR8 Website: The major search engines consider BBB.org to be a ‘high authority’ website.   Google, for example, has a score for websites called PageRank, rated from 0-10 (Google.com is a PR9 website).  Have you ever wondered why some websites appear ahead of yours in search results?  One possibility is that your competitors have more high authority websites linking back to their site.  This is over-simplifying search engine optimization (SEO) because many factors influence your website’s rank – but high quality backlinks are still a very important part. In other words, a link from BBB to your website is a valuable link.

2. BBB Kansas City is a PR5 website:  Local chapters pages of the BBB tend to have a PageRank as well.  The Kansas City BBB has a high page rank in its own right.  Further, the combination of high domain authority with local, highly relevant content makes your link(s) from the BBB valuable.

3.  Your BBB Page Is a Powerful ‘Mini Site’:  The Kansas BBB has strong organic rankings for many types of searches.  If your company takes advantage of all the great features on your BBB profile page, your BBB page can achieve its own organic rankings.  In other words, a prospective Kansas City customer could search for a service and it’s possible that your BBB company page could rank for that search term. 

Further, if you have an SEO program in place, your Internet marketing consultant can drive SEO efforts at your BBB page – extend your keyword reach an overall Internet visibility.

4.  BBB Interactive Seals Increase Conversion Rates: A highly visible, accredited BBB seal is extremely helpful for ‘website conversions’.  A website conversion is the action you would like your prospective customers to take at the end of their website visit.  This could be an online sale, a phone call, filling out a contact for or application, etc.  Your website visitors develop a first impression in a fraction of a second.  After that initial impression, your website has another three seconds to convince visitors to stay and read more.  A highly visible BBB seal helps establish credibility and trust immediately, which in turn will help in increase your website’s conversion rate.

5.  High Quality Outbound Links:  Backlinks pointing to your website are just one SEO ranking factor.  Strategically placed outbound links can contribute to your website’s organic search engine rankings.  This is especially helpful when creating blog posts to your website.  When you are writing on a topic and the text or page contains an outbound link to a relevant, quality website, this link is often perceived by search engines to add value to the page or post.  Thus, linking your seal to your BBB profile page, or linking to a BBB page or blog post may contribute to your organic rankings.

In summary, if you are a BBB Accredited Business, be sure to take advantage of the SEO benefits that your membership can bring.  Make sure your profile is up to date and contains your website information.  Add relevant and optimized content to your member page (logo, images, videos, etc.).  Display the BBB seal prominently on your website.  Hyperlink your seal to your BBB company profile page, and when appropriate or relevant, link other website pages to the Kansas City BBB site and Kansas City BBB blog.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Here Comes [cue music] THE SOCIETY

I haven't laughed this hard in a long time.

The Kansas City BBB is receipt of the stupidest letter in the history of mankind.

It begins with what might as well be a dark and stormy night, the treasure map on the back of the Constitution is lit under the glow of a black light, standing on an easel behind the person who wrote the following letter... Please try to imagine THIS GUY's voice when reading the letter. It makes it even better.

"_____, we are the rich, the famous, the powerful--and the creme de la creme of society; famous sports and movie stars, musicians, billionaires, businessmen, intellectuals, and scientists.

Congratulatons are in order. You have been chosen to join us, _____.

Be proud. Not many get this honor. And those who do, consider this day...the day they received this letter--to be the luckiest day of their life. Let me explain...

[Ok, before I let the letter "explain," I want to point out the bad grammar so far, and also swear that I am not adding any of the bold type. It's in the original letter, I swear. Ok, back to the letter.]

We are the Society. There is a Latin word for us that means "imperial," "powerful," "lordly," and "magisterial." Many consider us the most powerful organization in the world. Period.

Never heard of us? Good! That is That is how we want it [except the "many" who consider them the most powerful organization, obviously. Not them. Just...everyone else]. You will learn our clandestine name in time.

We go to great strides to ensure our anonymity. Very few people besides our members and inductees like you, _____, know of our existence. You should feel pretty special right now. Not many were chosen as a 2013 inductee. But you were. And soon you may reap rewards you never thought attainable.

While the Society is covert, our members are extremely well-known, made up of the rich and famous, the best and the brightest. Almost all of us grew up in humble circumstances. and many of us rose to unimaginable prosperity.

[First off, those in positions of "unimaginable prosperity rarely began in "humble circumstances. Secondly, they keep starting sentences with "But." That's really annoying. Thirdly, doesn't this letter sound like it was authored by a kid in a treehouse, using a spooky voice, shining a flashlight up onto his face? I'm going to skip a few paragraphs to get to my favorite part...]

