How to Take Advantage of Holiday Cheer to Increase Positive Online Reviews

How to Take Advantage of Holiday Cheer to Increase Positive Online Reviews

Almost 95% of customers check out online reviews before making a purchase. This means that if your business has only a few reviews, you lack the social proof to convince users to choose you over a competitor.

In addition, reviews are critical to small business SEO, as search engines use them to determine quality and authority of your business.

To make matters worse, users (and Google) look for reviews in multiple places, including Google My Business, product review sites like Yelp, social media, and industry-specific sites. It’s best if you have at least a couple reviews in all of these places.

Luckily, the holiday season gives you an excellent opportunity to increase your number of positive reviews. Customers are full of holiday cheer and looking to spread their good will. However, it’s still unlikely that they’ll leave a review without some encouragement. You need to have a strategy in place to solicit reviews from satisfied customers.

1. Tap into the Good Cheer of the Holidays

Start a campaign, just for the holidays, where you ask for reviews. You can run this campaign on social media or through email — accompanied with a holiday greeting. If you use an email campaign, include a link to the site where you want users to leave a review.

It’s best if you can find a way to make your campaign holiday themed. For instance, you could ask people to explain how your product brightened up their holidays or to share a holiday story that involves one of your services.

2. Meet Increased Customer Demand

People are more likely to leave you a review if they have a bad experience with your company. You need to avoid disappointing customers at all costs. If you provide an exceptional service, you increase your chances of receiving great feedback.

If the holidays will mean an increase in sales for your business, you need to take steps to ensure that you’ll be able to meet the demand. This means stocking up on your most popular products, making sure that your e-commerce site is accurate about how many products you have in stock, and only guaranteeing delivery times that you can fulfill. You’ll also need to ensure that you respond to queries as soon as possible and otherwise provide great customer service.

3. Share Reviews

Pick your favorite holiday reviews and feature them on your website or social media pages. You can even explicitly say that you will be sharing the most inspiring stories — this should encourage more users to write reviews.

4. Offer a Holiday Gift for Reviewers

A final option is to provide an incentive for leaving a review. Incentives can be a discount on the customer’s next purchase, a freebie, or another type of offer. You can give the gift to all reviewers or hold a contest and randomly pick one user to win.

If you’re sending users to a particular site for the review, you’ll need to check that compensation is allowed. Some sites have strict rules about incentivizing customers — and if you break these rules, you could end up losing all your reviews. This will leave you much worse off than when you started.

Timing is key when soliciting reviews. If you’re using social media, test posting times to find out when your campaign receives the greatest number of responses. For email campaigns, send out requests for reviews when your company is on your customers’ minds. This could be right after a customer receives a product, after a client has used your service or following an interaction with your customer support team. You are more likely to receive responses if the email doesn’t come out of nowhere.

Avoid These Marketing Monsters Dwelling in Your Closet

Avoid These Marketing Monsters Dwelling in Your Closet

It’s the time of year when monsters come out, but some of them need to stay locked in your closet: the marketing monsters. You’re not looking to create a scare with your marketing. Avoid devilish tricks and use best practices instead. Your efforts will pay off.

1. A Community of Zombies

You can instantly receive a large number of followers to your social media account or email mailing list by paying a fee. In the case of social media, you’ll likely receive ghost accounts, whereas email addresses will belong to real people. There are major problems with both.

For one thing, it is impossible to purchase engagement. On social media, follower count is a vanity metric, whereas engagement shows the success of your efforts. This lack of engagement is often obvious, meaning people will be less likely to trust your brand. Trust will also decrease if users see your follower account suddenly shoot up in a matter of days.

In the case of email, lack of engagement is even more useless. You’ll be targeting people who have never shown any interest in your offerings — and there’s no reason to believe they will be interested. Worse still, their first interaction with your business will be a spam message, making it unlikely that they’ll ever see your brand in a good light. Lastly, if you message EU citizens without their permission, you may receive a GDPR fine.

The Solution

Grow your follower base authentically. Find people who are actually interested in what you have to offer and want to hear more from you. For instance, give users the chance to sign up for your email newsletter after they download premium content. Your social follower counts and email mailing list will be smaller, but at least most people on it will be potential leads.

