4 Crucial Things to Consider When Creating a Search Engine Friendly Title Tag

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Reblogged 3 months ago from www.outreachmama.com

Your 3-Step Guide to Creating a Successful Review Acquisition Strategy

Posted by McDermott

Wouldn’t it be nice if you had an easy way to learn about your competitor’s deepest and darkest secrets? An ethical way to peer inside their business — anytime you wanted?

Your competitor’s review portfolio provides you with just that. And conducting an audit of their portfolio will give you precious, must-have data that competitors are simply unwilling to share. It’s a treasure trove of secrets, pointing to your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, goals, and objectives.

But how do you audit your competitor’s review portfolio? More importantly, how do you use this data to inform your review acquisition and marketing strategy?

I’ll show you how in three easy steps. Feel free to download this spreadsheet if you’d like to add data as we go along.

Why competitor review audits are essential

But first: What’s so special about the review audit anyway? At first glance, it might seem like more work than it’s worth. Your competitors have more (or less) reviews than you do, which means you’ll work harder — and if they add more reviews, you’ll have to put in more work to earn more reviews.  

Seems like the usual marketing arms race, right? Where you and your competitors are jockeying for first place.

Sophisticated agencies will know better. They see the competitor review audit for what it is: A chance to gain leverage, clarity, and intelligence from their most unwilling competitors. Because a competitor audit shows you:

  1. What competitor’s customers are unhappy about
  2. Your competitor’s desires, goals, fears and frustrations
  3. The core issues and challenges costing your competitors leads, sales and revenue
  4. The objections and risks that keep their prospects from buying
  5. Customer perception in the marketplace
  6. Why customers choose to work with your competitors specifically
  7. What customers want (but aren’t getting) from your competitors
  8. What needs to be done to grow your business exponentially
  9. Their customer’s knowledge/level of sophistication
  10. Changes in your competitor’s business (past, present, and future)

These details are are an exceptional opportunity in the right hands —it’s an indispensable assessment tool for local search agencies and their clients. Not to mention it’s a straightforward way to learn about your competitor’s deepest and darkest secrets: you have literal competitive intel from their customer’s perspective. 

Before you begin your audit…

You’ll want to take stock of the top three competitors in your local market. There are two ways to approach this. If you’re part of a smaller local market or you already have a list of competitors, start there. What if you’re a new business and you’re not fully established in your local market yet? Which competitors should you audit?

The businesses that are consistently listed in the local three pack or page one of the Google Maps search results, when you click ‘More Places’ on the local pack or the search results (page one) for your queries!

All set with your list of competitors? You’re ready to begin your audit!

Step #1: Assess their review profiles

You’ll want to take an inventory of your competitor’s review profiles. You’re looking for three types of review profiles:

  1. Mainstream reviews via large providers like Google, Facebook, and Yelp
  2. Industry-specific reviews via specialty sites like TripAdvisor for hotels, Avvo for attorneys or Healthgrades for doctors
  3. ‘Niche’ platforms like the BBB, Angie’s list, or Clutch.co

You also want to take note of a few cursory details.

  • Have competitors claimed each/all of their profiles?
  • How many reviews do they have?
  • Are the aggregate reviews on each platform – positive, neutral or negative?
  • What’s the overall sentiment for each profile – positive, neutral or negative?
  • How recent are their reviews?
  • How many of their reviews were received over the past one to three months?
  • Is their NAP data consistent across each of their profiles? Consistent across multiple locations?
  • Do their profile links lead to active and relevant pages? Any broken links?

You’re looking for inconsistencies. Outdated data, inaccurate details, 404 errors, etc.

Step #2: Search for their business + reviews

Let’s say you’re working with a client in the personal injury space. You’re analyzing the three competitors we mentioned earlier.

Where should you start?

First, you’ll want to gather a list of branded and unbranded keywords. You can use Moz’s Keyword Explorer or your keyword tool of choice to quickly suss out the organic keywords your competitors are using.

explorer personal injury

You can use a tool like the Permutator to rapidly expand your list of keywords. You can use this tool to identify missed opportunities or further refine the keywords in your list.

personal injury permutations

Head over to Google and run a search of the unbranded keywords in your list.

  • Best personal injury lawyer
  • Best personal injury lawyers near me
  • Best personal injury lawyers in Chicago
  • Best personal injury lawyers Chicago Loop
  • Chicagoland personal injury firm
  • Chicagoland personal injury firm in Chicago
  • Chicagoland personal injury firm near me
  • Chicagoland personal injury firms
  • Personal injury firm
  • Personal injury firm in Chicago
  • Personal injury firm near me
  • Personal injury firms

Next, run a search of the branded queries in your list

  • Staver Accident Injury Lawyers
  • Staver Accident Injury Lawyers reviews
  • Staver Accident Injury Lawyers testimonials
  • Staver Accident Injury Lawyers in Chicago
  • Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard
  • Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard reviews
  • Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard testimonials
  • Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard in Chicago

Take screenshots of the local three pack when it appears, whether it includes the competitors in your list or not.

salvi 3 pack

You also want to take screenshots of the knowledge panel and search results. There are all kinds of juicy data we can work with here! Use a descriptive file name so it’s easy to remember key details later.

rosenfeld knowledge panel + serps

Here’s a short list of the details you’re looking for:

  • Are aggregate reviews listed in the search results? Are these reviews positive, neutral or negative?
  • Are keywords used on review profiles, media (via images, videos or slides) and landing pages?
  • Citations/NAP data, is it consistent/inconsistent?
  • What types of content channels are used (e.g. keyword rich video testimonials via YouTube, on-site reviews, Facebook recommendations, etc.)?

Next, you’ll want to read through your competitor’s reviews. At this point, you’re looking to collect data. You’ll want:

  • Positive, neutral and negative reviews
  • Featured, highlighted or recommended reviews
  • To assess the general tone and quality of the reviews listed in each profile (are reviews shallow, detailed or comprehensive e.g. reviews with text, images and/or video?)
  • To gauge the ratio of positive-to-negative and neutral-to-negative reviews
  • To identify profiles that are potential outliers (e.g. unclaimed review profiles with no/poor reviews)

You’re looking for positive reviews…

rosenfeld reviews

…as well as neutral and negative reviews.

rosenfeld negative

The balanced, comprehensive inventory of each review profile gives us more data to work with later on.

You’ll want to run these audits at regular intervals. If you’re serving clients in a highly competitive market like insurance, real estate mortgage banking, you’ll want to run these audits more often.

Why is this important?

You already know the answer! You and your clients are playing a competitive game of moves and countermoves. If they’re smart, your competitors will eventually take note of the aggressive changes you’re making. They’ll quickly adapt, working to circumvent any advantage you’ve gained. If you’re using a review management tool, these details are simple to automate and easy to track on a recurring basis.

It’s not rocket science, but it does take work. Now we’ve arrived at the best part of our analysis.

Step #3: Using your audit to inform your review acquisition strategy

You’ve uncovered a significant amount of data in your competitor audit. How do we go about putting this valuable data to good use?

We ask questions!

Asking questions gives us a chance to dive deep into the data, uncovering insights that are actionable and useful. Here’s a list of sample questions you should be able to extract from your audit. Here’s what you’ll want to know.

Which competitor has:

  • The most reviews, per platform? The most reviews overall?
  • The largest amount of high-quality reviews (e.g. detailed four and five-star reviews)?
  • The largest amount of low-quality reviews (e.g. four and five-star reviews with little to no text)?
  • The largest amount of aggregate reviews listed in the search results?

These questions enable you to identify the review sites where your competitors are strongest/weakest. This is important because it helps you identify opportunities for quick wins and big gains.

Next, you’ll want to assess trends in your competitor’s reviews:

  • What motivates reviewers to share (e.g. satisfactory outcome, altruism, displeasure, etc.)?
  • Which customer objections appear repeatedly?
  • Do competitors respond to customer reviews? Do they respond more to positive, neutral, negative or all reviews?
  • How long does it take them to respond to a review?
  • How do competitors respond to negative reviews?
  • Do customers feel the business’ performance has improved or declined overall?
  • What desires, goals, fears, frustrations, and problems did customers bring into the relationship?
  • How did competitors handle these issues?
  • What risks did reviewers face in the relationship?
  • How sophisticated are their reviewers (e.g. educated and discerning buyer, experienced and unsure, clear and confident, etc.)
  • Which themes appear consistently in reviewer responses? (E.g. poor communication, open and transparent, patient and knowledgeable, etc.)

