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Ex-Employees Can No Longer Leave You Negative Reviews

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Reviews are meant to be about customer experience, however many business owners experience the inevitable negative review coming through from an ex-employee. Employee turnover is tough enough without having to worry about what’s going to be said publicly after someone is let go or quits.

Many reviews are exaggerated or complete lies, and can bring up personal details about management and other employees which really should not be online.

But, at long last, Google has updated their policies to be more comprehensive and mark negative reviews from ex-employees as a conflict of interest.

Out With the Old

Google’s latest review update makes review guidelines more comprehensive. While the previous guidelines were vague when it came to discussing customer experience and conflict of interest, now it is quite clear.

The policies used to read:

Make sure that the reviews on your business listing, or those that you leave at a business you’ve visited, are honest representations of the customer experience. Those that aren’t may be removed.

Conflict of Interest: Reviews are most valuable when they are honest and unbiased. If you own or work at a place, please don’t review your own business or employer.

These don’t specifically say anything about ex-employees. All they state is that you must have visited the business, be stating an honest unbiased opinion, and not currently work there or own the business.

In With the New

Now, if you visit Google’s new guidelines found on Maps’ help center, you’ll find a comprehensive list of prohibited and restricted content under which “Conflict of Interest”now reads:

Maps users contributed content is most valuable when it is honest and unbiased. The following practices are not allowed:

  • Reviewing your own business
  • Posting negative content about a current or former employment experience
  • Posting negative content about a competitor to manipulate their ratings

There’s not much you can argue with that wording!

But What About Positive Reviews?

It’s clear in reading the updated content policy that this new rule only applies to negative reviews left by ex-employees. So, if you’ve received a few glowing positive reviews from employees who have since moved on to other workplaces or retired, it looks like you’re in the clear.

Ex-employees rarely feel the need to lie about a positive experience, so it’s to be assumed that Google agrees with this as an honest, unbiased experience.

Clean up That Reputation!

If your business currently has negative reviews from ex-employees sitting there tarnishing your reputation, now is the time to get in touch with Google My Business and ask that they remove the reviews.

This is a happy new year indeed!

Reviews Gone Wrong

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Back in the day the keys to success as a business were mainly providing a superior product and offering good value and service. Fast forward to today and it’s easy to see that this is no longer the case. For a business to be successful in this day and age, customer experience is going to rank the highest.

We all know the importance of online reviews and how platforms like social media can be used to rank a customer’s experience with your business. The internet is an arena for interactive feedback and while the success of your business can be based off this type of interaction, it can also be harmed.

When it comes to reviewing a business online or engaging in interactive feedback, online discussions, or comments about a company or a service, oftentimes customers or those visiting your website will base their comments on things that may be out of your control as a business owner. When reviews are posted that have nothing to do with an actual customer experience it can easily spiral out of control.

Don’t Get Personal

Reviews are meant to based on actual customer experience and not on anything else. However, we often come across those who will write negative reviews or provide not-so-flattering commentary based on personal beliefs or on the activities or personal behaviour of employees.

Such reviews are unfair, and while business owners usually seek to hire people whose values align with those of their company, the truth is that business owners cannot control what their employees do while they are not at work.

Our personal lives are hardly personal anymore with everything being shared on social media, and customers can easily see what your employees are up to when they’re not at work. If this behaviour is deemed offensive by anyone it could unfortunately adversely impact your business in the form of negative reviews or harsh commentary.

This type of review is unfair for everyone mainly because it does not reflect an actual customer experience with your business. And while a customer may be offended by the behaviour of an employee, if that behaviour did not occur while the employee was at work, and it did not affect the customer’s experience, then it really has no bearing on your business and your company should be left out of it.

Think Before You Post

The challenge comes from the blurring of personal and public and where to draw the line. Employers should make it clear that if an employee is going to engage in any questionable behaviour that it may have a negative impact on the image of the company that they work for. And while employers can’t control what their staff does on their own free time, they can encourage them to think about what they share with the public online.

Customer Experience Wins Every Time

Customer experience should still be the main benchmark of success as a business in this age of over-sharing and instant feedback. Remember to consider this before leaving a negative review about a business based on anything else. While you may not agree with something that someone does in their personal time, is it really fair to involve the company they work for?

