As most of my readers and clients will know already, I’m a huge proponent of online reputation management. If potential customers and referrals don’t see good things written about you when they look you up on Google, Facebook, or Yelp, they’re less likely to visit your store or pick up the phone.
Recently, though, I’ve come across another more pressing reason to gather and promote online reviews: Google is using positive first-party feedback as a strong search signal. Let’s take a look at what that means, and how you can start putting customer feedback to work for your business…
The Power of First-Party Reviews
It used to be that businesses would have testimonials from their clients pasted on their websites and brochures. Now, smart marketers are using plugins and scripts to let buyers submit their feedback directly and have it indexed by Google. In other words, you can build review capability straight into your website and then encourage customers to use it. Feedback on your website is considered first-party; second-party reviews are the ones pasted to sites like Facebook or TripAdvisor.
First-party reviews work a bit differently than a traditional testimonial would. That’s because Google can identify the review as a special kind of content, and will show it next to your website preview within the search results. So, if numerous customers have left you five star feedback, for example, a prospect will see that before they actually click through to your page. At the same time, Google will bump your site up in the search rankings simply because you have those positive reviews in the first place.
Lots of marketers obsess over page titles, anchor links, local keywords, and other SEO factors. These are still important to search visibility, but Google’s artificial intelligence is getting smarter. It wants to give searchers the results they’re looking for, and factoring reviews into the equation is a good way to separate the best websites from the rest. That’s why positive feedback is being weighed more heavily into search listings.
This is especially true at the local level. Many of today’s searchers are using phrases like “best tacos near me,” or “good bakery in my neighborhood.” Google actually takes both parts of these search strings into account. In other words, it will factor location into the mix, but also star ratings left through direct reviews. If you don’t have at least four-star feedback, your website won’t appear in those searches. Or to put it another way, if you have great reviews and your competitors don’t, you can leapfrog ahead of them within the search rankings.
So, just by getting a few reviews you gain valuable, search-friendly content, a better reputation, and a good reason for potential customers to visit your website. Why wouldn’t you want to add that capability to your page for those benefits?
How to Make Reviews Work
If the value of online reviews is easy to grasp, then the formula for putting them to work isn’t necessarily so straightforward. Most small business owners either don’t realize how valuable direct feedback is, or they feel like they have to pay thousands of dollars to expense of search engine optimization consultants who will help them make the most of customer-generated content.
Luckily there is a better, more cost-effective solution. Recently, my company rolled out a new review management system that allows us to:
- Install the necessary coding on your website to accept first-party reviews and have them recognized by Google
- Import second-party reviews from Facebook, Yelp, and other platforms onto your website (while excluding reviews from sites you don’t want)
- Encourage reviews from customers through text and email so they can comment when they’re already thinking about your business (see below)
- View and manage your online review platform to see what kind of progress you’re making in your campaigns
Online reviews are becoming a bigger and bigger part of search engine optimization and the buying process as a whole. Why ignore their importance, or blow your marketing budget attracting and displaying reviews?
Contact the Web Services team in Peoria today to learn more about our review management service and see how quick and affordable it is to grow the kind of online reputation you need to get more business!
Last month Becca and I took a road trip to Waukesha, WI so I could speak at a WordCamp there. For those that do not know, WordCamps are sponsored by the WordPress foundation and are educational weekends for people who want to know more about how they can use WordPress and get more out of their websites. I’ve traveled to many WordCamps this past year including Nashville and Seattle. I had a great time and my presentation has been well-received.
My topic past year has been Managing your Online Reputation. The topic fits in well with just about any industry. I’ve had a great turn out and all the WordCamps so that’s a positive for me. Here are a few pictures from Waukesha. The organizers should be congratulated for a job well done. This was their first WordCamp and there were over 100 people there. Becca and I made some new friends and learned many new things. We will continue participating in more WordCamps this year to make sure we are involved in the community and learn the latest information to share with our clients.
Here are a few pictures from the event. You can view my presentation and others on http://WordPress.tv
Last month I gave a popular presentation on Facebook for SCORE Peoria. I was interviewed on Peoria’s Good Company television show regarding Facebook.
It’s fun to talk to Mark and Gretchen. They did their homework and asked some good questions. Next year, SCORE had decided to do 2 seminars on Facebook, one for beginners and one a little more advanced. I’ll be presenting both. Keep an eye out for my new Ebook on Facebook coming in 2017.
Sometimes, I hear from clients who just don’t seem to be making any progress with search engine optimization on Google, even in light of the recent algorithm changes that made it easier to for local businesses to come up in search results.
More often than not, my recommendation comes down to one thing: pay more attention to NAPS.
Unfortunately, I’m not advising you to sleep more in the middle of the day for online marketing purposes – although there’s a chance that could help some of us to be a bit less cranky. Instead, I’m talking about Names, Addresses, and Phone Numbers. If these aren’t accurate, consistent, and up-to-date across the web, it could cause problems for you.
To give you a little more insight as to why NAPS can make or break your local marketing, here’s what you need to know…
Google Uses NAPS to Offer Local Options
When Google crawls the web, it isn’t just looking for keywords and links. It’s also categorizing your website by location, using addresses, ZIP Codes, area codes, and even references to landmarks to determine where you are. Then, that data gets used to match you with local buyers in your area who need vendors or products. Given that nearly a quarter of Google’s 2 billion daily search requests are for something local, earning a share of that traffic should be a high priority.
It Helps to Have Several Sources of NAPS Info
Although Google will draw location data primarily from your website, it will also look for corroborating evidence elsewhere online. That’s where local business directories and industry guides (like Yelp, CitySearch, TripAdvisor, and so on) come into play. If all of them agree on your business name, address, and phone number, then Google can display that information prominently because there is a high probability of giving a searcher exactly what they are looking for.