So, here’s the million-dollar question. How do you use these details to inform your review acquisition strategy? Imagine that we come across 25 to 35 reviews like these in our audit of a single competitor. Customers are consistently complaining about poor communication and poor follow-through in their reviews.

negative review personal injury

How can you help your clients capitalize on this problem? You…

  1. Brainstorm: You work with your law firm client to come up with a client “Bill of Rights.” They commit to daily and weekly communication with their clients or they take 25 percent off next month’s invoice. You interview, survey and conversion data to test the effectiveness of this risk reversal.
  2. Advertise: Your client uses their client “Bill of Rights” and their promise to communicate daily and weekly in your PPC and display campaigns. Click through rates begin to climb as the message begins to resonate with clients in the Chicagoland area.
  3. Re-target: Prospects who visit the website are added to a retargeting campaign. This campaign consists of four distinct ingredients (1.) A strong value proposition (2.) An irresistible offer (3.) Strong reviews showing your client communicates daily and weekly as promised (4.) Your clients produce extraordinary results for their clients. Using your client’s retargeting campaign, you drive prospects to relevant landing pages and review profiles.
  4. Convert: Your marketing strategy is effective. You’re able to convert a significant amount of prospects on your client’s behalf. You ensure that your client under promises and over delivers, producing extraordinary results and wowing their clients.
  5. Request: You set up a review funnel for your client. Their customers are invited to write a review via SMS and email autoresponder campaigns. Their clients are sent to a review landing page, where they’re directed to the appropriate review profile (e.g. Google My Business, Facebook recommendations, or Yelp reviews). Their clients are encouraged to share openly and honestly.
  6. Respond: You work with your client to respond to positive and negative reviews on their behalf. You work with your clients to maintain a 5:1 ratio. Five positive reviews for every negative review. You use review response protocols to provide reviewers with an appropriate, customized and empathetic response. Traffic and conversion rates skyrocket.

Can you see what’s happening? You’re using your competitor’s strategy to inform your own. Your clients continue to win whether their competitors win or lose. Here’s the significant part about competitor review audit. The possibilities are there. You can use their competitor’s success or failure to boost their marketing results. You can use this strategy with webinars, guest posts advertising, partnerships, workshops, and even events.

A chance to gain leverage, clarity, and insight

Don’t underestimate the power of conducting competitor review audits. It’s a powerful strategy, especially when combined with Review management tools as well as display and PPC intelligence tools like Moat, WordStream, and SpyFu. 

If you’re a boutique Local Search, SEO, or Marketing agency working with a variety of local clients, providing review management guidance can be an incredibly valuable supplemental service. In fact, according to Moz’s 2019 The State of Local SEO Industry Report, 91 percent of marketers believe that aspects of reviews, including ratings, quality, positive/negative sentiment, presence of keywords, and/or recency can impact local pack rankings. So if you’re providing local digital services and not touching on reviews, you’re probably doing your clients a disservice. 

Wrapping up

A competitor review audit gives you actionable data on your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, goals, and objectives. With the right approach and consistent effort, your competitors will supply you with everything you need to inform and improve your client’s review acquisition strategy.

What other tips or tricks do you use to inform your review acquisition strategy?

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Reblogged 4 months ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Creating a Local SEO Welcome for New Neighbors and Travelers

Posted by MiriamEllis

In our ongoing quest for local prominence, are we leaving anybody out in the cold? For years, a fundamental message I’ve shared with almost every incoming local business client is that they need local SEO, specifically, because they need to be found on the web by local people. I’d estimate that 98% of everything our industry writes about is tied to this concept, and while this focus is sensible, today I’d like to highlight an underserved (but enormous) target local market: non-local people.

Consider these statistics:

These numbers create a context in which there are literally millions of consumers arriving in unfamiliar towns on a daily basis, in need of a variety of local resources they’ll discover using the Internet. In this article, I’d like to help your local business get discovered with a welcoming, supplementary local SEO strategy based on the understanding that newcomers matter. We’re going to dive into location data management, attribution, and reviews, with an eye to newcomer needs.

What do newcomers really need?

Residents of your city or town have likely already established their favorite restaurant, grocery store, doctor, school, place of worship and pet supply shop. While there are certainly tactics you can employ for trying to edge out the competition to become someone’s new favorite destination, chances are good that longtime locals won’t have too much trouble actually locating you at 123 Main St. if you’re doing good, essential local SEO.

They already know where Main St. is in relationship to other streets, how long it will take to get there and, if they’re established neighbors, what the parking situation is like in that part of town.

Non-locals know none of this. Your city is a blank slate to them, and they’ll be using their desktop and mobile devices to start filling in that slate to create a picture of their destination, both before and after they arrive in town. If you’re not providing the necessary signals to foster transactions with newcomers, if they never learn that your local business exists, it’s a direct hit to your wallet, week after week, year after year.

Which types of local businesses need to appeal to new neighbors and travelers to avoid foregoing desirable revenue? Let’s break that down by industry:

As we can see, a significant number of industries can serve either new neighbors or travelers, and in some cases, both. Let’s look at three intelligent ways to put out the welcome mat for these important consumers.

1. Basic location data management

While settled residents may be able to parse out that your business is actually located on 5th Street rather than 5th Avenue when encountering inconsistent data about your company on the web, don’t expect newcomers to inuit this. Step one in welcoming this user group is to ensure that you’ve got your core name, address, and phone number (NAP) correct in two places:

A) Your website

For the single-location business, this should be easy. Audit every page and element (like the header and footer ) of your website where you mention any part of your NAP for accuracy. Correct any errors. Pay particular attention to your branding. Don’t be The Tree Restaurant on your Contact Us page, The Green Tree Restaurant on your About page, and Green Trees Cafe in your logo. You want to make a cohesive brand impression on your website so that consumers can clearly match it to your real-world signage as they drive through town.

For multi-location businesses, things are a little more complex. In addition to checking that NAP is correct on each of the landing pages you create for each location, be certain those pages are accessible via a well-functioning store locator widget which enables users to search by city (not just by zip code, as most newcomers will not know local zip codes).

B) Your local business listings

Hopefully you’re already engaging in active location data management of your local business listings/citations to help local consumers find you, but know that inconsistencies on major platforms could result in particularly heavy newcomer losses as users get misdirected, lost, and drift away, never to return.

You want a clear NAP dataset on the most important platforms, keeping in mind that even if a particular platform isn’t that popular in your own city, it may be significant in the regions from which newcomers hail. You can do a speedy citation health check for free using the Moz Check Listing tool, which audits your listings on foundational platforms like Google My Business, Bing, Apple Maps, Yelp, Facebook, etc. Correct any inaccurate data the tool surfaces for you, and back up this work with a manual check of any niche directories that apply to your city or industry.

If you find you’ve got significant inconsistencies, or have a large number of locations to manage, you may want to consider purchasing an automated location data management service like Moz Local.