I wish I could tell you who I am. But under advice from my counsel, I cannot reveal my full name. However, I can tell you that under ordinary circumstances you'd never dream of receiving a letter from me.


It goes on from there to generically deny that it's a scam, like all scams do. It reiterates the secrecy and power of its powerful secret society...called The Society. At least the members can't get the name wrong. The letter is ten pages of self-adulation that doesn't ask for money up front. That comes later.

I wish all spam was as spectacularly silly as this. Our jobs of identifying nonsensical offers would be a whole lot easier.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Checking Out Charities for Wise Giving

In the wake of Sandy, Newtown and now Oklahoma, we all have opened our hearts and hands to help as quickly as possible, but there can't be enough emphasis on how important it is to take a little time to do some basic research on a charity before you part with hard earned dollars.  Until we have a perfect society, there will always be scammers.  Further, while most charities are well-intentioned, even amongst that group, there are those best suited for using your donations effectively.  Check out the BBB's tips for disaster giving and check our Wise Giving Alliance list of national charity reports.  A May 22nd KCTV5 story featured the importance of checking out charities:  Give, but give wisely to Oklahoma tornado relief efforts   

The Better Business Bureau of Greater Kansas City's Charity Information Service is expanding to evaluate local charities for BBB accreditation.  This is a voluntary program and upon our requesting participation, some charities choose to move forward, others express interest but do not follow-up, others decline.  However, if we receive an inquiry from the public about a charity, contact the charity and they choose not to provide information, we publish a non-disclosure report.  The more inquiries we receive, the more reports will be available.  http://www.bbb.org/charity-reviews/kansas/

Many donors don't know they can check with the BBB about charities.  We will continue working to inform donors and to encourage charities to use our program as an avenue to prove transparency and accountability.  The BBB does more than list information, we report charity information against a framework of 20 accountability standards.  Reports show what standards are met or not met and why, making giving decisions easier. 

Below are 4 infographics that hopefully make it easier to digest basic principles of the BBB standards of charity accountability.  Click the images to get a better view.  Donors should understand enough to have a holistic view and make fair judgments.

Conflict of interest policies, CEO review and board meeting attendance are a few things BBB governance standards address.  A charity might be in the public eye garnering support or have been around for many years, but may have issues in the boardroom that limit adequate oversight.

The success that a charity has in fulfilling it's mission should be measured regularly.  The BBB does not evaluate the quality and content of assessment, but accredited charities must prove that regular assessment takes place.  Charting Impact is gaining acceptance as a resource for donors and charities in the area of results.  This tool was developed by the BBB Wise Giving AllianceGuidestar and Independent Sector.

"Donors don't support a cause because of its efficiency; they support a cause for the impact that it secures for society - for all of us.  Charting Impact will help to focus nonprofits - and their boards - on how to communicate who they are, what they achieve and how they achieve it, skills that all of us need to develop."
Andrew Watt, president and CEO, Association of Fundraising Professionals 
Financial ratios are important but should not be the deciding factor for making donations.  A charity that spends only 60% on programming instead of 65%, may in fact have phenomenal results.  A charity that spends more than 35% of related contributions on fundraising may be doing more education and advocacy or may be in the earlier stages of operation.

If you are interested in some of the finer points of nonprofit financial accounting, the current issue of Wise Giving Guide delves into joint cost allocation, an accounting term that refers to activities, such as direct mail, that might combine fund raising with another function such as education or advocacy.  The BBB Wise Giving Alliance publishes The Wise Giving Guide three times a year.  The guides summarize the results of the Alliance's latest national charity evaluations and features a cover story, usually with giving tips, on charity accountability issues or other topics of interest to donors.

With tightened economic conditions, charitable appeals are beyond numerous.  The BBB reviews not only the truthfulness of appeals, but the accuracy and availability of charity information, protection of donor information and the sale of products / services that imply a charity will benefit.

The basics of charity review for accreditation at the BBB are governance, effectiveness, finances and fundraising & informational materials.  At the risk of a little sensationalism, it could be said we look at the control, success, dollars and buzz of nonprofits so we can publish reports for the public to check out charities.

