The Inbound Marketing Funnel

The inbound marketing funnel is the process your customers go through when they find you and your products online.

Unlike with other marketing processes in the physical world, there are many different elements and avenues your customers can take. This can cause several problems for your marketing team and business.

However, by understanding the inbound marketing funnel and implementing the best strategies for each step of the process, you can better adjust your campaigns to develop strong leads and convert numerous website visitors.

This article will describe the inbound marketing funnel and how you can use it to grow your business and customer list.

 

Step One: Entry Point

The entry point of your customers can be highly varied. The three main entry points are through search engines, social media and word of mouth. However, there are other methods such as direct entry (i.e. the visitor entering in your address straight away) or from review sites or business directories.

Search engines have the greatest contribution because not only does it include organic searching but also any pay-per-click campaigns.

Organic searches are very effective as a traffic generation path as some businesses report that over 80% of their traffic is generated this way. To create more traffic from organic searching you must optimise your website for search engines. There are several main elements to improving your website’s SEO and these include:

  • Keywords: Picking a single keyword (or phrase) per page and ensuring that it has a density of between 1.5 and 3.0%. Keywords should also be used in the title tags and captions of any images you have on the page.
  • Page titles and meta tags: Need to be optimised so that they have the keywords inserted.
  • Website speed: Google wants the websites it ranks on their search result pages to be of high quality. Part of Google’s assessment on the quality of a website is the speed it takes to load. If your site takes longer than 3 or 4 seconds, you are likely to lose a significant amount of traffic, leads, and revenue.
  • Submit your site index: Through your Google Webmasters Dashboard, submit your Site Index so that it is easier and quicker for your site to be indexed and ranked by Google.
  • Social media: Social media is becoming very important when it comes to SEO. The better the social signals you have (likes, followers, comments), the better the chance your content will be ranked highly.
  • Inbound links: Developing inbound links through your content and getting quoted by other articles will raise the rank of your site. This is because Google sees inbound links as a sign that your website has quality and accurate content.

In addition to search engine optimisation campaigns, you should also have a strong social media campaign directing new and old customers to your website. Do this by advertising useful content on your site and conversing with those who have a strong interest in similar topics to your products or services. Don’t forget to thank those who have interacted with your brand on social media.

Also, you can generate traffic by offering a great service and having previous customers spread word about their experiences with your brand. This can be highly effective as it builds trust early with your key customer group.

 

Step Two: Lead Generation

Once you have attracted the customers to your website you need to subscribe them to a mailing list or an RSS feed. This is more important than you realise because 70% of those who visit your website are unlikely to visit your site again, unless you regularly remind them of your brand.

There are several ways you can obtain the visitor’s contact details. The first is to offer the visitor something valuable in exchange for their contact details. The valuable item could be anything from a free quote, whitepaper, ebook or gift. This is highly effective because most individuals are attracted to free gifts.

Another way is to simply ask for the contact details when they land upon the page. This can be done with an option on the side of the webpage or via a pop-up that requests their details after they land on the page.

 

Step Three: Converting The Lead Into A Customer

The next step is to convert the lead into a customer. Regular contact should always be kept up with the contact so they do not forget who you are and to help with conversion. This can take several points of contacts (i.e. emails, social media updates, blog posts) and could require you to offer more free gifts.

In addition, each piece of content you are sending to them should provide further details why they should be buying from you. Eventually, your campaigns must lead them to a sales page where they can make a purchase.

Knowing when to do this can be difficult, but you should be monitoring the contact’s interactions with your email content. If they are regularly clicking through to your website, it is likely that they are ready to make a purchase.

 

Step Four: Delight

The final step is when you have finished providing your contact with your product or service. You should have given them excellent service and ensured that they were happy with what they have received.

Then, you keep in contact with them providing the past customer with more useful information. At every opportunity, you should invite them to spread word about your brand. This could be by forwarding on your email content to their friends or family or by mentioning your business on social media.

A good example of this is with Amazon. After you have made a purchase they offer you the chance to tweet, or publish an announcement on Facebook, about your purchase. Later, when you have received your order, they will send an email to request a review of the purchased product.

This process attracts new potential customers to your brand and starts the process again (along with SEO and social media content).

 

Conclusion

The inbound marketing sales funnel is all about generating traffic to your site and selling products by using your content and previous customer experiences to attract potential customers. The inbound marketing funnel can take several weeks or months to complete. However, the return on your initial investment can be better than most outbound marketing strategies.

Start your business’ inbound marketing sales funnel and see your business’ growth over the long term while you reduce costs and improve profits.


Blog Scheduling

Blogging is an art form that allows you to reach your audience and convince them of your industry authority. 81% of individuals will trust information that is included within blog posts and 61% of readers are influenced by content in articles published online.

However, there are many different aspects of blogging which are required for it to be successful. For instance, you will need to publish blog posts that offer high quality information the reader can use, for example; a guide to solve a particular problem or a report on a niche within your industry. This content is very important because online readers don’t want to be sold to, they want to be informed.

A high quality image should be used to demonstrate what your blog post is about. The human mind can process an image quicker than text and in fact, some of your readers may judge whether or not they wish to read your blog post based on your image.

You’ll also need a way to sign visitors up to your email subscription list. 70% of your audience will not return to your website unless you subscribe them to something. This is important because if you want to sell your business further down the line, having a high returning visitor rate can raise the value of your business.

One of the most important aspects of blogging is consistency. If you are going to start blogging you need to blog at the same time every week. This means you need to think of subjects, complete research, write the article, edit the content and then publish the post on a consistent basis. This will improve the results of your blogging.

 

Why Is A Schedule Important (And Why Should You Stick To It)?

Blogging is a hard task that people often underestimate. There is a significant amount of work that needs to take place in order to develop content and get it looking just right. Unless you are a professional writer, it can take several hours just to write a 500 word piece.

The danger is that when you have a significant amount of work to do, your blogging is the first action that will disappear. This is very common and can often escalate into several posts being missed in a row or inconsistency in publishing.

By creating a publishing schedule you can avoid problems such as missing posts on your blog or published posts being full of grammatical errors. The more professionalism you can convey, the better the results of your content marketing campaigns and the higher returns you will achieve.

You’ll also notice that your impressions on Google and other search engines will improve. This can be really important because one third of all small businesses report that the majority of their traffic comes from organic searches.

Organic searches are one of the major contributors to online sales and this has been confirmed by Google, who state their ranking algorithms take into account how often content on a site is being changed and how often content is being published.

Research has demonstrated that businesses that publish more than 15 posts per month are able to achieve more traffic, leads and sales than businesses that don’t blog at all.

 

How Do You Design A Schedule?

