Good or Bad – Online Reviews Are Crucial to Your Success

What your customers say about you matters—a lot. This is something all business owners know, and over the past decade, search engines and online rating platforms have made customer reviews more important than ever before.
Reviews are on par with word-of-mouth recommendations in terms of how persuasive they are when prospects decide if they want to do business with you or not.

Why Reviews Matter

Positive reviews establish trust. According to BrightLocal, 84% of people trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation. Aside from increasing trust among potential customers and the likelihood that they’ll choose you over competitors, they offer another incentive to local businesses because search engines use them to determine the quality of a local business. When search engines see gobs of customer reviews from a number of sources, they will assign more authority to businesses receiving the reviews—this means you show up before your competition!

Where to Get Reviews

You can collect reviews from innumerable sources around the web, but there are a few that carry a bit more weight, or at least visibility. Facebook and Google both offer great visibility for businesses. You can easily see the level of visibility these reviews have by typing the name of an established business within Google. The Google review will appear at the top of the search just beneath the map and photo of the business. The aggregate Facebook review will often appear twice: Once on the right of the screen, and once within the search results for the business.

 

Aside from Facebook and Google, you can get reviews from all sorts of local directories, including YellowPages and Yelp. There’s even evidence to support that getting reviews from multiple sources is great for your visibility on the web. However, some sources carry more influence than others. Google, Facebook and Yelp appear more prominently on search engines. They also attract more users than their competing review platforms. For this reason, we recommend seeking reviews from these sources. There are a few instances where industry related websites trump these, but for most businesses, Facebook, Yelp and Google are the go to sources.


Not Collecting Reviews

Are you asking yourself “Will it really hurt my business if I don’t collect reviews?”—well the answer is yes! Since almost all internet users consider reviews to be as trustworthy as personal recommendations, it is crucial that you are able to beat or match your competitors in your reviews in order to have a fighting chance at landing that lead.

When individuals search for a company by name, they’ll see reviews right away on the search engine results page. For instance, look at the search results page for this Lakeville home builder.

You can see that reviews take up a major part of the page, so they are one of the first thing a potential customer will see. Last of all, these reviews do help your rank, so it’s kind of a no-brainer that you should actively seek them out!


Asking for Reviews

Reviews offer an almost unbeatable value to your business—for little to no cost. Google prominently displays reviews on it’s search engine results page. You’ll see these reviews when you search for a name of a business. Here’s what happens when you search “Cazarin Interactive”:

Searchers will also instantly see reviews of your business stacked up against competitors in your area.

Getting a steady stream of positive reviews ensures your business is well represented when new prospects seek you out, and better yet, it improves your visibility on the web. There’s really no reason not to seek them out.


How To Ask

Many businesses will include call outs requesting reviews in the emails they send to their customers. This works, but the best way to get reviews is by asking directly. That means asking them in person, over the phone, or through a personalized email. Your customers are far more likely to take a handful of minutes to leave you a review when the request is made by an actual person.

Personally asking everybody you do business with may not be a manageable approach for you, but whenever a customer gives you or your team a compliment, it’s a good idea to ask them to leave you a review at that time—strike when the iron is hot!

How Not To Ask

There are a few things you should avoid when collecting reviews:

  1. Asking for reviews on Yelp. Yelp has a policy detailing why they don’t want you to ask for reviews, and they apply an overall higher level of scrutiny on posted reviews than other sources For this reason, we usually recommend Facebook and Google to our clients as the primary space to encourage reviews. Yelp also has an extra downside to it when it comes to the visibility of your reviews: Some reviews your clients leave won’t show to the public if the client is new to the platform, making it harder for new reviews to appear under your listing.
  2. Setting up a review kiosk. This used to be a legitimate strategy, but it isn’t anymore. Google will monitor the IP addresses of incoming review sources to guard against this tactic.

Don’t Ignore Bad Reviews

Customers will occasionally give poor reviews, it is unavoidable, and how you respond is up to you. For most business owners, the main course of action when it comes to poor reviews is to do nothing, and a few will even write angry messages in response. Can you guess which one is the right choice? Answer: Neither option is a good idea!