Beyond basic NAP

In addition to managing the NAP on your website and citations, there are 5 elements that are crucial to ensuring newcomers connect with your business:

  1. Driving directions
    Be sure directions and map place markers are accurate on your major citations and, for newcomers, put additional effort into writing up the best possible set of driving directions on your website. Write them out coming from the four cardinal directions and be sure you are associating your business with any major local landmarks that are easily seen from the road. Alert consumers to the presence of hazardous road conditions they may encounter coming from a particular direction and offer detours or shortcuts. Don’t leave out how to navigate large shopping centers if you’re located in one.
  2. Hours of operation
    It’s especially important if your business has seasonal/holiday hours to ensure that you are updating all relevant pages of your website and all of your major local business listings to reflect this for newcomers. If your business is seasonal (like a farm stand or pumpkin patch), set your Google My Business hours when you open for business, and when your season closes, remove them so that they appear ‘un-set,’ with the plan to re-set them next open season. If you have special hours for Christmas or other holidays, follow these directions to avoid Google stamping your listings with a warning that the hours may be inaccurate.
  3. Parking information
    Urban parking can be so appallingly complicated that it has led to the launch of booking services like Parkwhiz, but be sure you’re detailing parking information on your own website, regardless of city size. Don’t forget RV parking accessibility for travelers, whether parking is free, or if paid, the forms of payment local meters/lots accept. Parking info can be especially helpful for people with health concerns, so if on-site parking is unavailable, estimate how far the consumer will have to walk to reach your destination. A lack of parking data once caused me to have climb over cement barriers in a split-level parking lot in search of a salad on a 90+ degree day — it would have been courteous for the grocery store to have saved me from this silly situation with clear directions.
  4. Description
    Google may have replaced their former owner-authorized business description display with their in-house custom description, but most other local business listing platforms still allow you to pen your own. To play to a newcomer audience, which may be forming a very fast impression from your listings via a mobile device, pack your descriptions with the most persuasive information you can think of to help them make a decision. Is it that you’re kid-friendly, carry a certain brand, won a best-in-city award? In the fewest words possible, highlight the most impactful elements of your business to connect with high conversion, targeted newcomers.
  5. Forms of payment
    Failing to inform travelers that your business is cash-only is a deal-breaker, and many major retailers now even refuse to accept checks (which can come as an inconvenient surprise to out-of-towners). Numerous local business listings enable you to specify forms of payment accepted, and you should also at least include a visual representation of supported transaction methods on your website. For your most sophisticated consumers, if you support digital wallets, Bitcoin, or other popular payment alternatives, be sure to highlight this fact.

I recommend that you give first priority to getting your basic location information into beautiful shape on your website and local business listings so that the process of finding your business is as foolproof as possible for newcomers. Now let’s look at some elements that can influence being chosen once you’ve been found.

2. Attribution

It’s no secret in the local SEO industry that Google, Yelp, and other powerhouses are now actively crowdsourcing attribution from reviewers, but if local business attributes are new to you, let’s summarize.

Basically, attributes are snippets of descriptive content that differentiate the nature or features of a given business. Some of the data in the previous section would actually be considered attributes, such as whether a business features free parking, accepts Apple Pay, or offers 24-hour services. In practice, attributes are valuable to search engines in helping them determine the relevance of a result to a given user, and they’re valuable to users in helping to make decisions about whether a specific business provides exactly what they’re seeking.

Significantly, in May of 2016, Google rolled out version 3.0 of the Google My Business API, a new feature of which is the ability for developers to directly add attributes to Google My Business listings. And, as the year closes out, many users are finally seeing promised attribute functionality within the Google My Business dashboard. We can take all this as a clear signal that Google is zooming in on attribution, which they base on business categories. While dashboard attribution is still limited as of writing this, I predict we’ll see it expanding in 2017.

To conceptualize the practical application of attributes, I find it’s helpful to imagine consumer personae. Let’s hypothesize that our restaurant franchise is hoping to win a transaction from a group of six travelers on a family vacation. They are on the road a bit late one evening near one of our locations and are hungry for supper:

  • Dad would be glad to find an all-you-can eat buffet.
  • Mom would love to hear some live music.
  • There are three children; one is gluten-intolerant, one is a vegetarian, and one is a toddler who needs a booster seat and can’t eat full portions.
  • Grandmother urges that they find a salad bar because everyone has been eating too much fast food on this trip.
  • The dog would prefer not to be left in the car all evening.

Look through this very abridged list of Google My Business API attributes applicable to restaurants to see if you can match them to the family members (hey, this is like a game!):

bool.jpg

If some or all of these attributes describe our restaurant location, and we’ve either added them to Google My Business or are earning them from our reviewers on Google, Yelp, or Trip Advisor, we’re making a strong case for being shown as a relevant answer to the family’s search query, and to being chosen by them. Good start! But, I’d like to take the concept of attribution one step further as it relates to local SEO.

I’m not privy to the methodology Google used to come up with their extensive list of attributes for all sorts of business categories, but I’d invite local enterprises and agencies to view attributes as a fascinating roadmap to website content development. Imagine taking the above set of descriptors and writing something like this, in natural language, on the website landing page for our restaurant’s location in Santa Fe:

salsa.jpg

What we’ve done here is to take Google’s attribute hints as to what consumers are looking for and have turned them into a statement that helps a newcomer make a quick, informed mobile decision (call it a ‘micro-moment’ and you’re really being cool!).

For thoroughness, I would recommend combining Google’s attributes with those you are personally prompted to enter when leaving your own reviews on various platforms, and fine-tune it all based on your unique expertise drawn from serving your customer base. It could be that a driving motivation for newcomers to your city and business would be proximity to a point-of-interest, accepting mobile payments, or serving organic food. Think of attributes as clues from search engines, review sites, and directories that you can pass along to customers to qualify your business as the answer to their needs.

Finally, I’d like to take the exploration of attributes one step further. I reached out to TouchPoint Digital Marketing owner, David Deering, who is one of our industry’s foremost experts on local business Schema. I asked if there was a direct relationship between attributes and Schema, and he explained:

“Unfortunately schema.org does not have corresponding properties and values for local business attributes. But there are ways to mark them up anyway. Some are rather straightforward and others take a little more coding but they all can be marked up in one way or another.

Schema.org recently added the “amenityFeature” property for the Place type (which includes the LocalBusiness type) and for LodgingBusiness of which Hotel is a subtype of. So a local business can do something like this to say that it offers free parking, free wifi, that it’s wheelchair accessible and so on:

"amenityFeature": [  
    {  
    "@type": "LocationFeatureSpecification",  
    "name": "Free Parking",  
    "value": "True"  
    },  
    {  
    "@type": "LocationFeatureSpecification",  
    "name": "Free WiFi",  
    "value": "True"  
    },  
    {  
    "@type": "LocationFeatureSpecification",  
    "name": "Wheelchair Accessible",  
    "value": "True"  
    },  
    {  
    "@type": "LocationFeatureSpecification",  
    "name": "Serves Breakfast",  
    "value": "True"  
    }, 
    {  
    "@type": "LocationFeatureSpecification",  
    "name": "Has All-You-Can-Eat Buffet",  
    "value": "True"  
    }       
],

By the way, that is the structure that would need to be used if a business was marking up more than one amenity or attribute.

A hotel could also do something like this to mark up the fact that they have an indoor swimming pool that is open everyday from 7 AM to 10 PM. It’s possible that a similar structure could be used to mark up, say, Happy Hour (I guess that depends if a restaurant’s Happy Hour could be considered an “amenity” or not. I’m not sure.).

"amenityFeature": {   
    "@type": "LocationFeatureSpecification",   
    "name": "Indoor Swimming Pool",   
    "hoursAvailable": [   
    {    
        "@type": "OpeningHoursSpecification",    
        "dayOfWeek": <a href="http://schema.org/Sunday">"http://schema.org/Sunday"</a>,
        "opens":  "07:00:00",
        "closes": "22:00:00"    
        },
        {    
        "@type": "OpeningHoursSpecification",
        "dayOfWeek": <a href="http://schema.org/Monday">"http://schema.org/Monday"</a>,
        "opens":  "07:00:00",
        "closes": "22:00:00"    
        },
        {    
        "@type": "OpeningHoursSpecification",
        "dayOfWeek": <a href="http://schema.org/Tuesday">"http://schema.org/Tuesday"</a>,
        "opens":  "07:00:00",
        "closes": "22:00:00"
        },
        {
        "@type": "OpeningHoursSpecification",
        "dayOfWeek": <a href="http://schema.org/Wednesday">"http://schema.org/Wednesday"</a>,
        "opens":  "07:00:00",
        "closes": "22:00:00"
        },
        {
        "@type": "OpeningHoursSpecification",
        "dayOfWeek": <a href="http://schema.org/Thursday">"http://schema.org/Thursday"</a>,
        "opens":  "07:00:00",
        "closes": "22:00:00"
        },
        {
        "@type": "OpeningHoursSpecification",
        "dayOfWeek": <a href="http://schema.org/Friday">"http://schema.org/Friday"</a>,
        "opens":  "07:00:00",
        "closes": "22:00:00"
        },
        {
        "@type": "OpeningHoursSpecification",
        "dayOfWeek": <a href="http://schema.org/Saturday">"http://schema.org/Saturday"</a>,
        "opens":  "07:00:00",
        "closes": "22:00:00"
        }
        ],

And schema.org does have a direct and simple way to mark up the fact that a restaurant accepts reservations and whether or not smoking is allowed. It would simply be:

  "acceptsReservations": "True",
  "smokingAllowed": "False",    

The same goes for if a hotel or lodging business allows pets:

 "petsAllowed": "True",

Now how much of this Google and the other search engines will use, it’s hard to say. But it certainly can’t hurt for a business to mark up their attributes and amenities on their site. If a website’s markup matches the attributes they’ve included on their Google My Business listing, I think that can only help. And we never know what Google will begin pulling out of a site’s structured data to use for something, so I stick by my motto: Mark up as much as possible and be as thorough as possible.”

