The importance of responding to customers online could not be more prevalent as reviews continue to grow more than ever before. Aside from the fact that reviews from customers help others decide whether they should visit a business or not, reviews are now more prevalent on search results pages—meaning a lot of eyes can see what is being said about your company online.
The influence that reviews have on shoppers is staggering: more than 88% of online shoppers incorporate reviews into their purchase decisions (Webrepublic, 2015). Businesses are told to get more reviews on review websites to keep attracting new customers. With so many review websites out there, where does a business even begin? Your business may be afraid to manage customer reviews on review sites as you may not want to end up in one of these situations:
receive zero reviews
receive zero recent online reviews
receive negative online reviews
or, your business simply has unmanaged online reviews across multiple review websites
Unfortunately, your business is missing out. This lack of free online word of mouth is actually hurting your business through inaction, because reputation drives conversion.
1) Business reviews and social posts help shape your company’s online reputation
In fact, one of the worst things your business can do is ignore your online reviews and social posts. As easy as it is to make a mistake when handling your business’s online reputation, it can also be easy to recover if done properly (and with apology). While damage will inevitably happen, your business can take steps to mitigate the degree of damage that can occur. The biggest mistake of all your company can make is not participating in helping to shape the conversation about your company online.
2) Business reviews provide valuable feedback for your business
While it can be easy for your business to take negative comments to heart, it is important to recognize that reviews are constructive feedback. All in all, reviews are valuable feedback! They help your company gauge their performance and see how you can improve. There is always room for improvement and a lot can be learned even from positive business reviews. Through reviews, your business can see which products or services you should be boasting, which needs work, and even discover which employees rock at customer service.
3) Your business reviews can now appear in search results
Search engines have caught on to the popularity of reviews and are now displaying them more prominently. So, if someone searches for your business, there is a chance that reviews from review websites could be displayed on the search engine results pages. In Google’s markup—the annotated content that appears in search—of a company or product, business reviews and ratings can now be included in search results. In other words, when a user performs a search on Google, Google will find and possibly display review summaries from online business reviews and consumer ratings. Below is an example of how business reviews now showing up in search results.
How can businesses get more reviews?
There are a variety of methods your business can employ to ask for more business reviews, including emailing consumers manually, using surveys, asking consumers to leave reviews with codes and review sites on their receipts, or utilizing review generation software to automate the business review process.
Three important review website management tips:
1) Remember to add or claim listings on the top review sites
It’s a good idea to add or claim a listing or business profile on the most popular review sites (unless your business doesn’t fit with the niche), correct your business’s listing information and start getting more business reviews!
2) Your business should keep asking customers for reviews
Asking the average customer for a review can be hard work. Granted, it is often easiest to get reviews from consumers that are either really happy or really unhappy with the level of service they were provided. Your business should always remember to ask as customers are busy creatures and will not remember unless they are asked or reminded to leave feedback.
3) Customers are more open to leaving reviews on review sites
Why not just ask for business reviews or testimonials on your business’s website? Well, asking consumers to leave a review on your business’s website seems a lot more screened and inauthentic than simply asking consumers to leave reviews on a trusted review site. Since the review site is a third party, it feels more open for customers to leave an honest, unbiased review.
Business reviews are here to stay
In conclusion, there’s no getting away from business reviews. The good news is that there are methods to get more business reviews as well as effectively managing reviews from customers. Also, businesses needn’t fear negative online reviews, as there are ways to negate the effect of negative reviews.
Search engines strive to create the best user experience possible, providing the most relevant, useful information based on the user’s search terms. If they didn’t, users would no longer rely on them for information.
This is good news: the more relevant, informative and useful user experience you create, the better the chances that search engines will serve your pages. By practicing good search engine optimization (SEO) habits, you can continually work to increase your search engine results page (SERPs) position. Here are some top SEO practices for SERP success.
On page (your website) SEO practices:
1. Relevant keywords: Using a keyword tool can help determine which words will help attract the most visitors based on popular search terms. Pick the most relevant, popular keywords for your business and try to rank for different keywords on your web page.
2. Short, catchy and original title tags: Title tags describe what your website is all about while attracting the user’s attention enough to (hopefully) click through to your pages. Limit the title tag description to 55 characters so it will display well on SERPs. Keep title tags descriptive yet short and sweet to help crawlers and users determine the relevancy of your page.
3. Keywords at the beginning of page title tags: Google puts more weight on the start of the title tag, so try to keep the keywords at the beginning.
4. Keyword focused meta descriptions: The meta description appears under the title tag on SERPs and gives users a chance to learn more about your company before clicking into your site. Aim for a meta-description length of 150-160 characters.
5. Proper sitemap: Make sure your website’s structure is up-to-date and easy to navigate. The better the site structure, the easier search engine crawlers can find and index pages. Aim for a three-click rule—customers should find what they need on your site in three clicks.
6. Properly structured, SEO-friendly URLs: URLs help crawlers to figure out page topic and relevancy. Creating short URLs with your keyword in it, using “-” instead of “_” between words as well as static words (rather than numbers) will help users and crawlers read URLs faster and easier. Also, try to use sub-directory root domains instead of sub-domains.
7. Link internally with anchor text: Linking internally to your other web pages adds keyword-rich internal links to every page. Internal linking helps search engines crawl and index your site, provides readers with more reading options and improves ranking for some of your keywords.
8. Outbound links: Referencing and linking to reputable (authoritative) sources shows you are a helpful internet information steward that is willing to share pagerank. On the internet, helpful sharing is caring.
9. Website’s loading speed: Search engines do not like slow pages as they know that users will not wait long for a website to load. Strive for lickity-split load times.
10. Really helpful content: Create relevant content on your pages that is easy to read, unique, helpful, fresh and grammatically flawless. Your content should be so helpful and relevant that your target audience will want to stay on your page and others will want to link to it.
Off page SEO practices:
1.Search engine submission: It can take a while for search engines to find and crawl your site. You can help to speed up the process by submitting your website to popular search engines.
2. Local directory submission: Submitting your business listing information to top or niche directories creates more places where users can find you and crawlers can confirm your business information. Be sure to submit NAP (name, address, phone number). And, if possible, website and category. A high percentage of searches are by keyword rather than business name, so strive to use category information wherever possible.
3. Social media marketing: Be present on all relevant social channels and manage your online reputation. Strive to get likes, shares and links by being 80% helpful and 20% promotional.
4. Video marketing: Help users find out about your business by sharing your relevant and helpful videos on sites such as Youtube, Vimeo, etc.
5. Backlink outreach: Earn backlinks by conducting content PR to get others to read your pages and possibly link to you. The more quality backlinks your web page has, the more authority it has, and the more search engines will deem the page as relevant and useful.
