Google Introduces “Verified Customer Reviews”

Have an online store?

You’ll want to include Google’s “Verified Customer Reviews.” They’re a new kind of review exclusively reserved for customers who have actually purchased from you.

With the “Google Reviews,” which you’re probably thinking of, technically anyone can leave one. So, the credibility of those isn’t quite what it could be. Although in most cases, Google Reviews are 100% legit.

How Does It Work?

Pretty simple. You sign up for a free Merchant Center account. After you sign up, your customers get the option to receive an email after they purchase that asks for their feedback.

Then, you can get a badge for your website that displays your rating. In addition, your seller rating appears on Google Shopping and Adwords ads.

It can be quite the credibility booster that leads to more sales.

How Can You Get More Google Reviews?

This feature is cool and easy to implement. What if you have a physical store subject to the standard Google Reviews?

How do you get more of those?

Fortunately, it’s not as hard as you fear. Here’s a few strategies for getting more of those:

  • Have a Method for Following Up with Every Customer

    Collect customer information. Whether you’re a savvy law firm, or if you sell antiques, you can easily get your customer’s email.Once you have it, set a reminder to send your customer a brief (1-2 sentences) email asking them to leave you a review. That email should include a link they can click to leave you a review.

    Doing this makes it easy for your customers. The one thing they have least of is time.

  • Publicly Respond to Any Complaints or Negative Feedback

    You won’t get 5-star reviews every time. When you get anything short of that, respond to what the customer didn’t like publicly.Try to understand what went wrong in their mind. And see what you can do to fix it. When you do, make sure you publicly post what you did. And ask your customer to update their review with how you handled the situation, and how they feel about your company now.

    Not only does this show you errors in your business, but it also builds a lot of trust with potential customers who do read your reviews. And this could earn you many more customers in the future.

  • Offer a Giveaway in Exchange for Reviews

    To keep this honest and ethical, you’re not paying one customer for a good review. Instead, you’re giving away something of value in exchange for any review.Make the item or service given away related to your business so you don’t attract people who could care less about your company.

Reviews are invaluable to your online success. Make sure you get as many as you can. And take each one to heart.

Proximity to Searcher Now the #1 Ranking Factor for Local Search

Moz, a leading thinker on SEO, annually gathers the opinions of dozens of local SEO experts. They compile the data into a report to find out what really works in local SEO each year.

In 2017, experienced SEO consultants ranked “proximity to searcher” the most influential search ranking factor.

That’s ahead of links, citations, on-page SEO…you name it.

So, I guess you need to create a flying warehouse that uses drones for distribution like Amazon’s talked about?

They have a patent for it – true story!

Anyway, you can’t do that now. But until you can, focus on doing good solid local SEO so searchers can find you.

Besides your proximity to the searcher, what else can you do? Here’s a brief list of other factors, according to the survey from Moz:

  • Having a Physical Address in the City Searched

    Google’s relaxed on this one a little, much to the relief of SEOs here in the DFW Metroplex. It makes sense that, if you’re in the city where the searcher executes the search, you come up for the search.At the same time, what if you’re in a different suburb, but physically closer than a similar business who is in the suburb where the search happens?

    Google accounts for this more effectively when searchers search. Ideally though, you have a physical address in the city searched.

  • Link Quality

    Links have always been powerful for your rankings. While they’ve lost some strength over the years, they’re still strong today.And they’ll continue to be strong in the future, even though other factors may gain some potency too.

    Why?

    Links simply vouch for your website’s quality. Get a link from the New York Times, and you look awesome. Earn a link from a porn site, and you don’t look so good.

    The more links you get from other quality sites, the better. Because, Google only figures good sites link to other good sites.

  • Citation Consistency

    A “citation” is a mention of your NAP (name, address, phone number) information. You must be consistent with this…to the letter!If your address is “123 Fake St.,” Google gets annoyed when you so much as say “123 Fake Street” instead.

So, you have to decide on one way to discuss your address on the web, and then use only that information. And if you have a change, go back to all the other websites where it’s mentioned and get them to change it.

Kind of a pain. But the reality of today’s local SEO.

That’s Far From All…

Those are some of the most important local search ranking factors. But it’s not a complete list.