In sum, in markets where you are looking for a competitive edge, exploration of thorough Schema amenity markup can dovetail, and might sometimes even correlate, with attribution development, enabling you to define features of your business is way your competitors may be overlooking.

3. Reviews

Here on the Moz Blog, we’ve previously discussed the vital importance of giving special treatment to reviews and testimonials on your website. And, as for reviews on third-party websites, I’m going to make a guess that you’ve already seen studies like this one indicating that a whopping 92% of consumers now read online reviews. Most recently, we’ve covered how to make maximum use of the owner response function available on many review platforms as a form of customer service, reputation management, and free marketing.

But there’s a subject we haven’t yet broached regarding reviews that is highly relevant to serving newcomers, and which recently came up in an exchange I had with Phil Rozek surrounding his excellent article, If Nobody in Your Area Cares About Yelp, Should You Still Bother Getting Reviews There?.

Phil brainstormed 7 great reasons for caring about review giant Yelp, including the visibility of Yelp in-SERP stars for your brand searches in Google, and the fact that Yelp feeds reviews to a number of other important platforms like Apple Maps and Bing Places. What I added to Phil’s list is that, even if Yelp isn’t big in your town, it may be huge in the cities from which your newcomer customers hail.

Surveys have repeatedly cited that Yelp is a much bigger deal on the coasts than in the interior United States. Yet, imagine a large hotel located within 3 miles of the newly-built Minnesota Viking’s U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Local people may not be leaving a ton of Yelp reviews of this hotel. Now, imagine that the San Francisco 49ers (having a MUCH different season than this one) are playing in the NFC Championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium on their way to Superbowl glory. San Franciscans are about to pour into Minneapolis, and they’ll be looking at Yelp in extraordinary proportions to find a hotel. If our hypothetical lodging facility has neglected Yelp because it’s no big deal in their home city, they could be losing out on a very lucrative moment.

This scenario is applicable to all third-party review platforms and all relevant local businesses located near major points-of-interest or event sites. This past summer, Wesley Young used his hometown of Frisco, TX to estimate that that 33% of local commerce was generated by non-locals. Meanwhile, here’s an interesting map of the places Americans were moving to and from in 2016. I would recommend that all local businesses consider gathering intel as to the cities that send them the most newcomers, and the review platforms most used in those cities of origin, to be sure a strong reputation is being developed there.

Completing the welcome

In addition to utilizing local business listing data management, attribute-driven website content, and city-of-origin review management to attract newcomers, here are a few more things you can do to round out the welcome message:

  • If you’ve discovered that certain cities tend to send your city of location a significant amount of newcomers, geotarget paid advertising to be shown to that demographic.
  • Your resident local customers may have the leisure to research your business from their desktop computers, but most of your traveling customers will be on their mobile devices. The quality of the mobile experience your website provides is especially critical to this user group.
  • Most good-sized towns and nearly all cities have welcome centers or tourism boards, many of which produce print materials for visitors. Consider advertising in these publications if your industry is included in my above infographic on local needs. And, if you print your own brochures, seek to have them included in the lobbies of as many local hotels and other businesses as possible.
  • Consider offering a new neighbor discount if you’d like to capture this demographic. Businesses like the Welcome Wagon have been facilitating this form of advertising for almost a century. Or, be your own welcoming committee utilizing both print and social media to promote one-time discounts for new homeowners in your area.
  • Look for tie-in opportunities with other local businesses. If our hypothetical family of 6 vacationers dines at Salsa Roja restaurant, could your auto garage, pottery shop, or swim center advertise on the back of the menu, alerting the family to your existence for tomorrow’s things-to-do agenda? How about getting a coupon code included in that ad, or doing some other form of cross-promotion with the restaurant?
  • Speaking of things-to-do, realize opportunities for publishing best-in-city guides to a particular subject that ties into your business model. For example, a gift shop specializing in nature-themed merchandise near a state or national park could write a wild bird guide listing species to be spotted in the area. A gym could publish a guide to the healthiest restaurants in the city or the best places to run. A pediatrician could write about fun places to take kids in their town. A cell phone store could map out areas of highest connectivity in a rural area. A key benefit to this type of relational topic development will be brand discovery by new neighbors and travelers while they are engaging with the useful content.

If your business is tourism-based (like a hotel chain), it’s likely you are already implementing most of these techniques, but it’s my hope that this article will have helped many more industries consider how crafting an appeal to new or non-locals is both applicable and savvy.

At the opening of this piece, I called this a ‘supplemental’ local SEO strategy, to be implemented as appropriate in addition to all you are already doing well to serve your resident population. The amount of resources you devote to this supplemental effort should be based on a) research as to the number of newcomers and tourists your city receives annually and b) the need for your business to distance itself from competitors with a superior effort.

If your findings are good and your need to compete is strong, why not make 2017 the year you extend a well-planned welcome to your share of those millions of consumers who will be on the move?

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 2 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it

The Complete Guide to Creating On-Site Reviews+Testimonials Pages

Posted by MiriamEllis

“Show your site’s credibility by using original research, citations, links, reviews and testimonials. An author biography or testimonials from real customers can help boost your site’s trustworthiness and reputation.”Google Search Console Course

2017 may well be the year of testimonials and reviews in local SEO. As our industry continues to grow, we have studied surveys indicating that some 92% of consumers now read online reviews and that 68% of these cite positive reviews as a significant trust factor. We’ve gone through a meaningful overhaul of Google’s schema review/testimonial guidelines while finding that major players like Yelp will publicly shame guideline-breakers. We’ve seen a major publication post a controversial piece suggesting that website testimonials pages are useless, drawing thoughtful industry rebuttals illustrating why well-crafted testimonials pages are, in fact, vitally useful in a variety of ways.

Reviews can impact your local pack rankings, testimonials can win you in-SERP stars, and if that isn’t convincing enough, the above quote states unequivocally that both reviews and testimonials on your website can boost Google’s perception of a local business’ trustworthiness and reputation. That sounds awfully good! Yet, seldom a day goes by that I don’t encounter websites that are neither encouraging reviews nor showcasing testimonials.

If you are marketing local enterprises that play to win, chances are you’ve been studying third-party review management for some years now. Not much has been written about on-site consumer feedback, though. What belongs on a company’s own testimonials/reviews page? How should you structure one? What are the benefits you might expect from the effort? Today, we’re going to get serious about the central role of consumer sentiment and learn to maximize its potential to influence and convert customers.

Up next to help you in the work ahead: technical specifics, expert tips, and a consumer feedback page mockup.

Definitions and differentiations

Traditional reviews: Direct from customers on third-party sites

In the local SEO industry, when you hear someone talking about “reviews,” they typically mean sentiment left directly by customers on third-party platforms, like this review on TripAdvisor:

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Traditional testimonials: Moderated by owners on company site

By contrast, testimonials have traditionally meant user sentiment gathered by a business and posted on the company website on behalf of customers, like this snippet from a bed-and-breakfast site:

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Review content has historically been outside of owners’ control, while testimonial content has been subject to the editorial control of the business owner. Reviews have historically featured ratings, user profiles, images, owner responses, and other features while testimonials might just be a snippet of text with little verifiable information identifying the author. Reviews have typically been cited as more trustworthy because they are supposedly unmoderated, while testimonials have sometimes been criticized as creating a positive-only picture of the business managing them.

