Tag Archives: on-line reviews

What is Web marketing?

What’s Hot in Web Marketing?

What’s Hot?

Marketing is all about building and influencing trends.  It’s also true that trends are important within marketing.  Certain approaches become “hot” and widely used.  Particularly with the Internet, the evolution of technology and discoveries of how people behave on-line make certain methods work particularly well at certain times.

Knowing what’s hot right now in Web marketing can be important to because that’s likely to be a technique that can pay rich dividends in terms of bringing business to you.

For this discussion, I’m grateful for a discussion that took place with a client yesterday, who had attended a talk on Web marketing that echoed just what’s presented here.

Evolution

What I started this business in 1998, Web marketing consisted mostly of what’s called search

engine optimization, or SEO, which at the time was fooling Google into the impression that your site had content about the most popular topics of the day.  A variety of tricks were used to do this.  Today Google knows all about those tricks, and if you tried to use 1998 SEO today your site would see very few visitors from Google.

In those days of yore, we talk about Web 1.0, the use of the Web as a distributor of information.  Visitors found Web sites through search, and then accessed information there.  Web 1.0 was all about information provided by site owners.  Visitors were passive consumers of information.

On-Line Reviews

More recently, we’ve seen the growth of importance on the Web of user-generated content, as Web users shift their role from passive consumers to active providers of information–this is generally called Web 2.0.  Of course, marketers are eager to use that trend to their advantage, hence the emergence of on-line reviews as a marketing tool.  In fact, on-line reviews are the hottest topic today in Web marketing.

My own review management service was started to enable business owners to obtain more genuine, favorable reviews from their real customers.  A number of my clients are now using this service to increase the number of reviews they receive, and to show a live feed of reviews on their sites, tagged so that Google recognizes them as reviews.

Mobile

Technology trends account for the second major hot topic:  mobile device use.  More and more users search the Web using mobile devices, mostly phones but also tablets.  Google recognizes this, and of course they don’t want to send their customers to sites that don’t look good on small screens, so they’ve told all of us that if your site doesn’t look good on the small screen, it’ll hurt your position in Google search results.

If you haven’t already done so, check out your site using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.  If you fail the test, it’s time to engage your Web designer to solve that problem.  If your site is built with WordPress, which I recommend, you’ll have a number of options, and you may be able to solve the problem with just a plug-in.

Content

With all the current attention taken by on-line reviews and mobile use, it’s easy to forget the importance of content, which after all is what Web surfers are looking for.  If you’re a small business and have limited resources to develop content for your site, it’s best to put a lot of your effort into what’s called evergreen content, which is content that will have continuing value, that won’t have to replaced right away.

Once you’ve compared as many sites for search engine positions as I have, you’ll see that the sites with a lot of well-written, interesting content related to the main theme of the site will have higher ranks in search engine results than sites with more limited content.  If you want to rank high for some term, write about that topic.

Producing content is hard for small businesses.  I usually advise small businesses to get double duty from their content by writing a blog, or articles, for their Web site, and then putting that content into their newsletter, as well.  I follow my own advice; this blog post will also be an edition of my newsletter.

SEO

Finally, we come to SEO, that used to be the cornerstone in Web marketing.  Even today, some small business owners look for someone to “do SEO” for their site, expecting that there’s some magic that can produce high rankings.  There used to be such magic, when search engines weren’t as sophisticated and could easily be tricked.  If you try many of those old techniques today, your site could be removed from the Google index, with devastating impact on your Web customer acquisition.

However, there is still an important role for the practitioner who understands technically how search engines analyze a site and decide whether the site has quality content.  Fortunately for me!  That role is to, first, understand all of the priority topics on this page and provide guidance with them, but then to make sure the site is set up so that Google will recognize the worthwhile content that is present.  If things like tags and headings aren’t given proper attention, the benefits that should come from a quality content development effort may not be realized.

The Bottom Line

Yes, you can do all of this yourself.  But it’s complicated, and it changes over time.  It’s easy to make mistakes that can ruin your ability to attract customers through your Web efforts.  So the bottom line is:  don’t try this at home!

