6 Tips to Improve Customer Feedback

Does your business have a hard time attracting positive attention on the internet? If so, you’re not alone. Studies show that as many as 90 percent of customers read online reviews before buying a product or service, yet the number of people who regularly leave this kind of feedback is much lower.

What previous customers write about your company online is important. People not only read comments, they trust this content more than what you post about yourself. At ReputationDefender we assist our clients with building a positive online profile through a variety of different avenues. Ranking brand-generated material and blog articles on the SERP is extremely important, but it’s not a match for genuine testimonials from real customers.

It’s Important to Encourage Reviews

The number of people who write reviews varies a lot depending on the type of business and the amount of effort leaders put into generating feedback. The 1/9/90 Rule is a general guideline for what you are likely to see without a strong campaign: about 1 percent will comment or review products, about 9 percent will respond or share the material, while about 90 percent will read comments but not take part in the discussion.

Many companies prefer not to attract attention online for fear of generating negative comments. This is understandable since, with only about 1 percent of customers writing reviews, most are likely to be written by people who were upset or unhappy with their service. However, every company will get negative feedback at some point; the best way to deal with the problem of negativity is to get more reviews. Assuming your business gives good service, most customers will be happy to leave positive feedback, but they won’t necessarily think to unless you go out of your way to ask them.

Honest Feedback Can Be an Asset

It’s not necessary for every review to be a glowing five star rating. It fact, customers tend not to trust reviews if all of them are uniformly positive. An honest critique can actually be more helpful than a generic “Good Job” or “No Problems” since it can show target areas that need improvement, as well as give you the opportunity to respond in a public setting.

As a business owner, it is important to generate reviews and to encourage people to write useful detailed comments that let others know what to expect when they use your product or service. This is the kind of feedback that will draw people in and make them think it’s worth giving your business a try.

6 Ways to Get Useful Reviews

Asking for reviews isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Different tactics will reach different customers and attract different types of reviews, so the best strategy is to combine a number of separate strategies.

  • Ask In Person – Depending on the type of business, traditional, personal contact can be the most effective way of generating positive feedback. If you have long-term customers who are known personally to you or some of your staff, ask them if they would be interested in sharing their experiences online. You won’t get many reviews this way, but you will likely get some of your most valuable testimonials.
  • Ask via Email – This isn’t as personal, but it can be easier, especially if most of your transactions take place online. An automatic email, such as a survey or a form that is easy to fill out will help to reach more customers and remind them that their feedback is important to you. You can also choose to select customers who you believe had a positive experience and send them a more personalised email from someone they worked with.
  • Use Software – Several different types of software, such as Grade.us and BrightLocal, will assist with reputation management by sending customers directly to the review sites that are most important to you. This helps to encourage responses from people who don’t typically write reviews, as well as giving a place for customers who are unhappy to contact you and have their grievances dealt with.
  • Offer Guidelines – Don’t assume customers know what you want in a review. Write an article on your blog, or include a brief paragraph in the review request that explains how important reviews are to your company. Offer guidelines or questions that will help customers describe their experience in a useful way.
  • Give Incentives – This can help generate higher numbers of reviews, but it should be used carefully. Most review sites will accept incentives as long as there’s no requirement that the review be positive. However, it’s a good idea to check the site rules first. A monthly prize draw for review writers can be a cost-effective way to provide an incentive without any hint of buying positive reviews.
  • Employee Tips – This strategy can work well in situations where the customer works with a specific agent. Include a line in the review request specifying that the employee will receive a small tip for positive reviews that mention their name. This helps to encourage customers to write a positive review and feel good about helping others at the same time.

Start to use one or more of these tactics regularly and you’ll soon see an improvement in the volume and quality of your reviews.

Reputation Management for 2017

Every year, reputation management becomes an even more important part of building a successful business. In 2017, it’s almost impossible to attract clients without an online presence, and entrepreneurs who fail to take control of their company’s reputation early will find themselves at a disadvantage.

Reputation Matters

People are expressing themselves more than ever on the internet and they’re also increasingly turning to other people’s comments to decide if a product or service is worth buying. 64 percent of marketing executives worldwide say “word of mouth” advertising is more important than other forms of marketing. On a personal level, we’re often taught not to worry too much about what others think of us, but what people say about your business will have real consequences when it comes to revenue. Company leaders can’t afford to not pay attention or to not care. They must take an active role in promoting the company through all internet platforms.