How to Monitor Your Online Reputation

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If you’ve been paying attention to the statistics about online reputation over the past year, you’ll know just how important your online reputation is.

If not, let’s start with a couple facts:

  • 97% of consumers read online reviews.
  • 85% of them trust these reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • 73% of them trust a business more if it has positive reviews.
  • 49% will not choose a business with less than a four-star rating.
  • With that in mind, you can start creating a plan to collect and monitor reviews to build your online reputation.

    The DIY Method

    The majority of business owners who are just starting out, are going to go through a period where they try to do everything on their own. While this is a heroic effort, it can leave you burned out, stressed, and ineffective.

    However, if you’re looking for the best sites to make monitoring your own online reputation a little easier, there are options out there.

    Google Alerts

    When business owners think reviews, they think Google. Not only will Google alert you to new reviews left through your Google My Business listing, but you can set Google alerts to notify you every time new posts are made online involving keywords of your choice. Plug in your company name and you’re good to go.

    Hootsuite

    Hootsuite is the ultimate home base for monitoring all of your social media in one location. Not only can you schedule posts and engage with your clients faster than ever, but when they engage with you, you’ll see them. Best of all, Hootsuite will provide you with analytics reports for every account you have running through them!

    The Stress-Free Method

    You’ve done all the legwork involved in launching your business, and now it’s up to you to run it successfully. It’s a lot to have on one person’s shoulders. The last thing you need is to deal with aspects of your business that someone else could be managing.

    By hiring a professional web development company such as LinkNow Media, you’ll be arming yourself with a professional team of SEOs who can get your company ranking high and ensure that your reputation stays positive.

    Go Forth and Gather Reviews!

    You can’t have much of an online reputation without the reviews to back you up. While there are some big “NOs” when it comes to review gathering, it’s a fact that 68% of your clients will leave a review if asked.

    Don’t go down the rabbit hole of paying for reviews, since it can come back to bite you in the form of fines. And, don’t review your own business. Fake reviews never lead anywhere good.
    Next time you have a happy customer finish conducting their business with you, let them know you’d love to hear their feedback. Soon your company will be well on its way to being the most popular kid online!

    Cash in on Reviews During Boxing Day

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    Boxing Day will be upon us at the end of December—the 26th to be exact. So now is the perfect time to cash in on those valuable SEO tools—reviews.

    People love to have their say, and when you let them, you’ll be benefiting from it to. With 84% of consumers trusting online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, they’re a great way to boost your reputation. Not to mention, the more activity there is around your website, the higher you’ll rank on search engines like Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

    Boxing Day brings in billions of dollars to retailers across North America every year, and 2016 was a record breaker with a grand total of $3.45 billion spent online. With this much activity, you’re bound to get reviews whether you ask for them or not.

    Asking Properly

    Now is the time to start planning your online marketing for the biggest retail weekend of the year. Keep in mind SEO, ad channels, and what sales you want to run.
    But also figure out how you’re going to ask satisfied clients to leave you positive reviews.

    First let’s note the golden rule: Do NOT incentivize.

    There’s nothing wrong with asking for reviews, but offering compensation for these rules is not only bad form but could result in legal action being taken against you. A review that was bought is not going to be genuine, and consumers and search engines alike are concerned about the truth.

    How to Ask

    Posting a “Please review us” button on your site is not the worst option, but it’s not the best either.

    Targeting customers who had good experiences is your goal. But while this is easier to gauge in person, there are ways to do some guess work for your online clients.

    Send a request immediately after purchase

    One option is to include your request for review in the email that is sent to confirm an order. No, your client has not actually received the item yet, but they have purchase from you and may want to comment on how simple or fun the buying process was.

    Yes, you do risk them coming back with a negative update if they hate what they ordered, but it’s still going to create activity for your site.

    Send a request after 10 days

    Ten days is an arbitrary number, but pick a time when you know your customers will have received their item(s). If they haven’t sent in a return request, you can safely say that they are satisfied with what they purchased.

    The more personalized your approach for a review is, the more likely you are to get it. But with large sale weekends it’s tough to add that personal touch. So do your guesswork, and don’t cave into the urge to incentivize because you will not be thanking yourself for it for long!

    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.

    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!

    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.

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