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Businesses have always had to worry about their reputation, especially small and medium sized businesses which traditionally have been and still are more susceptible to the negative shadow that poor perception of their brand casts. Prior to the internet, reputation was spread via word-of-mouth marketing from a customer to his friends, family and co-workers. This would mean that if a customer had a negative experience, the information would be contained within a very small circle, allowing businesses a lot more time before needing to address complaints about their products or services. This also meant that if a customer had a positive experience, it would take a lot longer for the buzz to be spread within the community.
While word-of-mouth is still the currency used for reputation, in today’s digitally driven world where there are various outlets for information to be passed along about your business, word-of-mouth has a much greater reach, and therefore repercussions. Between large social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Google+, review sites like Yelp, Merchant Circle and Citysearch, and various niche directories, it’s becoming increasingly important for businesses to maintain a strong online presence as well as to maintain a good reputation.
There are many factors that play into why your reputation is important. Reputation is an intangible business asset that can make or break a business, large or small. If you are a small business with local competition, your reputation could be the only reason customers keep coming back to purchase from you. If your reputation gets tarnished you could stand to lose a good share of your business.
Still don’t believe me? Take a look at the following infographic from The SmartBiz Business Blog which shows that 70% of users place their trust in the opinions of strangers when it comes to review sites like Yelp or Citysearch:
Thankfully, there are a couple of steps that you can take to assist with monitoring and improving the reputation of your business. The more of these steps you take, the greater your ability to market your brand in the way you want it to be viewed, as well as to minimize any negative reviews or comments.
1) Customer Service Is Key
It takes only one unhappy customer who isn’t able to receive a response from you via phone, social media or e-mail. The majority of the time, it’s only when customers feel that they aren’t being heard or have no way to vent their frustrations that they go to forums and review sites to actively complain about your business.
At the very least, you should be providing a clear method for your customers to get a hold of you, as well as to let them know what hours your business can typically be reached and what the typical response time is to any complaints.
2) Set Up Notifications
As a small business, you’re probably already busy enough as it is without having to add the task of constantly monitoring what’s being said about you. Thankfully, you can let Google do the grunt work. Set up your Google alerts so that you receive online notifications to include the following:
- Your business or brand is mentioned
- Your URL
- Employee names
You’ll also want to go to the various directories that your business might be listed in and make sure to claim your profile. Once you claim your profile, typically with the big review sites (Yelp, Merchant Circle, Google Business, etc.), you’ll be allowed to set up e-mail notifications any time someone reviews your business.
3) Get Social
A great way to increase your reputation and popularity is to create accounts on social media sites and then to be active and interact with your customers. By getting involved in social media, you have a chance of utilizing the invaluable resources of your followers – the ability of inexpensive and immediate online marketing!
(image credit: Social Media Examiner)
Aside from the possibility of getting your customers to spread your brand’s message to other people, by being active on social media, you’ll be able to monitor what’s being said about your business, that way if anything negative is being mentioned, you’ll have the opportunity to address it before it snowballs into a problem. On the other hand, people are praising your brand, you’ll be able to share the messages, which will increase the strength of your brands reputation. You can use socialmention.com to get a good idea of what’s being said about your business.
4) Ask Customers For Reviews
This does not mean paying for a review! Nor does it mean asking a customer to leave a positive review!
If you’re following the above steps, you should have a pretty good idea of whether people view your business favorably or not. If you’re the type of business that cares about providing good customer service, then you shouldn’t have any fear of asking for a review.
You can ask a customer nicely at the end of a transaction or hand them a card that reminds them to go online to leave a review of their experience.
Monitoring your online business reputation is essential to survival in this technological age, especially when you consider how many people are online using social media and checking review sites via a computer, smartphone, tablet or other internet connected device before making a purchase.
Staying on top of what’s being said about your brand and being active on social media sites will allow you to build your business’ online reputation, letting you stay a step above your competitors.
Whichever approach or combination of management processes you decide to use, monitoring your reputation and ensuring that it’s on the positive spectrum is something that you just simply cannot ignore.
(img source: The M Group Creative)
According to Inc.com, the fashion giant HauteLook used 8thBridge to their advantage and that “Diane von Furstenberg generated more than $100,000 in sales in one day, 40 percent of which came from new customers. Users were given a $10 coupon for every new member that they brought in.” Wouldn’t we all like to get a cool $100k in a single day for our business? Monetizing social media can help your sales, but it does take effort. Here are a few good ways to get the most out of your social media.
Get Your Brand Out There
Before you start working your social media, before the first tweet, status share or YouTube video hits the broadband, you’re going to need to know your brand down cold. This is not a time to guess at the image you are trying to project or the slogan you want to reach the masses. Develop a quick tag that you can use in everything, make it small enough to be a hashtag preferably. It doesn’t have to be complicated, your brand just needs to be remembered. #GotMilk, anyone?
