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How to Get Online Reviews

How to Get Online Reviews

How important our online review stars?

How important is it to get online reviews?

For more on the value of online reviews, see our infographic.

People use online reviews to pick a business

When searching online, people really do take online reviews into accout when deciding which listing to click on. For example, if you were looking for an Indian restaurant in Lake George, NY, this local 3-pack might well convince you to drive ½ hour south to Sarasota Springs. But if that’s too far, it’s an easy choice between the two local restaurants.

Avoid phony reviews

There’s an understandable temptation to sort of start the ball rolling by writing a review for yourself. Or to make up for a mediocre average star rating by creating some 5-star reviews.

Don’t do it.

Here are a few things to avoid – don’t do any of them:

How to get online reviews

I strongly encourage all small businesses to actively get online reviews. They can make all the difference between just getting found on Google and getting chosen.

What are third party reviews?

Third party reviews are reviews on websites other than your own. Reviews on your own website are referred to as first party reviews. I have no clue what second party reviews might be.

Some of the most powerful third-party review sites include Google My Business, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Yelp. You may like our post about whether Yelp reviews really help.

If a potential customer already knows your company name and looks you up by that, you are very likely to show up in the Knowledge Card at the top right of Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page). When that happens, your average review stars from Google My Business are clearly displayed.

Beyond the Knowledge Card, when someone searches for your company name they are also very likely to see your pages on Facebook, Yelp, LinkedIn, MapQuest, vertical directories, and other sites. To the extent that those listings display review stars in the Google SERP, they all work toward establishing your reputation and encouraging people to look at you more closely. Obviously, the more stars that show up on your own Google SERP page, the better you appear to be.

How to get third party reviews

Third party reviews on sites like Yelp can help both your rankings and your conversions.

Ideally, your services are so outstanding that your customers are driven by their delight to want to provide positive reviews for you online. Pragmatically, we must admit that an unsatisfied customer feels more motivated to write a scathing review than a delighted customer is motivated to write a positive review. To counteract that, you will want to make it very easy for those happy customers to write about how wonderful you are. There are a few ways you can ethically increase the likelihood that satisfied customers will review you online.

  • Ask them. If they indicate a willingness to write a review for you, follow-up with an email to them which includes a link directly to your page on the third party site of your choice. In that email, tell them where to find the button or link to click to write a review.
  • Provide links on your website to your pages on third party sites that display reviews. You may increase the likelihood of people clicking to leave you a review with a call to action suggesting that.
  • Include a link in your email signature block.  That way, every email you send to a client includes a link to your page at one or more third-party sites that host online reviews.
  • Write reviews of others yourself. When you write a review for a strategic partner who may refer business to you or to whom you refer business, seeing that review may motivate them to write a review for you in return. The same thing applies to businesses in your networking circle. An honest positive review might make them feel at least slightly obligated to return the favor.

What are first party reviews?

First party reviews are simply reviews that appear on your own website as opposed to anyplace else.  BXB Media wrote a nice comparison of first party and third party reviews. And if you have them coded properly with  schema markup, Google will display your review stars in SERPs.

 A couple of quick warnings are due, though.

  1. You may not apply structured coding reviews you copy onto your website from somewhere else. That violates Google’s terms of service and you will suffer for it.
  2. For reasons only known to Google, reviews on your home page will not be reflected with review stars in Google’s SERPs. Review stars only appear when your internal pages show up in search results.

If you do it properly, however, those review stars showing up on Google can make a big difference in how many potential customers click on your listing, even if you’re not the first one. Here’s an example for one of our clients in a local search for floor tile repair. Which listing would you be likely to click on first?

Customer reviews on your website can greatly increase the number of clicks you get when people search for what you do.How to get first party reviews

I caution that this needs to be “done right”. Potential customers, and Google itself, are aware that you control your website and may be suspicious that the reviews displayed there are somewhat less than honest. So the first rule is to heed the two warnings in the paragraph above. Google explains that:

Google may display information from aggregate ratings markup in the Google Knowledge Cards. The following guidelines apply to review snippets in knowledge cards for local businesses:

  • Ratings must be sourced directly from users.
  • Don’t rely on human editors to create, curate or compile ratings information for local businesses. These types of reviews are critic reviews.
  • Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites

The last item above means you can’t just take testimonials customers have sent to you and enter them onto your website yourself and apply structured coding to them. They really need to be gathered directly from your customer and entered on your web pages automatically. That’s to prevent you from cherry-picking only good reviews to display on your site.