2. Horror Story Emails

You have probably created a mobile web design by now, but have you also given the same attention to your emails? If too much is going on, if images don’t fit the screen, or if users need to zoom in to read the information, your message will probably end up unread. In fact, more than half of people unsubscribe from email newsletters because they are unable to read the messages on their phones.

The Solution

Test emails on a mobile device before you send them out. Figure out how you can make improvements and save this template for future communications.

3. Unleashing Your Wrath in Reviews

Negative reviews can be hard to take, especially if the criticism is undeserved, such as in the case of a misunderstanding or a difficult-to-deal-with customer. Your immediate reaction may be to reply in sarcastic or angry tones, but this is never a good idea — you’ll only seem unprofessional or perhaps even petty. Even replying in a private message is dangerous, as there’s always the chance that a customer could leak a screenshot.

The Solution

All this isn’t to say that you should ignore negative reviews. You should definitely reply — but the right way. Instead, apologize (sincerely) and name what steps you’re taking to correct the issue. Then, users who may have been swayed by the negative feedback will see that you care about your customers and about providing an excellent service.

4. Trust No One But the Numbers

You should certainly trust your gut for some aspects of marketing. However, relying on feelings entirely and never putting in any research is a recipe for disaster. Assuming you already know the answers will cost you money and reduce conversions.

The Solution

Monitor your successes down to the smallest details. This means finding out how well a piece of content performed, how posting at different times impacts engagement, and who is responding to your campaigns — for each channel.

Even during this spooky time of year, there’s no excuse to release the marketing monsters. It may take more time and effort, but marketing the right way leads to far better results.

The 3 Absolute Best Things You Can Learn from Google Analytics

The 3 Absolute Best Things You Can Learn from Google Analytics

How do you know if your website is getting the results you want?

Sure, you know that you’ve got great content. You also know you’ve done everything you can think of to promote your content and optimize your site for high rankings in search — but how do you really know that what you are doing is working?

This is where tracking your data and metrics become important — and Google Analytics is there to help. Google Analytics is a free service that provides you with a tracking code that you can paste onto your site’s pages. Google uses the code to track visitors to your site and gleans the following sort of information as it does:

  • How many people are visiting your website?
  • Where do these people live?
  • Are they using a desktop or a mobile device?
  • What sites are they using to find your website?
  • Which marketing tactics are getting the most attention?
  • Which of my pages do people like the most?
  • How many of my visitors become customers?

These are just a tiny fraction of the questions Google Analytics can answer for you. You can use the data to further enhance your site and tweak your search engine optimization efforts for better results in the future.

What are the absolute top metrics you need to watch? And what do you do with them once you start watching?

When you log back into Google Analytics after setting up your tracking code, you’ll receive an Audience Overview Report. While there’s a ton of information there, here are the main metrics you should focus on when you start:

1. The Number Of Visitors

Your website doesn’t do you any good if you aren’t seeing any traffic, so this is the first thing you should track.

What to Watch: You should quickly start to recognize what a “normal” amount of traffic is for your site over the course of a week or two. Then you can pay particular attention to big spikes or drops in traffic.

What to Do: Those big changes in website traffic are important metrics that tell you something is working (or something is wrong). If you see a big spike, can you relate that to something you posted? A PR opportunity you had? A new PPC campaign you started? Are you offering a sale? Ask yourself, “What is causing the increased attention on this brand and how can it be recreated?”

2. How Your Visitors Find You

Are your visitors coming directly from a Google search? Is a social media campaign sending them along? Google Analytics divides traffic sources into four categories:

  • Direct traffic, or people who type your site’s name into a browser. (Dark social also often appears as “direct” as well.)
  • Search traffic, or people who find your site through keyword searches
  • Referral traffic, or people who find you through Facebook, Twitter, news articles, and so on
  • Campaign traffic, or people who find you through your paid advertising campaigns

What to Watch: You can spot trends that can help you figure out which marketing activities, promotions, and social campaigns are resonating with your customers — and which are falling flat.

