Posted on August 7, 2016 by
Unlike Joan Jett, who doesn’t give a damn ‘bout her reputation, any astute business owner should pay keen attention to reputation management in order to sustain – and grow – a business in today’s digital age. I mentioned this topic a few months ago after I wrote about my experience speaking on the topic at Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s Small Business 101 seminar. As promised in that post, I will now dig deeper into the topic of reputation management and its significance to business owners.
As online reputations go, perception is reality. As a result, managing one’s reputation by keeping abreast of everything written online about a business – including in forums, on Yelp and other review sites – rates as extremely important. No shortage of opportunities exist for customers, clients and prospects to voice opinions and read reviews – good, bad and ugly.
When and How to Write a Review
Let’s first think about how people determine whether or not to write a review. Take my recent personal experience as an example:
A few months ago, we encountered a bad situation in which I was served a supposed gluten-free meal. Unfortunately, it was instead a very gluten-full meal. I quickly became ill and – needless to say – unhappy. By the end of our experience, the waitress – who had no fault in the mishap – was exceptionally apologetic and we had the manager’s full attention to ensure I was okay. The manager gave us a free meal, I walked to the bank nearby for cash to leave as a tip and I went home satisfied by the solution.
Now, was there a reason to write a bad review? Maybe; however, their handling of the situation was impeccable. We were totally impressed.
Will we return? Probably not; the restaurant now makes me nervous. Bummer too, because their menu appears friendly to my dietary needs.
Did I write a review? No; they made a mistake but handled the aftermath perfectly. They solved my problem and I walked out happy. Still, no review from me, good or bad because, at that point, I wasn’t inclined to keep worrying about it.
So, when and how should people write online assessments of an experience? I believe personal preference dictates when to write a review, or not. In most cases, review writers fall into two camps: horribly underwhelmed and upset or extraordinarily impressed. Given that reviews end up on opposite ends of the satisfaction spectrum, they can either hurt or help a business – something important for everyone to keep in mind, especially in the heat of the moment. If I decided to write a review, either good or bad, here’s the approach I would have used:
When and How to Respond to a Review
Now, let’s consider the flip side, the restaurant’s position. In this situation, regardless of the nature of the resolution, the restaurant could have ended up with a poor online reputation as a result of a negative Yelp (or other) review. Alternatively, since I eventually walked away happy, they could have ended up with a more positive review. Regardless, here’s how I advise clients to handle and respond to reviews from customers or clients in order to properly manage their reputation:
How to Encourage a Positive Review
An entirely different part of reputation management entails encouraging satisfied customers and clients to post positive reviews. Don’t be afraid to ask for a review from a happy customer. Remember an unhappy customer will tell the world. Often, a happy customer tells one or two friends and then moves on. Asking and even handing out a card with links to the various review sites you prefer is a great way to encourage clients to write reviews. In LinkedIn, you can send a recommendation request to a client.
Reputation Management Matters
Proactive online reputation management yields tremendous benefits for businesses, especially when approached in a methodical way and handled in a timely manner. Smart business owners don’t stick their heads in the sand. Read reviews; embrace them; and take action to remedy a negative situation. Sometimes, taking action in a positive way will lead to either a retraction of the bad review or at least an update to show a good outcome. As well, savvy businesses should work diligently to garner supportive online evaluations from satisfied customers and clients.
Have you ever written or received an online review? What lessons did you learn from the experience and how has it shaped your reputation management practice?
Posted on July 24, 2016 by
In my recent article on How Blogging Helps Your Site Rank, I touched briefly on different types of keywords, including long tail keywords. I’ll use this opportunity to discuss keywords in more depth and offer Roaring Pajamas’ view on the ideal keyword optimization strategy.
The fluidity of SEO and web optimization lends itself to different trends. At present, some in the SEO space speak of the value of natural language usage on every page as a preferred keyword strategy rather than the use of discrete keyword optimization. The downside of natural language keyword optimization – as the keyword is presented as a sentence – appears in the usage of stop words, conjunctions and modifiers. Instead, we believe this strategy works best with the use of long tail keywords.
Let’s begin with basic definitions:
Keyword: Keywords – whether one word or a phrase – act as shortcuts to summarize an entire web page and help search engines match an appropriate search query with a page. To be effective, keywords should show up in a few places on a web page or in the HTML code, including:
Within the broad category of keywords, a few types of keywords exist:
Head keyword: The reference to “head” in search keywords refers to an animal’s head – the most popular or well-known association most people have with an animal. In the world of search, these words garner the most search demand in the search engine results. This keyword or phrase can be the generic use of very commonly used phrases such as “shoes” or “running shoes” and prevail as the most relevant word or phrase to describe the content on a page. Due to the level of competitiveness, receiving a prominent ranking for these keywords in a short timeframe may prove difficult.
Mid or middle keyword: Continuing the animal reference, this group of keywords is larger but less exciting than the head. Consisting of three to five words, these chunky middle terms generate lower search volume than head terms. These middle keywords also tend to have far less competition than head terms and thus may be easier to rank for in a shorter timeframe.