6. Forums and communities: Answering questions in forums and communities can help to build your reputation as an industry expert. This can provide a possible opportunity to include your website or blog link if it is relevant to the answer.
Welcome to the most comprehensive collection of design, functionality and content stats for websites.
Imagine a world where a single, gigantic shopping mall hosted a store for every business across the globe. It’s easy to imagine that any business that doesn’t have a store in this mall may as well not exist, as every consumer looking to shop would come to the mall to find what they need. If a business was nowhere to be found in this mall, the consumer would shop at one of the other infinite stores. Simple solution: all businesses need a store. However, simply having a store in the mall is not enough. Each store needs visible signage spread all throughout the mall to entice consumers, and businesses need to be accurately listed in the mall directories so shoppers know they exist. The more often a business and products/services are displayed and mentioned around the shopping mall, the easier it is for the shoppers to locate the store. Another simple solution: businesses need visible signage, and accurate listings in the mall directories. But, again, there’s more to attracting customers than just having pretty signs, and the store itself has to provide value, too. Once the consumer walks through the door, the look, feel and contents of a store have to be good enough to keep customers from turning around and walking out again.
Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Good thing this shopping mall doesn’t exist, right? Wrong. The thing is, this shopping mall exists. It’s called the Internet. The store is your website. Everything that holds true for stores in our fantasy shopping mall is true for businesses on the internet. Accurate signs and listings in the appropriate directories will get a business found, but it’s the business’s website that’s going to keep consumers interested. With over half of businesses having websites, businesses who want to experience success need to know how to stand out.
These stats for websites illustrate why it’s essential to build the best store in the mall, and how to keep traffic and conversion rates on the rise.
1. The average revenue for a small business is $3.6 million, but the average revenue for a small business with a website is $5.03 million 2. 53% of small businesses had websites in 2014 3. 67% of businesses with annual sales of $1,000,000 – $2,490,000 have websites
4. 64% of shoppers who had a poor experience with their site visit will shop somewhere else next time 5. 39% of consumers will stop engaging with content if the images won’t load 6. 39% of consumers give up on content when it takes too long to load 7. 47% of consumers expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less 8. 23% of online shoppers will stop shopping if page loads are too slow, while 14% of online shoppers will take their business to another site 9. More than half (52%) of online shoppers say that quick page loading times are important for their loyalty to a site 10. Delays at peak traffic times made more than 75% of online consumers abandon a site for a competitor’s 11. A one second delay in website loading time can lead to a 7% loss in conversion 12. Increasing your site’s loading speed from 8 seconds to 2 seconds can boost conversion rate by 74% 13. A site that takes 6 seconds to load will have a 50% loss in conversion 14. 40% of consumers will abandon a website that takes longer than 3 seconds to load 15. 75% of online consumers will use the “back” button before a slow page fully loads 16. 51% of American online shoppers say that a slow loading time is the top reason they abandon a purchase 17. Slow websites cost retailers $2.6 billion in lost sales each year
18. 38% of consumers will stop engaging with content that is unattractive in imagery or layout 19. A consumer’s first-impression of a website is 94% design-related 20. Website credibility is judged 75% on the site’s overall design 21. 85% of consumers will abandon a site due to poor design 22. Given 15 minutes, 66% of consumers would prefer consuming content that is beautifully designed than something simple 23. It takes consumers 0.05 seconds to form an opinion about your website, so use that time wisely! 24. The right colors increase brand recognition by 80% 25. 52% of consumers states “aesthetics” as the main reason why they would not return to a site
26. 90% of consumers use multiple devices sequentially 27. Not only are 97% of millennials mobile users, but 20% don’t use desktop at all 28. 61% of digital media time is spent on mobile, with only 39% on desktop 29. 85% of adult consumers believe that a company’s mobile site should be good or better than the desktop version 30. 65% of customers develop a better opinion of brands, services and products when they have a great mobile experience 31. 88% of consumers prefer to shop with retailers that deliver connected cross-channel experiences 32. If consumers have a good experience on your mobile site, they are 59% more likely to make a purchase 33. 67% of online shoppers are more likely to buy from a site that is compatible with mobile devices 34. Mobile-commerce (m-commerce) saw an annual growth of 56% in 2015, while desktop e-commerce only saw an increase of 8% 35. 50% of online shopping is done on a mobile device 36. Almost 70% of tablet users make a purchase on their device every month 37. Over 20% of tablet owners admit to shopping less in real life since they purchased their device 38. While 50% of consumers will switch devices if they are having trouble interacting with the content on a site, 33% will stop engaging entirely 39. 62% of companies that designed a site specifically for mobile experienced an increase in sales
40. 47% of consumers check the products/services pages of a website first 41. 65% of consumers want to see contact information on the site’s home page 42. 44% of consumers left the website because there was no contact information 43. Over half of consumers want to see an “about us” section on a company’s home page 44. 54% of consumers find that a lack of contact information available on a vendor’s site reduces the vendor’s credibility 45. In a study of 200 small business websites, 70% did not display clear calls-to-action 46. TL;DR! 38% of consumers will stop engaging if the content is too long 47. 50% of sales are lost because consumers can’t find the content they’re looking for 48. 46% of consumers say that the most annoying thing about a website is the lack of message (unable to tell what the company does) 49. Keep it down! 33% of consumers said that video/audio that plays automatically on a website annoyed them or caused them to leave 50. 69% of consumers reported that having too many form fields deterred them from filling out a contact form 51. 70% of viewers look at lists with bullets, while only 55% look at lists without 52. Websites that have 51-100 pages generate 48% more traffic than website with 50 pages or less 53. 69% of North American marketers say that personalized and dynamic content is important for their business’s website 54. 20% of consumers think that a blog helps establish a company’s credibility 55. B2B companies that blog once/twice a month generate 70% more leads than companies that don’t blog at all
Sources: business2community, Adobe, Econsultancy, Statistic Brain, Hosting Facts, Online Marketing Institute, KoMarketing, Fifty and Fifty, NN Group, InvasionApp, TechRadar, comScore, IronPaper, Business Insider, Kinesis Inc, Entrepreneur
The world has gone digital, and business has followed. It’s easier to go where your audience is than to bring them to your door, and the biggest audience lives online. Carving out your own corner of digital space with a killer website is the first step to dominating the online world, and these stats for websites can be your guide.
300 million—the number of people on Instagram every single day. Businesses are taking advantage of Instagram by using it as a resource to gain popularity and increase their customer base. In fact, top brands like Nike and National Geographic have over 60 million Instagram followers!
So why would any business pass up this opportunity? If you’re not a regular ‘grammer, starting your own page (and growing it) can be overwhelming. The success of your Instagram will be determined by how you run your account. These Instagram tips will help you gain a booming fan following, and lead the way to sensation status.