Outdated NAPS Can Cause Problems
Of course, if corroborating data points are a good thing, then missing or conflicting pieces of information are going to hurt your search visibility. After all, if Google can’t be sure who you are, where you operate, or how customers should contact you, then how can they send traffic to your website without frustrating buyers? For that reason, skipping NAPS and leaving entries blank or with the wrong contact info can be a real problem.
It’s easier than you might think to let your contact details get jumbled. When we moved offices this summer, we discovered just how many entries there were for our business online, both in Peoria and beyond. And naturally, we have more time and attention to devote to online marketing the most of our clients do.
But if the thought of managing dozens of profiles sounds overwhelming, I’ve got some good news: our company is now offering a convenient, low-cost service to ensure your business is listed in all relevant directories, and that your entries stay up-to-date. That’s an easy way to boost your local search visibility, and to ensure that customers who are looking for you can find you easily on the web.
The right NAPS can help your online marketing stay fresh and alert, especially for buyers in your area. Why not call us today at 309-699-2849 to see how easy and affordable it is to get started with our directory listing services?
When you send out an email newsletter, does it seem like it’s really going out to a few dozen people instead of the thousands of subscribers you see on your list?
If so, then you probably have a lot of “fakers,” people who don’t bother to unsubscribe from your distribution list, but don’t open your messages, either. Worst of all, the existence of fakers is usually your fault, not theirs.
Usually, you’re encouraging their disinterest simply by being boring. That is, you aren’t relevant or strong enough in your content to attract their attention.
This is a problem that can be fixed, though. Begin by looking at your “opens” for section of subscribers the next time you sent an email newsletter. Then look at those who didn’t bother to read your messages. They all have something in common. Chances are, there are common threads between them, and those commonalities can tell you something about the subscribers you aren’t connecting with.
When you have fakers in your email subscriber list, it’s worse than having no subscribers at all. So take action to turn them back into interested readers today!
Sometimes, when we talk to web design clients about ongoing web maintenance, we can almost see them roll their eyes. It’s as if they’re thinking: “First we have to pay for the website, now you want us to pay to keep it, too?”
That’s certainly one way to look at it — but a better way is that website maintenance is like a very inexpensive form of insurance. Not only is it good for keeping your website up-to-date, but it can also be an absolute lifesaver if something bad ever happens to your shiny new web presence.
Data loss resulting from hacking, hosting problems, and simple employee errors can all kill your website in a matter of seconds. If you find yourself dealing with any of those issues, the first thing you’re going to want is someone who knows your website inside and out, has performed regular backups, and can get it restored within minutes. That’s exactly what you get with ongoing website maintenance.
Your website is a big investment. Doesn’t it make sense to maintain it and get the insurance you need to keep it secure?
Now that Google is emphasizing geography in its search results, and customers are increasingly turning to web directories instead of printed Yellow Pages guides, finding local customers is easier than ever with online marketing. And yet, we occasionally meet with business owners who say they don’t really need local buyers.
So, should you care about them?
Before you answer in your mind, consider two things:
First, local customers are easier to win – making inroads in local SEO is often just a matter of changing a few keyword phrases on your website and adding some inexpensive location pages. Plus, buyers trust you more when you’re in the neighborhood.
And second, customers are easier to keep – because it’s easy to form relationships with local customers, they are more likely to stick with you over time, even if some of your competitors have lower prices. Because local buyers know and like you, they tend to be more loyal.
The bottom line is this: in the era of modern online marketing, even if you don’t need local customers, you should want them. They bring a lot to your business, and you won’t have to change much on your website to earn their business again and again.
Social media sites like LinkedIn can be great for making new connections to decision-makers and companies you’d like to work with. But, just like in high school, there’s no guarantee that the people you want to network with are going to accept you into their circles right away.
Luckily, there is a quick and almost foolproof way to add important contacts on social media.
Here’s how it works: find a few lower-level employees at the company you want to work with. Typically, these are the people who spend the most time on social media, and happen to be the easiest to approach. Make contacts with them, and establish yourself as a friendly person.
After you’ve gathered a handful of these contacts, move up one level. Look for their managers and supervisors, and then make contacts with them. It might take a little bit of work (but not much), and it won’t take long before those of the top of the corporate food chain see that you are connected with many people in the company (when they finally log on) and will be more inclined to accept your request. In fact, they may even add you to their networks first.
There you have it – an easy blueprint for making high-level contacts on social media!
Have you completely forgotten about your web hosting? Are you one of those business owners who isn’t even quite sure what company hosts their website?
If either of those sounds like you, rest easy in the fact that you’re in good company. Most people treat web hosting as an afterthought, something that’s akin to a parking space for their website. While this is partly accurate however, there are risks to choosing the wrong web host.
One particular concern is that, with a terrible web host, you might share your server with a shady company. You might think you don’t care what your virtual neighbors are up to, but when somebody else in your server sends spam, contracts viruses, or gets blacklisted by Google, you can suffer by association. You may find that your email is blocked, your website disappears from Google’s rankings, or that your information isn’t as secure as it used to be.
It’s fine to set up your web hosting and forget about it… but only if you choose the right service to begin with.
When business owners and other potential clients ask me about the return on investment for their new websites, I tell them confidently that a good web presence will always pay for itself.
That’s not a sales pitch – basic math will back it up.
Consider this: if a dozen people a day visit your website, that’s going to add up to more than 4000 potential customers in a year. Assuming that a great website increases your conversion rate by just 1%, that’s 40 new sales opportunities that you get with the new website and wouldn’t have gotten with an old one.
Of course, a good website can make much more of a difference than that — but the point is that it doesn’t take many new buyers for an upgraded web presence to be a profitable investment. So if you’re thinking about a new website, what are you waiting for?