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Do You Need an XML Sitemap?

Back in 2010 I said your probably don’t need an XML sitemap.

Well, it’s time to re-think that.

An XML sitemap may be one file or several.

An XML sitemap is a coded page or several pages that visitors to your site don’t see, but which search engines definitely do. It’s a list of every page on your website that can show search engines some extra information about your website. It indicates how recently each page has been changed or updated, how often each page changes, and how important each page is.

Technically, you shouldn’t need an XML sitemap if your website is set up properly with impeccable site structure and thorough, easy-to-follow navigation that covers every page on your site. But if you’ve overlooked anything at all, an XML sitemap will compensate for that by showing Google, Yahoo & Bing all of the pages on your site. Here’s a little more on that.

An XML sitemap doesn’t just cover your rear end in case your navigation is less than perfect. The additional information it provides allows search engines to crawl your site more intelligently.

Help is readily available.

Don’t worry that you need to laboriously code up an XML site map. There are a number of services that can create one for you. And if your website has been created in WordPress,  the Yoast SEO plug-in will do it for you automatically.

The Bottom Line

Just go ahead and do it.

Join the conversation – let us know your experience in the comments below.

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Need help with your company’s online visibility? Call us!

Get Rid of a Bad Online Review (Infographic)

Ron Dod of Visiture designed the infographic below to deal with bad reviews on Google. It applies equally to a bad online review on other sites as well, like Facebook and Yelp.

This infographic is a companion to our blog post How to Get Rid of a Bad Online Review.

Infographic on how to get rid of a bad online review.

Online reputation management can be a daunting prospect to deal with on your own. We can help! Ask me about our PowerListings Ultimate service that can help generate positive reviews and focus them where you want, even on your own website.

Think we can benefit with your experience with bad online reviews? Please share in the comments below.

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How to Get Rid of a Bad Online Review

Oh, No! You got a bad review on Google!

Google's G logoWe’ve got good news and bad news when it comes to removing negative Google reviews. Let’s start with the bad news. The bad news is that you can’t actually “get rid” of a bad online review.

Don’t stop reading!

The good news is there are ways that you can combat any negative online reviews you get — on Google and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, the truth is, Google doesn’t care about your business or your reputation. They just want to give customers what they are looking for so that Google stays the top search engine. All so they can continue to have people pay them to advertise on their network. At the end of the day, they aren’t going to care if you got a review that makes you look bad when you didn’t do anything wrong. There is nothing they can do about it, or, we should say … there’s nothing that they will do about it.

But, wait. Should you even care if you have negative reviews? Absolutely! Online reviews are very important in today’s market. More and more people are turning to reviews to help decide their purchases. In fact, 93% of Millennials say that they read reviews before they purchase something.

A negative online review isn't the end of the world.

Think about it—wouldn’t you trust what your friend said about a new restaurant over what the restaurant says about themselves? Just because they say they have the best burritos in the city doesn’t mean they’re worth trying. They might be awful. That’s why you ask around, to see if anyone you know has been there before you go. This is what online reviews do for consumers. They allow them to get information from a third party before they spend their money.

As a business, you want online reviews. You want your happy customers to tell others about your company and your products/services. But what happens when you get a not so nice review? Well, you need to address it! Having a negative review about your company floating around out there can turn away potential customers. So, how do you combat these reviews if you can’t just get rid of them?

Here are seven tactics you can try.

7 ways to handle bad online reviews.

Look internally

The first thing that we would recommend you do when you get a bad online review is to seriously consider what the review is saying. Put yourself in the shoes of the reviewer. Maybe they’re just being unreasonable, but they just might be showing you a real problem with your service.

Take a hard look at your company. You want to try to see things from the other side, not through your own rose-colored glasses. Maybe it’s time to rethink some of your processes or your customer service.

Contact the reviewer ASAP

After getting a bad online review, you want to contact that person as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter who’s wrong in the situation. You need to reach out to them. Even if they’re wrong, you want to do everything in your power to make it right somehow. The more you do to make it right, the more they’ll appreciate it and rethink their review.

Think of this as an investment into your reputation. Just reaching out can do a lot to repair relationships and help them view you more favorably. Even if you can’t make things right with them, reaching out and trying to make things right will show other potential customers that you care.

Ask for a revision of the bad review

After you reach out to the reviewer and try to make things right, consider thinking about asking them to revise their review. A customer can revise their review, remove the review or even post a follow-up. Now, this would be ideal if you made the situation better for them and they were genuinely happy with your response. However, if they don’t seem happy even after you reach out, it might be not ideal to ask them. They might just write something worse or something else that could further damage your online reputation.

