Archive for November, 2010

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Online Reviews: Word Of Mouth, Amplified

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It’s no secret that satisfied customers bring you more sales, while unhappy customers can prevent them. People who feel strongly about a service they received or a product they purchased in either a negative or positive way are very likely to tell others about their experience.

Before the internet, this effect was limited to actual word of mouth. A customer could tell his family, friends and co-workers about his fantastic or horrible experience with your business. But this took some effort on the customer’s part to get the word out, however, and many customers wouldn’t take the time. Very few people actually took the step of writing a letter to the business or would even tell friends about their experience more than a few days after their interaction with a business. Only if they were extremely pleased – or displeased – would the word get out.

The growth of the internet has made it much easier to praise or complain about a company in a public way. But there are many online directories that allow anyone to post a comment about a business. Not only does this allow a customer to make their opinion of your products and services known to many more people, it also opens the door to abuse. Business owners pretending to be customers can post positive reviews. Or disgruntled employees and competitors can post negative reviews. There is no verification that the information posted is true.

All of those reviews are about to become ten times more visible to potential customers who are looking for a local business. Google Places, formerly Google Local Business Listings, has displayed reviews entered by users on their site and a number of other directories. Now Google is integrating information from the Google Places listing into the organic search.

So you’ve worked hard to ensure that your company is one of the first few listings that shows up when customers are looking for the services you provide in your area. Now, right next to the organic listing is a link to customer reviews. Immediately below your URL is your address and phone number from your Google Places listing. Often a snippet of a review is there too. If this happens to be a negative review, the potential customer will almost certainly click on a different listing. It’s the online equivalent of someone standing in front of your business with a sign telling people Don’t Shop Here.

What can you do about it? Well, first of all Google won’t remove a negative review just because you ask them to. But they also won’t take the time to find out whether the information is accurate. You must encourage positive reviews and address negative ones – with your customers and online.

Always Encourage Good Reviews

If there are more positive reviews than negative, the odds say there’s a better chance that a review that shows within the body of your listing will be a good one. Also, if a customer takes the time to look at several reviews, hopefully they will be swayed by the happy customers. You could encourage all of your customers to write an online review, but that will result in more negative reviews as well as positive.

So how can you approach only the satisfied customers with a request for an online review? There are a number of great techniques that we use here at Hat Trick Associates. One of the best takes advantage of the system already in place to solicit customer feedback in place at many businesses already, often in the form of a telephone follow-up or written questionnaire. You could sort out those who have responded favorably and send them a request for an online review. If your request is in the form of an email, you could provide links to your business’s listings on various sites that accept user reviews. You could provide something to your customer in return for taking the time to post a review. A free ice cream, 10% off their next purchase from you, or some other prize could entice them to make the effort and make them feel good about your business at the same time.

Address Damaging Reviews Head On

If you can contact the unhappy customer and solve whatever problem he or she had, they just might be willing to remove the negative review. Whether or not you think the complaint is valid, it’s in your best interest to fix it. This may cost you money – but not doing so could cost you even more. Think about how much you spend to bring in new customers. Don’t let a relatively small amount of money get in your way, even if you’re right and the customer is wrong.

Sometimes it will still be impossible to get the customer to rescind his post. But there are still techniques that you (or we here at Hat Trick Associates) can still use to help mitigate the damage by responding to the complaint online. Post your own comment explaining the situation or apologizing to the reviewer and stating your offer to fix the problem. If another potential customer takes the time to read the whole post, they will see that you’re trying to make your customers happy, and will be far more likely to still do business with you in spite of the negative review.

Other Advice

  • Occasionally, a negative review will violate the terms established by the review site, for example using foul language. If this is the case, you can flag it for review and it might be removed by the publishing website.
  • Don’t enter multiple positive reviews yourself. Online directories try to prevent fraudulent reviews because they make their site less useful to their visitors.
  • Google Places displays reviews from sites such as Insider Pages and Yelp, as well as reviews posted directly to Google. If you ask your customers to post positive reviews, give them links to a variety of review sites. It will look more natural if reviews come from more than one site.

It’s always been critical for a business to cultivate a good reputation, but never before has a dissatisfied customer been able to reach the public, right alongside your advertisement. The majority of consumers are bypassing the yellow pages (when was the last time you used one?) and turning to their favorite search engine to find a business instead, making these reviews more important than ever.

You can no longer afford to not know what reviews are out there or to simply ignore dissatisfied customers. They have more power than ever before. But managing your reputation throughout the internet with an Online Reputation Management Campaign certainly takes time and resources, and a long-term commitment from you.

As part of a comprehensive social media platform or as a stand-alone service, Hat Trick Associates can help you manage your online reviews to maximize the positive word of mouth for your business, and minimize the negative. Contact us for more information on how, including a specific pricing quote created just for you.