The best course of action is to respond to a bad review in an amiable way by personally reaching out and asking how you can resolve the customer’s complaint. If the customer is reasonable, it’s possible to get them to remove their bad review. If they’re not, you still show goodwill to the community that you tried to right the situation. Also note that getting rid of a bad review on most platforms, especially Google, is a lengthy and difficult process, so personally dealing with your bad review is often the only way to rectify the situation.


Reputation Management

Good or bad, it’s important to respond to reviews. A responsive business shows prospects and customers that you care about their experience. It also can help turn your aggregate reviews in a positive direction. Managing the workflow for this can be tedious as there are numerous review platforms. Thankfully, there’s software that can help simplify the process, or you could come to us! The Cazarin team developed a great solution that can be used to reduce instances of bad reviews while promoting positive ones. Want to learn more? Send us a message today!


Hopefully by this point, you understand the importance of collecting and monitoring reviews for your company. Reviews are one of the few organic methods for advertising your company to potential customers, so the efforts you put into them are not for nothing. Even if you don’t have the manpower to constantly ask for reviews or to monitor them daily, you have options! The Cazarin team can help you promote the best image possible in the digital market. To learn more about how we can help, check out our Services page.


Want to talk about a marketing or website project you have in mind?

Let us know the details and together we can find the best solution that works for you! Just fill out our Project Inquiry Form and we will reach out to you soon!

The Low Hanging Fruit of Marketing

Local businesses, from Rochester to Minneapolis, all spend thousands of dollars to rank in Google searches. You may not have their types of resources, but you can be savvy with your dollars. To save yourself some money, check out these low cost marketing activities for your business.

Citations

Companies often spend thousands just on this one marketing tactic. Citations are websites apart from your own that mention your business name, address, phone number or other information. Common sources include Yellow Pages and Whitepages.

Google and other search engines use these and a number of factors to determine where they should rank your business in relation to others.

Because citations are easier to get than other labor intensive practices, many local businesses pursue them first. Unfortunately for them, they go about it in a very expensive way. They often buy third party services like Yext to fulfill their service. This service is expensive and doesn’t always deliver the best results.


Getting Citations For Free

Most sources for citations are free if you go through the process on your own. The downside is that it’s very tedious and labor intensive if it’s your first time. Thankfully, there are a few that you can easily do on your own that will have a positive long-term impact. Plus, they’re free!

1) Google My Business

Google prefers its own platforms, which is why this is probably the most important tactic for any local business. With a completed and verified listing, you’ll show up on Maps.

It also makes your business eligible to show up on the top of search results in what is called the
three pack.

With the potential for this type of visibility, it’s hard to ignore. All you have to do is create a business listing. Then verify the listing. Here are the instructions:

2) Bing Local

Bing Local is much like Google My Business. Searchers on Bing, the second largest search engine in America, will see local listings in search results and on their maps. They are very visible on Bing Searches, and because there is a verification process required for their citations, they hold plenty of credibility.

Here are the instructions on how to do them:

3) Apple Maps

Apple phones will come with this application, which means users will use it to search for nearby businesses and services. Like Bing and Google, this one also requires a verification. However, the process of creating a page and verifying it is easier. You don’t need to wait to receive a postcard in the mail as with Bing and Google. Instead, you’ll need to take an automated phone call. The automated phone call will have to go to the phone number listed as your business. This means you will need to be at the office or have calls briefly forwarded from your office to you.

The specific instructions for completing this verification are here.

4) Facebook Business Page

Facebook may be best known to local businesses for its potential for social media marketing. However, it works even better as a local a citation. External sources like Google and Bing will display its reviews under searches. Search engines use its address information to validate your businesses location, giving your business a little more oomph to move up the rankings. The process of getting a local Facebook page is generally simple, but it can vary depending on the occasion.  You’ll also need to verify this citation for it to be effective. The verification process simply shows Facebook that your business actually operates at your location.  The process can either involve a phone call, or you’ll need to provide documentation like a utility or a phone bill containing business information like your name and phone number.

7) Yelp

Whenever you hear Yelp, you think of reviews, but businesses can benefit from creating and verifying a page without receiving a single review. That’s because it’s one of the more prominent citation sources available. Having a page will also make it easier for clients to leave you reviews, something search engines factor into their algorithms for the ranking of local search results. Creating a Yelp page for your business and verifying it is pretty simple, and if you get stuck, their team will help you through it.

