Turning Negative Reviews into a Positive Marketing Opportunity

On a recent trip I commented to the hotel clerk that I had read a review online complaining about the condition of the linens.  She proudly remarked that they had upgraded ALL of their towels and bed linens and that this wouldn’t be a problem.  I commented that this was great, but why hadn’t the hotel commented on the bad review, letting other potential guests know that they had made the change?  Then I thought to myself that the blog I had meant to write on how to use bad reviews to your benefit was long overdue.

Every business, even the most service oriented, will encounter an unsatisfied customer.  Maybe the customer or the employee was having an off day … but savvy business owners know how to turn lemons into lemonade and bad reviews into opportunity.  Here are some helpful tips:

Tip #1 – Resist the knee jerk reaction; accusations, excuses, and the worst anger.  It is a natural reaction, but one that you will only regret later.   So even if the review is completely off base; breath in, relax and read tip #2.

Tip #2 – Respond quickly and carefully, recognize the criticism or complaint, offer to correct the situation in private by inviting them to call you directly, and remind your customers that customer service and customer satisfaction are your top priority.  Invite the reviewer to return to your establishment or to try your services again, and if you have done something to correct the situation (for example updating your linens), for goodness’ sakes let the public know.  Reviews stay online for months, and future customers will be pleased to know that you have corrected the situation.

Tip #3 – You do not have to respond to every criticism, and while there was a time when courting negative reviews helped your business get found online, Panda has changed this.  When you do respond to reviews, do so with future prospects in mind.  Just like tip #2 encourages the reviewer to return, tip #3 invites future customers to purchase your product or services and see how you have improved or how the negative review was a misunderstanding.

Tip #4 – Know what the world is saying and what you can do about it.  First I recommend signing up for services like “Google Alerts” which notifies you when something is written about your organization online.  It is better to have read the review so that you can respond to any and all comments both online, in person, and make it part of your future marketing strategy.  Think of Domino’s Pizza, they took a risk and challenged complaints head on with promises of better products and customer care.  The risk appears to have paid off, although in my opinion they should be thinking about transitioning their strategy, but …

Tip #5 – Know what you can and cannot do about the reviews. Some sites let an authorized user respond to a review, some let an authorized user delete a review, and some allow business owners to edit a review.

Here are just a few examples:

  Respond to a Review Edit a Review Delete a Review
Google Places Yes Yes Yes
Yahoo! Local Yes Yes Yes
Yelp Yes No No
Merchant Circle Yes Yes Yes

Tip #6 – Andrew Shotland and other SEO experts say that business owners should NEVER ignore reviews, and while I agree 100%, business owners should resist the temptation to get caught up in a dialog where you invite more negative comments.  Make your statement, invite personal correspondence and remain calm and level headed.  Never fall into the trap of personal accusations and attacks, but remember reviews have legs and if you ignore them they will certainly run away and have a negative impact on your business.

So while every business owner would love only positive reviews, savvy business owners can turn these reviews into a positive marketing opportunity if they follow some basic guidelines.



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Understanding Your Target Audience for Local SEO

“Local” Optimization

Marketing/Advertising 101 teaches us two basic principles; you need to know your target audience and you need to know how to get your marketing/advertising efforts in front of your target audience.  The same applies to Local Internet Marketing.

Most small business owners are local in nature, and with over 2.75 million SMBs in the United States all vying for that coveted spot on the first page of Google, Yahoo!, or Bing in a local search query (which accounts for 20% of all U.S. searches or 3.83 billion a month), knowing how to get found is paramount to a successful online advertising campaign.

Knowing your target audience – Most businesses know who their target audience is and what they are looking for in their products or services. For example, Home Security Systems have three targeted audiences; single women in their mid 30s to mid 50s who want protection for themselves, men in their 30s through 50s who want to protect their families, and elderly who want the extra protection or whose middle aged children want to be certain they are safe.  For this business, the average customer earns over 40,000 and owns a home.

To try to determine what your target audience is, you only need to think about your product and who you receive the most calls or walk ins from; women or men?  Does the price point require a certain income, marital status, or home ownership?  I recently found a good article  on About Us that explains the process of understanding your target audience with Internet Marketing.

Reaching Your Target Audience and Knowing How to Get Found

Once you understand your target audience, you need to focus on how to get your business in front of those customers.  A well crafted billboard on an untraveled road is not effective marketing.  With Internet Marketing and SEO for Natural Organic Results, specifically understanding Search behavior is equal to placing your billboard on a busy highway filled with your target audience.  One important way to get your business found is to understand consumer search behavior.