What to Do: Adjust your marketing efforts around both what is most productive for your company and where you want to improve. For example, if most of your visitors are coming from Facebook referrals, you know you need to focus your resources there. However, you also know that you need to change up your advertising campaigns on other channels if they don’t seem to be producing results.

3. The Average Time Visitors Spend On Your Page

Getting visitors to your site is only part of the battle. You also have to keep them there long enough to get their attention and attract their interest.

What to Watch: Look at your bounce rate, which is the number of visitors who only go to one page on your site before they exit again. You also need to look at the amount of time visitors spend on any given page in order to see what interests them. What has your visitor’s attention — your blog, your product demonstration videos, or something else?

What to Do: Are visitors spending long enough on your pages to be taking in the information or do they skim and leave? What do you need to adjust? For example, if your demonstration videos are 5 minutes long but visitors are staying an average of 3 minutes, can you shorten your videos to make them more user-friendly?

Ultimately, Google Analytics has much more to offer than just these few things. However, everyone has to start somewhere. If you’re just getting your feet wet and trying to learn how to make use of the metrics that matter to your business, this is where to start.

How to Get 5-Star Reviews for Your Small Business

How to Get 5-Star Reviews for Your Small Business

In the not-so-distant past, if you wanted to find out which local business was reliable, and which wasn’t, you just walked up to your neighbor by the backyard fence and asked for a recommendation.

Today, the internet has taken the place of the backyard fence and everybody’s your neighbor. Online review sites are today’s version of “word of mouth.” Every happy (or unhappy) customer has the potential to share his or her experience at your business with hundreds — or maybe thousands — of other people.

Knowing that, do you really want to list your business with Google, Yelp, and other review sites? Do you dare open your business up to potential criticism?

Absolutely. Online reviews are far too important to avoid.

Online Reviews Make Your Business Visible and Create Trust

Reviews are another way to increase your local search engine rankings through organic means. The more people discuss your brand, the better its visibility is to Google. Each review creates unique content that’s relevant to your brand — and some review sites, like Yelp, may even come up higher in search results for keywords than your actual website.

In addition, consumers are increasingly wary and distrustful of marketing techniques. They work hard for their money — so they need reassurance that they’re going to get a certain value when they hire someone or buy a product. That’s why 90% of people check out a local business online before they actually visit it. It’s also why 89% of consumers need to read multiple reviews for your business before they’re willing to trust you.

Essentially, consumers are looking for a good reason to choose one business over all the rest. In an increasingly competitive market, that’s exactly what you need to give them. Registering your business at online review sites and working hard to get those positive reviews is the best way to do it.

The Reviews You Get Could Make or Break Your Business

A heartfelt, positive review can have a huge effect on your business. Most online review sites use a five-star ratings system — and every star a business gains is associated with increased revenues of 5%-9%. In addition, consumers tend to overlook a business that has less than four stars. They simply don’t trust them. That makes positive reviews a major driving force for foot traffic, no matter what business you are in.

However, positive reviews aren’t the only ones that consumers are reading. A single, deeply-negative review can also have tremendous consequences for your business. One negative review can cost you 22% of your potential customers. Get three negative reviews, and you’ll lose 59% of those who read them.

It quickly becomes imperative to gain as many positive reviews as you can for your business. That not only gives you more good things for consumers to read, it helps mitigate the fallout from the occasional bad review.

Start a Plan to Solicit Reviews from Happy Customers

So, how do you go about getting more positive reviews?

Whatever you do, don’t hire anybody to write fake reviews. Not only is that unethical (and possibly illegal), it can backfire on your business badly. Your goal is to build trust — fake reviews from someone paid to write them will destroy that trust in a heartbeat.

Fortunately, getting good reviews is actually pretty easy. You simply ask for them. As soon as you open your business up for reviews on Google, Facebook, or Yelp, put your plan into action:

  • Ask friends and family who have used your services or bought your product to write a review. The odds are good that they’re some of your biggest fans anyway. Ask them to be specific about what they find most compelling about your business so that their reviews have that all-so-important ring of authenticity.
  • Talk to your most loyal customers. You know who they are. Let them know what you are doing and ask them for their support. Try reaching out to the people that already support you online through your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages.