According to the Fall / Holiday 2012 Wise Giving Guide "a recent survey by Hope Consulting confirms [that]... with all the sources of information -- information that state agencies, watchdogs, and the charities themselves produce -- only 30% of donors do any research before making a donation."  By continuing to educate and advocate around charity accountability, we hope to help increase that number in Kansas City.  Call 816-421-7800 or e-mail charityreview@kansascity.bbb.org to inquire about charities.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Here A Tuk, There A Tuk, Everywhere A Tuk Tuk

E-I-E-I-O!   This is not about farms or animals, but that children’s song somehow popped into my head when I was thinking about titles.  The parts that sing of the ‘everywhereness’ of the sounds of animals is actually relevant.   In this case the animal is that mode of transportation called a tuk tuk because of the sound emitted by the  2-stroke engines that originally powered them.  During a summer trip, I saw tuk tuks everywhere in the streets of Chiang Mai, Thailand.  With tongue in cheek,  I imagined the sight, sound and use of a tuk tuk here at home.

For transporting passengers in southeast Asian cities, the tuk tuk is king of the road.  It was interesting to watch these things buzz through and around traffic, almost like ants moving effortlessly around obstructions in their path.   Kansas City is not quite the bustling metropolis with congested streets like cities where tuk tuks are everywhere, but we do have passengers that need to be transported from point A to point B.  Might be more cost effective to use some tuk tuks between the airport terminals and remote airport parking lots.  Every time I make that trip, it's on a giant bus with a handful of people.  Oops I forgot about where the luggage would go!  Well, how about this one?   I was recently at a Kemper Arena event and had to park a country mile away.  A cab would have certainly been overkill but it would have been convenient to hop in a tuk tuk and whiz to my car. 

Maybe Congress would allow the postal service to use tuk tuks for mail delivery savings since they mandated six-day delivery instead of cutting to five.   Since it's more economical and the sides are open like the mail trucks, tuk tuks could save money.  Plus, there are only three wheels on a tuk tuk, less tire maintenance.  It might not offer enough storage for all the mail on the route, but that wouldn’t be a problem if they could just leave all the junk mail at the facility!  Most of the mail I get doesn’t even make it into the house, the recycle bin gets it before I go in the door.  Maybe Congress will help the postal service move to electronic delivery of junk mail so I can push the delete button and not have to fill up my recycle bin.  Then I would look forward to getting important mail and packages from my tuk tuk driving mailman.    

Trips to the grocery store or other neighborhood destinations could be made in a tuk tuk.  They are much more fuel efficient than my SUV.  After shopping at the night market in Thailand, three of us crawled in the back bench seat for the short trip to our hotel.  For a minute I thought I was on an amusement park ride, but we arrived safely and none of our Thai bargains got flung onto the street.  Of course if I had to drive myself in a tuk tuk, it just wouldn’t be the same.   Perhaps personal ownership of a tuk tuk wouldn’t be that practical, but as a delivery vehicle, the uses are endless.

Tuk tuks are used on golf courses in many countries.  Don't know if it could become a common sight here.   Couldn't be the sputtering tuk tuk like the one I was in.  That just wouldn't work on a golf course.   Serious golf is very quiet and I’ve known a golfer to be thrown off just by the rattling of a snack being opened.  But for hackers, we might enjoy the novelty of driving a tuk tuk from hole to hole, or even seeing colorful, decorated ones carrying refreshment on the back nine!

And now the BBB angle.   Yes, some tuk tuk drivers are working a scam!  According to many travel advisory websites, Bangkok tuk tuk scams are quite the menace.  I don’t know if we get many complaints on cabbies or local transportation companies or not, but in Thailand, consumer protection is not like what we know here and there certainly is no BBB equivalent.   Without a doubt, it’s tuk tuk traveler beware!

It’s not totally absurd to think about how tuk tuks could be used in KC.  Tuk Tuk North America was granted DOT and EPA approval in 2009.   In 2012, a Charleston, SC local entrepreneur had an idea for their use, but city officials were against it.  The idea was also posed as food for thought in a post of the Economy League of Philadelphia.   We don’t have the climate of Charleston so a tuk tuk ride in January could be breezy, but it wouldn't be much  different than a horse drawn carriage on the Plaza as far as feeling winter temperatures.   Also, we don't have the tourist draw of Philadelphia, though I'm sure some would argue that point, but we do have tourists.   However, with recent voter approval of funding, our newest mode of transportation will be streetcars on Main Street downtown.   So it will be a while before tuk tuks are everywhere in Kansas City, but who knows when you might see one here or there.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Why Secret Santa Got The Boot at the BBB

For more than 20 years during the holidays, the BBB of Greater Kansas City staff has enjoyed two annual traditions;  one being a holiday party for staff and kids, where our President and CEO, David Buckley adorns himself with Santa attire from the chin up, the other being that mystery gift exchange system called Secret Santa.  This year the party went off as planned with our white-bearded fearless leader passing out candy and tending to the wishes of little ones.  The Secret Santa gift exchange got the boot!

