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Online Review Stats in 2017

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Every year surveys come out with percentages and detailed information regarding just about everything online. At LinkNow Media, we’re always interested in anything that affects SEO.
When it comes to online reviews, your reputation is pretty important, and the latest information confirms it. We’ll give you the “too long didn’t read” right now and say: reviews still matter in 2017.

So, don’t think you can get out of encouraging and monitoring them any time soon.

Who is Reading What?

In 2016, 95% of consumers were using the internet to look up local businesses. If you think that’s high though, 2017 has seen a 2% increase, up to 97%! If you currently run a business that doesn’t have an online presence, you’re making a big mistake.

Half of these consumers are looking for local businesses online at least once a month. Imagine how much business you’re missing out on if you’re not there to be found!
But, maybe your industry doesn’t really do that whole online thing? We doubt it. Among the top industries that have their clients reading reviews are:

    • Restaurants
    • Hotels
    • Healthcare
    • Clothing stores
    • Car dealerships
    • Tradesmen
    • Pest control
    • Cars for hire
    • Accountants
    • Locksmiths

And that’s just to name a few. So, where should you be collecting reviews? Facebook and Yelp unsurprisingly tied at 20% of consumers trusting them the most, followed closely by Google at 16% and the Better Business Bureau at 15%.

And, how many of these browsers turn into conversions? 68% of US consumers are more likely to use a business with positive reviews, with 40% citing negative reviews as a reason not to frequent a local business.

Best of all, the number of consumers who will actually visit a business after reading a review has grown by 10% from last year, to 17%.

Focus on Quantity and Quality

Factors that have also grown in importance since 2016 are the quantity and quality of reviews. There’s no way you can just sit back and coast when it comes to this powerful SEO builder.
54% of consumers rank star rating as the most important factor, with quantity coming in second at 46%—up 11% from last year. Consumers also want to see you getting involved. Up 10% from 2016, 30% now want to see you responding.

Therefore, our best advice to you is to keep doing what you’re doing. But do it a lot more. You still need to be drumming up reviews and monitoring them, providing professional responses to both positive and negative, but the importance of review building and etiquette has only become more important.

Feeling overwhelmed? You can always put the reins in the hands of an experienced SEO team like the one at LinkNow Media!

How Company Reviews Affect Potential Employees

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You’ve spent all this time gathering reviews and thinking about how they’re going to affect your bottom line, but what about how they affect your potential employees?

The way your company is spoken about online isn’t only going to help you to gain or lose business, it can influence who’s interested in working for you as well.

Most business owners assume that in the job market their word is law, but in a workforce that’s slowly being overtaken by Millennials, peer opinion matters a lot, and can cost you valuable employees.

Company Review Websites

I’m sure many of us remember the days of rate my teacher and rate my professor websites. Students don’t have much of a choice when it comes to choosing who teaches them what, so while serious complaints could have some affect, these acted mainly as open gossip sites—a place for frustrated students to get their emotions out.

This is not the case with company review and rating websites.

Glassdoor

Glassdoor displays ratings and reviews for more than 600,000 companies worldwide. When you need to get the inside scoop and find out what it’s really like from the people who work there, this is how you do it.

Offering articles on the factors that play a role in salary negotiations, the types of companies you should never work for, and of course the Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards, this website is the largest and most crucial site on which you as an employer will want to rank well.

Indeed

Most commonly known as a networking website, Indeed also offers an anonymous review section of their website. While it’s not quite as personal as Glassdoor, ratings still hold a lot of weight on this well-known industry leader.

And Beyond

The website FairyGodBoss is an employer site strictly for women. RateMyEmployer features more than 45,000 candidate and employee reviews, and of course websites such as Google, Yelp and Facebook offer general reviews from employees and customers alike that can give future employers a pretty good idea about what a prospective employer is all about.

What it Comes Down To

While larger companies such as McDonald’s and Best Buy are going to have thousands of reviews that muddy the waters—and let’s face it, people looking for jobs at huge chains like this aren’t going to put as much weight into reviews—it’s imperative that a small business keeps up workplace morale.

When you’re looking to hire a talented new employee to head that new department, you’re going to want the best. While your ad may draw them in, any tech-savvy potential employee is going to check out your ratings right away.

If they pull up your Glassdoor page and find a post stating “Worst Job I’ve Ever Had”, they’re going to think twice.

So, what can you do about it?

Treat your employees well, but don’t sacrifice your professional atmosphere. There are great ways to build morale and keep a smile on peoples’ faces throughout the day without your office turning into a madhouse. And, get on these websites yourself!

Glassdoor offers you the ability to respond to all negative reviews. Like with any other review, the way you respond can set the tone for your business no matter what that reviewer said.