The tool we prefer here at Rank Magic is Yext Reviews. As part of their PowerListings subscription program, they provide an automated review gathering form and a widget on your website. You can direct customers to the form and the reviews they enter will be automatically displayed on whichever pages of your site you have placed the widget on.

An added advantage of the Yext platform is that it alerts you anytime someone writes a review for you in either your first party reviews or any of the third party review sites in their network. I’ve written recently about how important is is too know when a new review is written so you can replay to it promptly.

Rank Magic can help.

Contact us to find out how we can help review stars make you a “star” on Google.

I welcome you to join the conversation in the Comments section below.

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Hidden Sabotage for Local Businesses: Duplicate Listings

Hidden Sabotage for Local Businesses: Duplicate Listings

What are duplicate listings?

Duplicate listings or citations don't help your business. They hurt.

Online citations or listings of your business are critical for local search optimization. Even Google says so. Almost all local businesses have at least some duplicate listings out there. Sometimes they occur because of a change in the name of your business. Sometimes they can be caused by a simple phone number change. Very often they occur because you moved.

And I’ll bet you have more listings or citations out there than you realize. You’re probably listed in places you’ve never submitted your business to. Many local search engines, directories, maps & apps gather business information from other sources, known as “aggregators”. There are many aggregators out there, including the White Pages, Dun & Bradstreet, and more.

Duplicate listings can happen for a number of different reasons.

  • Some people have been known to purposely create duplicate listings in the hope that would improve their local search visibility. (It won’t.)
  • Sometimes online citations can be picked up from multiple sources and contain slight variations.
  • It’s not common to see one listing with an a street address on “Main St.” and another  with the same address listed as “Main Street”.
  • Occasionally a business owner will create a duplicate listing because they forgot that a listing had been created at some point in the past.
  • Duplicates can also occur if a business goes through a merger/acquisition, rebrands itself, moves to a new location, or changes phone numbers.
  • Sometimes business owners create duplicate listings because of a lack of understanding. For example, a plumber may create one listing for water heater repairs and another for drain cleaning. But that’s a violation of Google’s guidelines against creating multiple listings for a single location.

What’s wrong with duplicate listings?

Don’t assume that duplicate listings mean that your business is easier to find online or that they will help your search visibility. They don’t help – they hurt.

Duplicate listings and online citations may be hurting you without you even knowing.Inconsistent NAP

When there are duplicate listings out there, they usually contain inconsistent NAP (name, address, phone) information. The duplicate may have a previous address, a bad or missing phone number, or a confusing variation on your company name. You have no control over whether people finding your online citation are finding the correct one or an incorrect one.

Customer address confusion

You’ll find that most duplicate listings are duplicated because they have non-matching addresses. This may be because you have moved and some of those online citations are simply out of date. You don’t want customers going to your old address! It may also be because some citations may be missing your street address, which leads to an obvious problem of people finding you.

Lost phone calls

Online reviews are important. Don't let duplicate citations dilute their value.

I find that quite a few duplicate online citations are either missing the phone number completely, or have an old, expired number. Some mistake of fax number for a phone number. The number of phone calls you miss from prospective customers or clients as a result is impossible to estimate.

Online reviews impacted

Duplicate listings can dilute the impact of your online customer reviews. People don’t only look at the number of stars you have, but also the number of reviews. People treat a five star rating to be a more likely representation of a business when it’s the average of a dozen reviews then when it comes from only one. Duplicate listings spread your reviews out, so that none of them represents all of your reviews.

The snowball effect

When a duplicate occurs on an aggregator like Dun & Bradstreet, the duplicate citations get sent out to all of the publishers that rely on the information from that aggregator. That single duplicate may snowball into anywhere from two or three to dozens of citations across the web.

Google rankings can suffer as a result of duplicate listings.

Search rankings lost

When Google or other search engines find duplicate and inconsistent listings for you out there, they can’t tell which one to trust. If they’re not sure which address is right for you, they’re more likely to rank you lower than you deserve rather than risk providing bad information at the top of their search results.

How to recover from duplicate listings

Duplicate dogs are fine. Duplicate istings? Not so much.Awareness

Obviously you can’t recover from duplicate listings unless you know they exist. You might uncover them by manually searching for yourself at lots of local search engines, directories, maps and apps to see if you’re listed multiple times in any of them. Search Engine Land, in their Definitive Guide to Duplicate Research for Local SEO, offers instructions on how to identify duplicate listings. That’s an eleven-step manual procedure involving online research and working with an Excel spreadsheet.

