Building Trust with Your Content.

March 27th, 2014 By Kevin Baca

keepcalm
I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to invest a lot of money to fix my car or invite a technician into my home, I want to get to know that person a little. If given the choice between a nameless, faceless brand and an actual person with real qualities, in particular good qualities, I am going to lean toward the latter. Every time.

As it turns out, this logic informs some of the ways in which consumers conduct research before selecting a local business. So much so, that according to this BrightLocal survey, consumers actually place a good deal of value on local business webpages that feature a photo of the business owner. In fact, when asked which images on a local business website most inspire trust, a photo of the business owner was preferred by 46% of respondents.

Personalize

Now, I’m not suggesting every local business owner immediately post a photo of themselves, though I suppose it can’t hurt. The more important insight is that consumers actively seek to gain a better sense for the person with whom they are choosing to do business. When selecting content for a website, or other branded online destinations, whether images or copy, personalization should be a guiding factor.

Content

In practical terms, the fastest way to make web properties less generic and more personal is to promote transparency via social media, UGC, and dynamic content, such as blogs with comments. Some examples are social media plugins, including links to personal Facebook pages, and links to 3rd-party sites, such as reviews sites, where the content is user generated. Again, the point of all this is to engender trust, and according to Nielsen, earned media, which includes third-party reviews, are the most trusted form of advertising.

Transparency

Customer reviews from third-party sites are valued only insofar as they are trustworthy. In this regard, negative reviews on a featured reviews page are actually incredibly value because they immediately confer legitimacy. As we have recommended, over and over, there is tremendous personalization value in publishing owner responses with reviews where appropriate. And, you do this for the same reason you publish that photo; to show your prospective customer who you are.

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Local Business NAP Management

March 20th, 2014 By Ted Paff

I don’t often pitch another company’s product but this is a good exception. moz

If you are in charge of managing the online presence of a local business, it is hard to imagine why you would not buy the new Moz Local product.  At $49/location per year, its 10 times cheaper than Yext and half the price of UBL.  Of course, you could do this yourself, but …. oh snap… its actually cheaper than doing it yourself.

There is a video here that explains what they do and why you should do it.  At a minimum, here is a tool to check out your data match for free.  Two days ago, Andrew Shotland wrote a review of this product that provides a very helpful view of its capabilities and shortcomings.

My Incentive

No, we are not making any money from recommending this product but that is not to say that we don’t have an incentive in recommending it.  One of the cool parts of our product is the ability to syndicate your reviews to multiple 3rd party review sites.  However, to make syndication work, the name/address/phone/website of your business location needs to be accurate and complete across the multiple sites to which we syndicate the reviews.  The better your data match (this is the stuff that Moz Local fixes), the better our product works for you.  Help us help you and sign up for Moz Local.

If you know another good way to manage NAP data, please post it in the comments.  We are happy to pass on helpful news.

To my friends at Moz Local (David, I am talking to you), this is a fantastic addition to the local business online marketing tool kit.  Congratulations!

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Google Redesign

March 13th, 2014 By Kevin Baca

Notice something different about Google but can’t quite put your finger on it? Don’t worry, you’re not losing it.

Google redesigned their search engine results pages, and while some of the changes are fairly nuanced, and thereby forcing half the Internet users in the world to do a double-take, the changes made to paid search results are significant.

Paid search results are the ads that appear at the top and along the right side of the organic search results. Up to now, those ads were enclosed in a shaded area that visually distinguished them from organic results. Not anymore:

 

Ads Look More Like Organic Search Results:

serp three

 

Obviously, the ads on the right of the page are not going to be mistaken for anything else, but the ads up top look a lot like organic results and Google is stacking as many as three together, which pushes the organic results further down the page.

This means, local pack results will be well below the fold in some instances.

 

Organic Results Between Ads and Local Pack:

local pack

 

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Hard to Get Customer Reviews? Here is Why

March 6th, 2014 By Ted Paff

Have you ever wondered why its so tough to get your customers to write you a review?

Hard

Email sent by a business to one of its customers is opened 18.5% (average for U.S. based services businesses) of the time.  Once it is opened, the link contained in the email (e.g. link to a page onto which the consumer could write a review), is clicked on average 2.6% of the time.  Depending on which study you look at (here and here are good ones), these numbers can be higher or lower but they provide a good starting point.