Can I Review my own Business?

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In the world of online reviews, many business owners like to start the ball rolling by leaving their own company a star rating or a little review.

Sounds innocent enough, but is it?

Whether your intentions are good, or shady, reviewing your own business is a bad idea.

Nearly 80% of consumers rely on online reviews before hiring a service or purchasing a product. In fact, peer reviews are trusted as much as recommendations from family or friends. With this in mind, it can be easy to get greedy and impatient when you’re just starting out.

However, you need to keep in mind that fake reviews are unethical, and even illegal. That’s right—you can be sued for posting fake reviews. It is called “astroturfing” and websites such as Google, Yelp and Amazon have been known to sue over it.

But you might be thinking: “How is it a fake review if I state that I am the business owner, or don’t say anything and just leave five stars??”

In the case of a five-star rating, it’s true you can probably get away with it. But if anyone realizes you are the business owner, your credibility is shot. If you reviewed your own company with five stars, who’s to say you didn’t talk other friends and family members into leaving biased reviews, or even pay for fake reviews?

    A fake review can be any of the following:

    • Asking someone who is not a customer to write a review.

    • Paying someone to write a review, even if they are a customer.

    • Asking an employee to review your company (it’s different if they review and state that the review is about their experience as an employee).

    • Creating a fake profile to review your company.

    • Reviewing your company as yourself, the business owner.

    That’s right, even if you state that you are the business owner and you’re just stopping in to leave a positive review, it’s counted as fake.
    Why?

    Because you have added to your rating. Whether you’re up-front about who you are or not, you have successfully altered the rating of your business and that is the goal of fake reviews.

    In 2016, Amazon sued 1,000 fake reviewers in an attempt to crack down on this practice. They stated that these false reviewers were tarnishing their brand with inauthenticity.

    No one is invulnerable to this sort of crackdown.

    So, how do you get started with reviews? There’s nothing wrong with suggesting that clients leave a review. Mention it on your website by linking to your business page, or put a sign up in your brick and mortar business.

    But next time you’re considering somehow leaving a review for your own business, just say no.

When Social Media Goes Wrong

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Social media can be a helpful tool for many businesses when it comes to adding a little extra to their SEO and providing a great platform for business-client interaction. Sure, building a Facebook page won’t lead to direct ranking, but the potential for link building is big, as well as building an audience. /

However, if one or two things go wrong, social media can have big real-world consequences for your business—whether you’re on it or not!

Ease of Sharing

The same thing that you can benefit so much from can be your downfall as well. How many times have we seen people in the public eye sticking their foot in their mouth via Twitter? Or having an old post from years ago brought up and criticized?

It’s always important to think before speaking, but in the case of social media, the record of what you say will live on forever. Even if you delete it, realizing after the fact that something you just said didn’t go over so well, is often too late.

Staff Representation

Before the age of social media, business owners would wonder what their employees really thought about their jobs. Were they enjoying it? Saying negative things to friends and family? Well, now anyone can have their say—and make it public.

The way your staff represents you online is important. Especially if they have a big following.

While it’s usually advised that employees be careful what they say online, it goes both ways. Reputation is important. Don’t lose yours by being a bad boss and getting called out for it online.

Everyone has Their Say

Which brings us to reviews. Staff, customers and anyone you can think of can have their say online. Even if you’ve avoided putting your business on directories and social media pages, if you’ve got a bad reputation, it will get out.

All it takes is one angry client or staff member to start the ball rolling and list you online. Then, whether you like it or not, you’re there for good and the only way to fight back is by taking control of your social media presence and communicating with bad reviewers.

Case Studies

It can be entertaining to look at businesses failing on social media, until it’s your business in the hot seat. Paying attention to what others did wrong can help you avoid making the same mistakes.

Coca-Cola

Posting an outdated map of Russia omitting Kaliningrad which was annexed following World War II, Coca-Cola had a brand-new hashtag following them around: #BanCocaCola. Applied to images and videos of people pouring their Coke bottles down the toilet, it wasn’t the greatest marketing move.

MTV Australia

Tweeting a suggestion requesting English subtitles on actresses America Ferrera and Eva Longoria at the Golden Globes doesn’t seem like the greatest idea. But MTV Australia thought it was a good plan. Needless to say, they suffered a PR nightmare.

Tay Tweets

Probably the most famous social media mess-up of recent years, Microsoft launched their AI Twitter bot and encouraged the people of the internet to help it learn. Well, if you know the people of the internet, you can guess what happened. Tay turned into a sexist, racist jerk in less than 24 hours.

