October 20th, 2011.
When it comes to setting up and establishing a local business, there are a number of milestones. Getting your business letterhead, a merchant bank account and customers who aren’t family members, are just some of the hurdles that spring to mind. As soon as your business has grown sufficiently to warrant a mention on Google Places or Yelp, then you start to get customers’ versions or reviews of their experiences. The comments on your Yelp page should make you smile due to your conviction that you’ve provided people with excellent service.
The initial glow of customer reviews may not last, while it’s great to read the rave reviews about your business, it’s likely that you’ll see some that are bad, and possibly even a fiction of the writer’s imagination. The following should give you an inkling of the experiences of review sites that have befallen business consulting clients of mine.
- Customer is unhappy not to receive a refund when they have eaten their meal at an eating establishment, and to further his argument, adds other fictional complaints.
- Competitors who believe that bad mouthing someone else’s business is a valid marketing strategy.
- A negative review that was actually about a business other than yours
We could go on, but you get the picture. To some extent the kind of reviews you get will vary depending on what type of business you’re in and where it’s located. In some cities bar owners try to get along by arranging to have special nights or offers at different times, while in others the thing is to try and beat your competitors to the floor. No matter what your experience, you will need to find means of dealing with reviews of your business, and below are a few tips.
1. Even if a Customer Declares War, They are not Your Enemy
When there is a customer dispute, especially in the current economic crisis, and following reports of labor abuses, the business owner is always in the wrong.
Don’t respond to negative reviews and even downright lies with more of the same, if you do, you will harm your business even further. Take an approach that assumes the customer is genuinely mistaken, and maintain a professional manner.
2. Offer to Find a Solution to the Problem
If you want to safeguard your reputation, don’t admit to any wrongdoing, but offer to help the customer with their problem. If you’ve had a false detrimental review, try responding with something like the following (depending on what business you’re in)
Hi Paul, sorry to hear you thought we overcharged for your Pizza. We do our best to ensure that customers get exactly the toppings they order and all the prices are listed on our menu. We’re actually on the list good value for money pizza parlours. Please contact me, either by coming into the pizza parlour or giving me a call on the above number to see whether we can resolve this situation. Look forward to hearing from you, Steve.
If you already know the customer, it’s probably easy to get hold of them, sort out the problem and you may even persuade them to take the review down. You need to be careful when you contact a customer directly as it requires more tact than you might need on a review site, so take a sympathetic approach to the issue.
3. Be Ready to Accept that There Might be a Real Problem
While I’m not suggesting that the customer is right, if there is even a hint that the complaint is legitimate, then you still have to resolve the situation, and you need to ensure that the same thing never happens with another customer. You may find that your staff need retraining or you might even have to let a person go. Managing and training staff is extremely important, especially when they are in constant contact with customers and only earning minimum wage.
Perhaps your ingredients are not as good as you thought and you either need to improve them, change the supplier, or lower the price you charge. Sometimes it is possible to contact the review site and have a review removed, especially if the reviewer seems to be making a personal attack on you alone. If you have lots of positive reviews than the impact of one bad one should be minimal, ask all your satisfied customers to leave reviews as this will further boost your credibility against the occasional bad one.
October 17th, 2011.
Findings from Marin Software’s Paid Search Quarterly Benchmarking Report, suggest that if you use one of the new tablets, as opposed to a PC, it’s possible to increase the click through rate on paid ads by more than a third. The research was based on a mapping of how much was spent on paid search by almost a thousand agencies and advertisers across the world, giving a total for all of £1.3 billion.
More than 90% of the annual cost of spending on paid search came from PCs, tablet users spent only 2% and the other 5% cam from smartphone users. The trend tracking was undertaken in the third quarter. According to the report the CTR or click through rate for the ads on tablets was much higher than on PCs. However, when it came to the advertiser’s average CPC or post per click the rate on tablets was 29% less than on smartphones and PCs. The volume of clicks for advertisers with Bing and Yahoo was up 43%, yet there was a drop of 10% in CPC.