Don't let duplicate listings sabotage your local search rankings.Suppression

Once you’ve identified duplicate listings out there, it’s important that you suppress them. When you do that, be sure to suppress the ones that are most inconsistent with other online citations for your business. You can search each individual publisher for how to notify them and request a suppression of the listing.

Making it simple and easy

If you have a PowerListings subscription (fair disclosure: I am a Yext Certified Partner for PowerListings) you not only receive an alert when a potential duplicate is found, but you can easily suppress it right from within your dashboard. You can literally suppress multiple duplicate listings within just a minute or two.

Do you need help with this? If so, just get in touch to learn how easy it can be to manage your local listings when you work with us.

If you’ve had experience with any of these local citation management tools, we welcome your observations in the comments below.weight okay

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Don’t Show Up Missing on Google My Business!

Your Google My Business listing is a local business essential

Google My Business listings are essential for local businesses.If you’re a local business, dealing with your customers face to face, having an accurate Google My Business listing is critical. Google says this is one of the first things to do to rank well for local searches. Google says “The information in your listing like address, phone, logo, business hours, and website determine what shows up when people see you in Google Search and on Google Maps. See our blog post about getting found in local searches.

Too often information for small businesses on Google My Business is old or out of date. And when your NAP (name address, phone) is out of date or inconsistent with other citations across the web, that compromises your listing. It may even prevent your listing from showing up.

But worse yet is not having a Google My Business listing at all. If you’re a very small business or a new business, odds of not having a Google My Business listing are greater.

How to tell if you have a Google My Business listing

You might have a listing even if you’ve never created one yourself, so the first step is to see if you do. Start out with a simple Google search for your company name.  If your company shows up in the Knowledge Card at the to right, you have a listing.

Google My Business listings is found for this company

If this was your business, go to that listing and make sure everything you can fill out has been completed. Also make sure that everything is current, especially your NAP. AdviceLocal has published a nice set of things to do to optimize your listing.

Have you claimed your listing?

Compare the above good Google My Business listing with this one:

This listing hasn't been claimed yet.

I’ve highlighted the question: Own this business? — that only shows up if no one has claimed it yet. You need to click that and follow the on-screen instructions from Google to verify your listing

Verifying your listing

In most cases, Google will give you two options to verify the listing: by mail or phone. If the phone number on the listing is correct, that’s often the best choice. I’ve had several experiences where clients have selected the mail notification option, only to have to request it two,r three or more times because whoever sorts the company mail mistakes the Google letters for junk mail and discards them. However, if no phone number is included on your current Google My Business listing you may have to select the mail option. Exercise some diligence so that when the letter arrives from Google you’ll spot it. When you get it, follow the instructions to login and enter the PIN in your letter to verify your ownership of the listing.

Once Google confirms that you own the listing, log into it and make sure everything is filled out correctly and is consistent with how you’re listed everyplace else.

If you don’t have a Google My Business listing

When you search for your listing, if a number of listings about your business show up but there is no Knowledge Card about your business in the top right (like the search results page below), that’s an indication that Google My Business doesn’t have a listing for you.

No Google My Business listings exists for this company.

You need to create your listing

This isn’t as daunting a process as you might think, especially if you have a single location. If you have multiple locations, you’ll need to go through this process for each of them.

  1. Go to this Google My Business create-a-listing page and click on the green GET STARTED button.
  2. Enter your full business name and click NEXT.
  3. Enter your full address and indicate if you provide services at customer locations instead of at your business address. Many local service businesses operate out of a home office. You may want to hide your street address so customers don’t come knocking at your front door.
  4. Continue to follow the on-screen prompts until you get to the point where Google wants to send you a PIN by mail or phone. See the information above about verifying your listing.
  5. Once you get your PIN, enter it into your account to complete the verification. At that point you own and can manage your Google My Business listing.
  6. Next make sure to optimize your listing. Enter as much information as Google My Business will allow: logos, photos, business hours,  business description, and so forth. The more information you fill out, the more prominent your listing will appear. Make absolutely sure that your NAP is current and consistent with how it’s displayed everywhere else.

A quick note about consistency

When it comes to showing up for local searches, an essential factor is Google’s trust in your NAP. Some citations may have a previous address, some have a local phone number and others a toll-free number. Some may even have variations on your company name. When that happens Google isn’t sure which is right. If Google doesn’t trust it knows your current and accurate NAP, it will be reluctant to display you prominently.

You can check your listing at several dozen of the top citation sources – local search engines, directories, maps & apps – with our handy  scan here. If that scan reveals problems, we can help.