5 Reputation Management Questions to Ask in 2017

At ReputationDefender, we assist businesses with building or maintaining their online reputation. Reputation management is a growing field that changes regularly as search engine algorithms are updated and SEO techniques evolve. Yet there are some basic elements that every entrepreneur should consider if they want their company to keep expanding in 2017.

Here are five basic reputation management questions, as well as some of the ways companies can answer them:

  • What are people saying about my business? – There’s a lot of negativity on the internet. People are comfortable saying things online that they wouldn’t say in person, and sometimes this manifests as unreasonable rants about businesses or services they feel have let them down. As a business owner, it’s easier and more comfortable to just avoid reading these comments, especially since they tend to detract from our confidence in the company. Unfortunately, the last customer’s rant may be the first thing the next person researching your business sees. If you can’t delete the comment, you can at least respond politely and appropriately, so that it will be obvious you’re not the party being unreasonable. Sometimes customers also complain about real issues, so it’s crucial to take comments as constructive criticism and use them to improve.
    1. Google Alerts – A Google Alert for your name, the brand’s name and any related keywords will let you know any time someone leaves a comment on the website or another review site. This will allow you to respond appropriately.
    2. Social Media – Unfortunately, Google doesn’t index social media pages so if someone rants about your company on Instagram or Facebook it won’t be picked up by a Google alert. There are lots of social media listening tools, like Geopiq for Instagram, Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro, Hootsuite and Reputology, just to name are few. Some are free, while others come with a minimal cost. Of course you still won’t be able to respond to a private social media post, but the more tools you have at your disposal, the better the chances of catching a bad comment or review before it does too much damage.
  • What are people saying about competitors? – Don’t feel guilty about eaves-dropping on your competitors. The internet is a public place, so the information is available to everyone, just as your reputation is available to competitors. If online reviews give your top competitor four stars and they only give you three, which business will the next client choose? Probably not yours, unless there are some other mitigating factors. It’s as important to follow competitor’s reviews and comments as your own, so you can see what appeals to customers and work on imitating it. Give customers a reason to pick you over your competitor, whether it’s a different service, a better price, or just higher quality.
  • Is your website attracting clients? – The official company website is the key to attracting clients. It needs to be professional, informational and easy to navigate. It also needs to be optimized to appear at the top of the search result page for your brand. Most website platforms will offer tools to analyze traffic and let you know whether you’re attracting clients who spend time reading material. If the results are unsatisfactory, consider getting a professional SEO audit to figure out what isn’t working and improve on it.
  • What is not managing your reputation costing you? – Many entrepreneurs think that reputation management costs too much or takes too much time. However, once damaging material appears online, it could reduce profits almost immediately, especially if there isn’t already positive material ranking right alongside the negative reviews. The time and money it takes to build a positive reputation is much less than the cost of trying to fix a damaged reputation after the fact.
  • Do I need a professional reputation management service? – This question has to be answered individually for each company. Large companies may hire their own reputation management team as a division of online marketing. Small or midsize companies should consider working with a professional service unless one of the founders already has experience with reputation management or SEO. Many entrepreneurs may feel they can go it alone to start with, but reputation management can be very time consuming and as the company grows there will quickly be too much to do. Working with professionals from the start will help to give the company the best chance of success.

For more information or answers to further reputation management questions, contact our experts at ReputationDefender.

Combat Online Crime – Five Ways to Improve Your Company’s Cyber-Hygiene

Cyber-crime is a growing problem that has begun to invade almost every part of the internet. There are numerous ways criminals can attack individuals and businesses online, from traditional fraud or theft, to leaking personal data and hijacking websites through ransomware or distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. At ReputationDefender, we help businesses shore up their defenses against these threats which can damage the company’s reputation and leave its leaders struggling to regain control of personal data.

Unfortunately, not every battle is winnable. There are many targeted online attacks, called Advanced Persistent Threats (APT), which are carried out by a massive organization (often a nation-state) with a lot of resources at their disposal. The latest big DDoS attacks also have the ability to knock out huge swaths of the internet for a short period of time, and they are very difficult to defend against.

Most Online Crime is Preventable

However, the majority of cyber-crime instances occur as a result of human error or systems that aren’t secure. People who fail to practice basic hygiene are more likely to get sick or spread disease to others and the same is true of online viruses and malware. Companies that succeed in blocking most access channels will send hackers on to easier targets. Basic cyber-hygiene won’t protect against every threat, but it will make it much less likely that your company will be one of the unlucky ones.