The Internet offers you the cheapest advertising medium ever devised, and professional help (from someone like me!) can allow you to focus on your own business, while making the best use of what the Internet can do for you.  And getting the maximum business benefit from your investment in your Internet presence.

The most glaring example of how the unwary can get into trouble is provided by the unscrupulous providers of specialized Web sites for professionals.  I’ve seen these services provide sites for dentists, doctors and lawyers that will never bring them any ranking in search engines because of built-in problems.  Their customers think they’ve offloaded all of their Internet promotion problems into this vendor who delivers them a lovely site.  Then for the money they spend they get nothing.

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on-line reviews matter for your company

New Survey Data About On-Line Reviews

Reviews

Our friends at BrightLocal have kindly released their annual survey of local consumer reviews.  They usually come up with interesting results, and this year is no exception.  Marketing on the Internet changes rapidly, and it’s important to keep up with what’s important at this moment.  And, at this moment, on-line reviews have reached a remarkable level of importance.  Your business needs to pay attention to its reviews!

Here are some of the important findings:

  • 97% of consumers read on-line reviews for local businesses, 12% of them doing so every day
  • 97% of consumers say that they won’t trust a business unless it has at least a four star rating
  • Yelp, Facebook, Google and BBB.org, in that order, are the most trusted sites
  • 30% of consumers say that responses to reviews is key in judging local businesses

Using the Internet to Find a Local Business

Use of the Internet to find a local business has risen from 95% in 2016 to 97% in 2017.  Virtually all consumers are now using the Internet to find local businesses.

use internet to find a local business

It’s safe to say that the Internet has become a central method for consumers to use to find local businesses; 52% of consumers used the Internet once a month or more often to find a local business.

Now let’s take a look at the importance of on-line reviews in consumers’ search for local businesses.

Reading Reviews on Various Business Types

which businesses do you read reviews for

Virtually all significant business types are included in the use of reviews.  Take a look for your business in this list.  Are consumers reading reviews for your business?

Regularity of service use has high correlation with the frequency of use of reviews.  For example, most people are not looking for accountants or locksmiths nearly as often as they are for a place to have lunch.  Note that if your business is near the right side of this chart, then it’s particularly important for you to mind your reviews, since you will tend to get fewer of them, and it’ll be more difficult for good reviews to push a bad review down the charts.

Devices Used to Read Reviews

The desktop and laptop remain the most important reading devices, although we see steadily increasing use of mobile platforms, with the use of mobile apps for reading reviews increasing most rapidly.  This growing use of mobile platforms underscores the importance for everyone who has a Web site to be sure that it’s mobile-friendly.

Trusted Review Sites

most trusted review site

This data about trust is valuable for targeting review campaigns.  Yelp and Facebook are most trusted, followed by Google.  But then BBB.org is worth attention, too, at 15%.  Of course, if you’re in a travel-related business, this chart tells you where you want reviews.

It’s interesting that, although health care is a top subject for reading reviews, the health-related review sites didn’t make it into the most-trusted category.   If you’re in a health-related business, you’d be wise to seek reviews on Yelp, Facebook, Google and BBB.org, and not focus primarily on health-related review sites.

Effect of On-Line Reviews on Opinion

 

how on-line reviews affect opinion

Here we see that positive reviews make consumers trust a business more.  However, on the negative side, there is growing skepticism about negative reviews, and a growing willingness to discount them.  In addition, a growing number say that they read reviews but that their selection of a business isn’t influenced by them.  One must wonder about that answer–if reading reviews doesn’t influence the choice of a business, then why read the reviews?

Minimum Star Rating to be Considered

This result shows a sharp change from year to year in the minimum rating to be considered.

minimum star rating

There is a strong shift from 3 as a minimum star level to be considered toward 4, and 4 stars is now the most-cited minimum number of stars to be considered.  This may reflect inflation in average star rating, because more businesses are paying close attention to their ratings in on-line reviews.

Currency of Reviews

This result shows that it’s not enough to simply amass a lot of reviews and then relax–consumers are looking for current reviews.  It’s important to keep acquiring reviews at a steady pace so that the review sites always have current reviews for your business.

