Anyone reading this site is always on the lookout for the next big idea in search, and you all know that social media is it. My wife Linda knows, too. So, when she recently underwent successful Lasik surgery, she thought it would be far nicer to create a Squidoo lens for her surgeon, promoting his business, than to send a bouquet of flowers. But no good deed goes unpunished, and I wanted to recount a customer service story that only search geeks like us could appreciate.

Image representing Squidoo as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

In case a few of you don't know, a Squidoo lens is a sort of a one-page Web site about any topic you like. is your domain, and you get to name your subfolder. For six hours my wife labored on a new Squidoo lens, writing a kind of thank-you/advertisement about her recent surgery. She'd done lenses before, but she'd worked harder on this lens than any other of the other dozen.She cranked out the story of my surgery, some thoughts on Lasik, a few Amazon links to eye surgery books and eyedrops, and some YouTube videos of actual patients of her doctor. She was finally ready to publish.

Sadly, when she hit the publish button, a message popped up saying she'd written about a banned subject, and she was instructed to either find a new subject or dispute the ban.
That was annoying a little depressing, because six hours is a long time to work on anything to find that it might all go to waste.

Those of you schooled in search know exactly why Squidoo is doing this, however. One of the major reasons Squidoo exists is to to provide a way for search engines to find high quality pages on certain subjects. In fact, many Squidoo lenses rank very highly in search. But to protect that reputation, Squiddo must be careful not to let eth site become overgrown with garbage content that spammers throw into a lens just to try to get links to their spammy sites. The problem with free links is the same as with free e-mail: spammers try to overwhelm the system with numbers because the marginal cost is zero. Whatever works is a net profit.

So, Squidoo has been forced to implement text analytics software that checks every new or changed lens to see if it is loaded up with suspect words from subjects spammers love to work on. Lasik surgery is unfortunately one of those subjects.Linda decided to dispute the decision, because she was confident that her lens was not spam, but she couldn't have been too confident about the outcome.

So now she needed to sell Squiddo on why her lens should be published. I'll let her pick up the story here:

Having written for magazine publication before, it was a lot like querying an editor. It was kind of fun. Once I sent the dispute, the next message informed me that it could take up to thirty days for a response. I wondered if I could be that patient.

A few days later I could wait no longer. I reasoned that perhaps they would understandably not place a premium on lenses under review for spam. So I used their contact form to sell them on why my dispute is read-worthy. I reasoned that there was nothing to lose, and was pretty confident they'd be happy to publish the lens. I just needed to get their attention.

I don't know which actually worked--the dispute or the request that they read my dispute, but either way, they responded the very next day, and in a way that raised my respect for this company. They approved my lens and apologized for the delay.

Their approach of two filters--the first automated and the second human--makes sense, but how many companies would have stopped at the automated one? Human beings are expensive, so why not clear out all the spam, and if a few good lenses get whacked, so what? Many companies would have done things that way.

Many others would have implemented the dispute process, but not staffed it right. Who cares if it takes weeks to answer, or if no one ever answers some of them? You've probably been frustrated by these kinds of systems that seem to promise action but never deliver.

So, hats off to Squidoo for earning trust in a story only a search optimizer could love. If you're looking for a way to drive more traffic to your site and create a quality link to it in the process, you could do a lot less than creating a few Squidoo lenses. To see just what I mean, take a look at Linda's now-published lens for our local Lasik surgeon. The new patients he gets will make that lens the gift that keeps on giving, long after that bouquet is wilting in the garbage.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

May 5, 2010

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


This is a great story about customer service but I loved that you have wrote about it on this site. Too often we hear about cases of bad customer service but I think it's important to write about the good and the bad. I'm the type of person who gives both positive and negative feedback to companies. Too often someone is not recognised for their great customer service. You need to give credit where credit is due.

Actually it is a first time I hear a positive story on the customer service provided by the big website.
My own experience is awful. Starting with eBay and ending with Asus.

I am glad there is a hope around :-)

Comments closed after 30 days to combat spam.

Search Engine Guide > Mike Moran > A Case Study in Handling Customer Disputes