You can actually read them all in Moz’s 2017 Local Search Ranking Factor survey.

Here’s to high rankings in 2017 and beyond!

What Makes Content Attract 1000s of Social Shares?

Buzzsumo’s a cool tool that lets you see how many social shares a piece of content gets. Check it out for Search Engine Journal:

Top posts get 4,500 shares…all the way up to 8,200.

Wow!

How do you get a piece of content shared that much? A little bit of luck’s involved. But you can do it with persistence.

Here’s what to do:

  • First, You Must Have the Right Media Outlet
    You won’t get thousands of shares on your own blog. Sites where this happens have massive, loyal audiences they’ve spent years building. And they typically have at least small teams of professional writers creating content.Pulling the same off at your own SMB blog equates to more than a miracle. So, you have to approach these big-name blogs to get the exposure to a large enough audience.
  • Buzzsumo Reveals The Most Shareable Ideas
    You can’t copy someone else’s idea exactly. But when you use Buzzsumo to see what gets the most shares, you have a general idea of what works well at that website.That may inspire an idea of your own which that website’s audience will like. There’s a little bit of luck from there. You have an idea of how well your topic could do. But you never know how many people will actually share it.
  • Your Idea Must be New, Different, and Maybe a Little Surprising
    With a large enough audience, even a standard idea can get a couple thousand shares, or so. But if you want your content to get shared as much as possible, you have to know the topics a media outlet covers…and have a new and different one of your own. Surprise works quite well.You don’t have to be outrageous or controversial (unless you want to try). But if you have a new angle that you know challenges conventional thinking, that can be a great way to get much more attention.
  • Unique Stories
    Within your content, stories work incredibly well to engage. This could be a personal story. Or, it could be a legend or myth. Or, it could be a story you heard from a friend.Stories engage the human mind. Facts get forgotten. So if you have a great story from your life that you tell friends or clients, and you get a great reaction from it, it makes sense to use that story in your content too (as long as you can tie it to your topic).

Is Writing Highly Shareable content Easy?

No way. A 1000-word post could take 10 or more hours to write…even for a skilled writer.

Top writers make every word count. And they fine-tune until they believe they’ve created the most valuable piece possible.

There’s no guarantees on the number of shares and exposure that result. But, you do get valuable results with consistent effort.

What Trends are Driving Digital Marketing?

Seems like just yesterday you only needed a website to market your business. Then you needed SEO. Now you need a responsive site.

You can’t hire just a single SEO consultant anymore. These days, you have to hire a whole team. SEO consultants have a network of contractors. They rarely operate independently. If you go with an agency, they have employees and contractors.

Running a website is no longer a simple, one-person endeavor.

And sorry to do this…but it’s only going to get more complex.

Here’s some of the coming trends that will shape how you operate your company website:

  • It’s Tough to Get Around Paid Advertising
    Paid advertising is now becoming necessary. Today, you can do it through PPC in Google Adwords. Bing/Yahoo have their own network too.Every major social network (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest etc…) now has a paid advertising option. Facebook’s grown so powerful that they keep redesigning their algorithm so it shows your posts to fewer followers.

    Unless, of course, you fork over more cash.

    Any of these digital properties act as one of the major gateways to the internet. You can bet that any website with major traffic will continue to find ways to charge you money to advertise on their platform.

  • Security Will Remain a Top Concern
    Ever noticed how some websites start with “http://” while others begin with “https://?”What’s the difference? “https://” stands for “HTTP secure.” With regular HTTP, the former internet standard, third parties can see the traffic and data that passes between your browser and local web server. That information could include your credit card number or social security number.

    To encourage a safer and more secure web, Google now docks your rankings if you don’t use HTTPS, even if your website doesn’t receive sensitive information from visitors. HTTPS means that all information between your browser and server gets encrypted.

World superpowers like Russia and China have government-sponsored teams of hackers (though they’ll never publicly admit to this). And every country has its own share of independent hackers.

Smart hackers know small businesses may be less lucrative, but they’re easier targets.