Hybrid sentiment: Review+testimonial functionality on company site

Things are changing! More sophisticated local businesses are now employing technologies that blur the lines between reviews and testimonials. Website-based applications can enable users to leave reviews directly on-site, they can contain star ratings, avatars, and even owner responses, like this:

In other words, you have many options when it comes to managing user sentiment, but to make sure the effort you put in yields maximum benefits, you’ve got to:

  1. Know the guidelines and technology
  2. Have a clear goal and a clear plan for achieving it
  3. Commit to making a sustained effort

There is a ton of great content out there about managing your reviews on third-party platforms like Yelp, Google, Facebook, etc., but today we’re focusing specifically on your on-site reviews/testimonials page. What belongs on that page? How should you populate and organize its content? What benefits might you expect from the investment? To answer those questions, let’s create a goal-drive plan, with help from some world-class Local SEOs.

Guidelines & technology

There are two types of guidelines you need to know in the consumer sentiment space:

1) Platform policies

Because your website’s consumer feedback page may feature a combination of unique reviews and testimonials you directly source, widgets featuring third-party review streams, and links or badges either showcasing third-party reviews or asking for them, you need to know the policies of each platform you plan to feature.

Why does this matter? Since different platforms have policies that range from lax to strict, you want to be sure you’re making the most of each one’s permissions without raising any red flags. Google, for example, has historically been fine with companies asking consumers for reviews, while Yelp’s policy is more stringent and complex.

Here are some quick links to the policies of a few of the major review platforms, to which you’ll want to add your own research for sites that are specific to your industry and/or geography:

2) Google’s review schema guidelines

Google has been a dominant player in local for so long that their policies often tend to set general industry standards. In addition to the Google review policy I’ve linked to above, Google has a completely separate set of review schema guidelines, which recently underwent a significant update. The update included clarifications about critic reviews and review snippets, but most germane to today’s topic, Google offered the following guidelines surrounding testimonial/review content you may wish to publish and mark up with schema on your website:

Google may display information from aggregate ratings markup in the Google Knowledge Cards. The following guidelines apply to review snippets in knowledge cards for local businesses:

– Ratings must be sourced directly from users.
– Don’t rely on human editors to create, curate or compile ratings information for local businesses. These types of reviews are critic reviews.
– Sites must collect ratings information directly from users and not from other sites.

In sum, if you want to mark up consumer feedback with schema on your website, it should be unique to your website — not drawn from any other source. But to enjoy the rewards of winning eye-catching in-SERP star ratings or of becoming a “reviews from the web” source in Google’s knowledge panels, you’ve got to know how to implement schema correctly. Let’s do this right and call on a schema expert to steer our course.

Get friendly with review schema technology.

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The local SEO industry has come to know David Deering and his company TouchPoint Digital Marketing as go-to resources for the implementation of complex schema and JSON-LD markup. I’m very grateful to him for his willingness to share some of the basics with us.

Here on the Moz blog, I always strive to highlight high quality, free resources, but in this case, free may not get the job done. I asked David if he could recommend any really good free review schema plugins, and learned a lot from his answer:

Boy, that’s a tough one because I don’t use any plugins or tools to do the markup work. I find that none of them do a good job at adding markup to a page. Some come close, but the plugin files still need to be edited in order for everything to be correct and properly nested. So I tend to hard-code the templates that would control the insertion of reviews onto a page. But I can tell you that GetFiveStars does a pretty good job at marking up reviews and ratings and adding them to a site. There might be others, too, but I just don’t have any personal experience using them, unfortunately.

It sounds like, at present, best bets are going to be to go with a paid service or roll up your sleeves to dig into schema hard coding. *If anyone in our community has discovered a plugin or widget that meets the standards David has cited, please definitely share it in the comments, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at the example David kindly provided of perfect markup. He notes,

“The following example is rather simple and straightforward but it contains everything that a review markup should. (The example also assumes that the review markup is nested within the markup of the business that’s being reviewed):”

"review": {
    "@type": "Review",
    "author": {
        "@type": "Person",
        "name": "Reviewer's Name",
        "sameAs": "<a href="http://link-to-persons-profile-page.com">http://link-to-persons-profile-page.com</a>"
    }
    "datePublished": "2016-09-23",
    "reviewBody": "Reviewer's comments here...",
    "reviewRating": {
        "@type": "Rating"
        "worstRating": "1",
        "bestRating": "5",
        "ratingValue": "5"
    }
},

This is a good day to check to see if your schema is as clean and thorough as David’s, and also to consider the benefits of JSON-LD markup, which he describes this way:

“JSON-LD is simply another syntax or method that can be used to insert structured data markup onto a page. Once the markup is created, you can simply insert it into the head section of the page. So it’s easy to use in that sense. And Google has stated their preference for JSON-LD, so it’s a good idea to make the switch from microdata if a person hasn’t already.”

There are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to schema + reviews

I asked David if he could share some expert review-oriented tips and he replied,

Well, in typical fashion, Google has been fickle with their rich snippet guidelines. They didn’t allow the marking up of third-party reviews, then they did, now they don’t again. So, I think it would be a good idea for businesses to begin collecting reviews directly from their customers through their site or through email. Of course, I would not suggest neglecting the other online review sources because those are important, too. But when it comes to Google and rich snippets, don’t put all of your eggs (and hopes) in one basket.

*As a rule, the reviews should be directly about the main entity on the page. So keep reviews about the business, products, services, etc. separate — don’t combine them because that goes against Google’s rich snippet guidelines.”

And any warnings about things we should never do with schema? David says,

“Never mark up anything that is not visible on the page, including reviews, ratings and aggregate ratings. Only use review markup for the entities that Google allows it to be used for. For example, the review and rating markup should not be used for articles or on-page content. That goes against Google’s guidelines. And as of this writing, it’s also against their guidelines to mark up third-party reviews and ratings such as those found on Google+ or Yelp.

Ready to dig deeper into the engrossing world of schema markup with David Deering? I highly recommend this recent LocalU video. If the work involved makes you dizzy, hiring an expert or purchasing a paid service are likely to be worthwhile investments. Now that we’ve considered our technical options, let’s consider what we’d like to achieve.

Define your consumer feedback page goals.

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If I could pick just one consultant to get advice from concerning the potential benefits of local consumer feedback, it would be GetFiveStars’ co-founder and renowned local SEO, Mike Blumenthal.

Before we dive in with Mike, I want to offer one important clarification:

If you’re marketing a single-location business, you’ll typically be creating just one consumer feedback page on your website to represent it, but if yours is a multi-location business, you’ll want to take the advice in this article and apply it to each city landing page on your website, including unique user sentiment for each location. For more on this concept, see Joy Hawkins’ article How to Solve Duplicate Content Local SEO Issues for Multi-Location Businesses.

Now let’s set some goals for what a consumer feedback page can achieve. Mike breaks this down into two sections:

1. Customer-focused

  • Create an effective page that ranks highly for your brand so that it becomes a doorway page from Google.
  • Make sure that the page is easily accessible from your selling pages with appropriately embedded reviews and links so that it can help sell sitewide.

2. Google-focused

  • Get the page ranking well on brand and brand+review searches
  • Ideally, get designated with review stars
  • Optimally, have it show in the knowledge panel as a source for reviews from the web

This screenshot illustrates these last three points perfectly:

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Time on page may make you a believer!

Getting excited about consumer feedback pages, yet? There’s more! Check out this screenshot from one of Mike’s showcase clients, the lovely Barbara Oliver Jewelry in Williamsville, NY, and pay special attention to the average time spent on http://barbaraoliverandco.com/reviews-testimonials/:

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When customers are spending 3+ minutes on any page of a local business website, you can feel quite confident that they are really engaging with the business. Mike says,

“For Barbara, this is an incredibly important page. It reflects almost 9% of her overall page visits and represents almost 5% of the landing pages from the search engines. Time on the page for new visitors is 4 minutes with an average of over 3 minutes. This page had review snippets until she recently updated her site — hopefully they will return. It’s an incredibly important page for her.”

Transparency helps much more than it hurts.

The jewelry store utilizes GetFiveStars technology, and represents a perfect chance to ask Mike about a few of the finer details of what belongs on consumer feedback pages. I had noticed that GetFiveStars gives editorial control to owners over which reviews go live, and wanted to get Mike’s personal take on transparency and authenticity. He says,

“I strongly encourage business owners to show all feedback. I think transparency in reviews is critical for customer trust and we find that showing all legitimate feedback results in less than a half-point decline in star ratings on average.