Instagram Tips #1: #Hashtags
Hashtags could be one of the most important components of gaining popularity on Instagram. Posts that include at least one hashtag have seen up to 12.6% increased engagement. To put it simply, hashtags are a tag that helps categorize photos with the same theme or content.
In your mastery of hashtags, make sure to keep them short, simple and most importantly, relevant. For example, when posting a photo of my fancy new watch, I may use the hashtags #watch, #michaelkors and #rosegold. Short, sweet and descriptive.
If you want to connect to local ‘grammers, hashtags with your location are a good idea. Additionally, many businesses create their own unique hashtag and ask their followers to use it.
For example, Coca-Cola encourages their fans to post Instagram Coke photos with the hashtag #ShareaCoke. This can be a great marketing tool, and help define your brand online.
Another important note to remember is to not over-hashtag, as this can make your posts look spammy, and will actually attract other spam accounts.
Instagram Tips #2: Tag a brand
When you tag another Instagram account in your photos, your photo will show up in the brand’s ‘“photos of you” section of their profile. They will receive a notification, and with any luck, may even engage with your post! Better yet, they could also start following you back, or even re-gram your photo!
Make sure the photo actually features the brand, otherwise you can get flagged for spam. Most big brands will have an Instagram account, and chances are, they probably have an expansive list of followers themselves.
For example, a jeweler could take a photo of a piece from their newest collection, and tag the designer in the photo. Getting some exposure from a big brand could help you significantly increase followers, and in turn, get more likes!
Instagram Tips #3: Use Visually Appealing Photos
Although it seems obvious, this point is oh-so important. You don’t have to be an expert photographer to have a stellar collection of Instagram photos, but you may need some practice. One of the most important bits of advice is to keep it simple. If you are featuring products in a photo, make sure the background is simple so that your product stands out. A cluttered photo will take away from what you are trying to promote. Sometimes, a crisp white background is the best option.
Instagram has many filters to choose from, so take some time to play around with them to see which one suits your photo best! Does your photo look best without a filter? Simply leave it alone! Alternatively, Instagram gives you the option to use their editing tools, where you can make some simple adjustments like brightening or removing shadows, rather than choosing a filter.
Take a few different photos and decide which is the most visually appealing. Taking good photos may take a bit of time, but like anything, practice makes perfect. Don’t give up, and you’ll be taking photos like a pro in no time!
Instagram Tips #4: Know Your Audience
It’s important to remember your audience and who you are targeting with your posts. What is the purpose of your Instagram page? Whether the purpose is to educate, promote or entertain followers, you should keep that in mind with each and every photo and caption. If your account is purely professional, keep it informative and concise. If you are marketing towards a younger audience and want to keep things fun and upbeat, ensure the dialog matches accordingly. Try using some emojis, be goofy and have fun! Show people what you are passionate about, and just remember to target the people with your same interests!
Instagram Tips #5: Ask For It
Your Instagram account is a conversation point with your customers. Most followers scroll through their feed passively, and won’t take any action unless it’s asked of them. Give them a call to action, and ask for it! For example, Double tap if you like coffee, tag a friend who likes coffee, share this photo if you love coffee, click the link in our bio for free coffee, etc. (Can you tell what’s on my mind right now?) If your customers oblige, this will increase your page’s activity, likes, and followers.
Most importantly, don’t forget to have a little bit of fun! Happy ‘grammin!
Digital advertising comes in many different varieties, including display advertising (those web banners next to your favorite Youtube videos), sponsored ads (such as those on Google and Facebook), and of course, search ads—just to name a few!
So where do you start?
While there are so many online options to choose from, reaching your intended audience will still require a little bit of work. Luckily, using digital advertising to get your message across is easier than you think.
Pick the right Platform
In 2008, only 24 percent of the United States had a social media account. Today that number has skyrocketed to 81%. While traditional mediums such as television and newspapers still have their place, most companies are turning towards digital advertising for the majority of their needs—and who could blame them?
As of 2016, tech titans Google and Facebook together control over nearly 76% of total internet revenue growth. Furthermore, in the third quarter of the same year, Google and Facebook together controlled 99% of advertising growth, with this number projected to be on the rise). So why would you settle for anything but the best? Pick the right digital platforms and go where you’ll be seen.
Know your Audience
Knowing your target demographic is undoubtedly one of the most beneficial tools in your advertising toolbox. Why? First off, not only does it give you a leg up for reaching the most likely people to buy your product or service, but it also helps to pick the appropriate platform and technology to deliver your message. But be warned. Once you have their attention, there’s still plenty of work to do!
To push all the right buttons, advertisers need to know exactly what to say. Great content moves people—and in turn, products. It keeps audiences engaged, entertained and coming back for more!
Did you know? The average clickthrough rate of display ads across all formats is a measly 0.06%. From the moment that first browser opens in the morning until that last cat video before bed, internet users are bombarded with dozens of digital advertisements. By the time they get to work they’ve seen so many digital ads that they’ll likely only remember one or two, if that.That’s why it is vital to have the most creative content on the web to achieve that long sought after CLICK.
When YouTube celebrities Rhett and Link rattled funny bones as the ‘Commercial Kings’ in the late 2000’s, they were an instant hit. Their witty (and often outrageous) videos generated millions of views for small businesses. How, you ask? By parodying cheesy retro-style TV ads. And while you don’t have to break out into 90’s jingles and fake mustaches, you can win over big crowds by being entertaining, and authentically you. So go against the grain and dare to be different!
As the internet continues to advance, media is consumed differently. More and more people are getting their entertainment and news from streaming options such as Netflix, Roku, Hulu and YouTube. So what does this mean for digital advertising? Interaction! Interactive ads get a higher clickthrough rate of around 6 percent, whereas most digital ads remain at a fraction of one percent.
Good advertisements tell a story that engages the audience. If you’re a restaurant owner, enticing future customers with a snappy ad no longer cuts the mustard. But when you intrigue potential buyers with an eye catching video, a hilarious one-liner or a captivating call to action, you give them autonomy. Don’t tell customers what to think, but instead show them why buying your product is the best decision.
Keep it short and sweet
Don’t say too much! Short messages that pack a wallop and avoid cliches go a long way in the digital advertising world. Hook readers in with a memorable joke, a one liner, or a quick play on words.
Tug at their heartstrings
When Coca Cola launched their Remove Labels campaign it gave audiences a friendly reminder not to judge someone by their looks, but by their words. And whether your message is sensitive or funny, at its core it should come across as authentic.
Today’s audiences are smart and expect more than basic pandering. They want engaging content that scratches beyond the surface of a product and relates to them on a meaningful level. That’s why today’s most memorable campaigns reject tradition in exchange for something more sincere.
While traditional word of mouth will always impact local business, the trick is to give them something positive to talk about. The most important thing about your digital advertising campaign should be about connecting with your audience. A little passion goes a long way.