Here are the instructions to get started.

8) Express Updates

Express Updates from Infogroup is unique. It does more than a citation by sending your businesses information out to numerous websites that then create citations on their own platform. Yahoo Local, Whitepages, Superpages, CitySearch and several other websites will use the information from this source to create citations automatically. The best part of the service? It’s free. The downside is its speed. It can take more than a year in some cases for you to see the results from Express Updates. Yet it is well worth the fifteen minutes you’ll need to spend on it. In the long run, it’s invaluable.

9) Maintain Consistency

Before you start claiming these pages, it’s important to keep one practice in mind – consistency. Search engines want to see data for your business that matches. If it finds address, name and phone number information that doesn’t match spread across the web, it will likely show your business further down on the rankings. When completing these citations, make sure you use the same name, phone number and address for each of your locations.


Creating and claiming these citations will help you get started, but there’s more work to be done.

You’ll need many more citations. You’ll need backlinks. You’ll need on-page optimization and many more strategies for your business to compete. To learn more, contact Cazarin Interactive today.

The SEO Glossary for People Who Don’t Know What SEO Is

When a website is built and launched, the first question is often: “Great! Now, will my website show up in Google searches?” Enter Search Engine Optimization (SEO), the part-wizardry, part-hard-work, part-inside-expertise skill of proving to search engines that your site is worthy of being ranked well.

If you’ve worked with a marketing agency or hired a marketing pro, they have surely mentioned SEO and what needs to be done to please this picky animal. But many of the terms can be confusing, or acronyms, or both. So we’ve put together this glossary of need-to-know SEO terms for busy people who want to be well-informed about their search engine traffic.


0-9

301 Redirect – A rerouting of a web page. When a webpage address is changed or a new site is launched, 301 redirects automatically send visitors (and search engines) to the proper page(s).

A

ALT Text/Tag or Attribute – ALT is short for “Alternative”, so in this case, ALT Text is “alternative text” to describe an image. This is useful for both visitors using a screen reader and for search engines. Since search engines cannot see images, they rely on Alt tags/text to “read” your description of it. This is another way to show that your site offers information—in this case images—regarding your topic of choice.

Analytics – Google Analytics and other Analytics services offer tons of information about traffic to your site. This is the place to find out when people visit your site, what path they use to find you, how often they’ve visited, how long they stay on the site, where they’re located, and many other things.

Anchor Text – When you click on a link that takes you to a new page, the anchor text is the words that make up the link, usually blue and underlined. For example, if we’d like to offer you a link to our Marketing Fusion page, the anchor text in this case is “Marketing Fusion page.” Why does this matter? The anchor text signals to search engines what the destination page is about or where you’ll be going.

B

Blog – Coined in the 90’s from the word “web-log”, your blog is the ever-updating part of your site where you publish new content. Whether they’re news items or articles about your industry (like this), having a blog and adding posts to it is good SEO. Why? It accomplishes 2 things: new content shows search engines that you’re not a static site, and new content specifically on your topic is adding fuel to your SEO fire by talking more about your business and industry.

Bookmark – A link to a website that is saved for later reference. The more times people bookmark your site, the greater the indication that your pages have high-quality content.

Branded Keywords – Keywords that include the name of your company

Breadcrumbs – Displayed to a website visitor, breadcrumbs show you how the page you’re on fits in to the structure of the entire website.
For example: Cazarin Home > Cazarin Blog > SEO Glossary

C

Conversion Form – A form on your site that collects information from an incoming lead; it could be a Request for Quote, a Contact Us form, or any other type of form that counts as a lead for your business.

D

Domain – The main part of your site’s web address (example: www.yoursite.com). There could be subdomains before it, and there will be “slugs” after it, but it is the basic name of your site between the www and the .com or .net, etc.

Domain Authority – A value from 0 – 100.0 that indicates the SEO quality of the site, based on age of the site, size, and popularity. The higher the DA, the better. For example, google.com (and all of its subsidiaries) have a DA of 100, because what has more authority than Google?

E

External Link – A link from one website domain to a different one, whether outbound from your site to another, or inbound from another site to yours. These are key indicators to search engines.