Now, suppose that you capture email addresses for 50% of your customers and that you send an email to ALL customers after you complete work for them.  In that case, you should expect:

18.5%  x  2.6%  x  50%  =  0.2% of your customers to get to a page to write a review.

That means that for every 1,000 customers you have, you would get 2 reviews.

Its actually a little worse than that because most customers who land on a page on which they can write a review but do not have an account on that system simply leave.  For example,  Google, Yelp, Angies’ List combined have less than 30% market coverage.  That means that those 2 reviews you were hoping for from 1,000 customers is actually 0 or 1 review.  Ouch.

How to Get More Customer Reviews

Here are some great ideas to help you get more customer reviews (Andrew Shotland also mentioned some of these ideas):

  • Invite reviews using more than just email requests.  Customer Lobby’s members have access to  customer calls (highest percentage of review capture), mobile/kiosk review stations, and  handwritten review forms.  Combine many different forms of email request to get your best outcome.
  • Collect more email addresses from customers.  If you are sending out requests for a review using email, the more people you ask, the more likely you are to get a response.
  • Let them know its coming.  By simply letting your customers know that you would appreciate a review and that you will send them a follow up note, we have seen companies increase their review capture rate by 50%.
  • Send a reminder a few days later.  Customer Lobby automatically sends out a follow up request for a review.  This second email has a much higher rate of converting into a review.  People get busy and sometimes a reminder really helps.
  • Automate it.  In my experience, things that are not automated tend not to get done over time.  Customer Lobby now offers the ability to fully automate review requests by linking your billing software with Customer Lobby.  We will automatically reach out to your customer to ask for a review when a job is completed.

ROI report image for blog

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How to Say “Thank You” for a Review.

February 27th, 2014 By Kevin Baca

ty_meme

 

The science of publishing a response to a negative review has been a major theme of this blog. I have written about the unique branding opportunity of owner responses, tips on formatting, and even some examples. One of the big takeaways is that responses get read. When I write about “opportunity,” I am referring specifically to getting in front of prospective customers who are actively performing Internet research; i.e., shopping.

This branding opportunity extends to publishing a “thank you” comment with a review. While the stakes are not nearly as high, and the read rates are less assured, the basic premise remains the same: Show your prospects who you are and why they should choose you. That’s it. Leveraging this channel means showing rather than telling. Consumers actively seek out reviews to avoid ads and marketing schlock, so there exists a fine balance between being authentic and advertising.

My tips! This is not, by any means, a definitive guide. Use the tips below as a starting point:

1. Be Specific

Avoid canned “Thank you” messages. A response should be specific to the reviewer’s customer experience. Again, consumers seek out reviews to get a sense for what their own experience would be like, and they are not going to get that insight from a generic response. Cite a few tidbits that are particular to the customer experience being reviewed.

2. Add Some Detail

I hear this all the time: A business owner goes out of his way to perform some harrowing feat or engineering breakthrough only to receive a review that omits all of that valuable detail. Well, add it.

This is tricky. One of the keys to ensuring your response gets read is keeping it short and sweet. So, focus on the 1 or 2 main points you want to include with your published response.

3. Be Selective

I appreciate that some business owners like to write at least a brief “thank you” for each of the reviews they receive. If that’s who you are, go ahead. But, understand this: When all of the reviews have a response, they are less likely to be impactful when it counts. It becomes a formality and your prospective customers will be less likely to read them. I advise reserving those “thank you” comments for when you have something especially meaningful to impart.

4. Extra, Extra!

If you went above-and-beyond or threw in something for free, consider saying so. I understand why many businesses want to keep that kind of information to themselves to avoid setting the wrong expectation. But when you think of reviews as an asset for lead generation, those freebies become part of your advertising budget. Get a return on that expense.

5. Inject Some Personality

Getting over the trust hurdle is one of the most important benefits of this effort. The more your prospective customers feel they know you and trust you, the more likely they are to select your business over a competitor. So, dial down the corporate-speak a little bit.

It is still important to be professional and technically savvy, but you can also be warm, funny, and light-hearted. If you are third-generation family-owned business, think about how you can get that information across.

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Impact of Reviews on Non-Branded Search

February 20th, 2014 By Ted Paff

Shhhhh….. don’t tell anyone but we are running a test and you may be one of the test subjects.