The growing use of tablets could mean a shift in advertisers’ strategies for paid search ads, according to Ed Stevenson, the Managing Director of EMEA and APAC for Martin Software He further added may change their strategies for advertising and spending to cope with the shift in browsing habits to things like the iPad. More importantly, advertisers may need to work on device specific programs to improve results. Coincidentally this report was released at the same time as the quarterly report from Google, stating that in the three months finishing the end of September, earnings rose to £6.16bn ($9.72bn), a rise of 33%.
August 25th, 2011.
I’ve been playing about a bit with Google Plus posts this morning, and with the recent share of Vic Gundotra’s Icon Ambulance post I know a lot of people have been viewing the same page that led me to dig a little deeper into Google Plus pages.
Take a look at the source code of the cached version of this page- scroll down and you’ll notice a lot of names appearing in the source code within the <span class=”To”> tag. This tag appears to contain the names of almost everyone who has shared the post, and in this particular case this is a lot of names. On the page this either appears as:
or in some cases:
I’m not yet able to determine why some pages do display some of this text and why others don’t- it doesn’t appear to be influenced by the number of shares, comments or age of post from what I’ve seen. In any case this still contains a list of names hidden from the page:
In order to determine whether Google Plus pages were ranking for people’s names included in the hidden text I decided to run a small experiment. I took this Google Plus post from Matt Cutts and decided to check the rankings of the first 2 pages of Google UK for 38 of the names included in this span tag:
Out of the 38 names I tested for this URL only 2 ranked this URL within the top 20 results. This isn’t a massive feat but I’m sure we’d see more results if we rolled this out across the thousands of post URLs indexed, or expanded the depth past the second page of search results.
This goes to show that the usernames contained in the hidden text can (and does) rank which may be a violation of Google’s Guidelines on Hidden text and links.
Now I’m 100% positive that this isn’t deliberate- I think this is simply a classic case of a developers oversight… another classic example of why SEO needs to be baked into the development process from the very beginning- no matter how big an organisation you are!
…a wheelbarrow in an open field that you drag along every day filling it with this and that – each thing you add to it has some significance and some use.
Now imagine you never empty the wheelbarrow. Each day, not only do the things you found the week before now lie at the bottom covered by the newest additions, but the device also becomes increasingly heavy to pull until eventually, it becomes almost impossible.
Now think of the wheelbarrow as your website, and think of its contents as the factors affecting its speed – Let’s explore these factors…
- Empty spaces between code (This only adds to processing time)
- Missing tags (Causing internal errors & bugs in the site)
- Bulky HTML (such as using unnecessary tags where something more CSS compatible would work better e.g. using the tag “font-size” rather than just “small”)
- Background colour being the same as text colour (making all text unreadable)
- Hyperlinks that fail (Devaluing your site in terms of credibility, and possibly increasing bounce rates)
- Missing images
An overload of HTTP requests:
Whenever your web browser fetches a file from a web server, for example when it loads a picture, it does this by using HTTP which stands for “HyperText Transfer Protocol”.
HTTP is an action whereby you’re computer requests for a particular file. One example is a request for ‘home.html‘ (the homepage of a particular website). The web server then sends a response to the computer that says something like: “Here’s the file you asked for” which is followed by the actual file itself.
Understandably, if your server is receiving a very high volume of requests for a range of different things, such as pictures, graphics, photographs, music players and video rendering, it can take its toll and end up really slowing your website down.
Too many cookies:
HTTP Cookies are used mainly for personalization and authentication purposes. A series of saved information is exchanged between the web server and the browser in order to remember things about how you are using the internet. For example if you are shopping online and exit the website returning at a later date, a cookie will enable the site to remember what you had in your shopping cart so you don’t have to spend time finding the same items again.