Successful digital advertising plucks viewers’ heartstrings and entices with humor. It takes you on an emotional roller coaster by conjuring up feelings of forgotten memories and nostalgia. Most importantly, whatever your approach, be sure to make an emotional connection with your audience—leave them breathless and standing in awe, or contemplative with the warm fuzzies. Make your digital ad memorable and appealing, and thereby your brand. Remember, if you think your message is fun and entertaining, so will your audience!
Data aggregators run the world. The world of local search, any way. Data aggregators supply information to major search engines like Google, which means that having good business listing info on data aggregators can help it get right on Google. These aggregators have built massive business databases from valuable listing sources like yellow page directories, phone directories, utility records, and various online information providers. They’ve got an unbelievable amount of business data that search engines look to when finding local listing information for businesses.
There are four major data providers: Factual, Acxiom, Infogroup and Localeze. Their databases contain business information that search engines seek out to display for consumers. This information is the basis of where many online citations come from. What exactly is a citation, you ask? Citations are when a business is mentioned somewhere online, and the more citations a business has generated, the more likely their business is to appear higher in search rankings.
The major data aggregators provide information that help businesses get found correctly on online resources such as:
These online resources are only a few of the sources that receive data from the data aggregators. Obviously sites like Google Maps, Facebook and Yellow Pages are crucial places to be listed for businesses that want to be found online. Businesses need to get their information correct with these data providers, or they risk not being found by potential consumers.
Every business wants online visibility! Do you want to master SEO with all of the major data aggregators, and generate and as many business citations as possible? I thought so.
What is a citation?
As mentioned above, a citation is simply anytime a business is mentioned somewhere online. Many people believe that citations are links to websites, but this isn’t necessarily true. Although a citation can be linked, they don’t have to contain a link to be considered a citation. To break it down further, let’s look at how citations can appear online:
Company name (alone)
Phone number (alone)
Company name and phone number
Company name, phone number and address
Company name, phone number, address and link
Though any of these combinations is considered a citation, a citation is not considered to be complete unless it contains the company name, address and phone number (NAP). Businesses who have their NAP data correct with the major data providers have a better chance of seeing their correct information appearing all across the web.
Citations can appear in a structured or unstructured manner, here’s how you can distinguish the difference between the two:
A structured citation is the most common type of citation, and usually the most detailed when consumers are looking for business information. People see structured business citations on business listing sites like Yellowpages, Yelp or TripAdvisor. In most cases, these citations contain the NAP for a business, something consumers are looking for in local search.
An unstructured citation can be found on random websites, blogs, event listings, job posting sites, government records or social media mentions. These are unstructured because they could be as simple as a company mention. Usually these citations don’t include a business’s NAP data.
No matter how a citation appears, it has influence on the local search ranking in some way for a particular business. Data aggregators play an important role in getting a business listed or found on many major websites.
The importance of building citations
Citations have a major influence on local search rankings. Basically, the more times a business is mentioned online, the better chance their business has to rank near the top of local search.
Google’s search ranking algorithm has many moving parts, which means that citation building isn’t the only thing a business has to do in order to rank on search engines. Online reviews, mobile compatibility, domain authority and keyword density are just a few other factors that influence local search.
This doesn’t mean that citations don’t play an important role in local search ranking, though. In fact, David Mihm’s local search study suggest that citation related factors are very important: they make up 25% of the top twenty factors the influence local search.
So what do data aggregators do?
Data aggregators provide a lot of the data to search engines when conducting a local search. The aggregators own the space known as the local search ecosystem, a place where local searches get all of their data.
There you see the four major data aggregators: Infogroup, Acxiom, Localeze, and Factual. As you can see, many major directories and listings sites rely on these data providers for their information. Like we mentioned earlier, the data aggregators are the foundation of what builds structured citations on major sites.
Although the picture might seem like a lot to comprehend, the underlying message that you should take away from this is really simple: get business data right with the major data aggregators.
Incorrect data on any of these aggregators could mean that a business’s information online is extremely inconsistent or down right wrong on many major listings sites and directories. Inconsistent information hurts SEO, so be sure to have your business correctly listed with all the major players.
Business citations rely on the power of data aggregators! We see that data aggregators have a major influence on the amount of reputable sources that a business is cited on because they automatically input business data into various sources for a business. This means not having to manually plug in information into each and every business-relevant site on the worldwide web.
Get it right!
There is no secret that we are keeping from you, or a fancy trick to increasing online citations. It’s as simple as getting it right with the major data aggregators. Local search is a major deal for businesses, especially for small businesses. A company could potentially force themselves into bankruptcy if their online visibility is non-existent.
Consumers rely on the internet and search engines to interact with local businesses. According to Google, “four in five consumers use search engines to find products, services or experiences nearby.” These are searches for anything, from the best pizza in town to the fastest hair salon. Local search is what drives consumers to a business’s front door, and ultimately drives top-line revenue for local business.
Make sure that your business gets it right, and isn’t missing from vital local search results. Start using data aggregator: it’s the first step in building accurate online citations and mastering local SEO.
So, your business has decided to take the leap into the blogosphere. Great! There’s no shortage of reasons why blogging can benefit your business. However, the world of business blogging may still feel like uncharted territory. What should your blog discuss? How many posts should get published, and how often? Just who the heck is going to read this stuff, anyway? This blog about blogging (a meta-blog?) is intended to help you hit the ground running with tips on creating timely and fresh blogs that meet the needs and engage the minds of your readership.
Lay the foundation
A great blog starts with a great plan, and the planning stage is where you first answer the big questions that will determine what you write about, who you write for, and why you’re writing in the first place. Before you fire up your typewriter, be sure to nail down answers to the following questions:
Start with buyer personas—who is going to be interested in what your business has to say? What are their pain points, and how do your products or services address and resolve them? Targeting your content to a specific readership makes it more likely to be seen (and shared).
Develop a list of keywords relevant to your buyer personas. What kinds of search terms will they use when they’re looking for solutions? Knowing your keywords and putting them into use can optimize your blog to be found, guide your writing process and keep your copy consistent.
How often will you write? The fresher and more frequent your content, the more you’ll have to offer to your readership, and the more Google’s page rankings will look favorably on your website.
Set measurable goals in both the short and the long term. Are you looking to grow your email list and cultivate new leads, or are you focused on making your brand’s voice trusted and authoritative in your field? Whatever your goals, ensure that you have reliable metrics for measuring your progress.
Pick your topics
Are you drawing a blank every time you sit down to write? It may be easy to simply write a product feature or fluff up a sales pitch, but it’s important to remember that the point of your blogs is to provide value to your audience, not to sell to them. Take a look at your buyer personas and their pain points or problems, and assemble them into categories. These categories and their relevant personas will focus your writing and guide your use of keywords to optimize the SEO boost that the post provides. From here, you can begin to address some general topics.