The staff thought it would be a good idea to take the dollars usually spent on gifts, that sometimes end up re-gifted, and use them toward a volunteer project for charity.  We wanted to be able to serve a meal and it was important to support one of our accredited charities.   The Share-A-Meal volunteer program of City Union Mission filled the bill.  The $20 each staff member normally spent for the gift exchange was donated to cover the cost of a meal for 100 people.  The online volunteer application was submitted and we promptly received thorough instruction and information as to the when, where and how of our service.

On Tuesday, December 18, 2012, our staff piled in two cars headed for the Family Life Center, a residential facility for homeless families or single women.  We stepped in the door to receive a warm welcome as we signed in.

The short trek through the hallway landed us in a spacious, clean kitchen where Beryl was expecting us.  In her apron and hairnet, she graciously welcomed us and began to explain what needed to be done.  Beryl’s manner was kind and easy-going, the perfect match for us.

Even though there were guidelines in place for our service, we had some options, like deciding who was going to do what.  There were the responsibilities of making punch, getting ice and wrapping utensils in napkins.  Only four were allowed to work in the kitchen which was not an issue for us since we have a few people not in love with culinary arts except for consumption!  The rest of us assumed duty in the dining area.  We also had the option to serve the residents or make it cafeteria style.  We chose to be waiters and waitresses, thinking of it as a nice expression of our service.

Once we got over how dreadful we looked in hairnets, we could focus on the tasks at hand, the first of which was to get the food items arranged for serving plates.  First was lettuce, tomato, meat, bread and chips.  Apples and chocolate chip cookies took up residence at the end of the line.  With punch made, ice, cups and utensils in place, and a few trays ready, we waited for hungry people.

At first we were probably a little clumsy, just like at a brand new restaurant where the ordering, cooking and service might be a little out of sync!  But, we were able to get in our groove with the mechanics of it.  The experience then evolved into a labor of love as we tried to make sure everyone got what they needed with a smile, something that may not happen often for these folks outside the care of City Union Mission.

The Family Life Center houses 75 to 80 people a night who, for whatever reason, are homeless.  The center provides a 30 day stay and 3 meals a day, as well as educational classes in the morning.  After 30 days, room must be made for others to come in and there is a 60 day wait before anyone can return.  These few facts begin to paint a picture of life for those who find themselves homeless and relying on City Union Mission for assistance.  Though the picture is not the prettiest, the BBB staff saw plenty reason for hope that day.

BBB accredited businesses and charities commit to standards that create a marketplace of trust.  We all want to trust that people in organizations will do what is right, what is in the best interest of those from whom they receive patronage or support and those they serve.  During our short time volunteering, we saw those principles at work.  We saw caring employees concerned for residents through hugs, through an atmosphere of smiles, chatter and relationship.  We saw a culture of responsibility because residents had duties and housekeeping assignments.  We saw cleanliness, order and mutual respect.  On top of all that, we truly enjoyed our time there. It is safe to say that we will not miss the annual gift exchange, we have lots of fun at the office without it.

The BBB volunteer tradition is now established and we look forward to our 2013 project. It may not even be during the end of year holiday season. It's no secret that volunteerism falls off after the holidays, so we may look to lend our time in another month besides November or December. City Union Mission expressed a need for help in the summer when many people are enjoying vacations.

Traditions may come or go, and holiday spirit may subside in January, but the joy derived from service to others is seasonless and so is the need for assistance in our community. March is not too early or too late to see how you can usher in a new tradition of giving to support our K C nonprofit community, even if it means giving the boot to something else!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Oldest & Most Experienced Charity Evaluator

Guest Blogger:

Jim Judge of Judge Evaluation Services 

Former Director of Charity Accreditation for the St. Louis BBB

When people think of the Better Business Bureau, they usually think of a place you go to file complaints or check out a company before you do business with them.  You may not realize that the BBB is also the nation’s oldest and most experienced charity evaluator!  With the merger of the BBB Philanthropic Advisory Service and the National Charities Information Bureau in 2001, the resulting entity, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance has more than 100 years of experience evaluating charities. 