The Final Words

Like many marketing tools, the powers of social media can be used for good, or evil. Compose carefully, research well and don’t let the trolls teach your account to be just like them.

How to Spot a Fake Review

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In an age where reviews are key when it comes to how millennials and many others spend their hard-earned money, fake reviews have been cropping up left and right.

No, it’s not ok or even legal to hire someone to leave fake reviews for your company, but people still do it. So, how do you pick out what’s real and what’s fake?

There are some great websites that will help you such as Fakespot, but there are also tips you can keep in mind as you browse when you don’t want to go to the extra effort of plugging products into searches!

Check the Language

Fake reviews are most often found in the one-star or five-star category. Companies paying to bump up their sales or bring down a competitor’s sales will be looking for extreme praise or criticism. On a website like Amazon, start off by only looking at two to four-star reviews. Many fake reviewers are also paid per word, so their reviews may be quite short, and often in slightly “off” language. For example, when discussing price they will mention the currency while an average American leaving the same review would simply state the price.

Check the Timing

A surefire way to spot fake reviews is if a product or service has received multiple reviews in a short timespan. When a company is lacking reviews and pays to get a batch online right away, the reviewer they’ve hired will post them in swift succession from multiple fake accounts. While there are a lot of avid reviewers out there, most consumers wait until they really have something to say to leave their own review and so a constant stream of legitimate reviews is a highly unlikely occurrence.

Creep the Reviewer

Does their profile photo look like it came out of a picture frame or an art book? Take a look at the reviewer’s profile and see what sort of reviews they’re leaving. If the products are all over the place and reviews are constant, that’s a good sign that they’re a fake account. You can even search their full name if they’re using it on Google and see what sort of web presence they have. A reverse image search will reveal if that photo they’re using is a stock photo, or real. In the case of Amazon, you can also check to see if they in fact purchased the product they are reviewing. If not? Likely fake.

While angry, negative reviews can be fun to read, a lot of the time they’re fake. A one-star with emotional language that doesn’t really tell you much about the product itself is likely a freelancer, or friend/family member of a direct competitor trying to bring the competition down a peg.

Does a review sound like someone’s mother wrote it? No one’s that devoted to their vacuum cleaner. Switch to some middle-ground reviews and find the real, un-biased opinion.

Happy hunting!

Blue bird on speech bubble

Twitter is Doubling Their Character Limit

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On September 27th it was announced that Twitter is testing the expansion of their famous 140-character post limit, not just adding in a couple words, but doubling it to 280 characters.

Known for its concise nature, many Twitter users are wondering if this expansion is a good idea.

Twitter company owners however have some pretty good reasoning behind their decision, which is currently being tested out on a randomly selected group.

The original 140-character limit was chosen arbitrarily, based on the current SMS text limit, which is 160 characters. Leaving 20 characters open for usernames, Twitter was born.

A limit of 280 characters was chosen to make tweeting easier for those posting in languages affected by “cramming”. This includes any language except Japanese, Chinese and Korean. Where nine percent of English speakers fill the 140 limit every time, only four percent of Japanese users do so.

With 328 million users, it’s surprising to say that Twitter has never turned a profit. With that in mind, of course there is some monetary thinking behind this new change. By encouraging English speakers to tweet more often, and say more, investors will see a rise in users and activity.

The company also hopes to put an end to multi-message tweet storms.

Twitter Facts

At 11 years old, Twitter has accomplished a lot in its lifetime. With 328 million active users and 1.3 billion accounts created, it’s clear why it’s one of the most prominent social media platforms out there.

  • 500 million users visit the site every month without logging in.
  • 29.2% of social media users in the United States are Twitter users.
  • 83% of the world’s leaders on Twitter.
  • 500 million tweets are sent every day.
  • It took three years, two months, and one day to go from the first tweet to the billionth.
  • 65.8% of US companies with 100+ employees use Twitter for marketing.
  • Twitter is an important platform and staying up to date with what’s going on with it will keep you at the top of your online marketing game.

    But Will it Happen?

    Twitter has played around with the character limit in the past. There was a brief moment in 2015 where a 10,000-character limit was considered—yes, for real.

    More recently the removal of @ replies, photos, videos and quotes from the character count didn’t throw users into a panic. However, the doubling of the character limit has.

    Negative reactions came quickly, with users expressing their love for the brevity of Twitter. The platform encourages the editing of thoughts to boil them down to their purest form, and that is attractive. Concerns include the potential of an even bigger platform for Internet “trolls” to bash fellow users.

    So, will the 280-character limit become a reality for all Twitter users soon? We’ll have to wait and see.