Beginning a blogging schedule is not difficult, as long as you start in the right place. Many people believe that you should start with how and when you are going to create the content – but this is a big mistake. There are several reasons for this:

  • Without creating a publishing schedule you don’t have a fixed time to publish your first blog post.
  • Without a publishing schedule you have no regular deadlines to work towards.
  • Generally speaking, when creating schedules, it is easier to start at the finish point and work backwards so you can better arrange other activities around your goal.

When creating your publishing schedule, first of all think about when your target audience are going to be online. General research has shown that Mondays are the best time to publish a post as this is when they are more likely to be read, however, they are shared more on a Thursday but every audience is different.

If your audience are night owls who are partying at the weekends and reading during the week, Monday to Thursday evenings might be the best time for them. If they are professional businessmen, then research has shown they are more likely to consume content just before or after work Tuesday to Thursday.

Once you have decided when to publish your posts, you can start to work backwards to determine when you are going to create the articles. Start with the editing of your article. Ensure that you give yourself at least one full day to edit the article, although you don’t want to spend any more than 30 minutes on the work.

On the previous day you should have researched and written the article. The timing for this can be unique but try to save about two hours for this task. Research is very important as readers like to have highly informative content that can be verified by a third party. Also, referencing quotes and statistics from third party sites can help your SEO, as Google includes outbound links in their ranking algorithm.

Once you have done this you need a time every week or month where you sit down with your marketing team and decide on subjects and blog titles. This is best done on a monthly basis as it can stop repetition and allow you to create topics at a strategic level.

 

Conclusion

Creating a blogging schedule is an important task if you want your business’ online marketing to be a success. To get it right, start with deciding when you will publish your content and then work backwards so you know your articles will always be completed on time.

By sticking to your schedule you will produce professional, consistent blog posts that will drive traffic to your business and in turn improve growth.


Optimise Google Plus

How to Optimise Google+

Google+ is one of the latest and biggest social media channels available on the internet. It has the ability to propel your business up the search engine rankings so that when someone searches for something, it is your brand’s content they see first.

This is because Google owns the network and it wants to prioritise its own content. It is also because Google+ updates can be highly optimised for search engines and engagement.

 

Why Should You Use Google+?

While it is not the largest of the social media networks, the audience that regularly use the platform are often the decision makers at home and in the office. According to statistics, 28% of those using Google+ earn more than $60,000 per year. When more than half of American households are earning a combined income of less than $60,000, it demonstrates the main audience on the network are senior position holders. Therefore, you have a good concentration of most target markets and decision makers.

Research has shown that digital marketers have been slow to adopt Google+ with only 40% of all marketers using Google+. This offers your brand opportunity to be seen on a network which isn’t crowded like Twitter and Facebook. The more limelight your brand has, the greater the reward.

Finally, Google+ does have a priority spot on the Google search rankings, much like YouTube does. Therefore, you can have a poor performing website, but Google+ can draw in the crowds to improve results.

To get the most from the platform you must develop a Google+ strategy that will drive traffic to your brand’s site.

 

What Content Works Best On Google+?

The biggest issue with Google+ is that no-one really understands how they should use it. There hasn’t been much of a move to adopt Google+ and that has meant few have identified the best ways to create updates that convert well.

However, many social media gurus have experimented and found that users are particularly interested in images. The interest in images is even greater than in other networks like Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter but is comparable to Pinterest. Hashtags are also used differently on the social media network.

Formatting is also possible on Google+, so text can be bolded, be in italics and have a strikethrough. This isn’t the case on the majority of other social networks and gives a huge visual appeal to your content.

Above all else, Google+ depends on links. People don’t read content on Google+ and then abandon it; they want to learn more once they’ve consumed the original content. Therefore, think of Google+ as a starting point for a visitor journey rather than the entire journey.

 

How To Create The Perfect Update On Google+

There are several elements that make up the perfect Google+ update. Each of these steps needs to be implemented to get the most out of the social media network and for your content to reach the larger audiences.

Step One: Headline

On most networks the content you create is a blog title and link to some content. On Google+ it is much more than that. Each piece needs a heading and this can normally be the title of the content the update links to.

For example, the Google+ title for this piece would be: How To Optimise Your Google+ Updates

To make this standout more on the screen, you can bold the title. This is done with an (*) inserted at the beginning and the end of the title. So our title would look like this when we are creating the update:

*How To Optimise Your Google+ Updates*

And look like this when published.

 

How To Optimise Your Google+ Updates

Step Two: Subheading

Next, you need to create a sentence or two that explains what the content is about. For instance:

Learn how to optimise your Google+ updates to reach a greater audience.

This section should be placed in italics, which can be done using the (_) symbol before the first word and after the last word.

_ Learn how to optimise your Google+ updates to reach a greater audience._

This would be displayed as:

Learn how to optimise your Google+ updates to reach a greater audience.

Step Three: The Main Body

Then you need to create the main body. This is where you write a short abstract of the piece. This section needs to entice the audience to want to know more. This section could be two or three paragraphs, depending on how much you want to write. For example:

“Google+ is still a very young social media network and so few organisations have taken up the chance to use it, despite the obvious advantages. With so many decision makers on the social media network and a clear indication of what content they enjoy, there is an opportunity to claim a segment of your market and convert them into customers for your brand.

This article will give you a step by step guide how you can perfect your Google+ updates, so you can reach a significant proportion of your audience.”

Step Four: The Link

If you are trying to direct your audience to a blog post or page, publish the link with the post. Do this twice, once in the body of the message and another time in the share box contained below the main update creation box. This increases the number of people who click through to your main content.

Step Five: The Hashtags

In many other networks you should include the hashtags throughout the content. This is not the case in Google+. Instead you write two or three of them at the bottom of the update. These hashtags should be the terms you want people to use to find your content. For example: #socialmediamarketing and #socialmedia

Step Six: The Image

Finally, you need to upload a strong image that will illustrate exactly what your content is about. If you are advertising a link, this is normally done for you by automatically taking an image from the page you are advertising. Otherwise, you’ll need to do this yourself.

Now you have created a fully optimised Google+ update.

 

Conclusion

Google+ is still trying to find its feet on the social media landscape; however, many of those users on Google+ are decision makers looking to consume high quality content. Use this guide to create the best Google+ content and see your audiences’ engagement improve. The more engagement, the more leads you will have and the better ROI from your social media marketing campaigns.


Conversion Rate Optimisation Myths

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is the method of using statistics and analytics to determine how you can optimise your website to encourage desired visitor behaviour. This behaviour can range from clicking through to accept an offer to sharing content with peers.

Often, the recommendations from professionals are very simple; like the changing of the colour or text of the call to action button. Another common recommendation is the CTA’s placement on a page or swapping the image for something that is more appropriate to the offer.