Please join the conversation below with your own experiences and opinions.

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10 SEO Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Small business SEO isn’t obvious

SEO is not magic. We explain 10 common small business SEO mistakes.I often explain that despite the “Magic” in our company name, SEO isn’t magic, and there really should be no secrets about how it works. Nevertheless, it does require a little shift in how you think about your website to understand what works and why. Small business SEO mistakes can be pretty easily avoided if you know what they are.

Startups and small business owners, especially those with cash flow concerns, often try to do things for themselves. We found that there are some common SEO mistakes that small businesses make which are easily avoidable. Here’s a list of the top ten things small business owners often mess up when trying to do SEO. (Needless to say, if you want or need professional help in optimizing your site without making these errors, Rank Magic is here to help.)

Much of what follows comes with a tip of the hat to the folks at Search Engine Watch; if you’d like to read a bit more about this from their perspective, here’s their article on the subject.

Ten SEO mistakes that small businesses make

Neither are some of these ten common mistakes

1) Waiting too long

Small business owners often spend months or years designing their websites and creating content. Without an SEO strategy in place from the beginning, they often find their efforts to be sub- optimal. When they come late to the SEO process, very often much of what they have worked on so diligently on the website needs to be redone in accordance with SEO best practices. The best time to start SEO is when you start designing (or redesigning) your website. This may be the single most common small business SEO mistake.

2) Avoiding low-competition keywords

It’s easy to think that you should focus on the keyword phrases everyone is searching for all the time. It feels like a waste of time to optimize for niche keyword phrases that receive fewer searches. But for a new business or a new website, the reverse is actually true. It takes months and years to develop the online authority to rank highly for those keyword phrases – you may be trying to compete with Amazon or Wayfair or Costco for those super-high volume keyword phrases. They’re the most competitive.

Optimizing for appropriate low competition keyword phrases is easier and much more likely to result in success over the shorter term.

For local businesses, niche keyword phrases might include a county, town, or neighborhood. Think electrician on the upper East Side or Indian restaurant in Morristown. Those kinds of keyword phrases narrow your competition dramatically and make it much easier to achieve first page rankings. At Rank Magic, we do extensive keyword research and analysis for our clients.

3) Optimizing for Google instead of the customer

Design for humans, not Google.Just about anything you do on a website specifically for Google, is likely to fail to address the needs of your customers. As Google has improved over the years, it’s gotten very smart about identifying websites that are helpful to users as opposed to being focused just on Google. It’s important to bear in mind that the user experience on a website is a ranking factor at Google.

4) Ignoring or avoiding long-tail keywords

Long-tail keyword phrasesLong tail keywords are easier to rank for. are more precisely focused on your products or services than more general terms. A new plumbing company may optimize for the keyword plumbing.  But most people searching for that phrase are looking for general information about plumbing — or perhaps jobs in the plumbing industry — rather than looking to hire a local plumber. The keyword plumbing services receives fewer searches per month but is much more closely focused on the needs of the plumber’s customers. An even longer-term phrase for one of this company’s services might be sump pump repair or sump pump leak. Our new plumbing company is likely to have much better success with these long-tail phrases.

5) Ignoring the code

I see this often, especially with new businesses that have tried to create their own website using one of those do-it-yourself sites like GoDaddy or Yahoo Site Builder. The code that runs the website is not visible on the page and is easy to ignore. But that code includes lots of information critical to search rankings and to conversions once you do show up in a search. Things like

Meta tags are in the HTML code that runs your site and they tell search engines about your page.

  • The page title, which shows up as the headline of your listing in Google,
  • The meta-description tag, which often shows up as part of your listing in Google,
  • Page and image file names,
  • Image alternate text,
  • URL structure and more.

These items all relate to the underlying code of your web pages which either A) help Google understand what the page is about and the value it offers or B) contribute to the likelihood of someone clicking on your listing when it shows up in Google.

6) Keyword stuffing

The now-ancient practice of keyword stuffing involves using a keyword phrase over-abundantly on the page in the hopes that it will convince Google the page is really, really, really about that phrase.

It doesn’t work. And it makes the user experience on the page really crappy, driving people away instead of converting them to paying customers. This is a small business SEO mistake that was usually made many years ago and has just never been fixed. If it applies to you, it’s time to fix it.

7) Forgetting internal links

Once you have people on your site, you want them to stay long enough and learn enough about you so they want to do business with you. Internal links – links among the various pages on your site foster those more extensive visits on your site.