F

Favicon – The small icon that appears in the tab of your web browser when you are on a page, usually one letter or a simplified version of a logo.

The Fold – The fold is the bottom of what can be seen on your screen without scrolling. So “above the fold” indicates the parts of your page that are seen first, without scrolling, and therefore get the most attention.

H

Headings – The headings of your site (using a H1 or H2 tag) are just what you’d expect: larger text like a headline. Search Engines look to headings to know the main topics of your pages.

I

Inbound Link – A link from another site that leads to yours. The more you have of these, the better, especially if that site is reputable. Search Engines see these as proof that your site is worth sending people to.

Internal Link – A link from one page on your site to another page on your site. For example, your Home page will have several internal links that bring visitors to other pages on your site.

K

Keyword – The words or terms that users enter into the search. Knowing what keywords people enter to reach you is important so that your marketing or copywriting team can include those in your content. Although keyword stuffing (using your target keywords many times in unnatural ways) is now a detriment to your ranking, your keyword should be used consistently and naturally throughout your site.

L

Link Building – Working to get more inbound links from other high quality sites.

Long Tail Keyword – A longer keyword that someone uses in search, typically 3-4 words or more. These are less commonly used than 1-2 word keywords. They’re more specific, which also means they are less competitive.

M

Metadata – Data that tells search engines what your website is about. This could include page title, meta description, or alt image tags.

Meta Description – A description of a webpage that you see along with page titles on a Search Results page. These should be written manually for each page to encourage users to click on your site. If not, search engines will usually pull out the first parts of text from that page.

mozRank – A ranking for a website from 0 – 10.0 provided by SEOMoz, determined by the number and quality of inbound links to that site–the higher the better.

P

Page Title – The title of a webpage, which is shown both at the top of your browser window and on a Search Results page. Keywords are usually used in page titles, and should be used at the beginning of the title for more SEO impact.

PPC (Pay-Per-Click) – Advertising method in which an advertiser puts an ad in an online advertising venue, such as Google adwords, and pays that venue for impressions of their ads or clicks on their ads.

S

SEM – Search Engine Marketing. Similar to its cousin SEO/Search Engine Optimization (getting your site to rank well organically), SEM includes both organic and paid mentions of your site, and is focused on increasing your visibility on search engine results pages.

SERP (Search Engine Ranking Page or Search Engine Results Page) – After you enter a search query into Google, Bing, or any other search engine, the SERP is the page that shows your results. With Google, this now can include any of the following: organic results, paid ads at the top and bottom in most cases, local results with map, business cards, shopping results, and more.

Sitemap – A document that maps out all of the pages of a given website so that search engines can properly index the site; usually created by the webmaster or special software, and usually accessible in the footer of a site.

Slug – the part of a url that follows the main domain name. For example, the word “/business” in this url: http://www.startribune.com/business/ or, for this page, /blog/

Spider – A program that systematically browses websites on the internet and indexes web pages and web content for search engines.

T

Traffic – The visitors to any page of your site.

U

URL – Uniform Resource Locator; the complete web address of any given page on the Internet.


For more on Search Engine Optimization and how Cazarin Interactive can help your site, contact us.

Google Results Shake-Up: How 2 Big Changes Affect Your Business

In the last 9 months, Google has made two major changes to how their search results appear on desktops, and both happen to mirror how results look on your mobile phone. What do these changes mean for small businesses? And months afterward, what adaptations are successful when accommodating these Google-made rearrangements?

First, let’s review what has changed.

In August, the Local Results that are often shown directly under paid ads went from including seven results to only including three. And the competition to be in that pack of 3 instantly got fierce.

Then in February, Google changed their desktop results to look even more like a mobile search by getting rid of Right Column Ads altogether.

There are now usually four paid ads at the top of the page instead of three, while the other ads that used to appear on the right column of the page have shifted down. Those ads now sit quietly below the full page of organic results. Basically ad #4 got an upgrade to first-class, while ads #5 and #6 got downgraded to the cargo bay.

Taken together, these changes produced two major consequences for businesses, and both have to do with “the fold,” which means the top part of the page that you see without having to scroll.