The change to your website is then compared to the previous version by a method known as A/B testing (or split testing). This is the process where half your visitors are sent to the old webpage and the other half are sent to the new version. The behaviours of these two visitor groups is recorded and analysed. The version which returns the best results is kept.

If you effectively introduce a CRO campaign, you can see good business growth and an improved ROI on your online marketing investment. Not implementing it properly and your business will stagnate.

The problem is that there are many sources across the internet that tell you exactly how you can improve your content, landing pages, social updates, etc to gain more ‘desirable behaviours’; yet these articles only tell part of the story. In some cases, you might be misled with common myths about online marketing or your target market.

These myths may help you gain some positive improvements in your landing page conversions; but, they are unlikely to truly optimise your site. Only by understanding the myths, will you truly recognise the work needed for CRO. Then you can take your business to the next level by systematically analysing your site’s current properties and how you can implement improvements.

 

So what are the myths of Conversion Rate Optimisation?

Myth One: CRO Is About Making Changes On Your Website That Follow Best Practices

As previously mentioned, there are a number of blog articles and whitepapers online that will detail exactly how you should create landing pages, design your website, write a piece of content or what colour your call to action needs to be. While these can be useful insights and implementing them can sometimes make a positive difference – CRO is not about following these best practices.

There are other conversion barriers that need to be addressed in addition to page design; for example:

  • Your visitor is not encouraged to trust your brand.
  • You have a lengthy conversion process that seems like too much work for the visitor.
  • Your site is too slow.
  • Your content is confusing the visitors.
  • Your call to action is obscured by other elements on your website.
  • Your adverts, copy or page title makes the visitor believe the offer is something you are not giving and they are disappointed.

The above list is not extensive, but it gives an idea of other factors that you might need to address.

Myth Two: CRO Is A Quick Action Followed By An Optimised Site

CRO is not a quick fix for your website or online marketing campaigns. It takes time to optimise your site and as time goes by, the behaviour of your audience is likely to change. Therefore, it is important to consider website optimisation as a continuous project. As soon as one A/B testing session is finished, you should assess what other changes are needed and start the process again.

While for some people this may seem like a waste of time, especially if you have achieved a positive response with one testing cycle, it is the only way you can truly optimise your site.

Myth Three: CRO Is About Guessing What Your Website Visitors Want

There are a couple of variations to this myth which include: “I know my users, so surveys aren’t necessary” and “testing isn’t necessary because my site is better than anything else on the market”. These variations and the original statement all stem from an opinion that your target audience is clearly defined and their opinions do not change.

The problem is that the internet is constantly evolving and as technology develops, so do the trends and demands of the users. Therefore, what may have been true five years ago is probably not now. For instance, scrolling was not popular a few years ago, but with the rise of mobile technology, it is now considered to be an integral part of good website design.

Likewise, you cannot guess what your users want. You need to ask them. Only by interacting with your target audience can you truly understand what emotions they are experiencing when they are accessing your site. If you can develop a design and create content that taps into their thoughts and emotions: you’ll have a better performing site.

Myth Four: Too Much Content Does Not Work

This is one of the biggest myths. It assumes to know the visitor without asking them for their preferences and forgets that customers who are interested in something tend to want more information. That is why they often visit up to 12 sites before making a purchasing decision.

As long as your content is clear, concise and informative; you’ll probably find it will be persuasive enough for your target audience.

Myth Five: Copying A Successful Website Is The Key To Optimisation

Apart from being morally wrong; copying a successful website is not going to guarantee you success. There are many elements (i.e. trust) that impact the decision of a visitor to comply with a desired behaviour.

Unless your organisation is exactly the same as your competitors’, you cannot guarantee the same design will achieve the same results. You should also consider your brand image. Not being consistent with your image can confuse customers, resulting in poor sales.

 

Conclusion

CRO is a powerful tool for improving the performance of your website and ensuring your visitors are taking desired behaviours. However, there are many myths about CRO which limit its effectiveness if people believe them.

By understanding these myths and knowing how to correctly implement CRO, you can improve your business’ website, gain more leads and better revenue while limiting barriers.


Gamification for Business Growth

Gamification is one of the new techniques now being used by businesses to attract audiences to their websites and engage them.

While a relatively new industry, the growth and value of gamification is already substantial. By 2016, the industry will be worth approximately $2.6 billion and by 2018 it will be worth $5.5 billion.

That is an outstanding 50% increase year-on-year but it is not surprising, according to some surveys, more than 50% of all large corporations will use gamification in their marketing strategy and business processes by the end of 2015.

 

What Is Gamification?

Gamification refers to the application of gaming elements to non-gaming processes. There are many reasons to do this, but one of the strongest and most successful applications is within marketing to interest and engage an audience.

Often, when a target audience interacts with gamified content, they feel an adrenaline rush, a sense of competition and the desire for victory.

Including elements from the gaming industry into your business strategy will result in a mixture of fun and business. This makes mundane tasks more attractive and can significantly impact your business’ marketing return (and employee performance).

 

What Is The Success Rate Of Gamification?

The success rate of gamification is rather dependent on the implementation like with any other strategy. Unfortunately, with gamification being so new, there are few organisations who understand how to properly use it to the best effects. For instance, many marketers believe it is all about winning prizes or virtual awards. While these are elements, they do not describe gamification entirely.

 

Defining Game Mechanics And Game Dynamics

For gamification to work you need to have a solid understanding of two crucial terms: game mechanics and game dynamics. Game mechanics is the fundamental actions, processes and control mechanisms which turn a normal event into something more ‘game-like’. Examples of game mechanics include:

  • Points
  • Challenges
  • Leader boards
  • Levels
  • Virtual goods, prizes and awards
  • Gifts and charity.

Game dynamics are what make the game challenging so the user feels the emotions that the designers intended. Game Dynamics include:

  • Rewards
  • Achievement
  • Competition
  • Status
  • Self-expression
  • Unselfishness

If you understand the above definitions and are able to implement them within your campaigns, you’ll create a more engaging campaign.

 

Learning From The Oldest Gamification Programs

While gamification as an industry is relatively new, gamification has been around for a considerable amount of time in many forms. The best of these campaigns have often been found to be very popular with customers and have entered cultural status.

From these early adopters of gamification, you can learn a lot about how to run your campaigns. So what were these early programs and what lessons can you implement in your own campaign?

 

Frequent Flyer Programs

120 million airline customers are collecting frequent flyer points on a regular basis. The success of the frequent flyer programs is so high that it has reached legendary cultural standing. Very often within a television program a character will mention about collecting their frequent flyer points on trips.

The frequent flyer program looks relatively simple. The consumer collects the points when they make a trip with a certain airline. However, in reality it is a lot more complex. There are different levels of consumer (i.e. Bronze, Silver and Gold) giving the customer satisfaction when they have moved from one level to the next. Then there are the bonus rounds, such as giving the customer bonus points for flying on certain days or within a certain amount of days.

