Creating a Customer Review Funnel

Having many positive reviews from customers is increasingly being recognized as a highly valuable tool to promote a business. In addition to building trust and being powerful word-of-mouth advertising, online reviews can also help your search engine visibility and rankings.

Simply having a profile on Google Plus, Yelp, Yahoo, City Search, influential industry review sites, other review sites or a place to capture them on your own website is great but creating a “review funnel”, a system to collect reviews about your business is the missing, all-important piece of the equation to maximize their value.

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So how do you do it? Here’s a five step plan.

Laying the Groundwork

Providing outstanding service is fundamental to getting great reviews. Be helpful, be courteous, and be wary of your customer pain points that may make them disaffected with your business.

For example, if your business is appointment based such as a service business or professional service such as doctor or dentist, do all you can do minimize being unable to start the appointment on time. If you are a hotel, restaurant, or store, put up stickers and signs encouraging customers to leave reviews of your business.

In addition to helping maximizing the opportunity for positive reviews, laying the groundwork and providing excellent service also helps minimize the risk of the dreaded negative reviews. Negative reviews can look particularly unfavorable to prospective customers and drag down your overall star rating score. By gaining more positive reviews, you can push down the effect of any negative reviews received.

Implementing a Process

After providing service to a customer that exceeds expectations is the best time to gather a review. Their experience with your business will be fresh in the customers mind and they will be more likely to descriptively share it. This creates a framework for successfully getting reviews.

You want to make it easy for customers to spread the good word about your business. Have different means to request reviews and follow up on them and be sure to thank and reward customers who leave reviews.

Outreach and Collection

Typically the most effective way to garner more reviews is to ask the customer for it in person and provide them an email link or customized Google review sheet with clear instructions on how to leave a review. Having an easy to follow review form is effective and can also be a helpfu guide for customers to leave more reviews. The form can also be distributed in-person as a handout or as a mailer.

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Provide a concise, polite request with a link to the review site and be sure to thank the customer. Also have reviews links on your website including a dedicated review portal page and social media so there are additional opportunities for customers to leave reviews in addition to the direct request.

You also request reviews by phone and then send them an email with the link to the review website. This helps prime the pump for a higher capture rate. For consistency and best results, require this practice among all employees who manage customer accounts.

Below is an example email request:

Dear Client,
We appreciate the opportunity to serve you. We would be most grateful if you could take a moment and review our service on our Google business page – https://plus.google.com/+Ascentinternet/about. Thank you for your kind attention to this matter.

Best Regards,

Follow-Up

After sending out a customer review request, schedule a follow-up time within a week. The customer may have missed the email or it fell by the wayside. Follow-up calls and emails can help increase your success rate and the quality of reviews gathered. In addition to the above techniquest, promoting and linking to your review URLs on your social media and email marketing can also be helpful.

google reviews2 Creating a Customer Review Funnel

Promote Your Reviews

When particularly glowing reviews are received, make the most of them. With the customer permission, put them in the testimonials section of your website along with a picture. Positive reviews can also be useful for social media, email marketing, and in advertising.

If a customer is particularly pleased with your business’ service, you may want to consider asking them for a video testimonial. You may also want to consider gathering a case study from the customer, which is a longer form of testimonial and can be great content. As they say, “facts tell, but stories sell”.

Thrilled customers are fantastic for brand building and are critical for social media engagement, repeat sales, and customer referrals. Creating a customer review funnel and implementing the above processes is smart business. It can help you garner more glowing reviews for your business and is a low cost, effective form of marketing.


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The 7 Elements of Effective Websites

Web design projects can be complicated. From layout, to colors, to content, there are a myriad of choices and inputs that affect the success of a site. While the purpose of commercial websites vary greatly, at a basic level successful sites really only need seven components.

1. Technical Fundamentals.

Regardless of which type of programming language or content management system that is used, having correct code is important for a site’s utilization and optimal performance. You want your website to load quickly and have clean, condensed code helps make this happen. Fast websites help keep users on websites longer and page speed is a factor in Google’s search engine algorithm Also, setting up Schema markup language on a site can also provide an SEO boost.

web content tips The 7 Elements of Effective Websites

2. Content.

Content is the backbone of a website. Websites that are thin or provide little unique content or useful information aren’t likely to resonate with users or search engines. Providing relevant, high quality, engaging content on your site is a building block for traffic growth.

It’s also important to use a content management system that is easy to use so that authorized and trainer users can add new content to the site.