  1. Organic results are now “Below the fold” in many cases, meaning that ads and local results in the map take up the top real estate of the search page. (See the “security systems” example search above.)
  2. Competition to be within the top 4 ads on the page and the top 3 local results with the map is suddenly much tougher than the previous layout of 6 ads and 7 local results. Basically businesses have half as many chances to show up above the fold as they did before.

What to do?

Adwords

First of all, it turns out the 4th spot isn’t so bad now. Some argue that the 3rd ad position has actually received the biggest boost in clicks. While Cost-per-Click has gone up slightly for some because positions 5 and up are basically useless, the truth is that the 4-7 slots along the right rail weren’t getting many clicks anyway. Careful campaign management and watching those average positions and CPC will be key moving forward.

Local SEO

The local results that are shown with the map are still powered by Google’s algorithm, and you can’t pay to get there. And since the organic links are farther down the list, the local 3-pack has become even more important for local businesses. Now more than ever, businesses should be focusing on optimizing for local searches.

What does that mean?

Cazarin Interactive can help you optimize your local SEO. This includes monitoring and fixing directory citations, having consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone information), optimizing webpages for specific locations, and, among other things, creating and keeping up your Google+ local profile, especially by earning new Google+ reviews.

It’s worth noting that this update has made it more difficult for businesses located outside their target audience’s specific city. For example, if you search for Restaurants, the map will return with 3 restaurants very close to your physical location (probably with google+ reviews). Google has given more weight to physical location, which is helpful for some businesses like florists or dry cleaners, but less sense for businesses that serve an entire area.

Organic SEO

Although the organic results are below the fold on many occasions, SEO is still extremely relevant not only because it factors into local rankings, but because in some cases, paid ads and local results are NOT part of the search engine results page. That’s right, when searching with certain terms, all of the information we’ve just given you does not apply, and it’s just you and the organic results.

For example, searches using long-tail keywords (those using 3 or more words) often return a page of only organic results, like this:

In Summary

Although your friendly Google results page may look a bit bare, having a balanced strategy that includes the trifecta of a solid SEO plan, a strong Adwords showing, and quality content on your website is still the best way to fare these changes, and any changes yet to come.

Questions You Need to Answer Before Starting Your Company Blog

You want to start a blog for your company. You’ve heard it’s great for your SEO, creates free press, and best of all, is easy to start. It almost sounds too good to be true.
And that’s because it is.

Yes, blogs can be a valuable asset to your company’s web presence. But that doesn’t mean you can create a WordPress account, write a three-hundred-word piece, and expect magic to just happen.

To create a blog that benefits your company, you need to have a plan in place—just as you would for any traditional marketing strategies. Here are the questions you need to ask as you form a plan for your company blog.

1. What Are Your Goals?

Like every investment you make in marketing, your blog should have a goal that can be measured. Here are some company goals that your blog can help fulfill.

  • Building an email list. One of the most powerful digital assets you can invest in is your email list. It’s the most direct line to your customers that (usually) isn’t hindered by algorithms. An excellent way to build your email list is through a blog that is regularly updated with great content. While new visitors are nice, they don’t matter much if you can’t contact them again in the future.
  • Creating credibility. Credibility can give you an edge over your competition. A blog is a great way to build that credibility. It is a perfect place for employees to share their expertise and fans to see why your products and services are indispensable. One way you can measure credibility is by tracking how often industry leaders cite or share content you have posted on your blog.
  • Increasing the value of your website. Search engines love fresh content, and a blog is a great way to keep feeding the beast. If your goal is to increase the value of your website in terms of pageviews and rankings, a blog can you help do that. To measure these goals, start tracking the increase in organic reach, traffic, and keyword rankings.

Of course, there are many goals that you could have for your blog. Pick a goal that is measurable and start monitoring what works and what doesn’t.

2. Are You Prepared to Invest?

Installing a blog is almost touted as a get-rich-quick scheme. While it is typically cheaper than most marketing initiatives, especially over the long-term, adding “blog” at the end of your web address doesn’t make a success.

First, you have to learn how to produce content. A quality blog that helps you achieve the goals you set above requires more than just throwing a bunch of words together. Brainstorming topics, creating enticing headlines, and simply writing well is sometimes harder than it seems. Since a blog is one of the most public faces of your company, make sure that content is high quality. This may require the services of a professional writer or editor.

