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What Marketers Should Know About Online Reviews

online reviews

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.

Why You Shouldn’t Pay for Fake Reviews

boat

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!

How Online Reviews Impact Your Local SEO

More and more businesses are realizing the importance of online reviews when it comes to promoting their product or service, but did you know reviews also affect your Search Engine Optimization? SEO is just as crucial to the promotion of a business in 2017 because it means a boost in your ranking. For example, if someone is searching for a hair salon there are many options. But if you have the best SEO, they’ll find you first.

When you’re trying to beef up your SEO online reviews are critical to this process. Search engines love fresh user generated content, and customers love social proof. In fact, 90% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.

Search engines like Google or Bing are in the business of creating fast and accurate search results, and the input from real people in the form of reviews is a great way to do this. In a recent study by Moz it was determined that reviews make up 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank results.

Factors that can play into your business’ SEO include a variety of signals such as linking, keywords and categories, with reviews coming in before social media in terms of boosting your business!

Google favors high-rated sites, and in a world where customers spend 31% more on a business with good reviews, you’ll want to get a review gathering strategy in place if you don’t already have one!

A good way to do this is request that happy customers leave a review. If you’re selling online, include your request in a thank you email. At a physical store, create a flyer you can drop in a customer’s bag along with their merchandise. You can even create a landing page on your website linking to review sites for the ultimate ease of access.

Review sites that will get the results you’re looking for include:

Google My Business/

Yelp

Foursquare

Citysearch

YP.com

Try the Review Handout Generator by Whitespark and Phil Rozek if you need an easy way to create handouts for your store, then wait for the reviews to start flowing!

Asking for reviews can be a bit of a scary process, considering you can land on a customer who’s not happy with their interaction. But don’t worry—even negative reviews keep your business active from a search engine’s point of view, and as long as you respond to all negative reviews in a calm and professional manner, you’ll be just fine.

Finally, on your quest for reviews, don’t be tempted into paying for fake reviews. This is considered fraud and you could be in big financial trouble for doing it. Not to mention, it’s just better to have legitimate reviews for your business. Even if they’re criticizing you, you can learn something from unhappy customers.

No matter the size or type of business you run, online reviews are imperative to keeping it running successfully. So, go and gather reviews and see just how good the results are!

Relaxation Techniques for Responding to Negative Online Reviews

zenWe talk a lot about the dos and don’ts when it comes to responding to negative reviews, and we always stress the importance of keeping your cool. Today, we’re going to take that advice one step further by providing you with a few relaxation techniques and breathing exercises to keep you level-headed when faced with a scathing review. Follow this advice from LinkNow Media and you can’t go wrong.

Mindfulness app

Stop, Breathe & Think is a guided meditation and mindfulness app that offers breathing techniques with the aim of assisting you in broadening your perspective, getting in touch with your emotions, and improving your reactions to stressful situations. Many of the exercises can be performed in under 10 minutes, so not having time is no excuse! When practiced regularly, this app can help reduce anxiety, increase compassion and enhance motivation. It has everything you need to respond to an unfavourable opinion about your business in a calm manner.

Inhale pink, exhale blue

Inhale pink, exhale blue is a breathing exercise that can regulate stress, relieve tension and improve your mood. This breathing exercise is practiced by bringing your awareness to your breath and imagining yourself inhaling pink and exhaling blue. Another variation of this exercise involves inhaling love and exhaling fear. Whichever one you choose, this awareness will help bring you to the present moment, which is integral to managing the emotional distress of whatever is front of you—in this case, harsh words about your service or product.

Stretch, stretch, stretch

Most people associate stretching with warming up or cooling down after physical exercise as a way improve flexibility and prevent injury. However, stretching can also do wonders for the mind too. This is because stretching regulates your heart rate and blood pressure, helping to promote mental calmness, which is key when it comes to responding to a negative review. Here you can find a handful of yoga poses and stretches that you can do at your work desk. Or, just simply touch your toes. Even something as small as this can help improve your mood to assist you in responding to a negative review without getting defensive.

Final Thoughts

Getting a negative review on Yelp or any other customer review website is never fun. If you are like most people, your response might be to go on the defense, but you need to find ways to avoid doing that. Being defensive isn’t going to help right a wrong, and it certainly won’t win over someone who is upset about your service. When it comes to fixing the problem, you need to remain calm. Exercises like the ones above can help with that, but you’ll need to practice them consistently.