    The Better Business Bureau vs. Peer Reviews

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    The Better Business Bureau (BBB) was founded in 1912 and created to focus on advancing marketplace trust. An unbiased authority, their accreditation of businesses across the United States and Canada have held a lot of weight when it comes to displaying the quality of a business.

    Ranked F – A+ and providing basic information on a business such as founding date, as well as customer reviews, it’s a great website to gain valuable information. Factors that affect a BBB accreditation are:

    1. Build trust

    2. Advertise honestly

    3. Tell the truth

    4. Be transparent

    5. Honor promises

    6. Be responsive

    7. Safeguard privacy

    8. Embody integrity

    These are all excellent things for businesses to aspire towards.

    However, over the years, the BBB is losing its standing as the first resource discerning customers turn to. While businesses still proudly display their accreditation, and rightly so, consumers are starting to turn more to online reviews on sites such as Google, Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook.

    So, what does the BBB offer their members that free reviews do not?

    Right out the gate, you’re going to have to look at your client demographic. The baby boomer generation grew up seeing the BBB as a standard of excellence. A business could be ruined with the right misconduct complaints. If they are your target, the $500 yearly BBB membership could be a valuable investment.

    Once you’re a member, you start off with an A rating which is pretty good. This could go up with good reviews, or down with bad. You’ll receive a logo that you can place on your site, the backlink is good quality SEO, and your membership fee is tax deductible.

    The biggest difference between the BBB and other review websites is status and history. Accreditation looks great but when it comes to sheer quantity of opinions and SEO value you would be better off encouraging reviews across other platforms, especially if you have a younger audience.

    In Conclusion

    So, in the end, do we believe in the relevancy of the Better Business Bureau in 2017? YES we do! A membership just may not be for every business, especially those just starting out.

    Like with any marketing tactic it’s important to weigh your options and look at your target market. Online reviews are an amazing sounding board for your customers to tell other people what they think about the products/services you offer, and for you to respond to their feedback.

    When you read about what’s affecting SEO, you’re not going to find the BBB listed anywhere but you are going to find a lot of stats about reviews.

    It’s a fact that over 80% of your current and future clients are reading reviews and taking them seriously, and they’re not hunting for the ones on the BBB.

    However, the BBB provides a long-standing pedigree that is appealing to many browsers who want to know more about your website. If you’re able to make the investment, we recommend you try it out. But until you’re able to, just keep building those reviews!

    What Marketers Should Know About Online Reviews

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    In this age of the Internet, lots of things are being re-thought especially the way in which we market products and services. Whether you’re a small business or a large one, the same suggestions apply.

    The pre-Internet consumer would compare brands and were fully dependent on information provided by manufacturers. While some brand names still carry weight, the importance of brand names in general have diminished, with consumers favoring opinions from experts and users.

    The current consumer relies on user-generated reviews, expert opinions and peer to peer information in general.

    So, where does the marketer stand in all of this? While they don’t have full say over what information consumers have available to them, by working with an influence mix they can be more effective than ever.

    The influence mix consists of prior preference and experience, information from marketers and consumer reviews.

    Prior Preference and Experience

    This applies to products that are habitually bought, like toothpaste and toilet paper. Customers are going to be influenced by what they themselves have done in the past more than anything else. These products are review-independent and feature luxury items as well.

    Information From Marketers

    Right in the middle, information from marketers can fall into review-independent products and review-dependent ones as well. However, someone purchasing a review-independent product is more likely to take this information into account, as they’re not looking for reviews to tell them something similar.

    Consumer Reviews

    The consumer’s reliance on reviews is most prevalent with products they can’t test themselves. All products follow a continuum. For example, before purchasing electronics buyers will pay close attention to what previous purchasers have had to say before taking any chances. But when buying from a chain restaurant, they rarely have reason to look it up since they already know what they’re going to get.

    Market research is more important than ever. Figure out how your market is getting their information and making their purchasing decisions, and you’ll be able to decide from there the best way to follow through with marketing. With the rise of reviews, branding takes on less importance, making it easier entry for newcomers and for anyone to diversify more easily.

    Did you know, 30% of U.S. consumers say they begin their online purchase research by going to Amazon.com to read through reviews? And 79% of Americans now shop online. With a market that big it’s not one you want to miss out on. Whether or not your product or service can be directly purchased online doesn’t matter. If you can benefit from reviews, make sure you’re getting them.

    To properly use reviews, make note of these points:

    Do:Track and quantify information from forums and review sites.

    Don’t: Measure individual preferences, satisfaction and loyalty.

    While some believe that reviews are going the way of the dinosaurs with more fake ones cropping up every day, that’s not truly the case. Review websites are coming up with ways to certify reviews and crack down on the fakers, making reviews more reliable than ever.