All of these tactics means that customers often stay loyal to a certain airline, even if they are dissatisfied with the level of customer service. At the same time, customers often go out of their way to accumulate points to get to the next level or receive the next award.

 

Starbucks

The coffee chain has many different tactics for rewarding customers for their loyalty. One of the main reward options they have is by giving every tenth coffee free.

Another is their virtual rewards system. This is where customers can collect virtual points, which have no monetary value, to collect virtual awards. Customers can use their phone to check into different Starbuck locations and announce they have arrived there. Then customers are given challenges (i.e. visit five different stores in one day) to achieve more points and better rewards.

While there is no actual physical gain by the customers, there is a significant feeling of satisfaction from customers as they enjoy the challenges.

 

iPad Games

Games such as Angry Birds and Candy Crush are an excellent example of modern day gamification. With many iPad and mobile device games there are free options to play; only they aren’t truly free. During the game, the player will be presented with several videos or adverts. The user can ignore these and continue playing or proceed to see what the advert is about. In some cases (namely sport management and strategy games), premium points, features or currency are provided when the player completes a transaction or an action through the system.

For instance, Trophy Manager, the largest online football manager game, has a premium feature known as Pro Days. The player gets special abilities during any period of time they have Pro days. They can also spend pro days for other advanced features. The user can buy pro days or accumulate them from accepting offers or watching videos. While the whole game cannot be counted as gamification, the reward of Pro days for completing actions is a good example.

 

Turning Your Hand To Gamification

With these examples it is easy to see how you can create a gamification experience for your customers. The gamification system can be as simple as a reward for being a loyal customer and making regular purchases or as complicated as rewarding customers who complete various brand related tasks (i.e. taking a photo of themselves with your product at a famous landmark).

With these ideas in mind, you should be able to create a gamification campaign and with it drive audiences to your brand and keep them engaged until they convert. Afterwards you can retain their loyalty by engaging them further with more cleverly executed gamification campaigns.


SEO Predictions 2015

SEO Predictions For 2015

Search engine optimisation is forever changing. Every year, there are new predictions about how the industry will unfold and what impact it will have on businesses and their websites.

Part of the ‘prediction game’ is considering what changes Google is going to make to their algorithms. During the past few years, many businesses have seen their online shop fronts jump and drop in rankings because of changes in the Google algorithm.

Some of the most familiar changes have been the Florida, Penguin and Panda updates. In 2014, there was the Pirate update that targeted content hosted on known torrent and illegal file sharing sites (i.e. pirated films, music and books). But it isn’t just these actions that are important. It is also critical to consider new entrants to the market and other changes made by search engines that will impact how internet users will find the websites they want.

For instance, Google announced late in 2014 the abandonment of their Google Authorship experiment. For some people this was a huge blow; they had significantly invested in their profiles and online reputation, only to be told Google was no longer interested.

So what changes are there likely to be in 2015 and how will they impact how you should manage your website to get users finding you?

 

Prediction One: SEO Will Become More Technical But Will Not Drive Search Rankings

Some people have used SEO and content marketing terms interchangeably. While your content marketing was useful as a way to demonstrate your expertise, it was also useful for building an SEO profile. During 2015, these two aspects of online marketing will diverge and SEO will be more about the technical elements of your site, like meta tags and indexing.

At the same time, the amount and quality of your content will directly impact its rankings. If you produce lots of content that is highly readable and commented upon numerous times, your ranking will be high. Otherwise you’ll find yourself further down the search engine ranks and it will be harder for users to find your site.

 

Prediction Two: Mobile SEO Will Be Important

The traffic websites receive from mobile devices now outranks that from desktops. Yet for many website owners, the process of optimising their site for mobile devices is still ill considered. In 2015, this will have a significant impact on the ranking for those websites. We’ve already seen the move by Google to place mobile friendly icons next to search results and their own Speed Insights has a mobile test score.

 

Prediction Three: Optimising Your Site For User Intent Is Key

Through the past couple of years we've seen a shift in the demand from search engines for keywords to be long-tailed. This is directly related to how users are now using Google. In the past, they would use one or two keywords like “SEO best practices” to find content. Now they are using more complex search queries, for example “best SEO practices for Auckland software companies”. This change in user behaviour requires a different keyword strategy - long-tailed keywords - so all variations of the keyword can be matched to a search query.

 

Prediction Four: Brand Name Is Just As Important As Inbound Links

It was recently revealed in a patent submission that Google wants to differentiate between ‘express links’ and ‘implied links’. Express links are the traditional URLs linking content from one site to the content on another site, as in the case of an article referencing sources of information on another site. An implied link is the mentioning of a brand or website, without the URL linking the content to a site.

This move is directly related to the misuse of links (i.e. link farming). Although Google has taken steps to reduce the impact of these; they believe the best option is to put more emphasis on the brand name rather than links. According to some experts, this will be harder to manipulate.

 

Prediction Five: Social Signals Are More Important

The demise of Google Authorship may have consequences for Google. Businesses have become angry at the continued quick trigger finger of Google and how they can quickly discontinue a service.

With the anger of Google’s cut to the Authorship program will come reluctance by businesses to invest in other products like Google Places and Google Plus. This has led to some SEO experts believing that it won't be long until these programs are also cut because of a lack of interest in them.

To compensate for the lack of interest, Google may have to analyse the influence of content another way. One solution would be to use social signals from other social media networks like Facebook or Twitter. The more likes and retweets a piece of content has, the more popular and higher it is placed in the rankings.

This means that if you don't have a good social media manager, your SEO campaign could fail badly.

 

Prediction Six: Social Interaction Will Be Just As Important

Just as the social signals generated from content will be important, so will the personality of the brands. By reaching out to others in the community and conversing with influencers in the market, brands will be able to improve their search rank standings.

 

Prediction Seven: Negative SEO Is The Threat

Black hat SEO used to be about building websites to point to another site that the person wanted to promote. Now the battleground has shifted and instead of the link spam target being the company employing black hat techniques, it is the competitor’s site. In theory, this should delist the target.

There has been a surge in the use of this negative SEO technique and it can have a significant impact on your rankings in the long term. According to Google’s John Mueller, the only way to win this fight would be to disavow the links; which could take up to nine months.

 

Conclusion

Search engine optimisation is going to change in 2015, like it has every year previous to this. By understanding the changes and keeping up to date with Google news; you can improve your rankings quickly and your website will rank higher than your competitors. This will increase the traffic to your site, your leads and sales.


Share Tweets: Grow Traffic

Social media marketing is an enigma to many business leaders.

While it is an important aspect of any online campaign, many businesses believe it is more like a bulletin board for placing advertisements about their products, services or content.