Another great source of blogging inspiration is your existing customer base. Think about the kinds of questions from customers that you answer on a regular basis. Many of these represent common pain points, and can easily turn into full blog posts. For every one customer who comes in or sends and email with a common question, just imagine how many there are tapping their query into Google in search of an answer!
For example, a furniture store might write a blog on the difference in durability between leather, vinyl, and fabric upholsteries, or the different types of mattresses and their levels of support. An informative post that answers common questions and gives your readers information that they can act on is going to rank higher on search engines and position your business as a source of information that readers can trust.
Content (not copy) is king
Getting the copy down is one thing, but your blog will be as dry as a bone without engaging content to supplement that copy. The content that your copy supports, more than anything, is what sets your blog apart from your competitors and drives the solution to your readership’s problem.
It’s best to make your own, but there are plenty of resources out there for those who don’t collect data or employ a design team.
Provide relevant and substantiated statistics in the form of graphs and infographics—these add credibility to your posts, and can provide shock value when used properly.
Header and Sub-header Images
Use visuals to break up the text. The text of headers and sub-headers can often be incorporated into a relevant image that draws the reader’s attention and invites them to read further. A well-chosen graphic or photograph can serve to break up the monotony of plain text as well as add a visual frame to the information the audience receives.
Screenshots/photos Finally, use screenshots or photos to demonstrate your solution in action. Remember that you’re here to provide value, not to sell.Getting to the end of a blog and feeling like you just read a really long ad means that you’re not going to come back for anything informative or authoritative. The more your readers can learn from your post, the more likely they are to return to your blog when they have another question that needs an answer.
What’s your Story?
Tell compelling stories (and write snappy titles). Narrative is a powerful tool, and we’ve known how to use it in sales and marketing for a long time. The same goes for your blogs. Framing the movement from conflict to resolution as a journey makes your audience more receptive to the information you have to share and puts it within a familiar and memorable framework.
Start with choosing a narrative voice. Anecdotes and stories about your business can use a first-person voice to draw readers in and demonstrate your unique way of overcoming challenges in ways that others can learn from and put into practice. A second-person voice (like the one used in this blog) allows readers to visualize themselves acting out your solutions as your offer them, while a third-person voice is suited to communicating stories about how your business has been part of another customer’s success.
Leverage your buyer personas and their challenges to tell stories that will engage your audience and show how your business fits into their lives. Your posts don’t have to read like a novel, but putting your info in action will help transform your blog from a lecture into a success story.
Sharing is Caring
You’ve written something you’re proud of, so be sure to put it out there! Share your new blog on your business’ other marketing channels, and put the work in to gain readers other than Googlers and regular visitors to your site. Leveraging your business’ social media following to widen your blog’s audience has the added benefit that a new post that a follower finds useful or interesting is always easy to share with their own network. The more readers that come to see your business as a trusted source of information, the better!
Your blogs can (and should) also link to one another. Where there’s an overlap in information or your blog posts address similar issues, have them link to each other! An engaged reader will always be ready to find out more, and demonstrating that you have more information to offer is never a bad thing.
Finally, and importantly, bring things home with a with a call to action. Have you ever gotten to the end of an interesting article, how-to or blog post and been filled with the inspiration to immediately test what you’ve learned? While the point of your blog isn’t to sell, it’s important to give your readers something to engage with that allows them to take action and apply their new knowledge. Whether it’s more content, a link to a product or promotion or a contact form, your readers will have a way to act on their inspiration, and you will have a way to track engagement and turn readers into leads.
Here’s hoping this blog has inspired you to start writing your own! By following these tips, you should be well on your way to inspiring your own readers with engaging stories, compelling content, and valuable information that will position your business as a reliable source of information. Write well, help others and have fun!
SEO is the key to conquering the internet, and as the digital climate becomes increasingly saturated, it is becoming more important than ever to make sure that you are making every effort to get seen on the web. One of the easiest ways to give your sites a little extra boost is by implementing the right WordPress plugins.
Wait… I thought that finding the right SEO plugin was my problem?
You’re close. Everyone wants the one plugin that is going to single handedly cuddle their site up against that ever-desirable Google search bar. Although this result is possible, the reality is that the SEO market is becoming an increasingly competitive and saturated one. This context makes it more important than ever to have a better structured and optimized website with a search engine friendly hierarchy so that you can set yourself apart, and be ranked above your competition. Much to your dismay, that may involve a bit of a plugin stack.
The Essential SEO Plugin Stack
Whether you’re building sites for clients, or your own business, mastering SEO will be the key to growing and sustaining a strong online presence. Fortunately, we know how to get you there.
There are 7 critical pieces to the SEO puzzle. To start, you NEED an overall on-site SEO plugin to cover the basics, such as: meta tags, sitemaps, robots, etc. Then, there are an additional 6 complementary sections for plugins that will offer that competitive edge that you’re looking for:
It is true that it’s a bit of a catch 22 when it comes to plugins and website speed, being that the shear volume of plugins being used will have an impact on the website speed. However, by using the right stack to build your SEO, the benefits will outweigh the harms.
Let’s dive in.
1. On-site SEO Plugins
An on-site SEO plugin will be the foundation of your infrastructure. For your convenience, we narrowed it down to only 2 contenders, Yoast SEO and All in One SEO Pack.
These 2 plugins have both been around for a decade already, and are still at the top of the food chain.
Price: Free with Paid Premium Option
Through walk-throughs and advanced settings, Yoast is the one stop shop for beginners and experts alike. Featuring sitemaps, title and meta descriptions, and the ability to connect Google Search Console, this plugin does everything to please users and search engine spiders alike.
With built in content and SEO analysis, Yoast can also insure that your content is always killer (in Google’s eyes as well as prospect’s eyes). By upgrading to premium, you also gain access to a local SEO extension which adds a local schema markup to your web pages. Other premium features include video and news extensions.
Most used SEO plugin on market with 5M+ active installs
Thousands of daily downloads
Effectively combines content and SEO
Uses JSON_LD for local
5 star-rating across nearly 20,000 reviews on WordPress.org
All in One SEO Pack
Price: Free with Paid Premium Option
All in One SEO Pack is the original SEO plugin that works out-of-the-box for beginners with advanced features for developers. XML sitemaps, and overridable meta descriptions/keywords allow users to to optimize their SEO efforts.
This plugin is also highly durable being that it is translated into 57 languages and works well with a variety of other plugins. All in One provides local SEO recommendations and keyword ranking for users as well.