Have you had any success with practices of nature? If so, have they helped other areas of your work life? At LinkNow Media, we’d love to hear about it. Let us know in the comments section below

How to Get People Talking About Your Products

productsWe’ve said it again and again – content is king. That is why so many small businesses have made it a priority to produce a lot of it – and not just a lot of it, but interesting content – the kind of content that gets people talking. This is key when it comes to getting people to review a product. After all, people aren’t likely to spend money on a product that doesn’t have any buzz surrounding it. The best way to get people talking is by creating and distributing content that is conversational. So, let’s give them something to talk about. Follow these tips from LinkNow Media, and you’re sure to see some friction in the comments section.

Contests

Who doesn’t love the opportunity to win a prize? Enticing your customers with a chance to win a prize is a great way to spread the word about your product. One good thing about contests is that they can be introduced through many different social media platforms as well as through email campaigns. When it comes to contests, there are so many different directions you can take. If your product is easily photographed, for example, then hosting a photo contest is a great idea.

Email Campaigns

In the simplest sense, email campaigns are friendly reminders for customers to something. In this case, you are trying to get customers who recently bought your product to write a review about their experience. If you want them to follow through with that action, you’ll need to get personal. Personalization is more than plugging in a client’s name in the email. By using data collected from CRM software, you can produce content relevant to their behavior, interests, and demographic. Sometimes, what’s in it for them isn’t anything tangible, but rather the feeling of being noticed and appreciated. When they feel recognized, they’ll be more likely to share their thoughts on your company. What goes around comes around.

Video Bloggers

Reading about someone’s experience is one thing, but seeing them use your product is another. There’s no harm in reaching out and asking a video blogger if they’ll review your product if it’s the type of product they typically review. Their contact information is usually provided at the end of their videos or somewhere on their personal website, if they have one.

Final Thoughts

These are surefire ways to get people talking about your products and level of customer service. If you plan to follow through with these tips, it’s important that you are prepared. What we mean is that you need to be ready to meet the demands of your newfound popularity. Once reviews start coming in, make sure you have enough inventory to meet the needs of your consumers.

Online Customer Review Tips for Small Business Owners

Paper ClipThere’s no denying that attracting new customers can involve a lot of effort. Unfortunately, as a business owner, it can be difficult to devote time to your digital marketing strategy. One way to bring in new business that doesn’t involve too much effort on your end is by letting your satisfied clients do the leg work. Online customer reviews are one of the most effective ways to push a person to follow through on a purchase. That means it’s well worth it to do what you can to make leaving online reviews a seamless process. After all, the more online reviews you obtain, the more likely you are to make sales. Here are 3 tips for getting the most out of your online customer reviews:

Ask for Reviews on Expensive Products

It’s a fair assumption to make that cost is a major factor holding people back. So, if you are going to encourage satisfied customers to leave online reviews, it pays to give an extra push on your more expensive products. Reviews from satisfied customers can illustrate why your product is worth every penny.

Send a Follow Up Email

Let’s face it – emails are easy to ignore. Half of them can be deleted, and the majority of them don’t demand your immediate attention. None-the-less, an email can be that extra nudge a person needs to write a review. The hard part is getting them to open that email, so it’s important that your email demands attention.

When it comes to sending out a follow up email, timing is key. You want to make sure they receive the email at the point where they have had enough time to reflect on their feelings about your product, but not past the point where they are no longer excited.

Have A Strong Call to Action

A call to action is exactly what it sounds like – it involves getting someone to perform a certain action. If that action is getting a customer to write a review you need, then you need to put yourself in their shoes. Why should someone take time out of their day to write a review? What’s in it for them? We’ve looked at the features that make a strong CTA in the past, and the same principles can be applied to getting someone to share their experience about your product or service. It’s important that you provide them with a clear and straight path to where they need to be. If writing a review involves multiple steps or filling out a form, they may be reluctant to follow through.

Make the Most Out of Your Google My Business Page

milkMilk or cream? T-shirt or sweater? Stay or leave? Romance or comedy? Every day, each one of us makes hundreds of decisions, both big and small. Sometimes, it can seem as though we decide in the blink of an eye. Other times, however, we weigh the pros and cons of each and flip back and forth on our decision for what feels like an eternity. Whether we are going with our intuition, or mulling over past experiences and considering the short- and long-term effects of our choice, there are a ton of factors that play into our decision-making process.  When it comes to making decisions on the internet, the process is no different.