3. Easy to Use, Clear Navigation Structure.

If visitors come to your website and don’t in short order find what they’re interested in, they’re going to exit your site. Your website should make it easy for users to find the information they’re looking for. Make your most popular content prominent and intuitive and provide a logical navigational flow. What you don’t want is to have your highest converting pages to be buried deep in your site without an easy to find link from the other pages. This kills conversion and can really drag down a site’s performance.

In addition to navigation and content, user-friendly features such as images, infographics, videos, a search box, calls to action, and live chat can all make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.

responsive web design devices The 7 Elements of Effective Websites

4. Professional Design.

Your website should be viewed as your marketing hub. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week highlighting your brand and providing information to visitors on your products or services. Why wouldn’t you want the best possible presentation? Having a professional design helps make your site a place your customers want to stay at and continue to use your business. It also helps to reduce bounce rate.

While you may be able to design your own website, it isn’t recommended. Your design should also account for your website browser usage, so it renders optimally on a smartphone, tablet, desktop, or whichever device the visitor is on.

5. Trust & Sharing.

The Web can be a pretty anonymous place where scammers and other deceitful practices can thrive. Your website should show social proof that others like your company. Awards, honors, recognitions, testimonials, reviews, social share buttons all show social proof that builds trust and confidence in your business.

trust badges The 7 Elements of Effective Websites

6. Retention, Email Sign up.

Email marketing is marketing that you own that you don’t have to pay for every time you utilize it. This is why an email capture form is a crucial element for most websites. Facebook’s algorithm can change, Google’s search results can be volatile, but email isn’t going away and the email lists are contacts that you can easily connect with.

Email isn’t reliant upon another company or media to provide you access to their and services, which is one of the many benefits of focusing on building up your email subscription lists. Some major retailers view the email sign up option with such importance that they feature it twice above the fold.

7. Capture & Convert.

A business website is largely measured by how well it converts visitors into customers. That is why it’s important to have well constructed messaging that prompts them to take a desired action. Pop-ups and live chat on a website also help boost conversion rates. Having an email subscription box, an RSS subscription button, blog comments, and social sharing buttons also help keep users coming back.

By planning, preparing and implementing these seven elements in a web design project, you can aid in setting up your site up for success on the Web.


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7 Questions to Ask an SEO Provider

Businesses understand the value in having prominent search engine rankings for keyword phrases that drive business. This makes hiring an agency or professional who can help boost a company’s search engine optimization valuable. But many don’t always know what they’re getting from an SEO provider beyond that aspirational goal.

For many businesses, rankings is their focus from the Web but talking about what’s involved with search engine optimization can seem like speaking another language. Sure, you may not understand everything you’re getting when you look to buy a new furnace but at least you know you’ll be getting a furnace that works. Nowadays that’s not always the case with SEO.

Below are questions to ask an SEO provider so that you can better understand the services offered and develop a plan for a more successful SEO campaign.

1. Do You Guarantee First Page Google Results?

Even though it may not appear this way, this is more of a filtering question that sheds light on the SEO provider’s approach. To the layman, this seems like a logical question. If you’re paying for a service, the provider should be able to commit to a guaranteed outcome. But SEO is unlike any other business service.

Since Google has a more than 65% market share of search engine traffic and they have their own algorithm, any quality SEO provider should never guarantee first page rankings. They don’t control how Google outputs the rankings. In light of Google’s ever-changing algorithm and SEO practices that used to work no longer working, any company or individual that guarantees first page rankings should be viewed suspiciously.

seo basics 7 Questions to Ask an SEO Provider

2. What Do Your Services Include?

Design, content, technical factors on a website, and links are all aspects of SEO. It’s important to understand what services your website needs and what your SEO provider will deliver.

SEO providers should offer best practices and strategies and services that improve your search engine visibility and volume and quality of Web traffic.

3. What Is Your Process for Getting Links?

Gaining quality links from other sites to your website is an important component of improving your search engine rankings. If you’re paying for SEO, it’s important to understand your SEO provider’s process for obtaining new links and the tactics involved with that.

Link building strategies such as obtaining low quality directories or guest posts on non-authoritative, not-industry related sites aren’t likely to be very beneficial for your search engine rankings in the long-run nor provide referral traffic.

4. What is Your Content Creation Process, Can You Provide Examples and Who Writes/Creates the Content?

Unique, targeted, high quality website content can be a good way to market your brand and gain a larger audience, get more social shares, and more links. But creating content just for the hope of high search engine rankings can have diminishing returns from a marketing standpoint.