Google online review stars

Acknowledge the problem

We’ve already told you that you need to reach out to the reviewer and try to make things right with them. However, there are times when you just can’t make it up to them. It might be that it was a time-sensitive situation and you just can’t make that situation right.

You still need to acknowledge what happened. Make sure you apologize for the experience they had and try to do everything you can to assure them it won’t happen again. Tell them that you are going to review your policies and maybe even ask for a second chance to make it up to them.

Whatever you do, make sure you are always pleasant with the customer. There is no need to be rude or short with them; if you reply with iritation it’s counterproductive, especially if you respond that way online. Be nice and genuine with them. Sometimes, just acknowledging a problem can show them that you respect them and their experience.

Address false reviews

There are normal negative reviews, and then there are just false reviews. Maybe you have a testy former employee who is out for revenge or maybe a ruthless competitor is trying to steal your business. In situations like that, you need to address those reviews with the site they’re on.

If you find reviews that are just unreal, check out the site’s policies. If it’s allowed, contact them and request intervention. You can check out Google’s policies here.

Get Positive

As we’ve said, you can expect a few negative reviews. And, honestly, they aren’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, some people will find it a little fake if you only have glowing reviews. Most of the time, your potential customers are going to have the common sense to read a negative review and understand that some people are just grumpy or looking for attention.

9 of 10 people trust online reviews.

What can really help with this is having more positive reviews that will overshadow the negative ones. If you have a hundred positive reviews and two negative ones, most people will see that you are generally liked.

If you currently don’t have positive reviews, then you need to work on getting them ASAP. But how do you get positive reviews? There are ways that you can encourage your customers to review you:

  • Ask Them: You can always ask your customers to review you. However, you need to be careful. According to Google’s guidelines, you can’t offer any incentives for reviews.
  • POP Display: Create point of purchase displays that ask them to review you. Make sure you first identify the top places that your customers come in contact with you.
  • Email Them: You can use your email marketing to help you gain reviews. You can email them and ask by putting a link at the bottom of your email.
  • Frequent Flyers: Ask those who are repeat customers. If they keep coming back to you, chances are that they like you and will be glad to leave you a review.
  • Social Media: You can ask your followers on social media to review you, but you want to make sure that you don’t make it too easy to also leave negative reviews.

If you can’t beat them, outrank them

If you find that you have a negative review on just one site, you can work on outranking that site and pushing them down the SERPs. Obviously, for this to work, you need to have positive reviews on other sites. In order to make this work, link to the positive reviews on your website and social media. Then, start doing a little undercover promotion of these sites.

Even better  might be to outrank their review with new positive reviews on the same site. Those will appear above the bad review and if you get enough of them they might even push the negative review off the page.

Online Reputation Management

Handle online reviews well and see your business grow.Online reputation management is defined as “a strategy and process of monitoring, identifying, and influencing your digital reputation and credibility online.” By now I’m confident you understand that you need to know what people are saying about you online. Your reputation is everything, in today’s competitive market. With more and more people trusting reviews, you really need to be paying attention to what people are saying about you online.

Monitoring your digital reputation and what people are saying about you online idn’t just about combating the bad online reviews. While that’s a great part of it, you can also gain insightful information from online reputation management: it gives you the ability to understand and benefit from what people are saying about you.

Say you are a plumbing company in Atlanta who’s monitoring tweets with [Plumbing + Atlanta], and you see that people are complaining that no other company will service a certain area. You might realize it really wouldn’t take much to go to that area. Now you’ve tapped into a brand new market and outsmarted your competition.

Conclusion

Don’t think it’s the end of the world when you get a bad online review. One or two aren’t going to kill your business, but you do need to be mindful of the customer and the situation. Make sure you contact them and do everything you can to make it right. Sometimes, just showing you care can make all the difference.

Thanks to Ron Dod for this post and for his patience with my gentle editing. He’s a partner and CEO of Visiture, LLC. After founding Grey Umbrella Marketing, an internet marketing agency which focuses on SEO for eCommerce businesses, he merged with Visiture to create a full service search marketing offering including PPC for eCommerce businesses. He holds a Masters in the Science of Marketing from Florida State University and is certified in Google Adwords & Analytics.

We have a program specially designed for online review management of  local businesses. Call me and ask about it!

Find other posts on the subject of reviews here.