Recent data shows:

  • 43% of cyber attacks target SMBs
  • Just 14% consider their security “highly effective”
  • 60% go out of business within six months of a successful attack

And It Certainly Doesn’t End There

The reality is there’s much more to digital marketing than this. Artificial intelligence, marketing automation, influencer marketing, the increasing rise of algorithms (to sort email in Gmail’s tabs, among other things), and live streaming video will continue to shape digital marketing too.

The key to all this is having someone you can trust to help you understand and identify what really makes sense for your business.

Top 4 Benefits of FAQ Pages

Your website has a FAQ (frequently asked questions) page, doesn’t it? Many, but not all, websites do.

Why?

Improve Your Search Rankings

Your FAQ page includes some of the most commonly asked questions about your business. Of course, people type many of these questions into Google. So, you immediately get exposure for those questions.

Nice.

They Can Reduce Unnecessary Customer Service Phone Calls and Shorten Call Times

You know how your customers ask the same questions over and over. Some are quite complex and definitely require a phone call to address. You sometimes have to know specific customer information to give an accurate answer.

That’s good use of your customer service time.

However, sometimes you get questions with easy, straightforward answers. Better to use your website’s time and energy, rather than your employee’s, right? You can save on your customer service time and costs with a well-constructed FAQ page.

You Can Repurpose Your FAQ Content

When you use content to market your business, it takes a fair amount of time and money to do. In certain industries, it takes weeks to produce a quality piece.

You can cut down on that time and cost by repurposing your FAQ page. You can offer brief questions and answers in your newsletter. Each FAQ could become a social media post. You can also create in-depth blog posts with extended answers to each question.

Or, you might even turn the whole FAQ into a downloadable PDF your potential customers can take with them so they don’t forget you (few other small and local businesses do this). You could also use it to put behind a form asking for people’s emails.

Increase Your Sales

You get customer objections in person. Not every customer fully trusts you to buy from you immediately. You know how to alleviate their fear of purchasing. So, do the same process with your FAQ page. Turn that question into an opportunity for further engagement…or to close the sale.

Many websites don’t prioritize the creation of a FAQ page. That means it gets forgotten. It’s a huge missed opportunity. And now that you know the benefits of a FAQ page, you can get a quick win your competitors don’t even bother to look for.

2 Elements to A/B Test on Your Website

Scientist uses modern technology for its research

Know what an A/B test is? It’s when you compare two slightly different versions of a single web page against each other.

You’ll make a small change to one page. But you won’t make any changes to the other. The point is that you learn better what your visitors like so more take the action you want on each page.

It can be a painstaking process. You do focus on minutia, testing each element at a time until you find what works best.

What would you test on your local business website? Just about anything. But here’s some of the first, and most major:

  1. Headline

This is the first thing a visitor to any page on your website notices. It bears the most weight on what they do on the rest of your page. So, it makes sense to change what your headline says.

Now, the most important part of headline testing is finding the specific words your market wants to hear. Do they want “HVAC repair services?” Or do they want “HVAC services that make you comfortable?”

Many customers really want “comfort.” So, you’d run a headline including that word, and then see how it does versus one without it.

You see how long visitors stay on the page, how many bounce, and how many call or use your contact form.

Once it’s clear you have a winner, you determine that headline to be the best one that you use from now on.

  1. Call-to-Action

“Just call…” That’s your call-to-action – when you ask your visitors to do something. How you phrase your call-to-action has a large effect on how many people take it.

Many businesses simply phrase it “Call 555.555.5555 for your free estimate.”

That’s better than nothing. But it’s not overly enticing to your visitors.

A couple techniques you can try to boost your number of actions further are:

  1. Highlighting pain avoidance – “To stop sweating and get your HVAC repaired today by a reliable contractor you can trust, call…”
  2. Reminding visitors of the benefits they can get with you – “Want to feel cool and comfortable again? Just call 555.555.5555 today and we’ll have your AC fixed in under 24 hours.”

Typically, the first approach works best. But, you’ll have to try it out to confirm how it works on your website.

You Can Easily Explode Your Conversions

A/B testing done to a website that hasn’t had it before can easily drive your conversions up 50% – 300% or more. The results for each website are totally unique to that website because each website, its design, and the marketing copy are unique.

You can A/B test all you want to drive your conversions up even further. But doing at least a basic round should be done to every website.

You’ll be glad when you do it.