Professional writers can also help produce articles that are a bit longer. Google favors high-quality content, which often means more words per article. Top ranking posts on Google had a whopping 2,400+ words—or about ten pages of content. And Google favoring long-form content is a trend that is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

Blogs also require regular maintenance. If you are planning on building and growing an audience, you need to create new content fairly often. According to HubSpot, you need to publish four new pieces of content each week to get the most out of your blog.

Committing that amount of time and effort takes rock-solid planning, the right resources, and the right team.

3. Can You Handle the Risk?

No new venture comes without risk, even a simple blog. There a number of potential scenarios you should consider before diving in:

  • How much will you let your community be involved? Will you allow readers and customers to comment on your blog? If so, do you have guidelines put in place to make sure discussions stay civil and customer complaints can be taken care of promptly?
  • What happens if you go viral? Everyone loves a lot of traffic, but a lot of traffic at once can cripple your operations. Whether it’s your first or 100th post, any article can go viral at any time without warning. Can your servers take the heat? Are your writers and your company prepared to be accountable for the inevitable scrutiny that comes along with going viral?
  • Can you handle the free spirit? Blogs, by nature, are supposed to be inviting and authentic. For some companies, it is easy to be open. For other companies, being open comes with some uneasiness.
  • Have you considered the legal implications? It is likely that your company blog will be updated far more often than your other marketing materials. This means there are more opportunities for your company to be inadvertently involved in a legal issue. Just because a blog is a more casual affair does not mean you can neglect to consider consumer protection laws or advertising rules.

While many of these issues are unlikely to happen, they are still risks worth considering when deciding to add a blog to your company’s website.

4. Be Confident Pushing Forward

While answering these questions may feel daunting, be confident that having a plan will set up your company’s blog for immense long-term success. It will also give you an edge over your competitors, who are likely flailing, or worse, suffering from consequences that could easily be avoided.

Responsive Websites or Mobile Website: Which is For You?

The time has come. As of this month, Google has announced that more searches are conducted on mobile devices than on desktops—a milestone the industry has been tracking for years.

With this tipping of the scales, Google has announced that it will give precedence in mobile search results to sites that are mobile-friendly. We’re talking billions of search queries while people are on the go, and many websites are scrambling to make their websites look great on mobile—not only for user experience, but to stay in the game when Google returns search results.

But how to proceed? Should your site be made “responsive” so it fits any size device, or should you create a separate mobile website?

We compare and contrast the two options:

Option 1: Responsive Design

Description: A responsive site will automatically adjust all elements on the page to the size window you’re using: desktop, tablet, or mobile screens large and small.
Example: www.cazarin.com (If you resize your browser window, the content shifts to accommodate it.)

Pros:

  • The site works regardless of device size, because it scales and moves content dynamically to fit each screen.
  • There is only one site, so you don’t have to worry about duplicate content issues. This also makes maintenance easier.
  • Any changes to the site can be done once.
  • This option will also adapt to whatever devices your visitors may be using in the future.

Cons:

  • For current sites, this means a full-scale redesign, so it’s much more labor-intensive and takes more time. (New sites can be created as responsive sites. If your site is due for a redesign, this may be the best option.)

Option 2: Separate Mobile Site

Description: Build a small separate site, and redirect mobile devices to the mini-site instead of the main one.
Example: m.boisclaircorporation.com

Pros:

  • This is a faster, cheaper approach. You can choose to put just a few of your most important pages up, and then link to the main site for pages that are viewed less often.
  • If you want to have a significantly different experience for mobile users, it may be best to create a separate mobile site.

Cons:

  • This approach requires more maintenance, since you now have two sites. Content will need to be kept consistent between two different versions.
  • Site traffic, backlinks, and other SEO factors will be diluted due to this being a separate site from your main domain.
  • The mobile site is generally sized to fit the smallest standard mobile screen size. This means it won’t always necessarily fit different devices perfectly.
  • In the future, a separate mobile site will become more and more difficult to maintain as device sizes change.
In Google’s eyes, both methods (responsive website or mobile website) are acceptable. To determine if your current site is ok for mobile use, or if you need to make some changes, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

Cazarin Interactive can help you determine the best mobile website option for you, and get your site up and running on all devices.