The ONLY free plugin to provide SEO Integration for e-Commerce sites, including WooCommerce
Over 3M active installs
4.5 star-rating across 500+ reviews on WordPress.org
The On-site SEO Winner
Yoast SEO. Industry experts and Vendastians all agree that Yoast is essentially the modern-day standard when it comes to WordPress SEO plugins. The free version will accommodate users of all levels of expertise and ensure all of your bases are covered.
2. Mobile Website Optimization Plugins
This SEO factor earned itself a priority seat due to the fact that Google is now favoring outlets that are running on AMP code. Google announced just last month, January 2018, that it would begin prioritizing pages with fast mobile loading speed in their search algorithm. What this means is that mobile optimization will now be a high ranking factor in every sites overall SEO performance on Google.
This makes it more critical than ever to have your sites optimized for mobile. Considering that the majority of browsing these days is conducted from mobile devices, it just makes sense.
AMP for WordPress
Ever get frustrated when you’re trying to look something up on your phone and it takes 3 full days to load? We all lead pretty busy lives, and just don’t have time for that nonsense.
By using AMP for WordPress, you can insure that your prospects never give up hope as a result of a slow mobile site. By creating AMP content, which Google is now factoring into SEO rankings, this plugin caters to the needs of major AMP consumers such as Google Search.
Built by WordPress, not a third party, so compatibility is not a concern
Many 1 star reviews, and a 3.5 star overall rating on WordPress.org
200,000+ active installs (best in class)
AMP for WP
Price: Also free!
These guys also spared no creativity in terms of naming themselves, but I guess that there’s no harm in getting to the point either…
AMP for WP is pretty straight-forward, and simply adds AMP functionality to your WordPress site to improve mobile site speed through search engines (like Google!).
100,000+ active installations
4.5 star user rating on WordPress.org (best in class)
Yoast (and other SEO) plugin integration
The Mobile Optimization Winner
AMP for WP (the latter—these 2 are damn confusing). The reality is that both of these plugins are going to meet your mobile optimization needs, but it just feels like AMP for WordPress (the loser) has not put as much effort into customer satisfaction. Installs are declining and 1 star ratings on WordPress.org almost pair those of the 5 stars; which might be cause for some concern, ex:
Not what you want to see…
3. Broken Link Plugins
Links are kind of like family photos—sometimes they just go bad. Pages can be deleted, a site that you link to may vanish, or someone might move a post or page without updating others. These actions can all cause broken links.
And there is NOTHING worse than hitting a “404 Page not found” when you’re trying to find a new photographer for your family pictures.
By managing broken links on your site, you can mitigate user frustrations, questions of credibility, lost conversions, and damage to your SEO ranking. Yes, broken links factor quite heavily into your SEO ranking.
Broken Link Checker
Broken Link Checker scans your posts, pages, comments, blogs, and custom fields to detect links that don’t work, images that may be missing, and link redirects. This parsing can take some time as it verifies each and every link tied to your site. Once completed, it will present you with a list of broken links so that you can manage redirects and prevent prospects and customers from losing interest or losing track of you.
Has not been updated in 6 months…customer service?
500,000+ active installs (by far best in class)
4 star rating across nearly 400 reviews on WordPress.org
Offered in 30 languages
The Broken Link Winner
Only one candidate, and only one winner. Use this plugin, it will save your customers and prospects a lot of headache, and it will help optimize your overall SEO.
4. Speed Plugins
Page speed is a huge factor in search rankings because it a huge factor in user experience. Google recommends pages load in less than a half second, and that’s not always easy to achieve.
To tie into the above AMP category, this element has actually never been more important with Google recently announcing that page speed is now a ranking factor for mobile searching (where most searches occur).
I have offered up 2 site caching alternatives that will have a substantial impact on site load times, particularly with high volumes of traffic.
WP Fastest Cache
Price: Free, the best price.
With most of the functionality automated, and active page statistics, the WP Fastest Cache plugin is very user friendly. It creates a static html file so that high quantities of traffic do not produce slow render times on your site, and offers numerous options for managing cached files. It also comes with minify html and css options so that users can decrease the size of pages and css files.
Does not yet support WordPress Multisite
5 star rating and over 500,000 active installations
Offered in 17 languages
W3 Total Cache
Price: Free, always.
W3 Total Cache improves SEO and user experience by reducing dowload times and increasing performance. W3 comes with a host of caching options, minification features, as well as various security features. It also offers improved server performance to help weather those high traffic periods.
Only 9 out of 108 issues resolved in the past 2 months
4.5 star rating and over 1 million active installs (best in class)
Used by many large companies such as AT&T
The Speed Winner
This is actually a really tough one. I am going to crown W3 Total Cache as the victor for now due to the sheer volume of active users and the number of industry experts that swear by it. However, WP Fastest Cache is an excellent caching plugin, and is growing in popularity and downloads, so it would also make for a great alternative should you choose it.
5. Security Plugins
Security is a factor that owns varying degrees of concern. If you are a financial institution or a related field of business, security will likely hold a much greater precedence in your site infrastructure.
The primary impact of a security plugin for other business demographics is in regards to an SSL certificate (https). This certificate helps your site maintain rank on search providers and is rumoured to become a requirement for google sites in the near future. An SSL certificate can also directly translate to growth in rank, while also encrypting user data – an essential component on many websites.
Besides, who wants to be hacked by some sneaky black hat spammer?
Price: Free with Premium Option
Wordfence Security was built for the specific application of WordPress sites. It includes an endpoint firewall and malware scanner, as well as a Threat Defence Feed that insures that Wordfence is always up to date with the newest firewall rules, malware signatures, and malicious IP addresses it needs to keep your site safe.
2M+ active installs (best in class)
5 star rating across over 3000 reviews on WordPress.org
User friendly feeds to monitor performance
The Security Winner
We decided to keep it simple on this one being that Wordfence Security is all around best in class. This plugin is a favorite by industry experts worldwide, so it will surely meet your firewall and malware needs in the free version—with the option to pay for premium as you grow.
6. Image Optimization
The images that you utilize on your site build can have a huge impact on user experience as well as click and conversion rates. However, it is critical that you don’t forget to use an image optimization plugin to reduce image sizes (often up to 50%), and therefore page sizes, to boost your SEO rankings by greatly increasing page speed and user-friendliness.
There are hundreds of compressors, but really only a couple in the runnings.
Smush Image Compression and Optimization
Price: Free with Pro Option
Smush, seems like a fitting name right? This plugin does the bulk of the heavy lifting for you, so you really don’t need to stress about a steep learning curve. Smush automatically cuts the size of all of the images on your site to provide speed and quality. It also now allows for image resizing and is compatible with numerous other plugins on the market.
5 star rating and over 1 million active installs (best in class)
Huge benefits for mobile speeds
Highest performance reserved for paying customers only
Price: Free with Paid Premium
Short Pixel is on this list as a result of its cheaper premium option in comparison to the other image optimizers on the market. This plugin will accomplish relatively the same as Smush, but nearly all of these image optimization plugins are drastically limited in the free versions.