Very few organisations actually actively participate in content sharing.

 

Not Sharing Is Against The Rules

Sharing content from others online is one of the unspoken laws of social media. You can’t expect your content to be shared across networks if you are not willing to do so yourself. At the same time, you can’t be continuously retweeting or sharing content on networks without having any of your own original thoughts.

Sharing content that links to a blog is alright, but sometimes, social media users want to connect to the user, not a web page. Therefore, personal quotes or informational content that can help a reader should also be targets for sharing.

Having a balance between sharing and publicising is important and the advantage of such a strategy is that it can be highly useful for brands. Not only are you grabbing the attention of those who have similar views by sharing your content but you are also demonstrating that you are an expert in your industry.

You'll also be showing you have a personality and that the social media account is not managed by an automated system or a cheap social media management company.

All of these factors combined produce a strong foundation for a highly engaging social media account which in turn will present you with a good return on your investment.

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What Content Should You Share?

Sharing content across social media realms is more than a simple action. It provides those who are reading your content with a glimpse into your personality, beliefs and values. For instance, if you retweet someone who mentions a local sporting club, those following your account would ascertain that you are a supporter of that club.

The same could be said if you were sharing positive content about a controversial political party or urban development. The difference is that with a sporting team, while there is rivalry, people are unlikely to stop interacting with your brand other than in jest because of your supporter preferences.

In contrast, sharing content from something controversial, while gaining attention, might alienate your brand from some of your target customers. Therefore, you need to think carefully about what you want to share with your audience and the impact it will have on your brand.

 

Some Truths About Sharing

One of the things you need to realise when you are reading content that has been shared via a third party on social media, is that many of the sharers haven't actually read the content themselves. What they have done is to select a title that has a similar topic to what they cover or think their audience has an interest in. This can be a clever time saver, but it is also a ticking time bomb.

There are sites out there with malicious content on them and it is not unheard of for them to mask their true content with clever subject lines. Therefore, while you might think you are sharing content about the latest SEO tricks, you are actually sharing a site which could infuriate your audience.

This lesson is important. The key to a good sharing strategy is to not to share something without checking it for quality first. There are several aspects to quality that you could check for:

  • Content is what the link says it is going to be.
  • Images are suitable for your audience.
  • The content is not a long sales pitch that could infuriate your customers.
  • There are limited spelling mistakes.
  • It is not an advertising scam or any other content that could be interpreted as immoral.

Once you have checked the content for these elements you can safely share it with your audience. Another benefit of checking the content is that when you add your comment you know that it aligns perfectly with the content’s main message.

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How Best Is It To Share Content?

Sharing content from a user can vary from platform to platform, yet there are similarities between them all which make strategy building easy. The first option on sites like Facebook and Twitter is to like the update or retweet it. While this is effective at sharing the content with your audience as they will appear in your news feed, few people are going to see the share outside your immediate network.

In addition, this method of sharing has no capacity of adding to the conversation. By adding to the conversation you are providing evidence that you are an expert on the topic you are sharing and you understand the content. It can also reassure your audience that you aren't just sharing any old content that has a specific hashtag in it.

If you want to get this message across you need to consider sharing your message through the RT @username method or commenting upon it on Facebook. These are great options because your brand name will appear on the newsfeed of the content’s author. It also allows you to add your own message.

This can mean that your message is not just seen by your followers but by those of the original author – giving your brand vital exposure.

There are a couple of etiquette rules when you are doing this. Firstly your comments cannot include a sales pitch. This is effectively spam and frowned upon. Many small businesses and consumers will report you and this could lead to your expulsion from the social media network.

The second rule is that you cannot overload your shares and comments upon one individual. There are times when you will want to share more than one piece of content from a specific user. This is when you should use a program like Hootsuite to schedule in the second share at a later date, like the next day.

 

The Results

As you continue to use this approach, you will find that your social media following will rise, as people see you as an influential and socially centric brand. This will attract followers who want to interact with your brand and as your campaigns gain momentum, you will find more shares and leads will be generated from social media.


Lessons Learnt Online During 2014

2014 has been a busy season for those using the internet to market their business, with many significant successes and failures.

This article will look at some of the highlights and failures of the year and discuss what you can learn from them to support your marketing in 2015 and beyond.

 

Follow Local Regulations: Product Placement Videos Require Recognition

The ASA’s ruling in the UK about vloggers and advertising rules is going to have a huge impact on how businesses now start to use other forms of media. Oreo were penalised for breaching regulations when they paid video bloggers (vloggers) for participating in an online competition.

Even though these videos were marked as supported by Oreo in their descriptions or sometimes in the video – the ASA felt they were misleading the audience. Their argument was that the videos were an advert and nothing else. Therefore, while there was some notification of thanks, the videos should have been marked as an advert before any footage was shown.

This raises some interesting questions about subliminal product placement videos, blog articles and social media updates that are also advertising third party products, or even products from the brand itself. Do these need to be marked as well? It is important that affiliates have an affiliate disclaimer on their site, but not one that is on every piece of content they produce. Where would this ruling draw the line?

Whatever the answer, the UK ruling is likely to have ramifications across the world for brands and businesses who will need to consider how they pay others to advertise their products.

 

Be Relevant: Cellecta Insulation Needed Quick Lesson In Hashtag-jacking

Being discovered on social media can sometimes require the use of a trending hashtag for promotional work. Make sure the update is relevant and still part of the original social media story and you may find yourself inundated with new followers and leads.

Unfortunately though, it is often when newsjacking goes wrong, that News Outlets and bloggers start to spread your name about more. This is what happened to Cellecta Insulation in May this year. During this period there was a specific twitter-fest occurring called #GiveGregTheHoliday.

The event began when an employee at Arcadia accidently sent a holiday request to everyone in the company. In the past, these mistakes would often be a laugh in the office and then everything would settle down. However this time Twitter took over. Other brands, including econsultancy took to the internet in support of Greg and his request for a holiday. Then another organisation, Trek America, decided to give Greg a free holiday. This seemed to be appropriate.

But one organisation decided to take the trend too far and suffered for it. Thinking they could grab some free publicity in newsjacking, Cellecta Insulation decided to tweet about their products – which had nothing to do with going on holiday.

The Cellecta tweet is so out of context and seems like a desperate plea for attention that many of those participating in the Twitter-fest voiced their objections in blog posts. Many pointed out that unlike with other posts that were offering free gifts to Greg, this one was merely pointing out products he could buy.

Therefore, always remember to keep your newsjacking campaigns relevant and aligned to what others are saying.

 

Getting Willing Participants: MasterCard Gets Rewarded For Demands

MasterCard truly got a shock after its’ PR company took their promotion too far with journalists at the Brit Awards. MasterCard was the sponsor of the event and hoped that social media updates about the evening could drive traffic to their site. What happened was probably one of the worst mistakes of 2014.