    Millennials and Reviews

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    The largest generational cohort since the baby boomers, millennials are the largest generation in US history, and their shopping habits are shaping our economy more and more.

    This tech-savvy generation has a purchasing power that will soon exceed that of every other generation. Strong supporters of online shopping, millennials are cautious as well, putting off large purchases until later in life and valuing quality over price.

    It’s no surprise that with all the information available at their fingertips, they put research into their purchases whether it’s a physical one, or a service. That’s where reviews come in.

    The Importance of User-Generated Content

    User-generated content (UGC) such as status updates on social media, blog posts and Google reviews are what make the millennial consumer’s world go around. The more viral and liked a product or service is by peers, the more likely they are to purchase it themselves.

    In past generations, the professional opinion was king, but with a growing distrust for mainstream media and big corporations, this generation finds themselves turning to the most trusted source: mass approval.

    Some may see this as illogical, but to understand the logic, consider this: Professionals may have appeared on adverts or written articles on a product, but was this always of their own volition? If not, someone wanted them doing that promotion for a reason. And can you really trust that?

    UGC: Investing in Time to Make Solid Investments

    Millennials spend 18 hours with media per day. Astounding, right? Some of us aren’t even awake for 18 hours of the day! Thirty percent of this time is spent browsing UGC, 33% on traditional media such as print and TV, and 37% on other media.

    No matter what they’re looking at, and especially when it’s online, products are being promoted.

    When something catches their eye, their first instinct is to look that product up online to see if it is legitimately what they expect, and to see if it’s worth buying.

    If they’re looking for a service, Google reviews will be their first stop. If your business isn’t listed on a Google My Business page and set up with a star rating, you’re in trouble!

    With 90% of millennials shopping online, your online presence is more important than ever. You just can’t afford to stay in the stone age.

    Influence With Technology

    Most millennials are obsessed with reviews. With apps like Yelp and Foursquare, everyone has a place to speak their mind. Whether you’re reading entertaining negative reviews, leaving one yourself, or praising the best pizza you’ve ever tried, reviews are fascinating and, for the most part, trustworthy.

    Whether they’re aware of it or not, millennials have their antenna up for star ratings and reviews no matter where they are online and if there are no reviews to be found, it’s likely they’ll find a more reliable product.

    So go the extra mile and make sure that your business is getting lots of great reviews. Rank higher on search engines, and bring in that amazing millennial purchasing power!

    Why You Shouldn’t Pay for Fake Reviews

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    It should go without saying that paying for reviews for your business that aren’t legitimate is not the greatest idea. But for a lot of people, this seems like the best answer for buffing up their positive Internet presence.

    And why not? If it looks like a real customer and talks like a real customer, it must be a real customer. Not to mention if so many companies are doing it then it’s got to be legal, right? Wrong.

    While you may or may not be aware, there are many reasons not to follow this path and stay legit.

    It’s Fraud

    Plain and simple, if you hire someone to write a phony review you are committing fraud. Think about why you want this person to write a review:to generate revenue for yourself.

    With the popularity of online reviews in this era, they do translate to real money.

    Fraud is defined as “the wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain”.

    Sounds a whole lot like paying someone for a false review.

    Real Results, Real Punishment

    By 2015, Amazon had sued over 1000 people for writing fake reviews. Many of these reviewers came from the website Fiverr. And no—Fiverr was not sued—the individuals were. The websites on which your business is reviewed will not protect you or your reviewer, they will work towards ensuring the reviews on their website are as legitimate as possible.

    Even Yelp and Alibaba have started to crack down on the fake reviews on their websites. And of course, Google has a reporting situation in place so they can handle fake reviews as well.
    Want to keep your business’ reputation clean? Don’t pay for reviews.

    Spotting a Fake Review

    If you’re suspicious that a competitor is employing fake reviewers, there are ways to spot these reviews, or at least make an educated guess.

    Take a trip over to Fakespot. Their system will scan for a number of factors including:

    Overly positive language

    Multiple reviews published the same day

    If you want to do additional research yourself, check out the reviewer’s profile and see how real they seem. If you can’t find them in a quick Google search, they could very well be fake.

    Tips for Real Reviews

    It can be tempting to want to buff up your business by paying for fake reviews. But there are much better ways to get real reviews that you can actually feel good about.

    Any time someone purchases from you or employs your services, just ask them to leave a review. Don’t offer gifts or coupons in exchange, simply learn how to pick out happy customers and get them to spread their joy.

    And of course if any negative reviews appear, deal with them in a calm, professional manner.

    Handle reviews properly and you’ll have a great reputation for your business online in no time!

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