Therefore, if you find yourself growing, and in need of something more than what these free versions can offer, Short Pixel has one off the most affordable paid rates on the market, and will still reach upwards of 60% optimization.
They have resolved every single issue that has been reported to WordPress.org in the past 2 months (can somebody say customer service?)
4.5 star rating across nearly 300 reviews
Also offers huge benefits for mobile site speeds
One click bulk optimization (major time saver)
The Image Optimization Winner
Being that I recognized each of these plugins for different benefits, they are both winners in their own light. Smush is a near unanimous favorite for basic free image optimization, and ShortPixel is a great alternative if you are ready to take that first step into the realm of “paid plugins,” but don’t necessarily want to invest the capital that Smush or many others require.
7. Rich Snippet Plugins
What is a Rich Snippet?
Rich snippets are the fields that spice up your search result listing. You know those sites that have pictures and external ratings linked into their descriptions? There is less sorcery involved than you may have thought.
What’s special about this plugin is that you don’t have to write any code what-so-ever (and if your coding is anything like mine, this is a major blessing). Rich Snippet plugins present fields that you fill in, and the plugin automatically generates the code and tags for you.
Many website developers might not consider rich snippets an important tool in terms of SEO, but I’ll tell you why this interaction is important. Although rich snippets do not directly help you rank, they do provide increased visual appeal to your SERP result as you approach that first page of google. This visual appeal will likely increase your click through rate (CTR) which will then cause you to rank higher in terms of SEO.
It’s as simple as that.
All In One Schema Rich Snippets
Want to add review, event, product, recipe, video, article, or other schemas to your site snippet? All In One Schema Rich Snippets makes it possible in a highly user-friendly format so that you can make your site more interactive and improve your click through rates.
70,000+ active installs (by far best in class)
4.5 star rating across 100+ reviews on WordPress.org
Helps Facebook display proper information when users share your links on Facebook
The Rich Snippet Winner
I know, I did it again…to date, All in One Schema Rich Snippets has more or less monopolized the market, and is your best choice if you want to master all of the categories of SEO on your WordPress build.
Seven is the number of plugins you are going to need to have a world class SEO optimized site:
AMP for WP
Broken Link Checker
W3 Total Cache
Smush or ShortPixel
All In One Schema Rich Snippets
And one is the page number of Google results that you will likely find yourself on the keywords that matter most if you leverage this plugin combination.
Have you ever been at a party and caught a person or a group glancing at you while whispering covertly?
What’s up with that? Is your fly open? Does someone have a crush on you? Does someone want to throw a drink in your face?
You’d want to know, wouldn’t you?
The online universe is a lot like that party; It’s a system of digital communities in which people are gathering and discussing a wide variety of topics, including YOU. In your personal life, you may or may not care to find out what they’re saying, but in business, it’s essential to your survival that you know.
At the party, you may never get the answers you seek without shaking someone down. However, online, you can use social media monitoring to track mentions of your brand, competitors, product and any other keywords that are applicable to your business.
Monitoring your social media channels is about more than just listening.
The information you accumulate can help you make major decisions about your marketing strategy, the products and services you offer and how people regard your brand. Plus, it can help you identify leads, build relationships, stay on top of trends, learn about your competitors, protect your brand and more!
Note: This post is outlining organic social media monitoring tips, as opposed to paid social campaigns. Organic social media is more geared toward building brand awareness and connecting with your target audience. Paid social is typically centered around driving targeted actions like content downloads, webinar or appointment signups, and other specific goals.
Here’s more on why it’s so important that you monitor what people are saying about your business online.
Why Should You Use Social Media Monitoring?
1. To gauge social sentiment
What do you know about your brand’s reputation? You can get a feel by reading your reviews and speaking with customers, but you’d be missing a wealth of more informal brand or product mentions.
Plus, you need to be there to respond! In a recent survey, Sprout Social found that 89% of social messages go ignored. That’s a problem—and an even bigger missed opportunity.
People use social media to discuss the topics they care about within the communities they choose. That’s where you need to listen to truly discover how people regard your business, the issues they’re having, and the things they love.
2. To find leads & build relationships
Are people searching for your products and services? You’ve seen those calls on Facebook for recommendations, or the plaintive cries for help on Twitter: “I want pizza!” When you monitor your brand’s keywords or phrases, you can jump in and answer these requests (Just mention your current Monday 2 for 1 pizza deal!). NOT selling anything can be really effective too. Be a part of the conversations that are happening online about your industry.
3. To stay on top of trends
When you’re closely monitoring discussions in your niche, you may be able to catch new and evolving trends as they emerge. For example, when Instagram launched its “Stories” product, Snapchat growth took a major hit (growth slowed by 82%). In response to news like this, you may decide to alter your marketing strategy to be one of the first to dive into a new social channel or try a new tactic.
Why is this important? In an over-saturated market, doing the same thing as everyone else can get you lost in the crowd. Finding ways to stand out will help you get noticed and stay relevant in your industry.
4. To perform competitor research
Has your competition launched a product similar to what you offer, but at a lower price or with a few more bells and whistles? Did they just launch a marketing strategy that your customers are loving? Did they just screw up royally using a tactic you’ve been considering? Keeping your finger on the social pulse will alert you about these types of scenarios and unforeseen issues that may have huge repercussions for your business.
5. To protect your brand
Building your brand’s reputation takes a lot of time and effort, but it can all be lost in seconds.Monitoring your social channels allows you to identify any issues customers have and jump on solutions before they blow up.
Stuff happens. It’s inevitable.
It’s how you respond and how quickly you respond that matters. In fact, we’ve found that if a business resolves its issue quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy customers return to you.
Listening, identifying the issue and showing your customers you care and are taking steps to resolve the issue is what can turn them from a brand killer into a champion for your business.
What to Do With Your Social Media Monitoring Insights
So once you’re set up with the tools you need for monitoring, tracking, measuring and analysis, what do you do with the information? This is the key moment where you determine how to act on the knowledge you’ve received.
Shift Social Strategy
Is your strategy working? Are you truly getting traction on your primary social channels? You may discover that it’s time to re-evaluate the resources and effort you put into certain channels.
For example, maybe you discover that your people are super engaged in Quora. Devoting more time and resources there would be worth pursuing, even if it’s at the expense of another social channel.
Results from monitoring your competitors on social media could also yield some interesting insights as well. You may find that a new video tactic has people in your area or industry buzzing about a close competitor. Why let them go unchallenged?
Work on Developing Relationships With Leads & Influencers
If you can jump into conversations and authentically solve problems for people, do it! This tactic can be especially relevant when it comes to people’s frustrations with your competitor’s products or services. When you do this, it’s essential that you come from a really genuine place and offer tips or advice geared around helping people. People don’t want to be spammed, and sensitive topics like plastic surgery should be off-limits.