The PR company had taken the unusual step of demanding that journalists at the event would use social media from publication and personal accounts to live-tweet the event, use the hashtag #PricelessSurprises and link to several specific pre-event marketing materials. If they weren’t willing to do this, then the journalists wouldn’t get any press accreditation.

Not surprisingly this did not work as planned. Tim Walker from the Telegraph and a leaked email via Press Gazette announced to the world what was going on and the hashtag became a negative promotion for MasterCard. One of the heckling messages from the online community included: “Good press coverage is hard to bribe. For everything else there’s Mastercard #PricelessSurprises”

The message to take from this incidence is to co-operate with your strategic partners and to realise that you cannot dictate the path of social reaction.

 

Be Transparent – Microsoft On LinkedIn

Many believe that there are no better marketing platforms than Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or YouTube. LinkedIn, the business marketing platform, is often missed but should be one of the main priorities for businesses.

Some businesses have reported that LinkedIn can provide more leads than Twitter. Yet many profiles on the social media networking site are not optimised. Ensure that you are using the best practices to gain attention on the network. This includes using the right images, supporting documents and use the right keywords.

One of the best examples for LinkedIn marketing is the Microsoft page. They include a host of content including behind the scenes, question and answer posts, blogs and thought leadership. All of which is aimed at generating interest in the organisation while also being transparent.

 

Conclusion

2014 was a great year for digital marketing as it took a hold of consumer imaginations and grew yet again in consumption of spending. Throughout the year, there have been several successes and failures that have taught the rest of the online community some important lessons.

During 2015, these lessons will need to be implemented through digital marketing campaigns to ensure success. So when you are running your next internet marketing campaign ensure that you are following the local regulations, being relevant with your marketing, cooperating with strategic marketing partners and have a presence on all of the major social media networks.


PPC Hygiene

A Pay Per Click (PPC) campaign is a very effective method in gaining traffic for your website. According to research, 64% of internet users will click on a Google Ad.

Yet, managing a PPC campaign is time consuming; especially if you wish to optimise your advertisements and increase your website’s revenue. It is not just the setup that takes time, the results analysis and adjustments can take significant amounts of your production time; time that could be better spent elsewhere.

This can sometimes mean that you are ignoring your account and that it can develop problems that reduce the rating Google Adwords and other PPC platforms will give your adverts. Without a good rank, you will suffer from poor ad placement and poor uptake. This will result in lower profits.

So what account PPC hygiene checks should you regularly do?

 

1. Diagnose Keywords

The keywords in your search engine marketing (SEM) campaign are important if you want to succeed. Having a way to diagnose those terms is therefore very important. ‘Diagnose Keywords’ is a useful tool that allows you to monitor the current status of your current active keywords. Each keyword is given a status e.g. “paused” or “ad showing now”.

Gain further insights by hovering over the speech bubble next to the keyword.

When doing this, you might discover some red flag messages. These can be anything that will affect your campaign, including if your budget is limiting exposure, your ad has a low quality score or if you are not bidding enough on the keyword.

Using this can be a massive time saver and allow you to make changes to your campaigns without spending time looking at your results.

Of course having a diagnosis such as ‘bids are too low’ does not automatically mean you should increase your bid. The price of a click has decreased recently while the price per conversion has increased. You need to calculate whether or not the keyword in use is worth the additional cost.

 

2. Utilize to-do lists

A to-do list a time management essential, especially if you run several PPC campaigns.

You are likely to have a number of items on your itinerary for your search engine marketing campaign, but not everything needs to be done immediately.

An unsorted to-do list is just as bad a time management tool as not having one at all.

Therefore, you need to start utilising a number of lists to ensure you establish what tasks are required, what they are related to and the completion date and time.

 

3. Invest in the bidding setup, before you start

Having a long term bidding process in place will save you countless hours and improve revenue. They do take a long time to set up; however, the hours they can save in the long run make it an effective process.

The set up process involves you conducting significant amounts of research before you begin the new campaign. However, if you have already started your campaign, you can still utilise this tip.

Start by asking numerous questions, which can determine the actions of your advertising - should certain environmental conditions take place. There are many questions that you should be asking:

a) Will you share data between search engines should there be no data available on another platform?

b) If the bid is moving to a higher price, would you gradually move your bid to that value or would you immediately increase the value.

c) What is statistically significant for your business? Is it 100 clicks or 1000 clicks?

d) If one keyword starts to perform badly, what action will you take?

e) If a keyword starts to perform exceptionally well, what action will you take?

Having these questions answered before starting your campaign (or before they occur) will speed up your reaction time. This allows you to make more out of opportunities or avoid overspending when events are not favourable.

 

4. Confirm the data of the campaign’s success daily

Good management of your campaign relies on the accuracy of the data.

Without good data your bidding can go horribly wrong - you could end up not taking the best action which could cost your business traffic and revenue.

The SEM platform may not properly sync data if there is fault somewhere. It could be because your own systems are not working effectively and the platform you are using is unable to access the internal conversion data. Alternatively, your system may not be able to update conversions (or you are suffering from a bad set of data on one day or over a protracted period of time).

It is this data that your automated bidding relies upon. If the data is inaccurate, bad decisions will be made; these can be costly.

Therefore, ensure you audit the data on a daily basis. If you cannot rely on the information for a particular day, you should instruct your bidding system to ignore the data set.

 

5. Utilize pre-made keyword lists

A negative keyword list is an essential part of your paid search marketing campaign. It can prevent your advertisement from being shown in searches that have no relevance to your product or offer. It can be time consuming to consider and implement which keywords can have a negative impact on your campaign.

Google has released a function that allows you to automatically implant a list of negative keywords throughout your AdWords campaigns. There are also other places on the web which can provide you with a list of the negative keywords which can adversely affect your campaign.

These lists can be a time saver and can ensure the search engines are not showing your advertisements to the wrong users.

However, using a negative list can also be damaging. Therefore, ensure your list of negative keywords is optimised for your campaign. This can take a bit of trial and error.

Another good option to save time with negative keyword lists is to create a document which lists them. When you want to import these into a new campaign you can simply copy and paste them over. It also means that when you want to delete a keyword off the list, you only have to find it once on the document. Simply re-import the negative keyword list when you’ve updated the document rather than search through every list on all the systems to find that keyword.

 

6. Use Internal Data

You don’t need to go into your system to assess the conversion rate of your paid search marketing campaign.

Some sources state that a PPC system can be inaccurate. This can mean that your system can be more accurate.

Instead of looking endlessly at the data that you are collecting from your results and the data that is collected from the system and matching the two - integrate your results in the automated bidding platform.