A few months ago, David Mihm asked me why a customer would ever terminate their service with Customer Lobby.  I replied that the second biggest reason (after credit card failures) is that they didn’t understand to value of our service.  David was a little surprised and asked me about our process of educating our members after the initial sale as to what we are doing for them.   Well, lets just say that I think we can do a lot better in that regard (stay tuned for a major upgrade for our members that we will release in a few months).

seo-google

Without seeing any of our data, David suggested that the search engine optimization (SEO) impacts alone made our service a great value for local businesses.  We have always known that but have never had hard data to quantify the impact.  Because David literally wrote the book on local search optimization, I was interested to test it.  So we are!

Testing… Testing…1,2,3…Testing

We have known (and our clients have as well) that our reviews pages optimize very well for branded search terms.  Branded search is when someone uses a search engine to look up the name of a particular business.  Non-branded search is when someone uses a search engine to look up a particular industry.  An example:

  • Branded search:  ”Ted’s Auto Repair”
  • Non-branded search:  ”auto repair San Francisco”

Typically, our clients Customer Lobby review page is a top 5 search result for a branded search.

But what about the impact of Customer Lobby on non-branded search?  We started  collecting the data a few of months ago to answer that question.

Preliminary Results…a sneak peak

It is way too early to say what the results are going to be.  We are less than 10% complete with our test.  But here are some preliminary results:

  • In the first 4 weeks or so, there seems to be no impact.
  • In weeks 4-6, we are seeing a significant increase in the non-branded search rank of our members home page.  The typical increase is in the 20% range.

Wow!  That is a huge impact in just a couple of weeks.  We are not surprised that there is no real impact in the first month as it takes Google a little while to grab the new information and feed it to its various indexes.  But in weeks 4-6, a 20% increase is great.

We will keep tracking the data and periodically report on the aggregate  information here.  Fingers crossed, we will also be rolling that information out via a new member portal as well.

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87% of Mobile Users be Shoppin’

February 13th, 2014 By Kevin Baca

posterMarket research leader Nielsen Company released a report on the US digital consumer this week, and as is customary with Nielsen research, it’s brimming with insights ranging from the actionable to the kinda-neat-to-know.

For example, it’s kinda neat to know that mothers with children under 13 are the most likely to use social media in the car. However, at least for our purposes, a more critical take-away is that 87% of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices to shop.

As expected, the big story remains the rise of mobile devices, in particular smartphones, on our everyday lives. This is a trend that has come at the seeming expense of PC and laptop usage, which is in decline. Think about that: 5 years ago, would you have imagined that the average consumer would be spending less time on desktop and laptop computers?

Key takeaways on the increased role of mobile devices in shopping:

1. Research before Purchase

65% of tablet owners and 59% of smartphone owners use their devices to conduct research before purchasing an item. Those research activities include reading reviews, comparing prices, and searching for locations.

2. Local Shopping

76% of Smartphone owners use their phones to locate stores. Local business owners take note: As my first bullet point illustrates, these mobile owners use their devices to research your business and then locate you.

3. Reviews = Price Checks

Mobile users spend about as much time reading customer reviews as checking prices. The big takeaway here is that reviews are a better way to differentiate than competing on price. At least, I’m guessing most business owners would prefer leveraging customer reviews to competing on price.

4. Reviews > Price Checks

Tablet users actually spend more time using their device to read reviews of recent and future purchases than they do comparing prices. In fact, Nielsen points out that reading reviews of recent/future purchases is the most likely activity, out of all activities, for tablet owners.

5. Coupons aren’t dead

While the economic viability of daily deal promotions remains an open question (cough, don’t-do-it, cough), consumers still use coupons, including almost 50% of smartphone users.

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Facebook Paper: How Your Business Can Benefit

February 6th, 2014 By Ted Paff

On Monday, Facebook released Paper, its new mobile app for the iPhone.   You are going to want to download this because all the cool kids will be talking about it.   Oh yeah, its also beautiful and great to use.

Facebook Paper

Facebook Matters

Facebook is the largest social network online.  Over 40% of US adults have a Facebook account.  The majority of Facebook’s users access the site via mobile.  Facebook matters and mobile matters so when Facebook releases a new app that could replace how your potential customers consume a couple different types of information (news and Facebook updates for now), companies should pay attention.