Long tail keyword: A phrase with five or more words, often forming a question, long tail terms are highly specific to the content on a given page. Long tail terms drive a smaller volume of searches but more interested prospects; if one optimizes for a long tail term, then the tendency to convert from a visitor to a customer can be much higher. These keywords tend to have the least competition in the search results and can be especially easy to rank for in a reasonably short timeframe.
By way of example, consider these different types of keywords for the topic of computers:
Finally, to further understand these different keywords, take a look at this graphic:
With the definitions explained and the foundation set, let’s consider how and when to use head keywords, middle terms and long tail keywords. We recommend a balanced approach when employing the various types of keywords; on a website, some pages should be optimized for head terms, others for the middle and still others need to be optimized for very specific long tail keywords. Employing a balanced strategy allows a website to attract a broad audience with head terms and then attract viewers further down the sales cycle with more specific keywords and phrases.
We often advise clients to start their SEO programs by first optimizing main pages for the most relevant industry or product-related (head) keywords. Then, use articles or a blog to build on these keywords using topic terms that include modifiers to enhance a visitor’s view of the site owners as thought leaders and innovators. Adding to this strategy, easily begin long tail keyword use by taking a Frequently Asked Questions page and breaking it into separate pages for each question. This practice removes the often long, continuous FAQ page that addresses a wide variety of questions. This single page FAQ also makes addressing topics in a single, specific phrase more difficult. Update that long page and the site by adding 10 – 20 additional pages on very specific topics – with very relevant and specific long tail phrases. And remember, you will likely run out of pages to optimize before you run out of keywords.
These tactics only scratch the surface of web optimization and keyword strategies, but the bottom line remains – as with so many things – a balanced approach proves best. Please let me know if you have more specific questions on the benefits of long tail keywords versus the use of other keywords and phrases; website optimization endures as a fascinating and dynamic field.
Posted on July 10, 2016 by
As an entrepreneur, taking a vacation poses many challenges and questions. Will your business manage with you out of the office for a few days? Will customers and clients remain pleased? Can the business operate as normal? How will the team handle emergencies? As a small business owner, I grapple with these very questions each time I vacation. Leaving a business and trusting that nothing will go awry requires a leap of faith. However, time away provides the opportunity to refresh and renew, which benefits every business owner and – in turn – their business. Here are my five tips for success when heading out of the office for a vacation:
TRUST SOMEONE: To ensure nothing falls through the cracks while you vacation out of office, appoint a trustworthy person to temporarily fill your shoes. Direct all other employees, clients and vendors to that surrogate. Ensure he or she has access to relevant accounts and decision-making authority where required. Of course, provide pre-planned availability for that right-hand man or woman in an emergency; if only one person has access to you while you play, this person’s it.
And, don’t forget that a token of appreciation for this person’s hard work will go a long way to keeping him or her engaged and responsive while you sip your piña colada on a warm beach!
MAKE A PLAN: Consider all factors and events that may come into play while out of office. Set up plans – and contingency plans – in advance.
For social media, if properly planned and executed, managing a campaign remotely can be very successful with minimum impact to your vacation. This can also be said of other programs; front-loading work prior to a vacation goes a long way towards maintaining sanity while away. For emails, blog posts, billing, newsletters and a multitude of other items, working ahead and scheduling for future execution with appropriate software allows most anything to run seamlessly while you frolic. If pre-vacation time permits, you may even consider setting up programs a week or so past your vacation to allow for a more civilized return to reality after vacation – if that is possible.
SET BOUNDARIES: While you likely must work on vacation, plan to turn off and tune out for a good portion of each day. Identify the expected work windows each day when you will be available and have access to your email or other modes of communication. Inform your point person of those times and set the expectation that, unless in an emergency, you won’t be checking in before or after that window each day.
COMMUNICATE WITH EVERYONE: Once you have a trusted appointee, a plan for how things will work and your windows of availability identified, set out of office expectations with clients, employees and vendors. With enough prior notice and clear communication of a solid plan, any reasonable person will happily respect the boundaries of your personal life.
PLAY IT SAFE: Finally, with all other plans in place, consider how to safeguard your business from fraud while you are away.
I recently heard a story of an entrepreneur who went on vacation and left an out of office notification on her email. A hacker from overseas saw the notification and seized the opportunity for foul play while the boss was away. The hacker cloned her email, determined her company’s CFO via LinkedIn and emailed the CFO requesting an immediate wire transfer of a few thousand dollars for a supposed equipment purchase. Because the email appeared legitimate and the large purchase aligned with the business, the CFO completed the wire transfer… and the company lost a few thousand dollars to the hacker. Yikes!
While I communicate with employees, clients and vendors when preparing for vacation, I don’t advise advertising it via email notifications or social media. Hackers love a vacationing business owner; play it safe and keep your vacay plans quiet.
How do you and your team handle vacations? Do you plan to work while on vacation? I’d love to hear your tips as so many people plan to step out of the office and embark on summer vacations.← Older posts Newer posts →