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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!

    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.

    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.

    How Consumers Use Reviews Online

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    When you’re searching online to find the perfect restaurant to try out on Friday night, the last place you’ll choose is one with zero online presence. In the information age that is exactly what people are looking for: information. They want to see photos, other customer’s opinions, and maybe even a virtual tour if you have a physical storefront. These days, 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more, with 94% saying they’ll use a business if it has at least a four-star rating.

    On average, a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a five to nine percent increase in revenue, with just one negative review costing you 30 customers. Reviews are the best way to hold a business accountable. Consumers look for reliability, expertise and professionalism, and if you cannot practice these they’ll let you know.

    So, if negative reviews are so dangerous, why collect reviews at all? Well, a couple negative reviews are better than no reviews at all, so long as you’ve got some positive ones going on as well. When negative reviews occur, respond quickly, admit to any errors, reiterate your company’s mission and if possible and warranted, provide compensation.

    When a consumer looks at or leaves reviews online, they’re looking to:

    Find the best business for their needs

    Build trust

    Express themselves

    Help other consumers

    Here are some more numbers to help you understand the benefits of reviews:

    92% of consumers read online reviews

    68% say positive reviews make them trust a business more

    Only14% of consumers will use a business with a one- or two-star rating, whereas 94% would use one with a five-star rating

    80% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations

    Online reviews are probably the most important tool for a modern business. You can gain them with skill by requesting them from loyal customers and publicly thanking positive reviewers while apologizing to those who had a bad experience.

    A business with active reviews on websites like Google, Yelp and Foursquare will get a boost in SEO making their online presence skyrocket and produce tangible results in the form of an 18% uplift in sales.

    Now more than ever, consumers want to see that business’ are run by real people, not robots. By interacting through reviews, you are showing that you care enough about your customers to take a moment out of your day to leave a personalized response to their opinion, and being able to do that is massively beneficial to any business. The last thing the 2017 consumer wants is to deal with a business that is unreachable.

    Reviews impact search ranking, too. In 2014 Google updated its search engine to take into consideration the reviews from popular sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. So, if you’re actively getting your customers to leave reviews for your business, you’ll get more business, guaranteed. This sets off a chain reaction to in turn produce more reviews and more new customers.

    Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews and interact with customers. It’s the only way your business is going to grow and survive. Give the gift of communication, and your consumers will most definitely give back!

    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!

    A concept image of a magnifying glass with a wooden handle on a textured white surface showing the word authentic but magnifying the word fake resembling counterfeitting

    Receiving Fake Reviews From Competitors

    In this day and age, dishonest companies have been able to stoop to new lows by attempting to damage their competitor’s reputation online with fake reviews.

    While it may not be immediately obvious that a competitor is attacking you, a quick check through their other reviews should give you a clue. They are likely attacking other similar businesses in the area. If negative reviews are posted on other competitor’s pages within a tight timeframe, you’ve got the start of a case.

    Fake and negative reviews are tricky to deal with. Always do your research before dealing with them, or you may be responding inappropriately to someone who is simply expressing their displeasure. Remember—there is such thing as a legitimate negative review. Take these as constructive criticism, and respond politely.

    Tact at All Times

    When responding to a fake negative review from your competitor, practice tact at all times. Whether this negative review is legitimate or not, treat it with the same respect. Follow these steps to compose a polite and professional response:

    Breathe

    Literally. Breathing exercises will calm you down, so take a few deep breaths.

    Don’t take it personally.

    A difficult one, but part of being a professional.

    Address the issue.

    Start your response off by repeating their complaint. For example: I understand that you (insert situation here).

    State your core values.

    Inform the reviewer of your business’ core values and why they don’t match with what happened.

    Make a game plan.

    Tell the reviewer what you plan to do to remedy the situation. If this is a competitor leaving a fake review, you likely will not actually do this because the situation did not occur. But, existing and potential customers will appreciate seeing what you would do if it really had happened.

    Say thank you.

    Thank the negative reviewer for their constructive criticism and invite them back to experience your business again in a better light sometime in the future.

    Even if you expect this review to be removed, there will be wait time. Writing a proper response is of value to your future clients. Don’t lose business and allow your competitor to accomplish what they came to your review page for in the first place.

    Keep on Keeping on

    Being a business owner will always come with its ups and downs. This is what professionalism is all about! Practice being a professional adult at all times, flag inappropriate reviews and represent yourself well.

    Should Google not agree with your report, you can always escalate the situation, encourage friends and family to flag the reviews as well, and tweet @GoogleSmallBiz to hurry the process along.

    Like with school yard bullying, a reaction is always what a troll wants, so give them a minimal one. In the end, you make your own reputation in the business world and can overcome anything by keeping a cool head.

    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.

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