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 are a few strategies for getting more of those:

  1. Have a Method for Following Up with Every Customer

Collect customer information. Whether you’re a savvy law firm or an antique shop, 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

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.

Google Ramps Up Efforts to Filter Out Factually Inaccurate Content

Did you know Google has teams of human quality-raters whose sole job is to rate the quality of websites?

Google gives them their own document in its “General Search Quality Guidelines.” Simply put, the searchers have to conduct various searches and rate how well the pages returned satisfy their query. This information then gets applied to Google’s algorithm so it can automatically apply the judgment to its search results.

Google does this for “offensive” and “upsetting” content. But of most concern to you is that they do this for “factually inaccurate” content. Google recently updated the section of their search guidelines that describes how evaluators should rate “inaccurate” content.

What Should You Do About This?

Truthfully, you don’t even need to look at the document to understand what to do. If you look from a high level at what Google’s trying to do strategically, they’re trying to clean up the web.

Users should be able to go to a website, get the information they want, and get a factually accurate answer.

What if there are different opinions on the correct answer to a question? Now, there’s a legitimate concern.

But again, you have to go back to what Google wants to do: help users. So if there are differing opinions on a particular subject, it’s okay to offer those as possible answers.

Let This Example Clear “Inaccurate” Up for You

Google offers an example in its search evaluator guidelines document. The website in question states (and this is serious):

“Christopher Columbus was born in 1951 in Sydney, Australia…”

You can see an image of this website here.

It continues:

“Columbus knew he had to make this idea of sailing, using a western route, more popular. So, he produced and appeared on infomercials which aired four times daily.”

Clearly, that’s not accurate information. It’s not going to help the website’s users in any meaningful way.

If this were a humor website portrayed as such, it may not get subjected to the filter. However, as it is, it appears to want to be a legitimate website. So, its real motivation may be to deceive its intended target audience (young elementary school students).

Google doesn’t want that in its search results because users won’t find that helpful.

So when you publish blog posts or web pages, make sure your information has good factual backing. As long as you have solid intent to help your users, you’ll be okay.

Soon, It’s Likely All Your Browsing Will Be HTTPS Encrypted

Let the surfing begin

Google sets the tone for how the internet works. One of its visions that hasn’t had as much publicity is its desire to make all browsing encrypted.

These days, Chrome uses now have at least 50% of the content they view delivered by HTTPS. That number jumps to 66% when you look at it in terms of time spent browsing by HTTPS. For now, Google expects both of these to increase.

Why Does Google Get So Gung-Ho About HTTPS?

HTTPS exponentially increases your security on the web. For example, you may have noticed the address for your credit card company is https:// instead of http://. When personally identifiable information is used, HTTPS comes into play.

HTTPS only encrypts information in transit. So, if hackers attempt to steal the information, they can get it. But it’s next-to-impossible for them to decrypt it into the original information they want (your credit card number, for example).

However, it’s important to note that it doesn’t secure any other aspect of your website design. And there’s a lot more to web-site security than implementing HTTPS.

Google May Mark HTTP Websites as Non-Secure

Now, as a fair warning, we’re not sure if Google definitively plans to do this. However, in a 2014 proposal, Google said it may start displaying websites using only HTTP in its Chrome browser as “non-secure.”

This Forbes article has this to say about Google and HTTPS:

“Google is getting ready for another push. They’re going to start subtly shaming sites that aren’t using HTTPS. In January when a new version of the browser is pushed to users, Chrome will start labeling pages served via HTTP as insecure.”

Now, we can’t find any factual basis for the first part about “shaming sites that aren’t using HTTPS.” And we don’t have anything on the second part, either.

However, both changes make sense for the future security of the web. It’s no secret that online security is a major concern for consumers and companies.

Google sincerely wants to make the web a better place for its searchers. So, requiring HTTPS totally makes sense.

That’s just our opinion, though. And we don’t actually know when or if this will happen.