That being said, I also recommend that 1) the negative feedback be held back for 7 to 10 days to allow for complaint resolution before publishing and 2) that the content meet basic terms of service and appropriateness that should be defined by each business. Obviously you don’t want your own review site to become a mosh pit, so some standards are appropriate.


I am more concerned about users than bots. I think that a clear statement of your terms of service and your standards for handling these comments should be visible to all visitors. Trust is the critical factor. Barbara Oliver doesn’t yet have that but only because she has recently updated her site. It’s something that will be added shortly.

Respond to on-page reviews just as you would on third-party platforms.

I’d also noticed something that struck me as uncommon on Barbara Oliver Jewelry’s consumer feedback page: she responds to her on-page reviews, just as she would on third-party review platforms. Mike explains:

“In the ‘old’ days of reviews, I always thought that owner responses to positive reviews were a sort of glad handing … I mean how many times can you say ‘thank you’? But as I researched the issue it became clear that a very large minority of users (40%) noted that if they took the time to leave feedback or a review, then the owner should acknowledge it. That research convinced me to push for the feature in GetFiveStars. With GetFiveStars, the owner is actually prompted to provide either a private or public response. The reviewer receives an email with the response as well. This works great for both happy and unhappy outcomes and serves double-duty as a basis for complaint management on the unhappy side.


You can see the evolution of my thinking in these two articles

What I used to think: Should A Business Respond to Every Positive Review?

What I think after asking consumers their thoughts: Should A Business Respond to Every Positive Review? Here’s The Consumer View.

Reviews on your mind, all the time

So, basically, consumers have taught Mike (and now all of us!) that reasonable goals for reviews/testimonials pages include earning stars, becoming a knowledge panel review source, and winning a great average time on page, in addition to the fact that transparency and responsiveness are rewarded. Before he zooms off to his next local SEO rescue, I wanted to ask Mike if anything new is exciting him in this area of marketing. Waving goodbye, he shouts:

Sheesh … I spend all day, every day thinking about these sorts of things. I mean my motto used to be ‘All Local, All the Time’… now it’s just ‘All Reviews, All the Time.’

I think that this content that is generated by the business owner, from known clients, has incredible import in all aspects of their marketing. It is great for social proof, great user-generated content, customer relations, and much more. We are currently ‘plotting’ new and valuable ways for businesses to use this content effectively and easily.


I’m experimenting right now with another client, Kaplan Insurance, to see exactly what it takes to get rich snippets these days.”

I know I’ll be on the lookout for a new case study from Mike on that topic!

Plan out the components of your consumer feedback page

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Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System is one of the most sophisticated, generous bloggers I know in the local SEO industry. You’ll become an instant fan of his, too, once you’ve saved yourself oodles of time using his Ultimate List of Review Widgets and Badges for Your Local Business Website. And speaking of ‘ultimate,’ here is the list Phil and I brainstormed together, each adding our recommended components, for the elements we’d want to see on a consumer feedback page:

  • Full integration into the site (navigation, internal linking, etc.); not an island page.
  • Welcoming text intro with a link to review content policy/TOS
  • Unique sentiment with schema markup (not drawn from third parties)
  • Specification of the reviewers’ names and cities
  • Owner responses
  • Paginate the reviews if page length starts getting out of hand
  • Provide an at-a-glance average star rating for easy scanning
  • Badges/widgets that take users to the best place to leave a traditional third-party review. Make sure these links open in a new browser tab!
  • Video reviews
  • Scanned hand-written testimonial images
  • Links to critic-type reviews (professional reviews at Zagat, Michelin, etc.)
  • A link to a SERP showing more of the users’ reviews, signalling authenticity rather than editorial control
  • Tasteful final call-to-action

And what might such a page look like in real life (or at least, on the Internet)? Here is my mockup for a fictitious restaurant in Denver, Colorado, followed by a key:

Click to open a bigger version in a new tab!

Key to the mockup:

  1. Page is an integral part of the top level navigation
  2. Welcoming text with nod to honesty and appreciation
  3. Link to review content policy
  4. Paginated on-page reviews
  5. Call-to-action button to leave a review
  6. Easy-to-read average star rating
  7. Schema marked-up on-page reviews
  8. Sample owner response
  9. Links and badges to third party reviews
  10. Link to SERP URL featuring all available review sources
  11. Links to professional reviews
  12. Handwritten and video testimonials
  13. Tasteful final call-to-action to leave a review

Your live consumer feedback page will be more beautifully and thoughtfully planned than my example, but hopefully the mockup has given you some ideas for a refresh or overhaul of what you’re currently publishing.

Scanning the wild for a little sentiment management inspiration

I asked Phil if he’d recently seen local businesses recently making a good effort at promoting consumer feedback. He pointed to these, with the proviso that none of them are 100% perfect but that they should offer some good inspiration. Don’t you just totally love real-world examples?

Lightning round advice for adept feedback acquisition

Before we let Phil get back to his work as “the last local SEO guy you’ll ever need,” I wanted to take a minute to ask him for some tips on encouraging meaningful customer feedback.

“Don’t ask just once. In-person plus an email follow-up (or two) is usually best. Give customers choices and always provide instructions. Ask in a personal, conversational way. Rotate the sites you ask for reviews on. Try snail-mail or the phone. Have different people in your organization ask so that you can find ‘The Champ’,” says Phil. “Encourage detail, on-site and off-site. Saying things like ‘It will only take you 60 seconds’ may be great for getting big numbers of on-site testimonials, but the testimonials will be unhelpfully short or, worse, appear forced or fake. Dashed-off feedback helps no one. By the way, this can help you even if a given customer had a bad experience; if you’re encouraging specifics, at least he/she is a little more likely to leave the kind of in-depth feedback that can help you improve.”

Sustain your effort & facilitate your story

Every time Google sharpens focus on a particular element of search, as they are clearly doing right now with consumer and professional sentiment, it’s like a gift. It’s a clanging bell, an intercom announcement, a handwritten letter letting all of us know that we should consider shifting new effort toward a particular facet of marketing and see where it gets us with Google.

In this specific case, we can draw extra inspiration for sustaining ourselves in the work ahead from the fact that Google’s interest in reviews and testimonials intersects with the desires of consumers who make transactional decisions based, in part, on what Internet sentiment indicates about a local business. In other words, the effort you put into acquiring and amplifying this form of UGC makes Google, consumers, and your company happy, all in one fell swoop.

If you took all of the sentiment customers express about a vibrant, given business and put it into a book, it would end up reading something like War and Peace. The good news about this is that you don’t have to write it — you have thousands of potential volunteer Tolstoys out there to do the job for you, because reviewing businesses has become a phenomenal modern hobby.

Your job is simply to provide a service experience (hopefully a good one) that moves customers to start typing, back that up with a variety of ongoing feedback requests, and facilitate the publication of sentiment in the clearest, most user-friendly way.

Some more good news? You don’t have to do all of this tomorrow. I recently saw a Google review profile on which a business had “earned” over 100 reviews in a week — a glaring authenticity fail, for sure. A better approach is simply to keep the sentiment conversation going at a human pace, engaging with your customers in a human way, and ensuring that your consumer feedback page is as good as you can possibly make it. This is manageable — you can do this!

Are you experimenting with any page elements or techniques that have resulted in improved user feedback? Please inspire our community by sharing your tips!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!

Reblogged 2 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it

Meet Dan Morris, Executive Vice President, North America

  1. Why did you decide to come to dotmailer?

The top three reasons were People, Product and Opportunity. I met the people who make up our business and heard their stories from the past 18 years, learned about the platform and market leading status they had built in the UK, and saw that I could add value with my U.S. high growth business experience. I’ve been working with marketers, entrepreneurs and business owners for years across a series of different roles, and saw that I could apply what I’d learned from that and the start-up space to dotmailer’s U.S. operation. dotmailer has had clients in the U.S. for 12 years and we’re positioned to grow the user base of our powerful and easy-to-use platform significantly. I knew I could make a difference here, and what closed the deal for me was the people.  Every single person I’ve met is deeply committed to the business, to the success of our customers and to making our solution simple and efficient.  We’re a great group of passionate people and I’m proud to have joined the dotfamily.