Having quality writing and creative skills can allow your content to stand out from the crowd. What you don’t want is content prepared by a writer with poor skills or even worse, a machine. Low value content can really tarnish a website and even adversely affect your search engine rankings.

5. How do You Promote New Content?

Hitting publish on your blog doesn’t automatically mean your content work box is checked and it will successfully garner search rankings, traffic and links. A significant amount of time and energy should be spent to effectively promote the content. This is where having a strong following for your business and effective PR capability come into play.

Will it be promoted on social media, used in email marketing, paid content promotion, or even better is there an outreach plan and established contacts that can help get the content on high authority websites or news sites in the businesses niche? The importance of effective content promotion and PR aspects of SEO and content marketing are underrated.

deliver 7 Questions to Ask an SEO Provider

6. What Are The Monthly Deliverables and How do You Measure Success?

For local businesses that get SEO services, too many just ask is my phone ringing or are more people coming through the door? This is the simplest way to measure SEO but it’s less than scientific.

In the past, SEO services for businesses were largely based on targeted keyword rankings, Web traffic//Web sales, and the number of links built. It was easier to get rankings and show more immediate returns on investment. While these metrics may still be important, overly focusing on keywords and quantity of links can hurt your site in the long run.

Other metrics or goals that are important factors and should be considered would include: increased website page speed, bounce rate, new sources of referral traffic, new pages garnering traffic, or more online reviews. Data on social media follows, likes, and shares may also be part of more meaningful, measurable reporting.

Be wary of monthly SEO reports that provide information that is not very specific or measurable, or provide rankings reports on keywords that are low volume or of little value.

7. What’s the Cost?

There’s nothing worse than paying for something and not knowing what you’re getting. While the costs for online marketing services can vary considerably, understanding the type and level/quality of services included and the expected monthly deliverables, you can better comprehend and identify the SEO services your business needs and get better value.


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What SEO Services Does Your Website Really Need?

Because SEO can be an ever-changing, multi-faceted marketing strategy and penalty risks loom, it’s more important than ever to understand the components of SEO, the deliverable you’re getting from an SEO provider, and where and how your businesses could benefit from SEO services.

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Design and Conversion Rate Optimization

A website should be viewed as much more than a resource for people to find and learn about your business. It can be a powerful marketing tool but you don’t want to advertise something that doesn’t adequately represent your brand.

In the more than 200 factors that make up the Google search algorithm, there are several where design plays a role such as the amount of time user spend on a page and it’s usability on mobile devices.

The page layout, navigation, use of images, and colors all affect the user experience on the website. In addition to visual appeal, leading users to and increasing click rates on the places on the website where a business wants them is important. Whether it’s strong calls to action for a buy now button , a phone call, a contact form, an email subscription or a download, design plays a significant role in a website’s effective as a marketing vehicle.

The Technical Aspects of a Website

Website structure, clean programming, HTML tags, meta data, server speed, mobile capability, a consistent URL naming convention, page titles and other on-site aspects affect a website’s performance. Improper site set up can also block search engine crawlers which can adversely affect or prevent a site from ranking.

Page speed is a Google ranking factor so having minimized files with condensed code to increase load times not only aids SEO, it also helps visitors better interact and use your site. For larger websites or ecommerce sites, technical aspects have an even bigger impact on a site’s performance. Amazon increased revenue by millions of dollars by decreasing load times by one second.

Having the ability to implement schema markup language, can also help search engines better interpret the content of websites and can boost search engine visibility.

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Content

Without content, it’s difficult to rank in the search engines for many keywords. But don’t just do content for the sake of content. It’s needs to be high quality, highly consumable, and targeted to a business goal such as promoting the product or service, providing valuable, useful information for customers or prospective customers, or promoting the brand.

Content is much more than written pages or articles. Videos, graphics, images, presentations, and audio are all different forms of content. Content creation can have many added benefits beyond SEO, including building a community of brand enthusiasts.

In addition, your website description, headlines, testimonials, and calls to action are also places where having good content matters. After all, you want your content to convert website visitors to become engaged with your business and become customers.

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Guest Posting

In addition to content on the website, content on other websites that reference or link to your business’ website can also be very useful for SEO. Many SEO providers do ‘guest posting’ as part of their off-site services. But if you are doing guest posting primarily to get links, this can be dangerous. Google has cracked down on guest posting for this purpose with penalties.