Think we can benefit with your experience with bad online reviews? Please share in the comments below.

Think others can benefit from the information here? Please share it with the buttons on the left. Or give us a +1 or a Like at the top of the page.

“Near Me” Searches – How Do You Show Up?

Mobile and Near Me Searches — Perfect Together

Increase your local search visibility on Google.With the rise of mobile searches — more than half of all searches are now done from phones — “near me” searches have exploded from devices with GPS.

What’s a “near me” search?

You’ve probably done them. They’re searches like

  • Closest gas station
  • nearby plumber
  • BBQ restaurant open
  • car accident lawyer near me
  • local electrician

Google’s Possum Update last fall has improved local search results like these and is further encouraging their use.
93% of people who use mobile for local search go on to make a purchase.

Mobile is Critical

According to Search Engine Land:

The fact of the matter is, more and more local searches are taking place on mobile. More importantly, many of those local searches come with a high purchase intent, making local mobile searches an incredibly important opportunity for your business

If your site isn’t “mobile friendly”, you’re missing out on business. More than half of all searches are now done from phones. And for those searches, Google gives preference to mobile friendly sites. So to show up prominently for local searches for what you do, the first step is to make sure your site is mobile friendly.

Apart from being mobile friendly, the next step is to make sure your site is “local friendly”.

There are two places you can show up prominently for local searches: in the Local Pack of three listings beneath a map, and in the organic listings. Both require, at a minimum, effective local SEO.

On-Page SEO

Let’s assume for the moment that you’ve well optimized your pages for the appropriate keywords and that you’ve built a sound link profile. What else do you need?

First, list your location, including your Zip Code, on every page of your site. The easiest places to do that are in the heading of each page or in the footer.

Second, employ schema markup for your name, address and phone number wherever they appear on your site. For most small business owners this is technical enough that you’ll want to delegate it to your webmaster to implement.

Off-Page Citations

A consistent NAP in your citations is important for near me searches.

Your NAP – Name, Address, Phone – is important to be listed consistently across the web.

Google relies heavily on citations — mentions of your NAP (name, address, phone) — on other websites to develop trust in where you are locally and what your phone number is. Citations help even if they don’t include a link to your website. According to Moz, “Other factors being equal, businesses with a greater number of citations will probably rank higher than businesses with fewer citations.” The more citations you have, the better — with one important consideration:

Consistency

If you ask a few friends about a local Pizza restaurant you may not get the same thing from everyone. You may get variations on the Pizzeria’s name, inconsistent or old addresses, and different phone numbers. If that happens, you’re not sure which to trust. Google, Yahoo & Bing are just the same. If some citations have variations on your company name, a few have previous addresses, and some have bad or old phone numbers, search engines aren’t sure which ones are right and which are wrong.

If Google isn’t sure where you are, it’s reluctant to rank you prominently in the organic results. And it’s certainly unlikely to include you in the Local Pack. So be sure you have as many citations as you can and make sure your NAP is consistent across all of them.

Local citation sitesWe can help you identify some of the most important sites that provide citations. Run a free scan for your NAP here. You’ll quickly see whether you’re listed at more than 60 of the top citation sources. You’ll also see how consistently your NAP is shown at each of them. Use that as a guide for where to apply your attention to ensuring you have an excellent citation profile across the web.

Make it Simple

Given the time and attention, you can clean up your citation profile manually. But as those sites refresh their data from original sources like the White Pages or Dun & Bradstreet, errors can creep back in. That’s why we offer a PowerListings subscription to 1) get you listed consistently at all the sites on the list and 2) prevent your NAP data from getting changed by a refresh at any of those sites.

Learn more about PowerListings here.

Join the conversation – let us know your experience in the comments below.

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The Value of Online Reviews (Infographic)

9 of 10 people trust online reviews.

Everything you want to know about online reviews — and then some

Online reviews are playing an increasing role in both search engine visibility and in customer buying behavior. We’ve written about this recently in terms of the value of online reviews for small businesses.

Thanks to some research by the folks at WebsiteBuilder.org, the following infographic compiles lots of the latest information about the value of online reviews.

Do you have trouble getting online reviews?

Getting good online reviews isn’t as easy as it sounds. People who are unhappy are super-motivated to leave a nasty review while people who are happy … are just happy. Often they aren’t particularly motivated to give a review.

If your reviews are somewhat anemic, Rank Magic can help!

We welcome your input to the conversation – leave a comment below.

Feel free to share this with colleagues and friends with the share buttons on the left.

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