  • Education – A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and in this case that means the employee with the least amount of tech experience. Reduce the risk by educating everyone with computer access in basic security protocols, such as password strength and phishing scam recognition. Make sure anyone with home access is running security software.
  • Use Available Resources – There are a number of online sites that have a lot of information on cyber-security. In the UK, the Get Safe Online site offers valuable resources for companies and individuals who want to protect their privacy. Do not assume that you know everything; read the experts’ advice and then share it with other staff members.
  • Update Regularly – Microsoft, Adobe and other office software offer regular updates and security patches. It is extremely important to make sure someone is in charge of installing these; they’re often designed specifically to close vulnerabilities that criminals have learned to exploit.
  • Invest in Security – Viruses and malware are constantly changing. At some point, technology from ten years ago simply won’t protect against modern threats. Up-to-date security might seem like a big investment, but it’s nothing to what the company will lose through direct stealing or reputation damage if it’s hacked.
  • Perform Internal Audits – Security issues do not go away if you ignore them; they get worse. It’s worth hiring a professional to perform regular audits so you can diagnose the company’s weakest areas and work on fixing them.

Ultimately, combating cyber-crime will take a concerted effort amongst international and governmental agencies to track down these individuals and eliminate all the different ways they can attack. However in the short term, companies can accomplish a lot by making sure their own security practices are first rate.

Why Do I Need to Know About SEO?

With Google’s algorithmic changes aimed at putting the user experience first, page optimization has become increasingly focused on content. Manipulative black-hat techniques, such as link generation and keyword stuffing, have fallen into the background, whilst well-written content and traditional marketing techniques have become key.

Yet the latest slogan, “Content is King”, undermines the important role technical SEO still plays in ranking a page. It’s true that well-written, original content is a must for today’s algorithms, yet with everyone on the internet focused on creating quality material, expert page mark-up, crawlability and optimal load-speed, these features are also needed to rank a page high on the SERP. At Reputation Defender, we help brands to build their reputation using all aspects of SEO; from quality content creation to running technical audits that analyze how the page is performing.

A Basic SEO Checklist

SEO isn’t something companies can just ignore. A thorough SEO check-up is a necessary part of building a website, since all the time and money will be wasted if Google can’t index the page and rank it where a potential customer will see it. Even for a small website, an SEO check-list constitutes a comprehensive task. Here is a basic overview of some of the most important areas:

  • On page SEO – This includes basic attributes such as the page title, meta description, headings, keyword usage and keyword density. A sitemap will help Google and other search engines navigate and index the website, while a Robot.txt file tells bots which pages to crawl. Text to code ratio, page requests, CSS and Google analytics tags must also be analyzed.
  • Speed Test – Page load speed is an important ranking factor for Google, so SEO needs to consider HTML page size, (around 33 kb if possible) and use Gzip code compression if necessary. Pages should contain a caching mechanism to load faster; the use of flash items should be avoided if possible since this will slow the page down. A Site Loading Test also needs to perform to verify load time.
  • Server and Security – Check URL and IP canonicalization to ensure that each page has its own unique URL and IP. Analyze security issues such as directory browsing, harmful botnet access and server signatures. The website should be “on the green side” for safe browsing, otherwise it could infect customers with a virus, making them unlikely to return.
  • Mobility – To succeed on today’s internet, websites need to be optimized for mobile devices and include Social API’s for major platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Google+ etc).
Auditing a Site

There are many reasons why a page that seems to be well-optimized may not be ranking. It could be due to content, website traffic, incoming links or other off-page factors, but this will be impossible to prove without first checking technical aspects related to indexing and ranking. Bad URL’s, incorrect internal linking, duplicate content or Schema marking are just a few of the reasons pages could fail to rank on the SERP.

Most SEO’s use software to perform a technical audit. These programs can crawl the webpages in a similar way to Google bots and highlight the issues that could be causing a problem. These are three choices site auditors might want to consider:

  • Screaming Frog – One of the most popular programs that is easy to use and free up to 500 pages.
  • ISS SEO Toolkit – A Microsoft based program that is slightly more in-depth for those possibly with more advanced SEO training.
  • SEMrush Site Audit – A valuable tool for analyzing site changes.

Software choices often depend on personal preference as well as the size and complexity of the site.