Dan Morris, dotmailer’s EVP for North America in the new NYC office

      1. Tell us a bit about your new role

dotmailer has been in business and in this space for more than 18 years. We were a web agency, then a Systems Integrator, and we got into the email business that way, ultimately building the dotmailer platform thousands of people use daily. This means we know this space better than anyone and we have the perfect solutions to align closely with our customers and the solutions flexible enough to grow with them.  My role is to take all that experience and the platform and grow our U.S. presence. My early focus has been on identifying the right team to execute our growth plans. We want to be the market leader in the U.S. in the next three years – just like we’ve done in the UK –  so getting the right people in the right spots was critical.  We quickly assessed the skills of the U.S. team and made changes that were necessary in order to provide the right focus on customer success. Next, we set out to completely rebuild dotmailer’s commercial approach in the U.S.  We simplified our offers to three bundles, so that pricing and what’s included in those bundles is transparent to our customers.  We’ve heard great things about this already from clients and partners. We’re also increasing our resources on customer success and support.  We’re intensely focused on ease of on-boarding, ease of use and speed of use.  We consistently hear how easy and smooth a process it is to use dotmailer’s tools.  That’s key for us – when you buy a dotmailer solution, we want to onboard you quickly and make sure you have all of your questions answered right away so that you can move right into using it.  Customers are raving about this, so we know it’s working well.

  1. What early accomplishments are you most proud of from your dotmailer time so far?

I’ve been at dotmailer for eight months now and I’m really proud of all we’ve accomplished together.  We spent a lot of time assessing where we needed to restructure and where we needed to invest.  We made the changes we needed, invested in our partner program, localized tech support, customer on-boarding and added customer success team members.  We have the right people in the right roles and it’s making a difference.  We have a commercial approach that is clear with the complete transparency that we wanted to provide our customers.  We’ve got a more customer-focused approach and we’re on-boarding customers quickly so they’re up and running faster.  We have happier customers than ever before and that’s the key to everything we do.

  1. You’ve moved the U.S. team to a new office. Can you tell us why and a bit about the new space?

I thought it was very important to create a NY office space that was tied to branding and other offices around the world, and also had its own NY energy and culture for our team here – to foster collaboration and to have some fun.  It was also important for us that we had a flexible space where we could welcome customers, partners and resellers, and also hold classes and dotUniversity training sessions. I’m really grateful to the team who worked on the space because it really reflects our team and what we care about.   At any given time, you’ll see a training session happening, the team collaborating, a customer dropping in to ask a few questions or a partner dropping in to work from here.  We love our new, NYC space.

We had a spectacular reception this week to celebrate the opening of this office with customers, partners and the dotmailer leadership team in attendance. Please take a look at the photos from our event on Facebook.

Guests and the team at dotmailer's new NYC office warming party

Guests and the team at dotmailer’s new NYC office warming party

  1. What did you learn from your days in the start-up space that you’re applying at dotmailer?

The start-up space is a great place to learn. You have to know where every dollar is going and coming from, so every choice you make needs to be backed up with a business case for that investment.  You try lots of different things to see if they’ll work and you’re ready to turn those tactics up or down quickly based on an assessment of the results. You also learn things don’t have to stay the way they are, and can change if you make them change. You always listen and learn – to customers, partners, industry veterans, advisors, etc. to better understand what’s working and not working.  dotmailer has been in business for 18 years now, and so there are so many great contributors across the business who know how things have worked and yet are always keen to keep improving.  I am constantly in listening and learning mode so that I can understand all of the unique perspectives our team brings and what we need to act on.

  1. What are your plans for the U.S. and the sales function there?

On our path to being the market leader in the U.S., I’m focused on three things going forward: 1 – I want our customers to be truly happy.  It’s already a big focus in the dotmailer organization – and we’re working hard to understand their challenges and goals so we can take product and service to the next level. 2 – Creating an even more robust program around partners, resellers and further building out our channel partners to continuously improve sales and customer service programs. We recently launched a certification program to ensure partners have all the training and resources they need to support our mutual customers.  3 – We have an aggressive growth plan for the U.S. and I’m very focused on making sure our team is well trained, and that we remain thoughtful and measured as we take the steps to grow.  We want to always keep an eye on what we’re known for – tools that are powerful and simple to use – and make sure everything else we offer remains accessible and valuable as we execute our growth plans.

  1. What are the most common questions that you get when speaking to a prospective customer?

The questions we usually get are around price, service level and flexibility.  How much does dotmailer cost?  How well are you going to look after my business?  How will you integrate into my existing stack and then my plans for future growth? We now have three transparent bundle options with specifics around what’s included published right on our website.  We have introduced a customer success team that’s focused only on taking great care of our customers and we’re hearing stories every day that tells me this is working.  And we have all of the tools to support our customers as they grow and to also integrate into their existing stacks – often integrating so well that you can use dotmailer from within Magento, Salesforce or Dynamics, for example.

  1. Can you tell us about the dotmailer differentiators you highlight when speaking to prospective customers that seem to really resonate?

In addition to the ones above – ease of use, speed of use and the ability to scale with you. With dotmailer’s tiered program, you can start with a lighter level of functionality and grow into more advanced functionality as you need it. The platform itself is so easy to use that most marketers are able to build campaigns in minutes that would have taken hours on other platforms. Our customer success team is also with you all the way if ever you want or need help.  We’ve built a very powerful platform and we have a fantastic team to help you with personalized service as an extended part of your team and we’re ready to grow with you.

  1. How much time is your team on the road vs. in the office? Any road warrior tips to share?

I’ve spent a lot of time on the road, one year I attended 22 tradeshows! Top tip when flying is to be willing to give up your seat for families or groups once you’re at the airport gate, as you’ll often be rewarded with a better seat for helping the airline make the family or group happy. Win win! Since joining dotmailer, I’m focused on being in office and present for the team and customers as much as possible. I can usually be found in our new, NYC office where I spend a lot of time with our team, in customer meetings, in trainings and other hosted events, sales conversations or marketing meetings. I’m here to help the team, clients and partners to succeed, and will always do my best to say yes! Once our prospective customers see how quickly and efficiently they can execute tasks with dotmailer solutions vs. their existing solutions, it’s a no-brainer for them.  I love seeing and hearing their reactions.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself – favorite sports team, favorite food, guilty pleasure, favorite band, favorite vacation spot?

I’m originally from Yorkshire in England, and grew up just outside York. I moved to the U.S. about seven years ago to join a very fast growing startup, we took it from 5 to well over 300 people which was a fantastic experience. I moved to NYC almost two years ago, and I love exploring this great city.  There’s so much to see and do.  Outside of dotmailer, my passion is cars, and I also enjoy skeet shooting, almost all types of music, and I love to travel – my goal is to get to India, Thailand, Australia and Japan in the near future.

Want to find out more about the dotfamily? Check out our recent post about Darren Hockley, Global Head of Support.

Reblogged 3 years ago from blog.dotmailer.com

Don’t turn your back on back to school

Courtesy of: The Shelf

 

Want to learn more about creating the perfect omnichannel retail experience? Get a free copy of our recent whitepaper.
Reblogged 3 years ago from blog.dotmailer.com

The perfect local SEO landing page

Columnist Marcus Miller shares tips, advice and an infographic on creating highly optimized, high-converting landing pages for local SEO.

The post The perfect local SEO landing page appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Reblogged 3 years ago from feeds.searchengineland.com

Stop Ghost Spam in Google Analytics with One Filter

Posted by CarloSeo

The spam in Google Analytics (GA) is becoming a serious issue. Due to a deluge of referral spam from social buttons, adult sites, and many, many other sources, people are starting to become overwhelmed by all the filters they are setting up to manage the useless data they are receiving.

The good news is, there is no need to panic. In this post, I’m going to focus on the most common mistakes people make when fighting spam in GA, and explain an efficient way to prevent it.

But first, let’s make sure we understand how spam works. A couple of months ago, Jared Gardner wrote an excellent article explaining what referral spam is, including its intended purpose. He also pointed out some great examples of referral spam.

Types of spam

The spam in Google Analytics can be categorized by two types: ghosts and crawlers.