However, in many industries you should feel free to have real conversations with people around the topics they care about (which also happen to be topics YOU care about as a business owner!).
Spotting and reaching out to influencers in your industry as outlined in this post (Salesforce) can have an amazing amplification effect for your brand as well. People look to influencers to help them make purchasing decisions all the time, and if you can develop strong relationships with key influencers you can expect better results for much less work.
Image Source: Salesforce
Develop New Products/Services
Listening to the needs of your target audience is a smart way to refine your solutions and develop new ones. If enough people are saying they hate a product, or wish they could tweak it, it’s probably worth looking into what the issue is and try to determine what could make that product better.
For example, Natalia Chrzanowska of (Brand24) notes that GoPro did exactly that when they introduced their new camera – GoPro Hero4.
“We analyzed the social media discussions regarding both releases – Hero3+ and Hero4. The insights gathered during the Hero3+ premiere included lots of suggestions for features that could improve customer experience, which then appeared later on in the succeeding model – GoPro Hero4.”
On the flip side, if your customers LOVE one of your products, there may be an opportunity to develop similar or complimentary products or services.
You can then turn around and apply all this awesome feedback as testimonials for new campaigns. Think ad campaigns, email campaigns, social campaigns and beyond!
Update Customer Service Policy/Process
Social media has led to a major shift in how customer service is carried out by many companies. People want instant answers, and are less likely to put up with call centers. Many won’t even pick up the phone when they have a problem; They’ll just tweet about it! According to a new report from Conversocial, 54% of customers prefer customer service via social media and SMS. The upcoming generation of millennials will only amplify this trend.
People are sticking to their favorite social media platforms to air out their complaints, and you need to know if this is happening in your industry (and be ready for it).
In Jay Baer’s book Hug Your Haters, author and consultant Dave Kerpen notes that:
“If a customer calls you on the phone to complain, surely you wouldn’t hang up on them. And not responding in social media is akin to hanging up on them, only worse, because there are actually other people watching and listening.”
Letting complains hang out there unanswered is not acceptable to current and potential customers, and it shouldn’t be to you!
4 Easy Wins
I’ve thrown a lot of information you’re way. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and put off testing these strategies for yourself. To help you get started, here are a few easy action items for you to try out.
Jot down 3 of your top goals that you’re hoping monitoring your social channels will help you with. (example: Find out if people are liking the new kombucha flavor we just released).
Contact us to get set up with the social media monitoring tools you need. Poke around and see what value you can get out of the tools.
Enter a few of your brand’s keywords and see what data the tools come up with.
Look through the initial results. Make a list of 3 things you learned and whether you should discuss with your team.
Most businesses are aware that they should monitor social media for mentions related to their brand, products, services, competitors and industry. You might actually be doing so already. But do you have a plan in place to analyze, respond and integrate results into your business’s ongoing strategy?
If you don’t, you might be missing some golden opportunities…or you could get a martini in your face!
Everyone can recall a time when they’ve received excellent customer service. Whether it was the clerk who was extra helpful or the hotel staff who went above and beyond, we’ve all experienced it. Unfortunately though, the bad customer service is almost always recalled more easily.
In the pursuit of excellent customer service, several dos and don’ts should be followed:
Do: Anticipate Their Needs and Wants
Instead of merely listening to your customer’s needs, a business needs to understand their unexpressed wishes and anticipate their next move. Staying one step ahead of them—literally giving them what they didn’t know they needed—is how you will stand out from the rest. This builds exceptional rapport with your customer and makes them feel like you really, truly value their business (Forbes). They will want to come back, and what’s more, they’re going to tell their friends all about your customer service.
Do: Show Genuine Interest
If you haven’t heard it yet, here it is: customers want to feel appreciated and they value an honest-to-goodness relationship. If your customer service staff can build, nourish and manage relationships with your customers, then you’re golden! One way for you to build the relationship and make them feel special is by genuinely caring about what they’re telling you. Listen to them grumble, show sympathy, laugh when they laugh and don’t be afraid to get personal (Inc.com). Something as minute as memorizing the name of their granddaughter or asking about their last trip to Hawaii will help solidify your relationship.
Digitally speaking, doing this well means using social media to engage in a conversation and being open and transparent online! Your online customer service is as important, if not more so than the face-to-face interactions. At the root of it all, the customer wants to feel that they’re spending their hard-earned dollar on a business that cares about them!
Do: Have the Answers and Deliver
While it’s up for debate on whether customers are always right, the fact of the matter is, you are the expert and not your customer. You should always have the answers and be able to deliver. That is why product and service knowledge is the most vital skill a customer service representative can possess (Digitalist).
If you don’t have the answer, try your best to find it out or direct the customer to someone who can answer their queries. Avoid saying the phrase, “I don’t know” at all costs. Remember, you’re the expert. Having the answers and delivering them promptly and respectively will build trust and confidence in your customer.
Don’t: Restrict the Customer
Customers hate to hear the word, “no.” It’s a fact of life. Though it’s not always possible to say “yes,” best practice dictates that you should be as flexible and accommodating as possible for your customers (Customer Service Manager).
If there’s one thing a customer hates to hear more than “no,” it’s that something is “company policy.” Why? First of all, the customer likely doesn’t care what your store policy is. Second, they don’t see you as a customer service provider following policy, but rather as the company as an entity restricting them from getting what they want. Another reason this is such a big no-no is that it’s like putting a big road block in the conversation. With both you and the customer at a loss for what to say, the interaction (and possibly the relationship) is subsequently squelched.
Don’t: Make Things Overly Complicated
A good rule of thumb to follow is that getting assistance and service should not be more painful than the problem itself. Behold! The wonders of a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page! If this isn’t really your style, and as a necessary fall back, the next step is to make your customer service staff incredibly accessible. You know what they say: a quickly diffused customer service issue keeps the bad reviews away. Right?
Speaking of which…
Don’t: Ignore Feedback or Complaints
Feedback, no matter its form, is always a plus. Who better to hear from than the customers who are literally the lifeblood of your business?
Embracing the good, the bad and the ego-deflating will ultimately help you to strive for better in the long run, we promise. You’ll be able to understand your customer better, identify and solve your pitfalls and grow bigger and better (MinuteHack)! So, the next time a customer wants to give you their feedback, don’t brush it off, but rather see it as an opportunity to improve.
Good customer service always will be an essential part of a business. It’s your customer’s first point of contact with your business and allows them to connect and build trust with your business or brand. In today’s world, delivering excellent customer service is sometimes more effective than any advertisement could be!
Follow these customer service dos and don’ts so people talk about you for all the right reasons.