Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

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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 location platform 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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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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How Long Does it Take to Rank in Google? [Infographic]

How long does it take to rank in Google?

This is a question we get asked a lot. A LOT.

And there are so many variables, it often feels like an unanswerable question.

To the rescue comes Ellie Summers in the UK at The Website Group and the research folks at ahrefs. She’s created a helpful infographic that covers the answer (such as it is) very well. The infographic below is reproduced from Ellie’s website with her permission.

Need help getting your small business onto the first page at Google? Contact us to see how we can help.

Share with us what you learn from your own experience in the comments below.

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Frightening News about Page Speed and Bounce Rate

Page speed and bounce rate – a couple of definitions

  • Page speed: the time it takes to fully display the content on a specific web page.
  • Bounce rate: the percent of visits to a site that look at only one page.

Measure your page download speed and keep it under three seconds

How page speed and bounce rate are related

Impatience drives visitors to leave a web page that doesn’t display on their computer or phone as quickly as they want it to. That’s a bounce. The rule of thumb currently is that you begin to lose significant numbers of visitors when your page speed exceeds two seconds. Pingdom says:

… the average bounce rate for pages loading within 2 seconds is 9%. As soon as the page load time surpasses 3 seconds, the bounce rate soars, to 38% by the time it hits 5 seconds!

Graph showing the relationship between page speed and bounce rate

This graph illustrates the bad news. As page download time increases beyond 3 seconds, bounce rate increases dramatically.

A high bounce rate represents lost business.

If your goal is for visitors to take an action on your site, such as filling out an information form, contacting you, or buying something  — then bounces  represent lost customers.

But it’s actually worse than that.

Ranking factors on Google

It’s been well known and reported here that page speed is a ranking factor at Google. We began warning about it way back in 2009. All else being equal, a fast downloading page will outrank a slow page.

We’ve also pointed out that a high bounce rate is a negative ranking factor on Google as well.

Update June 2018: If your market is international, it may help to know what your page speed is overseas. I recommend a test at DotCom Tools that will test your page speed at over 20 international cities.

Why it gets really bad

The frightening thing about all this is that these two negative ranking factors compound one another. It’s bad enough if you suffer a ranking penalty because your page is slow. But that slowness raises your bounce rate, resulting in a double-whammy to your ranking in Google search results.

Our recommendation is to work to make sure your pages all download within three seconds at the most. Two seconds is ideal, but three seconds is usually tolerable.

We always welcome your perspective. Let us know what you think in the comments section below.

We offer a free SEO review of your website, including page speed and many other factors. Call us and let’s set it up.

 

Local Business: Get Found and Get Chosen

You need to get found — and chosen

Local listings on Google: the Local Pack or 3-Pack.

Getting found on Google

When someone is looking for what you do, you need them to find you. Typical SEO is great for getting you to show up prominently in the search engine results. But Google has been changing and you have additional opportunities to get found.

The Local 3 Pack  on the right often displays near the top of the page when a local search is performed. Whether you show up here is a function of three things:

  1. Your SEO
    This includes on-page optimization for the keyword phrases customers use most when looking for what you do, and off-page link building to improve your website’s online “authority”.
  2. Proximity to the searcher
    This is what it sounds like: how close your location is to wherever the searcher is searching from. Clearly you can have no influence over this.
  3. Prominence of your business
    This relates to your online citations: how broadly across the web your location data is listed and how consistent it is across dozens of local search engines, directories, maps and apps.

At Rank Magic, we’re experts in Local SEO for small and very small local businesses. And we have a simple solution for ensuring your prominence across the most important locally focused sites across the web.

Reach out to us for a free SEO and prominence consultation about your business.

The Moz Blog calls location data and review ratings “The 1-2 Punch of Local SEO”

Image courtesy of The Moz Blog

Once you’ve optimized your location data and customers can easily find you, the next step is to get them to choose you.

Getting chosen

Once you’ve been found, it’s very likely that some of your competitors will also show up. You want them to pick your listing in preference to the others. One of the best ways to do that is to demonstrate that you’ve got a very strong positive review profile. Inc Magazine says

Research shows that 91 percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.

The impact of online review ratings is clear in this Google local 3-pack.With that in mind, take a look at the Local 3-Pack on the left for someone looking for an Indian restaurant in upstate New York. Which would you check out first? Most likely you would choose the one with 4.5 stars rather than the one with 1.6 stars. And if one of the restaurants listed had no reviews at all, odds are that would be your last choice.

It’s pretty clear that your online star ratings can have a significant impact on your business.

If you don’t have a strategy for encouraging positive reviews from your customers, now is the time to start one.

At Rank Magic we have a simple  program to generate positive reviews and balance them across the top rating sites like Google, Facebook, MerchantCircle, Yelp, and more. Contact us to learn more about how our solution can drive more customers to your business.

In fact, we have a free scanning service. Now you can see how good your own location prominence and reviews are. There’s no obligation, and did I say it’s free?

Just click here to run a free scan of your local listings.

Join the conversation with your opinions and experience in the Comments below.

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