When searching for a local business:

  • Males use ZIP codes as part of their Search queries.  Does this have something to do with the old belief that males are better at math than women?  Not sure, but using zip codes (sparingly) in your content can help drive results to male searchers.
  • While zip code searches currently account for less than 3% of Search Engine referrals, as the use of hand held devices increases, so will the significance of zip code driven Search Results.
  • Females use Town Name and/or City Name.  Including geo targeting by combining keyword/geo or geo/keyword can help if your product or services are directed toward females.
  • Younger searches focus on generic search terms without geo modifiers, allowing the Search Engines or Mobile to handle the localization. (see point two in reference to zip codes)
  • Older searchers almost always focus their search queries on search terms with local modifiers and tend to take the time to write out a full statement or question.  As a result, always including the answer to their question in the content is helpful.  For example; Where can I sell my car?  What type of plumber fixes leaky pipes? or even the spelling of a state name can help attract the “older” generation.
  • Only 6% of all searches include a neighborhood or region, but very few businesses are targeted for these searches, so if you include it in your content, you are likely to get found by those 6%. (ie: Inland Empire, Middlesex County Tri-borough)
  • Adjectives and superlatives still help.  Remember that understanding your target audience means that you will know what they are looking for.  If they are budget conscious, they will be looking for an affordable (maybe even cheap) solution to their needs.  If they are quality conscious, then they will desire quality products and services.  According to a “marketing” friend of mine, the word BEST is beyond cliché, but words like quality, superior, distinguished, and fine can help not only with Search results, but with conversion.

Wrapping it All Up – Understanding your audience and their search behavior is key to getting found and to growing your business.  A well rounded Local SEO campaign should use as many of the “tricks of the trade” as possible, but including too many tactics can result in poor results as you may be seen as scammy. Instead focus on well thought out, targeted content written for the types of customers you want to attract.  Build a great billboard on a busy street and they will find you!

About the Author

John J. Buzon is currently the Content Manager at eLocal Listing, he and his team are responsible for the creation of thousands of pieces of highly ranked content being published on the Internet for thousands of businesses of all sizes.



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Blogs – Not Just for Nerds Anymore

To Blog or Not To Blog

Just in case you have spent much of the last few years under a rock blogging has gone main stream. Blogging once belonged to political fanatics or nerds. In the age of twitter (the world’s most famous micro-blogging site) where micro thoughts allow everyone to be famous for fifteen minutes everyone blogs….even me. The key question is does blogging help the average business owner’s bottom line. According to Hubspot, the answer is YES!

In a recent survey Hubspot asked companies what marketing efforts resulted in an increase in new business leads. The highest value was attributed to good old fashioned Search Engine Optimization (something eLocal Listing knows a thing or two about) which gets the credit in 75% of the cases.

Surprisingly, just behind SEO is blogging at 69% and somewhat lower is social media at 47%. Shockingly according to Hubspot, paid search advertising trails almost at the back of the pack with just 16%.

Why is blogging so effective?
Blogging gets credit for driving search engine visibility, which in turns drives new clients.

Blogging drives repeat traffic where your message is interesting people come back for more.

If you drive a visitor to your site through your blog, they may stay on your site and perhaps then become a lead. A blog may even go viral, which is perhaps the best possible result. All this activity tends to lend authority to your site which in turn drives more business.

Blogging is at the heart of our new platform MyLocally. On MyLocally local businesses can blog about their businesses, clients can post reviews and all that blog content contributes to search engine visibility. It’s interesting to note that although, SEO, blogs and social media get credit for driving new business, ultimately all of this effort pays of high search visibility.

Blogging, not just for nerds anymore!

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Good Bye Steve Jobs

This could be a long winded post about this amazing man who will be seen in the history books as the Thomas Edison of our generation, but a conversation with Mark Cahill, a friend from my Atex days who pondered whether Steve Jobs wished he had spent less time working, made me change the direction of my post and I found some quotes from his commencement speech given at Stanford in 2005; one year after his diagnosis.

Of his success and of love, to which I feel he felt were indelibly entwined, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do … If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

Thanks Steve, you were an amazing man!

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Facebook Freak Out!

The speakers at last Wednesday’s f8 conference were barraged with complaints about Facebook’s new features.  Facebook’s answer: “people will get used to it.” Interesting response, but I guess when you have 750 million users you can dictate how the market SHOULD respond to your initiatives!  I wonder if while at Harvard Zuckerberg learned about the fall of the Roman Empire or the old adage, “Before pride comes a fall… “

Regardless, they are Facebook and it appears that the changes are here to stay.  I do have to admit that MyLocally is including some of these features in our new online directory, so hopefully Zuckerberg is right that people will get used to features like tickers and activity news feeds.