Let’s say you’re looking for a home cleaning company in your home-town of Portland, Maine. If you don’t have any recommendations from friends or colleagues, you’re likely relying on the internet to find a residential cleaner near you. When you type “residential cleaning company in Portland” into Google, you will be shown which cleaning businesses are available to you in your area, along with some basic information, like their address, phone number, hours of operation, and rating. The higher the rating a company has, the more likely you are to head to their website.

Optimize Your Google My Business Page

Just as you search for services, other people are taking similar steps to find businesses. So, if you rely on getting visitors to get to your website from local search traffic, then reviews from Google My Business should be a priority. Here are few tips for a better optimized page:

Citations Management

When people are talking about citations, they are referring to any mentions of your business’s name, address, and phone number online. This information is listed on customer review sites, like Yelp and Angie’s List, and social media platforms, like Facebook. It’s important that this information is consistent across the board, or else Google will doubt the validity of your business. Any discrepancy, such as your address appearing as 705 Main Street one place and 705 Main on another, could hurt your ranking. If you don’t have a physical location, here’s advice from Google on the best way to handle it.

Category Selection

It important that you select the right category for your business-type. This might sound like a no-brainer, but for companies that offer more than one service this can prove to be difficult. If you’re unsure, read up on Google’s guidelines for representing your business.

Images

Never under estimate the power of visuals. Adding photos of your business to your page is the best way to show off your business’s human-side. Be sure to include photos of your staff in action and the interior of your business, if possible. You also have the option of providing people with a virtual tour of your business by enlisting a Google-improved photographer.

Ask for Reviews

Yelp uses a recommendation software specifically designed to flag comments that appear to be fraudulent. We’ve looked at this in the past, and mentioned how it seems to be more lenient with negative reviews, hiding many legitimate reviews from satisfied customers. This isn’t the case with Google My Business, so don’t be shy about encouraging a happy customer to rate your business and share their experience. Be sure to let them know how much you appreciate them taking the time to share their kind words by writing a response comment. Of course, not every comment is going to be a glowing review. It is important that you respond to harsh criticism too, whether that means offering an apology or clearing up a miscommunication.

Those are just a handle of ways you can better optimize your Google My Business Page. At LinkNow Media, we are sure to look into this topic again.

How to Spring Clean Your Business’s Yelp Reviews

springReviews are an increasingly important way that customers engage with a brand, product, or business. A good review can win over potential customers the same way that a negative review can do the opposite. A constant stream of positive reviews on your Yelp page suggests that your business is popular, successful, and well run. At LinkNow Media, we believe that in the spirit of spring, it is always a good idea to do some spring cleaning. This includes putting in order strategies to increase positive reviews on Yelp. The following are some easy ways to encourage new positive reviews.

Encourage New Reviews

The best way to encourage your clients to review your business is by providing great service and asking them about their experience upon completion. Speaking with your customers in person about their opinion of your service allows for an opportunity for you to remedy any disappointments or concerns before they make it to the internet. After speaking with your customer, gently encourage them to write a review if they are so inclined, and thank them graciously for their patronage. This will make your clients feel appreciated and as if their opinions are valued and taken into consideration.

Respond to Challenging Reviews

The best way to respond to challenging customer reviews is to firstly wait 24 hours before responding. This will give you sufficient time to approach the situation with intellect rather than emotion. The second tip is to let go of any defensive tendencies you may have to show your point of view. It’s not about your defense, it’s about the client’s perceived experience. Lastly, just go with it. Accept your client’s criticism with kindness, grace and dignity. Offer your sincere apologies and hope they will give you another shot. If you have lost them, at least you have demonstrated your ability to extend kindness and generosity to other potential clients who may have read this online interaction.

LinkNow Media always recommends that you choose which reviews to respond to wisely. Address reviews with specific complaints, or that seem genuine and not mean spirited. This will more likely be worth your while as opposed to engaging with an internet troll.

Share Positive Reviews!

If there is a particularly glowing review that made an impression on you, feel free to publicly thank your customer for being so generous with their words! Trust us, it won’t go unnoticed.