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Google's Instant Preview Feature Joins Instant Search

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Google wasn’t content with just having Instant Search, now it has introduced a new feature called Instant Previews. Searchers and web users can now browse a large instant “preview” of a site’s content by placing the cursor over the small magnifying glass displayed beside each listing. These previews are large and Google sometimes highlights a major paragraph or quote from each displayed site.

Searchers can get a general look at the layout and design of a site, with graphics and bold headlines usually seen from the preview. However, small print and the general content of the page can’t be read, so searchers will have to click through to your site if they want to read your information. Assuming of course, they don’t find what they’re looking for in the headlines or bold print!

Whether searchers will use this new feature remains to be seen, as even Google doesn’t hit a home run every time (Google Buzz, anyone?) but these instant previews could have some ramifications on who gets the “click through” to their site. One would also reason that getting the top spot in the rankings have diminished somewhat, if searchers can quickly preview all of the top 10 listings and then make their decision. So they might not click the top listing, but decide one lower down is worth clicking. This could make any listing on the first page more worth having, not just the top one.

This doesn’t really affect any of your SEO strategies and you should be optimizing for the search engines as usual. After all, getting those top rankings for your targeted keywords in the major search engines is what brings in the quality traffic to your site. In this regard, it’s business as usual.

However, Google’s Instant Previews does change the whole nature of SERPs or rather Google’s search results in that webmasters and marketers have another hurdle to get past before they get that final click. Searchers might click your top number one ranking preview and decide your page is not up to standard or it’s not what they’re looking for, and can quickly try out the other listings instead.

From Google’s perspective these previews could improve the “overall” quality of their results because searchers will come away happy, especially if they have not wasted their time clicking on a link, only to find it’s not what they’re looking for. Now they can easily find the right results more quickly and efficiently.

For the online marketer or webmaster, Instant Previews can be seen as another chance to get that all important click. They must make sure their page design is of high quality, and that pages feature a catchy headline which will draw visitors to their website. Highlighting a well-worded summary could also help attract more quality visitors. Placing your main keyword phrase in bold print so that it can be read from the preview is also a good idea going forward.

Needless to say, web marketers must still always keep their targeted keywords front and center. Highlighting them on your page in the main title is a given, but now you should make sure they can be read from the preview. This could possibly give you an edge with it comes to getting that click from Google!

On a more general note, these previews also add to the time searchers will spend on Google’s results pages. Google has been steadily focusing on this factor in recent months. Why? Because the longer a searcher stays on your page, the more likely they are to click your paid ads. Which makes perfect sense, if the searcher can’t find what they’re looking for in the “free organic listings”, they will look to the Adwords listings.

According to Alexa, the average time spent on Google in 2009 it was about 7 minutes…and today in 2010 that average has jumped to 14 minutes or more. And these numbers don’t include the full impact of Google Instant Search and Instant Previews yet, of course. That number should go even higher in the near future. And while this number still can’t touch Facebook’s average time of 30+ minutes, Google has still doubled the time it had only a year ago.

Previews will no doubt improve the effectiveness of Google’s SERPs, as searchers find what they are searching for more quickly, and leave as happy, more satisfied customers. However, for the webmaster and online marketer, keeping Instant Previews in mind when creating webpages is now a must. Here are some tips you can follow:

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Improve Your Graphics – These can really grab the searcher’s attention in the preview so it’s vital to have eye-popping graphics right next to your important information.

Create Great Headlines – Good headlines quickly capture the searcher’s attention and draws him/her to your page; just make them bold enough to be seen in Google’s previews.

Write An Informative Summary – Place your important information in a short summary which also captures the viewer’s attention. Entice these viewers to visit your site or page.

Take A Multi-Layered Approach Just don’t aim all your marketing towards free organic search, but try video listings, news listings, image listings… to get other ways onto Google’s first page.

Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising – This is probably not what you want to hear, but paid listings through Google Adwords is another option. Besides, for extremely lucrative keywords, as more and more major companies throw major funds into SEO and Keyword Link Buying, organic search is not really free or even available to everyone for the most competitive keywords. For the small-time web marketer, paid listings in Google may be your only option, an option that is also quickly becoming quite costly for many.

Of course, how Instant Search and Instant Previews play out in the near future is still wide open to speculation.

Will searchers even use these added features in their daily searches? Or will users opt–out and go back to a more gentle, less hurried Google? Only time will tell. But one thing that all of us can be sure of, Google will be constantly rolling out new features and innovations just to make all our lives a little more interesting. And of course, we at Hat Trick Associates strive to always be a close to that cutting edge – to take advantage of the new rules, options or features being rolled out – so contact us today if you could use some web content and distribution assistance, to keep YOUR business ahead of the curve…and you competition!

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New Services From Hat Trick Associates

Creating your content is just half the battle of course. Continually writing and posting high quality copy on your site is a vital step, for both conversions and long term SEO success. But online distribution elsewhere is every bit as important to your web presence.