While I doubt that Facebook sees MySpace as a threat to domineer the world of Social Media, it does look at its rise and fall as a lesson they should choose not to follow.  According to a Facebook executive, as a company they realize that in order to survive and thrive they must change and adapt.  I recall just last week, when a musician friend of mine, Adam Bubert, wrote a post on Facebook about his MySpace page, some bewildered 20 year old asked ½ tongue in cheek what MySpace was!  I guess Justin Timberlake isn’t “bringing MySpace back” quite yet.

While many of these changes were in the works before the introduction of Google +, its meteoric rise (and slide) certainly gave notice to Facebook that they weren’t the only game in town.  That being said, according to eMarketer, Facebook has $3.8 billion in worldwide advertising this year and a predicted $5.8 billion in 2012 – so they are doing something right.

I wrote this blog last week on my way to the Lake Tahoe Marathon and never posted it, so a week has passed since “Black Wednesday” when many of us Facebookers woke up to find our beloved home pages altered.  Since that time I can tell you that I have gotten used to the changes, and the ticker on the side has some interesting features that I like, such as scrolling down and seeing someone’s post appear with images and the thread!  But I did find it a bit disturbing that Andrew Shotland of LocalSEOGuide.com was listening to some band I have never heard of and NOT returning my calls…can you say “Facebook stalking” Andrew?


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Google wants “YOU!”

Do you think that Google wants “YOU!” to sign up for Google +?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that according to industry experts, Google + posts have decreased by 41% since its invitation only launch earlier this year.  According to industry experts,  the average number of public Google+ posts per day has decreased from 0.68 between July 19th and August 20th to 0.40 between August 19th and September 14th.

Does this decline in public posts mean that Google+ is losing its momentum? Is it the new kid on the block phenomenon? Or could the labor day weekend and a general drop in searches the first week of September (for everything except back to school searches -as indicated in research using Google’s Insights tool) be the cause of the drop?

Time will tell, but in the meantime maybe now Facebook can stop trying so hard …


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Social Media; the new Paul Revere

One if by Facebook, two if by Twitter and three if by YouTube!

To paraphrase Longfellow’s historically inaccurate poem outlining Paul Revere’s warning that the “Red Coats” were coming, so did Social Media warn New York that a revolution of sorts was about to take place on Wall Street.

Appropriately dubbed “Operation Icarus” after the boy who flew too close to the sun despite his father’s warning, the movement sent a clear message to bankers and other CEOs that their hubris has caused the American public pain, and that they won’t stand idly by.

While the crowds were not as large as Anonymous (an activist magazine) had hoped, it was a rallying cry for the public to get involved.  Now I have to admit that while (like John Hancock and Samuel Adams) Anonymous is a bit of a trouble maker, it reinforces the power that Social Media has in uniting people against politicians and companies who do not take their role as stewards for the common man seriously.

If only Longfellow were still around …“Listen my children and you shall hear about a thing called Social Media …….

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Social Media Events That Shook Our World

Like Apple, MicroSoft, and Google changed the way that we all live, so hasn’t the world of Social Media.  People all over the world tweet, chat, facebook, video or share photos in ways that would not have been imaginable ten years ago.   Social Media has had a profound impact on social, political, economical, and legal issues from Orlando, Florida (Casey Anthony) to natural disasters (Hurricane Irene, Japan’s earthquake and tsunami) to social and political unrest (Egypt, Lybia, and more!). So when Social Media Week announced their choices for top ten Social Media Events I thought I had the list down and well, a few of their choices surprised me.

1)                The number one spot went to the uprisings in the Middle East.  Social Media not only transformed and galvenized the citizens of these countries, but kept the rest of the world informed and put leaders on alert that there was a new type of revolution against tyranical governments and that is the Social Media Revolution. 

2)                The impact of Social Media on the events of the Japanes earthquake and tsunami was no surprise.  Not only did it provide a window to the aftermath of an 8.9 magnitude earthquake and the subsequent tsunami,  Tweets, videos, blogs and facebook group pages connected families with their loved ones.

3)                Number three shocked me.  I had actually forgotten about this event, but Social Media Week voted Julian Assange’s Wikileaks scandal as their third choice.  While I have more than mixed emotions about the use of Social Media to potentially impact and put our troops at risk, I must admit that with out social media the age old debate over freedoms versus freedom of speech reached a new level and a new audience.

4)                OK, number four should be no surpise to any one.  The world watched and tweeted about the train wreck called Charlie Sheen.  I resist using his catch phrase, but must admire his ability to capture the nation’s obsession with reality, tragedy, and celebrity.  Charlie was able to amass  one million twitter followers faster than any other “celebrity” before him.  Now Demi Moore should take note that you can rise and fall just as fast with Social Media and stop tweeting naked pictures of herself, thank  you!