But, you might as well prepare for it because it’s totally consistent with Google. By the way, adding HTTPS to your website design isn’t a huge, time-consuming deal. So keep it on your radar, but don’t panic.

…And make sure you stay tuned to our blog for further updates!

 

Want More Online Customers Walking into Your Store? Do This!

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Many sales are online these days. And customers so often come to your store just to use it as a “showroom” for the physical product they eventually want to buy online.

But that’s not what you want to happen.

Instead, you want customers highly interested in buying, and who actually purchase. And you want the customers who become raving fans and happily tell others about your business, products, and services.

In an age where people love to shop by smartphone and computer, how do you get more to physically walk around in your store?

These tactics will help your cause:

  1. Make Your Company Website Worthy Of Getting Links

Part of marketing is getting exposure to your audience. That means driving your website pages up the search rankings. And right now, and for the foreseeable future, links will remain the most powerful method of doing that.

How do you get links? Today, you need content people want to link to. content that challenges their assumptions, is useful, and is new and different wins the attention war online.

  1. Get Your Google Reviews Rating as High as Possible

Those 5 gold stars stick out bigtime in Google search. They’re more of an indirect way of getting people into your store.

But, when they see an excellent rating of 4 stars or more, that’s awfully powerful in influencing people to choose you. And, it’s also highly influential as to what they say.

Plus, you can use the reviews for insights as to what your company does that makes customers happy and what you can do to improve.

  1. Tell People to Come into Your Store

Every website page featuring your products or services needs to have a call-to-action at the end. That’s where you tell website visitors what you want them to do: order, call, try a demo, view a video, and so on.

We don’t see many websites that do it, but if you want more customers in your store, tell them to come visit. You could maybe even incentivize them to do so by enticing them with a free gift or free samples.

Regardless of how you choose to approach it, simply telling customers there’s more for them to see in your store will result in more foot traffic.

If you work those three tactics into your marketing mix more often, you’ll get more customers in your store while your competitors struggle to keep up.

Top 3 Engagement Metrics, and What They Mean

Double exposure of businessman hand working

Does your website do what it needs to rank well and generate you more business? You can tell that by looking at the right metrics, and understanding what they mean.

If you sell a service, you probably have a more content-heavy website. And it can be tricky to interpret precisely what metrics mean for such websites.

Check out some of the top metrics to know in Google Analytics, or any other analytics tool you might use:

  1. Bounce Rate

For service-based companies with lots of content, this is a key metric. A “bounce” is a person who visits just a single page on your website and leaves.

Also called “pogo-sticking,” a high bounce rate means your website visitors aren’t getting what they need. That could be for two reasons:

  1. You’re not giving them the right content
  2. You’re writing content that attracts the wrong audience

A typical bounce rate is 40-60%. With e-commerce sites, a higher bounce rate may not be a bad thing. It could mean people are buying right away.

So, to understand the metric, you need to know the context of your situation.

  1. Average Session Duration

The higher, the better. For a content-heavy website selling a service, you should see at least 1-2 minutes or so. If you’re e-commerce, again, you will probably see less than that.

In fact, you’ll want to see a lower time because that likely means people are buying. However, e-commerce sites should have blogs too, which may get you close to the lower end of the 1-2 minute range.

  1. Return Visitor Rate (RVR)

Neil Patel actually discusses this one on his blog. And the thing about this metric is Google Analytics doesn’t actually calculate it.

However, it is valuable. What could be better than someone who comes to your website…again? Out of the millions of websites out there, they chose to actually come back and visit yours.

That’s hard to make happen.

RVR is simple to calculate. Just go to Google Analytics (Behavior à New vs Returning), and add up all your visitors. Divide the total by your number of “returning” visitors.

Contently, a content-heavy website for freelancers, boasts a RVR of about 40%. Neil Patel says anything above 30% is good. We say if you’re anywhere around 30%, you’re doing spectacular.

In a digital marketing world of vanity metrics, that’s what you should care about in 2016 and beyond.