Guest posting should be done with the view to gain brand mentions and website referral traffic on relevant, authoritative or industry related websites, in addition to gaining new external links. If you’re SEO provider is guest posting for the primarily for the purposes of gaining links, your site could be at risk.

While link building used to be widely used term in SEO to gain links, in light of the changes in SEO over the past few years, link earning is now a more apt term. If you are building or constructing links artificially, you are likely violating Google guidelines and your site is at risk for a penalty

Other tactics to gain new external links that SEO providers may use include: obtaining links on industry related websites and relevant online directories, broken link building, content creation, and outreach.

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Outreach/PR

It’s been said content is king in SEO but really outreach is king. It’s the chicken and the egg. While it’d be nice to just hit the publish button and have links come into your website, it isn’t usually that easy. You need content to promote but in order for great content to have it’s largest impact, it needs to be effectively disseminated and pitched in advanced to influencers and targeted, high authority sites that have large social media followings. This is where having a strong, active community and social media following can really provide a boost. Let them go to work for you and help you promote and spread your creative work.

For companies wanting to gain maximum visibility only for their businesses, agencies that have the contacts and can deliver professional outreach that gets results can provide a big boost. These PR efforts can drive brand exposure, social media gains, website referral traffic, and links. But this level of services comes with a cost with some agencies charging tens of thousands a month.

PR outreach doesn’t have to be expensive. With persistence, creativity, and determination even smaller companies can get big PR.

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External Links

The quality of links pointing to your website is a critical factor in a site’s ability to rank valuable keyword phrases. A few years ago, it was easier to get Google rankings and make them stick. With targeted content and anchor text links, it was pretty easy to gain prominent search rankings for valuable keyword phrases. This made providing SEO services highly profitable.

As Google has updated it’s algorithm and more strictly enforced its
Quality Guidelines, this has changed. Google has more aggressively penalized websites with links deemed to be manipulative to their search engine. This includes use of anchor text links and low quality links, which are patterns Google can This has made getting valuable, effective SEO services more difficult to find.

SEO services that tie into link acquisition are keyword research, competitor link and website analysis.

Evaluate Your Needs

This post does not include all SEO services. There are many others including the most unfortunate event of when a website needs Google penalty recovery services or local SEO for specific business locations.

Regardless of the current state of your website, understanding the different components of SEO can help more easily identify the needs for your website and what types of services may be most beneficial for your business. It can also help bring clarity in a confusing and evolving online landscape.


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Google’s New Tool For Business Owners: Google My Business

Google has launched a new tool for small business owners called “Google My Business”. Google My Business is simply a new platform interface for users to help them update and manage their business information in Google all in one place.

You can login to Google My Business with your existing Google login or if you don’t already have one, register for a Google account. This new interface does not replace, Google+ Business Pages, Google Local pages, or any other Google product. And while the focus is on local business owners, anyone with a Google+ page for their brand or non-profit gets access as well.

While of the goal is to make it easier for businesses to get on Google and keep using Google products, the interface unifies access to a business’ Google pages and drops the Google+ name association.

Manage your pages Google My Business Googles New Tool For Business Owners:  Google My Business

Features in “Google My Business”

Once logged in at Google.com/business, you can easily view all your Google business
pages from the dashboard and make edits, additions, or deletions. This is especially helpful when you have duplicate entries. It will also show you which of your pages are Google verified and you can review and update your business’ Google map location(s).

Within the page edit tool, the interface will walk you through what is needed to complete your business profile such as photos, your hours of operation, address, URL, phone number, and business description/category. The pages also contain the Google reviews for a business. The platform is also a convenient place to access the Google tools available to business owners such as AdWords, Analytics, Google Plus, and Hangouts.

For mobile users, there is a version of ‘My Business’ on the Android platform and an iOS version should be coming soon.

google my business dashboard Googles New Tool For Business Owners:  Google My Business

Getting Help With Your Google Listings

Navigating Google pages can be confusing as businesses can have multiple pages such as a Google+ Local page, which features the business’ map location and Google reviews and Google+ Business page as their social sharing page. It is also possible to merge or delete pages to avoid duplication (use these features with great caution).

Having duplicate pages or the wrong address or phone number listed for your business is disconcerting for business owners. Having accurate pages can aid your Google map rankings and having inaccurate information can mean lost calls and lost customers

Google currently offers phone support for “Google My Business”. This can be helpful if you’re having trouble with an incorrect listing or want help using the new platform. There are also Google support forums. If you’re having trouble with your business appears in the Google organic or map listings, you may also want to consider a consult with an SEO professional.


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