This new app is gorgeous.   After you download it, you will be prompted to select a series of sections you want for your app.  Think of a section much like you think of sections of a newspaper.   By default, your Facebook feed is always the first section but you can change that by “down swiping” and selecting Edit Sections.  You can include sections like: Headlines, Tech, Enterprise (business), Scores (sports), Ideas, Ideas, Planet, Creators, etc.  Each section has its own news feed that enables you to read through stories related to that section.

My thoughts after using it for a few days:

  • Its gorgeous
  • Its easy to use
  • Its a  much better experience than the existing Facebook mobile app
  • Its going to be a very popular app

How Your Business Can Benefit

As of now, there are no ads in Facebook Paper.  However, as a public company looking to monetize its user base, you can bet that the ad units are on their way.  Until then, you need to be a bit more resourceful.  Here is how:

Step One:  Post on your company’s Facebook page. Specifically, post something with a great picture.  Facebook’s Paper is very picture focused.  There are, as of now, no published metrics on shares/clicks on Paper but I would bet strongly that we will see a high correlation between clicks/likes/shares from Paper and posts with great pictures.  Pictures matter…a lot.

Step Two:  As of now, there are only 2 ways that your post has a chance of being seen by someone on Paper: (1) that person has already ‘Liked’ your company page; or (2) one of that person’s friends has ‘Liked’ that post.  This is where it gets a little interesting.  Although you cannot yet buy ads (Promoted Posts in Facebook-speak) that will appear on Paper, you can buy ads in Facebook desktop and Facebook mobile app.  If someone then ‘Likes’ your post via the mobile app or the website, that post has a chance of showing in their friends Paper feed.   Remember, if you are paying to promote your posts in Facebook, you can target those ads to the people in your geography.

Happy posting!

 

 

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Inspire or Incent?

January 30th, 2014 By Kevin Baca

incentive carrot-resized-600

The demand for customer reviews has led some enterprising businesses owners and marketers to offer incentives to would-be reviewers. Whether it’s a gift card or a coupon for future service, my advice with regard to offering incentives is simple: Don’t do it.

Ethical problems aside, businesses should avoid incentives because they are not necessary. At Customer Lobby, we have found that simply asking for reviews and providing a little direction is enough to generate reviews, typically 5-star, from customers who would not otherwise take steps to provide feedback.

Motivate

The question to ask yourself is why do people leave reviews in the first place? According to one enormous survey, 85% write reviews for the purpose of helping others. That’s right: Altruism, not profit, motivates consumers to generate review content.

As the most sought-after resource for online research, consumers value the input they themselves glean from reviews and are happy to pay-it-forward by contributing their own feedback. And, it turns out, people are happy to provide recognition for a job well done.

Ask For Feedback

In short, your consumers write reviews when the business deserve it, not because they were offered a gift card. And, according to our findings, most consumers are inclined to leave favorable reviews if they are asked, so there is no need to cherry-pick.

At the end of the day, the best way to ensure reviews is to provide excellent service and then follow up with an invitation for feedback. All the money that money spent on incentives would be better allocated to ensuring customer delight. So, how do you find out what delights your customers? Read your reviews!

 
ROI report image for blog

 

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How to Stop Fake Reviews on Yelp

January 23rd, 2014 By Ted Paff

In a word…. sue.   One important caveat, this only works ( for now) if you live in Virginia.

Yelp logo

Earlier this month, the Virginia Court of Appeals found that a Yelp review was not protected First Amendment speech if the reviewer was not a customer and was making false statements.  The result of the lawsuit was that Yelp was required to turn over to the company (Hadeed Carpet Cleaning) the names of 7 anonymous reviewers.  Armed with the true identity of the reviewers, Hadeed Carpet Cleaning can then consider suing the individuals for libel.

So far, this decision is only relevant for Virginia-based companies.   But, look for courts around the U.S. to tackle this issue as the sting of anonymous reviews are felt by more businesses.

No Anonymous Reviews on Customer Lobby

Since the founding of Customer Lobby, we have refused to publish anonymous reviews.   On Customer Lobby, all valid reviews are published.  However, businesses have access to the name and contact information of those that review their business.

If a businesses questions a review that they believe was written by a non-customer of theirs, we reach out to the reviewer directly to ask for proof of a transaction or we remove the review.  We believe that this level of transparency levels the playing field for businesses and consumers.

In addition, Customer Lobby offers a range of tools to help businesses communicate with their customers to help the “silent happy majority” of most businesses’ customer base tell their story.

What do you think?  Does eliminating anonymous reviews make sense?

 

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