Another little known fact is that the BBB is also the largest charity evaluator in the United States.  Our national office reports on 1,300 nationally soliciting organizations and local BBBs report on another 10,000 local and regional charities.  More impressively, the BBB evaluates charities using its 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.  These Standards do much more than look at the financial statements and issue a “rating.”  Sure, we look at the financial statements, but we also look at the governance and oversight of the organization, we verify certain policies and procedures are in place, and we review websites and solicitation materials for accuracy.  You can find more information on the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability here:  http://www.bbb.org/us/Standards-Charity/    

Something else that sets the BBB process apart is that we work with charities to assist them in meeting the Standards they miss.  This personal attention exemplifies the difference between the BBB and other third party evaluators.  The BBB’s goal is to help organizations build their own capacity to effectively achieve their mission and serve their clients.  The Standards we use are a set of best practices that can assist organizations in becoming stronger and the reports we create give organizations a way to show potential donors that they go above and beyond what is legally required in disclosure and transparency.  BBB reports are available to donors free of charge and the BBB does not charge charities for an evaluation.

But, make no mistake, the BBB is also a watchdog and we are here to ensure that the organizations that do not deserve donations are spotlighted.  Each year the BBB system issues warnings about local charities that donors should be wary of.  By doing this we are helping funnel money away from the unethical operators and back to the organizations that deserve it most.   

Whether you are an individual donor, business owner, or cyber-sleuth, BBB charity reports serve as an unbiased resource to assist in making wise giving decisions.  If you are a charity, a BBB charity evaluation is worth its weight in gold.  Meeting the detailed standards of a national organization with the name recognition of the BBB can only help you in the eyes of your potential donors, while making your organization stronger!

Visit www.give.org for more information.  If you are a Kansas City region nonprofit, the first step toward accreditation is registration: http://charityreports.bbb.org/public/register/Default.aspx?BureauID=0674

Jim Judge provides services to BBB's across the country and can be reached at:
 (888) 253-3385 or jim@judgeevaluations.com

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Blankin' Blog

As Director of Charity Review, I am supposed to share the responsibility of writing blog content with my colleague, Aaron Reese.  I was informed about this before I got the job in April but didn’t anticipate developing a debilitating case of writer’s block.  I thought the words would flow easily, but every time I came up with a subject, the page just seemed to stay blank.  The blankin’ blog soon became the last priority on my list of to-do’s.  Everything else about my new job, fill in the blank, was much less intimidating.

The folks here at the Better Business Bureau are very cool, I really enjoy my job and want to keep it, so I figured I'd better get rolling.   It was not for lack of ideas that the blogs didn’t materialize, but lack of ideas that I thought would be engaging and appropriate.  I wasn’t sure about the approach, how much personal opinion, how much business, or how long.  So, I thought it best to take a step back, do some reading and clearly identify the purpose of the blog in my own mind.
There was of course no lack of information and opinions about what to do in the blogosphere, but I ended up with some basics to get me going and confirmation to promote our charity review program. Promote the charity review program as Director of Charity Review? Duh! Seems like an obvious goal, but  based on my reading, a blog could take quite a few different directions.  I'm sticking with the obvious.

It is important that the public know the BBB evaluates charities against a set of highly respected standards and they can contact us about charities as well as about roofers and plumbers, etc.  It’s important for charities to know that in addition to reporting on scams, we are working to serve as a resource for the K.C. nonprofit community and that BBB charity accreditation is valuable for their fundraising and marketing efforts.   So, finding unique ways to share the work of charities and their impact in Kansas City, with some BBB perspective included here and there will be the goal.

On December 18th, the BBB staff sponsored and served a meal at the Family Center of City Union Mission.  City Union Mission is one of our accredited charities.  We learned some things and truly enjoyed our time there.  The picture posted on our Facebook page got quite a few hits.  Sharing more about the experience will create some good content, so that will be the topic of the February post.

Sprinkling a little personal touch around will help keep it interesting.  For example, my trip to Thailand in July was surely a source of inspiration.  Between the tuk tuks, architecture and night market there should be no blanking out when it comes time to put words to paper (or on the screen).   Passion for music and the arts was inspiration for the one blog I did write that also spoke to the work of KCVLAA, a charity providing access to legal and accounting services to artists.  Songwriting and recording, a current personal project for a charity, will be covered in April.

Beginning in 2013, there will be regular posts from the charity review side of the BBB.  Now that I have topics lined up and a plan in place, I’m prepared, looking forward to being a regular contributor and to having plenty of content to fill in the blankin’ blog!