People love to be asked for their opinion, and you’ll continue to build trust by making your most loyal customers feel like they’re partners in your success.

Respond to Positive and Negative Reviews Alike

One of the biggest mistakes brands make is not responding to reviews — good or bad. Consumers want a response. Far too often — about 63% of the time — they’re disappointed.

A simple, “Thanks! We look forward to seeing you again!” can often suffice for a positive review, while negative reviews take a little more finesse. Since the world is watching, keep your tone professional and address customer complaints as openly as possible. Avoid angry, emotional responses and focus on the overall impression you want to make on others who read the exchange.

When you respond to a review, you’re telling the customer who left it that you care about his or her opinion. You’re also telling everyone else that you’re responsive to all kinds of feedback.

The Takeaway

Your customers are your neighborhood — and you need to lean over the metaphorical fence between you and engage their support.

Online reviews are a fantastic opportunity for your business. Not only do they help with local search marketing, they’re a tremendous source of information and feedback. Learn to solicit that feedback — and respond to it in earnest — and you’ll gain your customers’ trust and give prospects a reason to pick your business out of the crowd!

DIY Online Marketing Tools for Small Business Owners

DIY Online Marketing Tools for Small Business Owners

If you want your small business to thrive and survive, online marketing is no longer optional.

Whether you’re a B2B or a B2C operation, your customers are out there somewhere — and they’re already online and looking for you (or someone like you, with your type of services or products). In fact, 80% of people do some kind of research online before they invest in a product or service. So online marketing is really all about making yourself easy to find.

Fortunately, you’ve never had greater access to easy, inexpensive (or absolutely free) online marketing tools than you do right now. Whether you’re a dedicated do-it-yourself’er or just want to experiment with online marketing on your own for a while, this is where you can get started.

Ranking Higher on Google And Getting Started On SEO

A lot of small business owners haven’t figured out yet how Google knows how to locate the right things when someone types in a few keywords and starts searching for whatever they want.

Well, whether you’re selling pizza or property, it’s pretty much all the same process. Google takes a look at all the available information it has from the searcher, which now usually includes some idea of the person’s address due to the geolocation abilities on cell phones. Google then tries to match up the best pieces of content it has available to the person’s query on a search engine results page (SERP).

Where your business falls in that SERP is largely a result of your ability to wield the mighty power of search engine optimization in your favor. Those are the techniques that you can use to become visible to your potential prospects.

While it isn’t an exact science and it takes some time, it isn’t impossible to learn either — especially if you’re willing to do your own research. There are plenty of free training materials dedicated to SEO that will walk you through everything that you need to know to move forward.

The first thing you should probably do, however, is get yourself firmly on Google’s radar by getting on the map. That alone will increase your company’s visibility in local searches. Local search is becoming tremendously important these days because consumers are increasingly mobile — and when they search for something, they’re often on their cellphones and ready to buy.

Leveraging Social Media Into a Business Marketing Tool

No matter what your business, the trend today is to engage with consumers where you can find them — and you can find them all online, somewhere on social media. You need a strong social presence in order for new prospects to discover you and drive up organic interest in your brand.

A Facebook page is an absolute must. It’s still the go-to social site for many consumers, and it’s business-friendly. However, don’t overlook the value of a Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram account. All of them appeal to different parts of your potential market and have different uses. All of them help your future customers find you.

Fortunately, there’s plenty of free tools and tutorials out there that will walk your through the ins-and-outs of social media and its role in digital marketing.

You can also get some significant insights after you get started on your social campaigns about what’s working and what isn’t using tools like BuzzSumo. It lets you track the success of all the content you put out there.

Final Thoughts (For Now)

Even small things online can have a big effect on your business. While some things, like starting a campaign on social geared at driving new prospects to the door, may take you some time to learn and begin, other things — like just adding social media accounts and putting yourself on Google’s map — can have a big impact right away.

The first steps always seem the hardest with any project. DIY online marketing takes some time to learn and some effort to implement, but there are plenty of resources available that can walk you through the steps.