Ghosts

The vast majority of spam is this type. They are called ghosts because they never access your site. It is important to keep this in mind, as it’s key to creating a more efficient solution for managing spam.

As unusual as it sounds, this type of spam doesn’t have any interaction with your site at all. You may wonder how that is possible since one of the main purposes of GA is to track visits to our sites.

They do it by using the Measurement Protocol, which allows people to send data directly to Google Analytics’ servers. Using this method, and probably randomly generated tracking codes (UA-XXXXX-1) as well, the spammers leave a “visit” with fake data, without even knowing who they are hitting.

Crawlers

This type of spam, the opposite to ghost spam, does access your site. As the name implies, these spam bots crawl your pages, ignoring rules like those found in robots.txt that are supposed to stop them from reading your site. When they exit your site, they leave a record on your reports that appears similar to a legitimate visit.

Crawlers are harder to identify because they know their targets and use real data. But it is also true that new ones seldom appear. So if you detect a referral in your analytics that looks suspicious, researching it on Google or checking it against this list might help you answer the question of whether or not it is spammy.

Most common mistakes made when dealing with spam in GA

I’ve been following this issue closely for the last few months. According to the comments people have made on my articles and conversations I’ve found in discussion forums, there are primarily three mistakes people make when dealing with spam in Google Analytics.

Mistake #1. Blocking ghost spam from the .htaccess file

One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to block Ghost Spam from the .htaccess file.

For those who are not familiar with this file, one of its main functions is to allow/block access to your site. Now we know that ghosts never reach your site, so adding them here won’t have any effect and will only add useless lines to your .htaccess file.

Ghost spam usually shows up for a few days and then disappears. As a result, sometimes people think that they successfully blocked it from here when really it’s just a coincidence of timing.

Then when the spammers later return, they get worried because the solution is not working anymore, and they think the spammer somehow bypassed the barriers they set up.

The truth is, the .htaccess file can only effectively block crawlers such as buttons-for-website.com and a few others since these access your site. Most of the spam can’t be blocked using this method, so there is no other option than using filters to exclude them.

Mistake #2. Using the referral exclusion list to stop spam

Another error is trying to use the referral exclusion list to stop the spam. The name may confuse you, but this list is not intended to exclude referrals in the way we want to for the spam. It has other purposes.

For example, when a customer buys something, sometimes they get redirected to a third-party page for payment. After making a payment, they’re redirected back to you website, and GA records that as a new referral. It is appropriate to use referral exclusion list to prevent this from happening.

If you try to use the referral exclusion list to manage spam, however, the referral part will be stripped since there is no preexisting record. As a result, a direct visit will be recorded, and you will have a bigger problem than the one you started with since. You will still have spam, and direct visits are harder to track.

Mistake #3. Worrying that bounce rate changes will affect rankings

When people see that the bounce rate changes drastically because of the spam, they start worrying about the impact that it will have on their rankings in the SERPs.

bounce.png

This is another mistake commonly made. With or without spam, Google doesn’t take into consideration Google Analytics metrics as a ranking factor. Here is an explanation about this from Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s web spam team.

And if you think about it, Cutts’ explanation makes sense; because although many people have GA, not everyone uses it.

Assuming your site has been hacked

Another common concern when people see strange landing pages coming from spam on their reports is that they have been hacked.

landing page

The page that the spam shows on the reports doesn’t exist, and if you try to open it, you will get a 404 page. Your site hasn’t been compromised.

But you have to make sure the page doesn’t exist. Because there are cases (not spam) where some sites have a security breach and get injected with pages full of bad keywords to defame the website.

What should you worry about?

Now that we’ve discarded security issues and their effects on rankings, the only thing left to worry about is your data. The fake trail that the spam leaves behind pollutes your reports.

It might have greater or lesser impact depending on your site traffic, but everyone is susceptible to the spam.

Small and midsize sites are the most easily impacted – not only because a big part of their traffic can be spam, but also because usually these sites are self-managed and sometimes don’t have the support of an analyst or a webmaster.

Big sites with a lot of traffic can also be impacted by spam, and although the impact can be insignificant, invalid traffic means inaccurate reports no matter the size of the website. As an analyst, you should be able to explain what’s going on in even in the most granular reports.

You only need one filter to deal with ghost spam

Usually it is recommended to add the referral to an exclusion filter after it is spotted. Although this is useful for a quick action against the spam, it has three big disadvantages.

  • Making filters every week for every new spam detected is tedious and time-consuming, especially if you manage many sites. Plus, by the time you apply the filter, and it starts working, you already have some affected data.
  • Some of the spammers use direct visits along with the referrals.
  • These direct hits won’t be stopped by the filter so even if you are excluding the referral you will sill be receiving invalid traffic, which explains why some people have seen an unusual spike in direct traffic.

Luckily, there is a good way to prevent all these problems. Most of the spam (ghost) works by hitting GA’s random tracking-IDs, meaning the offender doesn’t really know who is the target, and for that reason either the hostname is not set or it uses a fake one. (See report below)

Ghost-Spam.png

You can see that they use some weird names or don’t even bother to set one. Although there are some known names in the list, these can be easily added by the spammer.

On the other hand, valid traffic will always use a real hostname. In most of the cases, this will be the domain. But it also can also result from paid services, translation services, or any other place where you’ve inserted GA tracking code.

Valid-Referral.png

Based on this, we can make a filter that will include only hits that use real hostnames. This will automatically exclude all hits from ghost spam, whether it shows up as a referral, keyword, or pageview; or even as a direct visit.

To create this filter, you will need to find the report of hostnames. Here’s how:

  1. Go to the Reporting tab in GA
  2. Click on Audience in the lefthand panel
  3. Expand Technology and select Network
  4. At the top of the report, click on Hostname

Valid-list

You will see a list of all hostnames, including the ones that the spam uses. Make a list of all the valid hostnames you find, as follows:

  • yourmaindomain.com
  • blog.yourmaindomain.com
  • es.yourmaindomain.com
  • payingservice.com
  • translatetool.com
  • anotheruseddomain.com

For small to medium sites, this list of hostnames will likely consist of the main domain and a couple of subdomains. After you are sure you got all of them, create a regular expression similar to this one:

yourmaindomain\.com|anotheruseddomain\.com|payingservice\.com|translatetool\.com

You don’t need to put all of your subdomains in the regular expression. The main domain will match all of them. If you don’t have a view set up without filters, create one now.

Then create a Custom Filter.

Make sure you select INCLUDE, then select “Hostname” on the filter field, and copy your expression into the Filter Pattern box.

filter

You might want to verify the filter before saving to check that everything is okay. Once you’re ready, set it to save, and apply the filter to all the views you want (except the view without filters).

This single filter will get rid of future occurrences of ghost spam that use invalid hostnames, and it doesn’t require much maintenance. But it’s important that every time you add your tracking code to any service, you add it to the end of the filter.

Now you should only need to take care of the crawler spam. Since crawlers access your site, you can block them by adding these lines to the .htaccess file:

## STOP REFERRER SPAM 
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} semalt\.com [NC,OR] 
RewriteCond %{HTTP_REFERER} buttons-for-website\.com [NC] 
RewriteRule .* - [F]

It is important to note that this file is very sensitive, and misplacing a single character it it can bring down your entire site. Therefore, make sure you create a backup copy of your .htaccess file prior to editing it.

If you don’t feel comfortable messing around with your .htaccess file, you can alternatively make an expression with all the crawlers, then and add it to an exclude filter by Campaign Source.

Implement these combined solutions, and you will worry much less about spam contaminating your analytics data. This will have the added benefit of freeing up more time for you to spend actually analyze your valid data.

After stopping spam, you can also get clean reports from the historical data by using the same expressions in an Advance Segment to exclude all the spam.

Bonus resources to help you manage spam

If you still need more information to help you understand and deal with the spam on your GA reports, you can read my main article on the subject here: http://www.ohow.co/what-is-referrer-spam-how-stop-it-guide/.

Additional information on how to stop spam can be found at these URLs:

In closing, I am eager to hear your ideas on this serious issue. Please share them in the comments below.

(Editor’s Note: All images featured in this post were created by the author.)

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Reblogged 4 years ago from tracking.feedpress.it