You should start to see a pickup in the results as the data becomes more accurate. This gives you better revenues for less cost – a win, win situation.

PPC automation is an important part of your online paid search marketing campaigns.

The above actions may take some time to set up, but can save you countless hours in the future and help keep your PPC accounts healthy.

Therefore, with a proper strategy and automation – you can reap the benefits of opportunities that come your way and you can avoid costly endeavours because it takes you time to react or your account is not optimised and healthy.


Marketing over Christmas?

Many businesses ask the same question every year when it comes to the Christmas holiday period – should they be marketing their products and services online during this festive time?

The decision can cause upset if members of staff are asked to stay behind during important holidays to ensure there is someone there to take and process orders.

However, is there much value to promoting your products and services during the Christmas holidays or should you save money and spend it elsewhere?

 

What If You Are A B2B Business?

B2B businesses probably have one of the easiest times making the decision of whether to advertise during the holidays. Many businesses close their offices down from Christmas Eve right through until the day after New Year’s Day.

This is because during the holiday period some organisations find that staff are distracted, unproductive and produce lower quality work. However, this isn't always the case and should be carefully considered whether this is true for your business.

Even if your office is closed, social media and other online activities should not be ignored. Those who are attracted to your site are unlikely to place an order on the first visit. In fact, more than 80% will wait at least three visits until they place an order.

Therefore, your down period could be put to good use by growing your lead database and attracting audiences to come back to your site.

Perhaps your marketing should concentrate on building your email list and sending them seasonal greetings on the appropriate day. All of this could be set up to automatically run, therefore no members of staff will be required to initiate it and you can benefit from the lead intelligence derived from consumer behaviours.

Then when you return from your Christmas break, your sales team can have a significant number of leads to process and determine who to contact. This could mean that January can be a busy time for you; giving your business a great start for the New Year.

 

What If You Are A B2C Business?

If you are selling directly to the consumers, then you might be mistaken to think that promoting your business during the festive period is a good idea.

However, research from companies have found that online activity is down 27% on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Day.

This indicates that online marketing should be limited during the holiday period. Perhaps a good idea would be to create a blog post that wishes everyone a Merry Christmas or Happy New Year.

Sales during these periods are also likely to be down compared to other times of the year. Therefore, unless everything in your business is automatic, perhaps advertising your products on these special days is not the best allocation of your marketing budget.

If you still want to promote on these days then you should optimise the timings of your campaign. Research from 2013 found that online traffic grows steadily from 7am until it drops rapidly at midday. This could be because of the tradition of opening presents, eating Christmas dinner and enjoying a Christmas film or watching television.

After this traffic does grow again as families test out their presents; especially computers, mobiles and tablets.

But what about the days in between Christmas and New Years Day? These are still typically counted as holiday days and many people do not go into work during this week. On the other hand, many countries across the world start their New Year Sales on Boxing Day and continue that right through to the 6th January or later.

According to historic data this is one of the most important times for e-retailers to be noticed by customers. Many brands in 2013 found that shoppers returned to their online stores on Boxing Day to find bargains in the sales. In fact, research has found that there is a huge surge in online traffic at midnight as shoppers attempt to find early bargains.

The behaviour of shoppers does vary from country to country. For instance, the US has a significant number of sales occurring in the weeks before Christmas with a heavily focus on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

The UK has had a traditional after Christmas sale. This might have changed however with the rise in popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the UK. This year, the UK saw a larger increase in online sales compared to the US, the traditional home of Black Friday. This could impact what happens in the post-Christmas sales.

 

Consider What You Are Offering

The biggest problem with advertising during the festive period is that consumers expect a bargain. If you aren’t offering one then you aren’t going to be seeing much activity. You also need to consider what content you are offering your target audience.

Many members of your community will be unlikely to read blog posts as they are spending time with their families and reading blogs take a significant amount of time. However, they might be spending their time on Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, social media campaigns could be used to attract audiences to your products.

Research from this year’s Black Friday campaigns have shown that social media can play an important part in the sales process. Normally, social media only accounts for 1% of all online sales.

On Black Friday 2014, social media updates accounted for 7% of all online sales. This was an improvement from the 2013 figures, where 5% of all online sales could be traced back to social media.

Pay-per-click was also an impressive performer. Traffic from PPC campaigns increased during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions. On Black Friday, the amount spent by businesses on PPC increased by 145% compared to the previous day. This made it by far one of the best revenue days for Google Adwords and other PPC providers.

 

Conclusion

Christmas is a period to be with your family and friends; however, that doesn't mean that no-one is online. While traffic is down on Christmas Day, the period between then and News Year Day can be busy, especially if you have a sale on.

Therefore, use paid search and social media, two of the best performing platforms during sales seasons, to draw attention to your brand and achieve some holiday profits.


Using LinkedIn for Small Business Marketing

LinkedIn is one of the best lead generating social media platforms. This is because it is often the one associated with being a social network for businesses and professionals. You could grow your business by having a great profile and a lot of the right activity.

This article will explain the best practices to grow your following and attract customers to you through using LinkedIn for your small business marketing.

 

Profile

Your profile is the foundation of your LinkedIn marketing. Other businesses, potential partners, suppliers and customers, will use your profile to assess your business for suitability. They will also use your profile to assess how to pitch to you.

You'll want to create the best impression, otherwise customers will not want to contact you about buying and you could attract lower quality suppliers and partners. There are several important elements in creating the ideal profile.

Here are the main aspects:

A good profile picture

Pictures paint a thousand words and your profile’s picture has the same importance. You don't want to be uploading images of you on holiday relaxing by the pool, or out in the fields walking the dogs, on LinkedIn. Instead you want a professional headshot. Ensure you are smiling into the camera and that you look your best.

Job title

This is one of the biggest underutilised areas of the profile page. The job title should not be your direct title if you are the owner of the company; especially if you label yourself as Managing Director, Owner or Founder.

Instead you need to have a title that describes what you do. For instance, if you run a premium food catering service, you should use titles like Senior Food Caterer. This is because those on LinkedIn do not search for Owners or Founders but rather a specific job role.

Summary

In your summary you want to write about what you currently do for a job. On many social networking sites you want to be brief with your comments. On LinkedIn you want to be powerful.

You’ll also want to include three keywords at least three times in the summary. Ensure your three keywords are not descriptions of the job but rather your job title.

LinkedIn users mostly search for job titles rather than the actions they incorporate. For example, instead of web design, they will search for web designer. Having three keywords allows you to spread out your focus and attract more of the LinkedIn network to your profile.

Additional Items

Don't overlook the basics when it comes to LinkedIn. There are several powerful features that can be used to grow the perception of your expertise on the site. Include documents such as past reports you have created, case studies of projects you have managed or excerpts from books you have written.

You can also include videos and podcasts on your profile to give your page more interaction points and a better opportunity to develop a strong response to your content.