Web hosting is the business of providing storage space and access for websites. Bad web hosting happens when said storage space is overloaded with many websites, yours is added to the list and so runs slow. Other issues caused by a bad web host include:
- Search engines being unable to crawl your site resulting in a fall in Search Rank
- Your website being “down” (not working, sending out 404-errors)
- Not being able to contact your web host to fix the issue (since the service is so bad the system has probably crashed)
Excess of external media:
Embedded YouTube videos, actually embedded anything that is coming from another website can potentially slow yours down. When you embed something from another site, you are relying on that sites web server, that sites speed, and that sites ability to ensure the embedded item is working properly there, so that it works properly on yours site. Often, even when it works just fine, it might add an extra few seconds to a certain page loading…a few seconds a potential customer may be unwilling to wait!
Spam is so much more than just a bunch of annoying emails. It slows down the Internet and it increases consumer fees.
The internet is a network where spamming effects everyone that uses it. To push spam around the internet relies on a process; it begins with global networks that pass the spam along to their destination, and ends with the message being received by the recipient.
Simultaneously, time, money and resources are used trying to catch and prevent spammers from infiltrating mail servers resulting in higher costs to the consumer because providers are forced to add more security to their servers and hire more staff to manage and prevent the problem.
Be sure to spam proof all web forms by adding “captchas” or similar.
A ‘favicon’ is an image (as shown above) that stays in the root of your server. It’s definitely needed because even if you don’t care about them, the browser still requests one. If there isn’t one, it will respond with a 404 error (meaning not found). Any error message, such as a 404 or 301, is an extra message sent that adds time to the processing of a site.
This image or lack thereof, interferes with the processing sequence by requesting extra components in the load, and since the favicon is the first thing that is downloaded before these extra components, if there isn’t one, the first thing downloaded will be an error.
Too many advertisements:
Any time a site uses advertisements, you are adding to other processes a site goes through in order to function correctly. Programmes like Google Adsense and Microsoft adcenter are external, and reputable, however it is logical to practice the same rules as with external media; everything in moderation – besides, sites with too many ads look un”site”ly!
If any of these apply to you, take active steps to protect your website against sloth! Speed be with you!
August 17th, 2011.
Goals and transactions don’t match in Google Analytics? The most common problem if goal conversions don’t match ecommerce transactions in Google analytics, is that your urls (pages) can be visited/accessed using both upper case and lower case characters.
This then causes Google analytics to report this page as two different pages, even though it was the same page, plus it automatically inflates the number of transactions. Moreover, your transactions then don’t match your order management system, which sooner or later will cause loss of faith in your web analytics.
Example of how this might look in your report:
To fix this, all you need to do is to set up a filter in Google Analytics, ‘Force url to lower case’. The filter looks like this:
Filter Name:Force Lowercase
Filter Type: Custom Filter, Lowercase
Filter Field: Request URI
After you set this filter, check back in a few days and your goals and transactions numbers in Google analytics should match as in this example below. NOTE: this will only fix the issue from the day this lower case filter was applied. Unfortunately, the data prior to the date when this filter was applied will stay unchanged.
When was the last time you had your Google Analytics tracking code audited? Can you 100% rely on your data? If in doubt, request your Free Google analytics tag audit.
Event tracking in Google analytics can be a painful task and it gets more complicated when your site has hundreds of outbound links, or downloadable documents you would like to track.
The good news is there are 2 options for how to track events (outbound links or files), manually or automatically with auto-tracking.
Option 1: Manual Tagging (complex, slow, prone to errors– recommended only for websites with a few outbound links or files to be tracked).
In this case we manually tag each link you would like to track. To log every click on a link to, for example, www.outbound.com, you would add an onClick event to outbound urls you wish to track:
<a href=”http://www.outbound.com” onClick=”recordOutboundLink(this, ‘Outbound Links’, ‘outbound.com’);return false;”>
Option 2: Auto-tracking - very easy & fast. Recommended for any website with large number of outbound links or files to be tracked.
Solution A; AnalyticsEngine provides you with a piece of script which you paste into your website just after your Google analytics and you’re done. No additional work or tagging required. In less than a minute you will be able to track thousands of outbound links or file downloads on your website.