8) Not measuring results

This chart of search traffic is an example of result tracking.You need to know if your efforts are working or not. If they’re not helping, you know you need to change things. How are your search rankings doing over time? How much traffic are you getting from search? Is it improving? You need to know this. Rank Magic provides extensive reporting to our clients on the essential things they need to know but if you’re not a client of ours you should take steps to track results yourself.

9) Focusing on features instead of benefits

You’re enmeshed in your business and are proud of the features of your products or services. Small businesses often get bogged down in the details of those features and go on at length about them.

Guess what? No one cares.

Your customer cares about benefits, not features. They want to know how you can address their concern or relieve their problem. They won’t search for a high tech toilet float valve — they want you to stop their leaky toilet.

This is one of those SEO mistakes that small businesses make that requires you to change your perspective about what to tell people about your business.

Learn more about customer-focus in this blog post.

10) Forgetting about calls to action

Order a hamburger at any fast food restaurant and I’ll bet the person taking your order asks “You want fries with that?” They sell a lot more fries because they ask. That’s known as a call to action.

This Buy Now button is a clear call to action.We all think our website copy is going to make us irresistible and will make users reach out to us without us having to ask. We’re delusional about that.

What do you want your website users to do? Buy something? Call for an appointment? Subscribe to your newsletter? Ask them.

To finish up this post, here are a few examples of calls to action:

If your small business is not ranking well and bringing in customers — Rank Magic can fix that!

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Respond to Reviews and Get More Business

Online reviews and your responses to them can drive more sales.

Online reviews and your responses can bring more business

Search Engine People recently reported on how the number of online reviews of your business directly impacts your rankings in Google.

The more review sites that feature your company, the more back links your website attracts. Spending time responding to reviews and communicating with customers increases engagement and brand mentions, resulting in a positive impact on your search engine rankings.

Studies show that 92% of consumers now read online reviews and that 68% of these cite positive reviews as a significant trust factor.

Read more about the importance of online reviews.

Your response to online reviews increases your conversions

Search Engine Land recently reported on an experiment on review responses in terms of their impact on “conversions”. Conversions are customer actions on your website: form fills, email inquiries, requests for quotes, etc.

Businesses with an average  rating of  close to five stars get 25% more conversions than businesses averaging three stars. That’s not very surprising. But businesses that respond most often converted 33% more visitors than those that don’t. That’s huge.

Even more, review responses from you might encourage your reviewers to raise their rating, further increasing both your rankings and your conversions.

Read more about how to handle bad reviews.

Search Engine Land’s conclusion:

It’s clear that reviews are incredibly important for multiple reasons. The impact local rankings. But, more importantly, they can significantly affect consumer buying behavior, as this and other studies demonstrate.

Consumers come to expect responses to their reviews

Moz recently reported on a Google announcement a couple of weeks ago that consumer expectations of review responses is about to increase dramatically:

Google announced it would be emailing notifications like this to consumers when a business responds to their reviews, prompting them to view the reply.

Google will be sending notifications like this to people who review your business.Surveys indicate that well over 50% of consumers already expect responses within days of reviewing a business. With Google’s rollout, we can assume that this number is about to rise.

Google’s announcement ups the game for all review platforms, because it will make owner responses to consumer sentiment an expected, rather than extra, effort.

Manage any negative reviews properly. When you answer a bad review immediately with a positive tone, you’ll demonstrate that you’re dedicated to customer service. That can cause readers to leave a bad review with a positive impression of you.

Prompt responses are important

RevLocal found that 52% of consumers expected responses within 7 days. Owners of small businesses don’t have the time to monitor all of the websites that could host a new review of them that often. Without help, odds are you won’t know about a new review for weeks or months, if ever.

Fortunately, we can offer some help.

As a Certified Partner with Yext, we can offer and support a subscription to PowerListings. At first glance, PowerListings looks like a great way to get dozens of citations of your business across the web with a consistent name, address, and phone number. And it is. That’s crucial for good rankings in local search. But a feature of PowerListings that is often overlooked is the fact that it notifies you of new reviews immediately.

Moz suggests service oriented businesses get great value for reviews at (among other sites) Google My Business, Yelp, Yahoo Local Listings, Facebook, and Twitter. PowerListings will alert you immediately any time someone reviews you on any of those sites, plus any of the more than five dozen local search engines, directories, maps & apps it supports.

If you really want to kick it into high gear, PowerListings allows you to request reviews from customers that will appear on your own website. When you do that, those pages will be accompanied by review stars in Google search engine results.

Call us to see if Rank Magic can help you do better here.

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