5)                I am embarrassed to even write this one, but number five is the man with the most unfortunate name and one who shouuld have remembered the lessons of the school yard with kids teasing him about having a name like Anthony Weiner.  Honestly how could he think it was a good idea to tweet a picture of his, well … need I say more.

6)                OK, I have to admit that I have absolutely no idea what this event is actually about, but Rebecca Black’s viral YouTube hit and subsequent backlash defines the new entertainment business model.  After watching the YouTube video, I learned a few things about the power of Social Media to catapult someone to stardum, but Rebecca I knew that Saturday comes after Friday, but thanks!

7)                Number seven is one that my friends and  I witnessed first hand with our tiara wearing, champagne sipping royal wedding slumber party.  My much younger friends spent as much time on their iPhones reading and posting tweets as they did eating the hand made scones my husband made to honor the event!  In the days leading up to the event 70% of all social media mentions focused on the Royal Wedding.

8)                I have been busy launching MyLocally.com, so I have to admit I was a bit behind on the news when my friend Steve facebooked about the riots in the UK. Note only did Social Media play an important part in informing the world, politicians blamed the violence on text messages, mobile devices, and instant messaging.  So much so that they considered blocking access to social networking sites. 

9)                Hurrican Irene came in at number nine, with tweets on par with those about the tragedy in Japan.

10)             Number ten isn’t a tweet or a post, but instead the recent offers, buy outs and ipos in the Social Media space; LivingSocial, Pandora, DealMaps, Groupon, Linkedin and more.

These top ten events only emphasize the importance of Social Media on today’s society.  

The impact that Social Media has had on businesses is as large and I promise to write my next article on harnessing the power of Social Media for businesses.

Until then – I think I will tweet the world (OK, my measly 50 followers) that I am saying good night!


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A Groupon Coupon for College – Creative Marketing

Social Media and online coupon deals are quickly becoming part of the fabric of our daily lives, and businesses of all sizes are beginning to embrace them as part of their overall business and advertising strategies.

Each day I scour the Internet looking for the latest deal, directory, or gimmick to see how companies are effectively using social media, contests, Twitter, Facebook, or coupons to grow their businesses, and I marvel at the ingenuity of some marketing companies and entrepreneurs. In my search today, I came across an article in the Chicago Sun-Times about colleges and universities using both Twitter and Groupon as part of an on-going advertising campaign.

In one article I read, a university was offering a scholarship to the applicant who could convince the school through Twitter why they would make the best candidate for their program.  Hmmm, I recall having to write more than 140 characters to the admittance board of my graduate program.  As college tuitions continue to rise and horror stories about the debt incurred from financial aid are being broadcast on television, I guess it makes sense … Had I been given the chance to go to school for free, I would have sung like a canary!

In another article, I read that National Louis University is offering a Groupon coupon for 60% off of a course entitled: Introduction to Teaching.  While Groupon has offered coupons for exercise and art classes in the past, this is the first time that they have offered a coupon for higher education.  This deal marks the trends that businesses are taking in order to thrive in an increasingly competitive environment.  The university’s president Nivine Megahed points out that in order to reach students, the university needs to “speak to them in a way they are used to speaking.”

It is a fact of life that more and more people are “speaking” through social media, blogs, reviews, and daily deal sites.  For those business owners who want to stay competitive, they must embrace this new world and speak the “language”, or -like the buggy whip, yellow pages, and perhaps the U.S. Post Office- face a dismal economic future.

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MyLocally on track with Local Search and Social Media Trends

As the launch of MyLocally.com fast approaches, we see affirmation that our strategy combining Local Search and Social Media into one product is in line with current Search trends every day and we grow increasingly more excited for its launch.

BIA/Kelsey recently launched their Social Local Media (SLM) advisory service, focused on the “growing significance of social platforms” and has appointed Andrew Shotland of LocalSEOGuide.com to act as their associate program director.  Mr. Shotland is a respected social and local SEO expert, and consults for eLocal Listing with our new product offerings such as MyLocally.com. BIA/Kelsey’s SLM advisory service will focus on monetization models for social networks (something SMBs have been struggling with for years), metrics that measure social transactions, social commerce, and Facebook’s continued evolution as an effective online marketing tool.

Another sign that MyLocally is on track with current Search and Social Media trends, especially with our focus on its community Market Place pages, is the introduction of BuddyPress; Social Networking in a box. This new free and open source web product allows communities to build an integrated solution in which participants are connected through blogs, updates, messaging, and more. Exactly the direction that MyLocally.com is taking.

MyLocally.com is a new online community that allows its participants, both businesses and consumers, to actively participate in deals, reviews, blog posts, and Q&A.  The more they participate, the higher you appear on the Market Place Page or the better deals you will receive!

Our current launch date is September 25, 2011; until then, keep coming back for more updates.

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