A recent study by McAfee found that four out of five website visits start with a search engine query. So if your website doesn’t have good search engine rankings then you’re missing out on 80% of the traffic you could be getting!

How Can Hat Trick Associates Help With Press Release Distribution?

We can greatly boost your online distribution with our new SEO & Media Exposure Professional Package. If you have a new press release, we can distribute your content to traditional media, newspapers, magazine distribution, and build your inbound link network to increase your credibility in search engines for just $169.

This package includes distribution to many online newswires and aggregation services and lots of traditional media, including thousands of newspapers and magazines.

And of course we can write the press release or article for you, with writing services starting as low as $125 per release depending on specific content and length required!

HTA – SEO & Media Exposure Professional Package for: Press Releases

* Distribution to US Newspapers (6500+)
* Distribution to Magazines relative to your industry (3500+)
* Distribution to search engines including Google, Yahoo, Ask, AOL and more.
* Distribution to popular newswires including EIN News, Inbox Robot, Google News, News Blaze, Earth Times, Financial Wire, Consumer News, Times of the Internet, Topix, RedTram, & more.
* Distribution to 40 premium news partner websites.
* Distribution to our Newswire Network (600+ industry channel websites)
* Distribution to opt-in journalists subscribers.
* Distribution through RSS and JavaScript feeds.
* Include your press release in up to 12 industry categories.
* Include SEO anchor text links and formatting in your press release.
* Include SEO tags/keywords linking back to your website.
* Next day distribution option (if submitted before 5pm PST, 8pm EST).
* Access to statistics to measure your campaign.
* Receive a Proof of Distribution report with links to your press release posted on between 40 to 60 websites.
* Include a video up to 3 minutes in length.
* Attach up to 7 files, logos or images (jpg, gif, bmp, pdf, xls, txt, doc)
* News shared on Press Release Twitter.
* Guaranteed front page display with our distributor.
* Press release review and optimization.
* Permanent inclusion in our searchable database

Have An Article That Needs Exposure?

Press releases are by design more immediate, and news related. But what about articles that aren’t about news items but instead do things like share tips and advice, identify trends, have human interest or business related stories, for just a few examples? By far one of the most effective ways of improving your search engine rankings is through writing and submitting articles. Why is this so important?

First, an article needs to be written, once again something Hat Trick Associates can do for you as well. But either way, your article needs to be written about something related to the subject of your website. For example, if you ran a website about sporting collectables you could write an article about how others could become collectors, or how to value or acquire items — basically anything you want to so long as it relates to your website topic.

Somewhere in the article you include a link to your website, and you then submit your article to ‘article directories’ on the Internet. An article directory is a repository of lots of articles that people have submitted.

Why Are They So Effective?

For every article directory that publishes your article you’ll get a link to your website (the link you included in your article), and also other websites might ‘pick-up’ your article to publish on their own website – meaning you get even more links. So the more directories you submit to, the more links you’ll get. Of course, you need to write a good quality article so that your article is published by the directories.

The reason article submissions are so effective is because each article is published on its own unique webpage, meaning your link might be the only external link on that page, which gives your link full ‘strength’. Also, because the article is based on the theme of your website your link is given even more strength.

How Can Hat Trick Associates Help With Article Marketing?

The problem with article directories is that many of them require you register before you can submit, which is a real pain. But this is no longer a problem! Hat Trick Associates incorporates an automatic registration tool that allows us to register with hundreds of directories in no time at all.

There is also a text randomization for the article Title, Description, Body, and Author biography fields, so if you are writing the article yourself, you can write something like “The {quick|slow} {yellow|brown} fox jumps over the lazy {dog|elephant}” and we will construct different sentences such as:

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog
The slow yellow fox jumps over the lazy elephant
The slow brown box jumps over the lazy elephant
…and so on….

You can do this for single words, sentences, or even paragraphs. You can even nest randomizations within randomizations! The benefit of this is that you can submit different article text to each directory, ensuring each article is unique, and therefore maximizes SEO effectiveness.We also don’t just stop at the submission stage, oh no, we can even log into your directory accounts and automatically check the article published status, when it was published, and how many times your article has been viewed – pretty cool ‘eh?

And since we’re all busy people and don’t really relish the thought of spending hours submitting to directories, we’ve created a system that can auto-submit for you.

HTA – SEO & Media Exposure Professional Package: for Articles

With our Professional Package for Articles, we can submit your article to more than 1,000 article directories. We designed the package to be flexible, so you can submit to just 25 directories to begin with, or 50…100…500…or all 1,000+ directories.

And our basic service package starts at just $1 for each article directory between from 50-100; just 50 cents per directory from 100-500; and then just 25 cents a submission up to 1000 and beyond.

And as always, if you need the article written too, writing services begin at just $125 depending on subject and length.

Our service offerings also now include submissions to over 4,000 website directories too, a topic for our next posting. The bottom line is – when you have distribution OR writing needs for your web content, contact us and see how we can help you achieve your goals.

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