The advantage of a well crafted profile is that it can then become highly optimised for Google. In many cases your LinkedIn profile may actually rank higher than your search engine optimised website.

This can be important as well. People are more likely to connect with you if they see you rank highly on Google as this creates a sort of subconscious authority.

 

Writing Blog Posts

The next stage of your LinkedIn marketing should be creating and publishing blog posts through the platform, similarly to publishing content on your own site or blog. Again there is a slight advantage in that Google ranks LinkedIn content higher than some websites. So unless you have a perfect SEO campaign, you might find some of the traffic will go to your LinkedIn page rather than your website.

Another advantage, is that unlike with blog posts, LinkedIn posts are automatically connected to a database to be shared with others who are likely to enjoy your content and with your connections also.

This can mean that more people are viewing your content then your blogs. Some businesses think that you should post content that is from your website. However, this might bring you a duplicate content penalty and the rank of your entire site could be lowered.

Instead, you want to create fresh content that is only published on LinkedIn. You can use some of it, with a ‘no-index link’ on your blog post, to advertise the release of your latest content. This will also support your LinkedIn content’s page rank.

All the basic formulation of a good blog post is applicable to your LinkedIn content. This includes:

  • A strong headline.
  • A strong message.
  • Breaking up content with numbered points or bullet points.
  • Short, easily read paragraphs.
  • Content that is highly valuable to your reader.
  • An image that represents your content.

At the same time you don't want to be promotional at any time on LinkedIn. Studies have shown that 0% of LinkedIn users like promotional content on the social network and it can restrict the number of connections you generate on the platform.

Finally you will want to post content at the best time. While research for some social media channels can differ, most surveys have found that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the best days for posting on LinkedIn. At the same time, you will want to post between 7am and 8:30am, 12pm and 1pm and 5pm to 7pm.

Posting at these times will increase the chance that your content will be viewed and responded to by other LinkedIn users. It is important to gain more interactions (likes and comments) than views as this demonstrates that your content is resonating with your audience.

 

Conclusion

LinkedIn is one of the best business lead generating tools that you can take advantage of. To get the most out of your profile, ensure that you have optimised it for the average LinkedIn user and that you are generating fresh content for your profile. This way you can expand your network, attract potential customers and potentially achieve social sales.


How To Generate Reviews

Reviews (or testimonials) are everywhere when you are looking online for products and services.

Businesses like to flaunt their positive feedback from customers because it offers proof of their legitimacy and professionalism.

 

The Importance Of Reviews

Customers actively look for reviews for products they are interested in. If you don’t have any reviews on your website then it is likely that your visitors may look to your competitors for views on that site.

It is not uncommon for some customers to check the reviews out on several websites to see what is being said on each about the product.

Likewise, your competitors could grab a significant amount of your potential customers if they use reviews on their landing, product or other pages and you don’t.

Therefore, generating reviews should be a focus for your business. There are five types of reviews that you can obtain online:

  1. Reviews from third party review businesses like bloggers, independent consumer advice companies and affiliate marketers.
  2. Reviews on your own website that are shown on important pages like product pages.
  3. Business directories or online business listings that accept reviews.
  4. Social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn also have a limited review capability.
  5. Google; this can be particularly powerful as Google uses your review as part of your search rank.

Concentrating your efforts on just one of these review platforms is not the best practice. There are several reasons.

Firstly, if one review site goes offline, then you could lose all the reviews hosted there. This could be a loss of the significant effort you put in to generate them. This has happened previously with Yahoo when Yelp took over their review site.

Secondly, you can’t guarantee when and where your potential customers will see you. For instance, reviews are important for your direct traffic, but those searching on Google or a business directory will need to see reviews on there instead.

So when you are looking to generate reviews, consider spreading out the reviews equally among the different platforms. This will reduce the risk of losing all your reviews and improve your exposure online.

 

Why Host Reviews On Third Party Sites?

Some businesses worry about placing reviews on other sites; however, it can be one of the best ideas for your business. Especially if you have a listing / review site that has a web application that can display the review copy on your site as well as on theirs. It is important to use their application to display the review in two locations because if you simply copy the review then your site’s SEO efforts can be damaged.

Likewise, it negates the best advantages for online reviews being hosted on an independent third party site. The advantages include:

  • Improved trust – reviews that can be verified as being independent to your business will be seen as more trustworthy by customers.
  • Linking – having many sites carry reviews and links to your site creates additional inbound links to your brand’s website. This can help increase the pagerank of your site.
  • Increased exposure – not everyone will land directly on your page. Therefore, having your brand’s reputation displayed in a number of different locations will help spread word of your professionalism and grow your website’s traffic.

Therefore, consider how you are going to separate your reviews across the many review platforms.

 

How To Optimise The Look Of Reviews

When including reviews on your site, it is important that you maximise their effect. You can use review software on your website so products or services can be rated by customers. However, sometimes these are not displayed for maximum effect.

Therefore, you might need to consider other ways to post reviews online.

For a consumer product like clothes, food, etc, a simple star and comment system is probably all you need. This is highly effective at displaying what your customers experienced when they bought your product.

However, most consumers don’t want to spend too much time writing reviews, especially positive reviews. In fact, consumers are 17 times more likely to publish a review of a product or service if they’ve had a negative experience.

On the other hand, if you are selling to the business community, a detailed review is best. You need to have a strong testimonial of your services that covers two to three paragraphs. Also you need to include a headshot of the person leaving the review, show their position in the company and a link to their company. This can be hard to generate, but you need less reviews for high ticket price business services than low cost consumer products.

 

How To Generate Reviews

Generating reviews is not easy, but it is worthwhile. To start generating reviews, ask customers and clients to leave you a review in any receipt or invoice that you send them. Include this at the bottom near the final cost so that they are bound to look at the request.

Another common way is to send follow up emails after you have delivered the service requesting a review. This is normally the main way to generate reviews because it can take several attempts to prompt a past customer to leave a review. You can entice customers to leave a review by offering:

  • A one off discount on a product.
  • Offering entry into a prize draw.

Be careful however with negative reviews. Recently a UK hotel was caught out when it charged customers £100 ($160) for negative reviews. This hotel was accused of being unfair to the customers and had to pay the money back after complaints were made against the hotel in the national and local news – severely destroying their reputation.

However, by including positive reviews in prize draws and offering discounts can change the opinion of your customers. This may mean that they change their review if they win the competition leaving you more of a positive review.

 

Conclusion

Reviews are one of the best ways to promote your business. They offer your visitors proof of your legitimacy and professionalism and offers reassurances that customers will receive a product that will be fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

Therefore, you should aim to generate numerous reviews across several sites (including your own) to sell your business’ products, increase revenue and generate record profits.