The Bottom Line

On-line reviews matter, and they matter a lot!  You can ask your customers to review you, or you can take a more active role in providing a steady stream of reviews for your business by using a review management service line Dave’s Certified Reviews.  You can get a free report on your reviews by clicking here.

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On-Line Reviews: Now Protected by Law. Are You Stuck?

Reviews Matter

On-Line Reviews have become more and more important.  Today, surfing review sites for good reviews, and then going directly to the Web site for a product or service that has good reviews, is growing in popularity.

Google now displays some reviews in the basic information it provides with search results about a company.  For example, here’s the result of a Google search on Comsource Management, a local (Maryland) condominium management company.  Just below the photos is a report that the company has 35 Google reviews, with an average of 1.1 out of five stars!  Then a little lower are actual reviews from several review sites.  This can be the first introduction that a potential customer has to a company.

comsource-google-search

It’s understood that angry customers, who have a grievance, are more likely to make an unfavorable review than happy customers, who simply got what they expected.  So what can a business do about it?

Businesses Respond–with Non-Disclosure Agreements

Some businesses have responded by including non-disclosure agreements in the terms of service on their Web sites or in their purchase contracts.  Then they’ve forced customers who write critical reviews to remove them, or have even sued for damages:

  • A pet sitter in Texas sued a customer for up to $1 million in damages over an unfavorable Yelp review.  The short version of the story is that the pet sitter sued the customer for violating the terms of a non-disparagement clause in their contract.  A judge dismissed the suit because it was intended to silence the defendant, and violated the Texas Citizens Participation Act.  The pet sitter wound up potentially liable for attorneys’ fees and, of course, subject to negative publicity.
  • The Windermere Cay apartments near Orlando, Florida included a “Social Media Addendum” in its lease.  This document prohibits negative reviews on social media, and if it is breached, provides for a $10,000 fine!  Following some publicity, the apartment’s Yelp listing overflowed with reviews, many of them negative reviews from people who didn’t live there, so weren’t covered by the policy.
  • Tesla includes a nondisclosure agreement in its purchase contract.  Recently the company ran afoul of he National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over concerns that the agreement might prevent owners from reporting safety problems.  NHTSA is now seeking information from owners about possible suspension problems, and Tesla has modified the terms of its agreement.  The problem started when an owner reported suspension problems and the company agreed to cover some repair costs if the owner signed an agreement to not discuss the issue publicly.

These methods never worked well, but today they don’t work at all because a new law prevents businesses from preventing customers from writing unfavorable reviews.

The Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016

In December the President this into law.  The law makes a provision of a contract void if it prohibits a party to a contract in engaging in written, oral or pictorial reviews or other performance assessments a goods and services provided by another party to the contract.  The law prohibits the offering of a contract with such a restrictive provision.

If the review is not accurate, the laws of libel still apply; but with this law, if a reviewer is telling the truth, there’s now little that a business can do to force the removal of a negative review or to collect damages.

What Can You Do?

First, pay attention to your reviews.  It’s a good idea to reply to all of them that appear to be at all reasonable–the reply shows to everyone who reads the review that you care what your customers think of you.  Visit the popular review sites often and read your reviews.

Don’t panic if you get one or two unfavorable reviews in the midst of a lot of good reviews.  People who read reviews know that you can’t please everybody, and there will always be someone who’s not satisfied.  If you have an overall score of 4.5 out of five stars, a few negative reviews will just make the whole collection more credible.

Be careful about asking for reviews–the review sites don’t like this because they think it skews the results in a favorable direction.  Yelp in particular can put a very ugly warning to readers about what you’re doing if they decide that you are asking for reviews.

If you’d like to manage your reviews without having to search review sites again and again, you can use a review management service to let you be comfortable that your reviews are helping your business, without spending a lot of time doing it.  I recommend Dave’s Certified Reviews for just that purpose, since it’s my service.

The Bottom Line

Pay attention to your reviews by replying to each one and fixing the problems with unfavorable reviews.  If you want to take care of your reviews with almost none of your time, then look into Dave’s Certified Reviews.

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