Is Asking for Yelp Reviews Hurting Your Small Business?

waffleIt’s a fair assumption to make that anyone who owns a business knows a thing or two about the importance of having a good rating on Yelp. Positive reviews from satisfied customers are enough to win over someone who has no idea where to go for breakfast, a haircut, or an oil change. It comes as no surprise then that many business owners urge happy customers to go to Yelp to share their experience. After all, the more people writing positive reviews, the higher the rating, right? This might not be the case. Yelp themselves discourages business owners from asking for reviews because asking people for reviews creates a bias. Because really, would you encourage an unhappy customer to write a review?

Whether you agree with their point or not, reviews that have been strong armed are likely to be flagged by Yelp’s recommendation software. So, here are alternative ways that you can get happy customers to write a review about your business.

Add a Review Badge

The last thing you want is to offer discounts or freebies as incentive for customers to write reviews. Not only does this run the risk of being flagged, it’s bribery. Let others know you’re on Yelp by using a review badge. Once your business page is set up, you’ll notice that you’ll have the option of adding a Review Badge to your website. This is a great way to drive traffic to your Yelp page from your website.

Choose Your Words Wisely

We’ve all been there – a waiter asks how everything was, and you respond by saying it was good, even when it wasn’t. Or a hairdresser asks if you like your new haircut, and you say yes, but it’s the worst haircut you’ve ever received. The point here is that unless someone is throwing you flowers, there is no way of knowing if someone had a pleasant experience or is just being polite. Only when someone is over the moon about your service or product should you drop a hint to leave an online review.

Share Reviews

Even if someone doesn’t write Yelp reviews, they rely on Yelpers to get a better idea about where to spend their time and money. So, throw them a bone. If you got ‘em, flaunt ‘em. Don’t be shy to share Yelp reviews on other social media platforms, like Facebook. You also have the option of posting all your reviews by changing the settings in your Yelp account. All you need to do is check the “connect to Facebook” option under the “External Services Settings.” This will prompt you to allow Yelp access to your business Facebook account. If you choose to display all your Yelp reviews on your Facebook wall, be sure that you respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. You can brush up on appropriate ways of responding to negative reviews by clicking here.

Add the Yelp Icon to Your Signature

If you are like most businesses these days, you communicate with clients via email, whether for business updates or sending out campaigns. The average person is not going to your business or enlisting your services with the end-goal of writing a Yelp review, so they might need a nudge to follow through on doing so. A small Yelp icon in your signature is like a call to action.

Provide Exceptional Service

The single best way to get positive reviews on Yelp is by providing your customers with excellent service. This might sound obvious, but it can be easy to lose sight of good old fashioned customer service when your main focus is getting a 5 star-rating on Yelp. This could cause you to be overly enthusiastic, or worse bothersome. Give your customers a delightful, stress-free experience and positive reviews will come rolling in.

 

Sharing Button Integration: See More Friction in The Comments Section

 

beachYou’ve likely already scrolled through your Facebook newsfeed at least once today, and probably came across a plethora of different types of shared content, from baby videos to political articles to personality quizzes. Despite the variety, there’s a common denominator here. Your Facebook friends were not posting a website, but an article from a website, and that means they likely hit a sharing button.

What Is A Sharing Button?

A sharing button is exactly what it sounds like – it’s a button that enables visitors to share content on their social media pages. These buttons are something that visitors have come to expect on a website, especially on blogs, and are often placed at the bottom of the page. We suggest placing them there too since this is where readers who want to share are looking. Provide your visitors with the experience they’re expecting, or else they’re heading elsewhere.

Why Do You Need It?

There are so many elements that go into making a website successful, and sharing buttons are definitely on that list. The more people you have reading your content, the more voices there will likely be in the comments section. This is of course going to help you discover more about your customers, which will allow for more effective communication.

Obviously, if you want to get more customer reviews, you’ll want to get more visitors to the content that you wish to have shared. Adding sharing buttons any place that you wish to have content shared is a sure fire way to gain a wider audience. This includes landing pages, blogs, and web pages, or, any place where a visitor can join a conversation in a comments section.

The comments section provides an awesome opportunity to discover more about your customers. It’s not only what they’re saying, but HOW they’re choosing to say it. The latter is extremely important when it comes to the ways you communicate with your customers. The words you choose, and the way by which they are arranged says a lot about you.

Final Thoughts

This post from LinkNow Media is a short, casual reminder about the importance of integrating a sharing button. It’s a simple way to get more people chatting about your products or services, which presents the opportunity for you to join in as well. Don’t yet have a sharing button on your blogs or landing pages? Get in touch with your web designer. You’re sure to see more friction in the comments section.

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