Technical Requirements of SEO

Today’s SEO’s need a lot of different skills, so good work usually results from collaboration between different members of a team. Writers and content editors need to develop articles that will draw in clients and encourage them to browse further through the website. Marketers promote products, construct a company image and establish connections. But without technical SEO analysis all these efforts will be ineffective at promoting content and building a positive online profile.

These are just a few of the topics modern SEO needs to be familiar with to analyze a page and improve SERP ranking:

  • DOM (Document Object Model) – A structured representation of a web-page that enables it to be read by scripts and programming languages.
  • Structured Representation of Data – An organized way of representing data that relies on protocols laid out on schema.org.
  • Critical Rendering Path – The method by which a page loads and is constructed or rendered into the browser.
  • Log File Analysis – Using the record of server requests to analyze how the site is being crawled by search engine bots.
  • JavaScript Framework – A popular website program that presents challenges for crawling and SEO.
  • HTTP/2 – A new web protocol that Google has been developing. It is likely to replace HTTP/1.1 which has been in effect since 1999.
Managing SEO Needs

Company founders have a choice to go it alone and become an SEO expert as they develop their website, or to invest in professional help. Time and financial constraints often create a part, as well an entrepreneur’s natural aptitude for this kind of work. However, as the company grows, the workload will almost inevitably become too great for one person and most organizations will need to invest in a professional team with the skill set to handle all aspects of SEO. Whatever the size of the company, no one should ignore SEO. It’s a vital part of building an online reputation and establishing a credible, professional image on the web.

How to Turn Negative Reviews Into an Asset

The importance of customer generated publicity is growing all the time. According to a 2015 survey by BrightLocal, 92 percent of people use online reviews to learn more about a product or service, up from 88 percent only a year before. More and more people now base their buying decisions on comments from other customers, so it’s vital that businesses have numerous reviews left by genuine clients.

At Reputation Defender we work with companies to manage their reputation and create positive online content. There is nothing more valuable than testimony from a satisfied customer, but unfortunately not all reviews will be positive. Every business will face negative comments from a dissatisfied customer at some point, so it’s not a matter of if but when. Business leaders need to be ready with a plan in place to deal with negative publicity when it appears.

Stars are Important

Star rating is the number one factor that consumers use to judge a business, so a one or two star rating can really hurt a company that doesn’t have many reviews. On the other hand, it will be much less noticeable if there are already a high number of four or five star reviews. Surprisingly, a few unenthusiastic comments can actually help. Customers will tend to question the reliability of the reviews if each one has a solid five star rating.

Making Reviews Work for Your Company

Here are six steps to make reviews work for you company:

  1. Be proactive about customer service – Handling dissatisfied customers before they have a chance to leave a review is the most effective way of preventing negative comments. Online rants often come as a result of customers feeling ignored or overlooked, so if something occurs to disrupt normal service, or you know a customer is unhappy, make sure compensation is offered. A coupon, a discount on a future visit, or even a full refund can be worth it if it keeps the company’s reputation intact.
  2. Make it easy to leave a review – Generating a high volume of reviews is the best way to ensure a four or five star average. If you focus on excellent customer service, most people will have a positive experience and be happy to leave a testimonial, but they may not think about it unless you remind them. Send out review invitations by email, or on a receipt. Offer prizes or contests for people who leave comments. If you have regular customers, don’t be afraid to ask them directly.
  3. Set up an alert – Even with your best efforts, there will always be some negative reviews. Register for a Google Alert, so you will know right away when someone leaves a comment about your business, negative or positive. This will give you more time to read and respond to the comment before it has a chance to go viral.
  4. Respond appropriately –Mature responses show you can take constructive criticism and help to convince other readers that you’re not the one being unreasonable. Address the issue directly, apologize and explain what has been done to fix the problem. This makes readers feel you listen and are trying to improve. It’s also important to respond to positive reviews, so everyone leaving a comment knows they are appreciated.
  5. Take executive action when necessary – Responses that come from high-level management will always be more effective. Not every executive has time to respond to reviews regularly, but just a few comments a month will show feedback is taken seriously.
  6. Track your statistics – If you practice good customer service and encourage reviews, you should get four or five stars from approximately 85 percent of your customers. Many customers distrust reviews that are entirely positive, so don’t make this a goal. Welcome some negative comments, but respond appropriately and try to make sure a similar situation doesn’t occur again.