This is how you see your results using solution from AnalyticsEngine
For small websites with a page views up to 100,000 per month this script is free. By the way, don’t confuse page views with visits. For example: 10,000 visits to your site can generate 4 page views per visit = 40,000 page views.
For websites with up to 1,000,000 page views the cost is $75 / month, plus there is an enterprise solution available as well. Considering how much time this saves you, it’s excellent value. Especially sites having a lot outbound affiliate links or downloads will greatly benefit from it.
Solution B; Or you can get similar script from advanced-web-metrics.com, for around $75 per domain (one off payment) and with no restriction on page views. No freebies here, however there is a 30 days money back guarantee and support from Brian Clifton, who is the author of an excellent book ‘Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics’ and former Head of Web Analytics for Google.
This solution won’t allow you to see clicked outbound links and file downloads under ‘Events’, but instead under ‘Content’ as page views. See the screenshot below.
And here when used auto-tracking used from advanced-web-metrics.com
(screenshot used from advanced-web-metrics.com)
July 14th, 2011.
Is brand awareness really important, or is it just hype? After reading a case study on ‘how catalogues drive online sales’, I did my own research with a focus on brand awareness, and analysed brand awareness on 2 small ecommerce sites, one of them with a catalogue, another without.
The result? Overall conversion rate on the site with a catalogue was 5.95%, while on the site with no catalogue, only 0.52%, a difference of 1,044%.
In order to calculate the impact of catalogues sent out to clients (offline marketing), we have to firstly establish where or how we find these people in your analytics tool. As these visitors receive your catalogue, we can therefore expect several ways how they get back to your site:
- type directly your specifically created vanity url for your catalogue (e.g. www.mysite.com/10off)
- or type your site url without the campaigned parameter
- or search for your company name using a search engine
- or dial your number on the catalogue and place a phone order. To be able to track this, you will need a call tracking solution which links with your Google analytics. Highly recommended, as it will allow you to assign your marketing to a relevant channel.
After we establish catalogue user behaviour, we need to find them in our web analytics. In Google analytics go to ‘traffic sources’ and get data for you ‘direct traffic’ and ‘search engine – paid and non paid brand keywords’. The data we need are: traffic amount and revenue generated. Let’s define what brand and direct traffic is first.
What is brand traffic? – These are the keywords people use to find your brand. For example, for Datadial.net, brand keywords could be ‘data’, ‘datadial’, ‘data dial’ and any misspellings of the brand name.
What is direct traffic? – These are visitors who type your domain name into their browser. NOTE: make sure your own company traffic is excluded by using filters in Google Analytics.
By combining brand traffic and the direct traffic you get ‘brand awareness index’ as a percentage of your overall traffic. So you will end up with number like xx% of visitors who visited my site used either my brand keyword or typed my url directly (direct traffic).
Exact calculation would be:
In terms of benchmarking, the higher the ‘brand awareness index’, the better. If your brand awareness index is 20-30% or less, that means people don’ t remember your company, site, product or service.
If your ‘brand index awareness’ is around 60+% then give yourself a high five, as everybody in the universe knows you! Well, not quite, as you would also like to find out what your market share is. Then give yourself high five if you also discovered that your market share is sound too.
Let’s jump now to some real examples.
In the example below, site A (no catalogue), with a ‘brand awareness’ of 20.92%, converted at 0.52%. Site B (with catalogue), with a ‘brand awareness’ of 65%, converted at 5.95%.
Notice one thing, site B received significantly less traffic, but the site revenue on both sites was almost identical. Also notice, that these visitors brought in both cases approx. 80% of site revenue.
So that leaves us with a question. What if I increased my site brand awareness from 20% to 60%? Is it going to have any impact on my revenue? And the answer is YES, because as we already know, direct and brand traffic conversion rate is higher, as you can see in this table below.
I hope you will find this useful and apply it to you next marketing strategy.
If you found this idea intriguing and would like to test it, call Jan at 0208 6000 500 and we will help you with calculating, planning and testing.