Get a Promo
Instead of pouring money into print ads or radio spots, you’re going to want to see how that money can go into a promotional spot instead. Keep in mind that you can’t use your social media as a 24/7 hard sell. You’ll want to offer eight or more posts between and “salesy” posts. You want your customers to like your page or follow you for what you offer them, not feel like their only their for your benefit. With this in mind, every so often, offer your followers and fans a special coupon to be used with an order. Track what social media is doing the most for you by categorizing these. This can simply be a hashtag promo code for the ones you use on Twitter and a different code for Facebook.
Educate and Humor Them
Pepper in posts of how-to videos, Q&A articles, and just funny non-offensive memes. You are human; you want your fans and followers to believe that you are too. They are more apt to buy from you when they are in a habit of checking your updates on a regular basis. By offering them quality that doesn’t cost them anything, you’re giving them a reason to keep buying from you.
Do not discount the Facebook Ads and Google Adwords. According to the eMarketer research firm, “Facebook display advertising revenues will grow 80.9% this year to $2.19 billion”. It is worth a few bucks to see how well it will work for you. Get something sharp and snazzy, something that nails your brand down in a few words, and get you a Facebook ad. It is precious little money to test how well it will work for you.
Contests and Giveaways
Who doesn’t love something for free? A contest or a giveaway is a wonderful way to engage your social media followers and encourage them to promote your material. While giving away a gift card or other freebie can help with getting people to promote your brand, if you are able to offer a giveaway that’s related to your brand, or at the very least is an incentive that’s relevant to their needs or wants, you’ll be able to create a much deeper connection with your followers.
This is by far not an exhaustive list of the ways that you can monetize your social media followers to help in your business bottom line. It is, however, a good jumping off point on how to start thinking to brainstorm more ways that you can benefit from your social media. Remember, no matter which path you go down for monetizing social media, it’s important that the content that you’re sharing is engaging, interesting and relevant to those people that are following you.
In a 1973 lecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Thomas Watson of IBM has been quoted as saying, “Good design is good business.” It’s becoming ever more apparent that design is emerging as a significant strategic element to help a business establish its corporate identity, to develop its brand, and to help it differentiate itself and its products from the competition.
According to a study by comScore & 15 Miles entitled Local Search Usage Study: Bridging The Caps, From Search to Sales, approximately seven out of ten consumers go online first for local business information, making a website crucial in marketing and establishing a brand for a small business.
Potential customers are coming to your website for a reason; getting your web design wrong can cost you potential income and have a negative overall impact on your business. Listed below are a few common mistakes that you should avoid if you want your users to have a good experience.
Mistake #1: Poor Navigation
When designing a website, many businesses fail to make navigation a priority. People visit a website for specific information and a poor navigation system by impede them from that task. A general rule of thumb is that if a user can’t find what they’re looking for within three mouse clicks, then they’ll end up leaving your website in frustration. Your navigation should be seamless and intuitive to use, so make sure that you make it a priority when designing your website.
Mistake #2: Information Overload
Mistake #3: No Obvious Call To Action
When having your website developed, each webpage should serve an obvious purpose. Think about what you want a potential customer to do when they land on a specific page. Do you want them to place an order, contact you, or click on a link to learn more about your product? Everything on your webpage (text, graphics, design) should have the end goal of leading your visitor toward taking the action that you want them to.
Mistake #4: Content Is Not Relevant Or Out Of Date
When a customer comes to your web page, they expect to find the latest information about your company as well as its services and products. If this information is stale or outdated, you may find your visitors clicking away from your website fairly quickly.
A good way to ensure that you have new content that’s up to date is to add a blog to your website which you should look to update at least once a month. If you’re using social media, you may want to tie that into your website as well and allow for the updates to post on your website. Aside from ensuring that your site has fresh content to keep users engaged with your website, posting a new blog entry or social media update to your site can allow you to rank well on the search engines result page of Google, Bing, etc.
Mistake #5: Trying To Target Everyone
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Make sure to know who you are as a business, stick to your values, and understand who your target audience is.
Web design have become a necessity for business owners to help create a visually appealing website that’s intuitive to use. By properly designing your website, you’ll be able to create a positive impact on your business, encouraging visitors to visit and to take a call to action.
About the Author:
Heather Reed is the owner of Creative Fuel, a San Jose web development & web design firm that creates unique and powerful designs for print, web and mobile devices while developing innovative solutions using open-source software. Creative Fuel’s web systems solve problems by attracting clients and managing business operations while cutting costs.
There are still many businesses that believe that they are able to maintain full control over how their brand is portrayed online, however the fact of the matter is that in this highly interactive world of social media, anyone anywhere has the ability to say whatever they want and hide in anonymity. This has effectively changed the way the branding landscape into something much more delicate and which requires a lot more attention as your online reputation is at the mercy of other people. One of the most delicate of channels that your brand is susceptible to is via online reviews.
There are multiple ways in which a business, brand or even a professional name can fall victim to an online review that paints a negative image. There are plenty of scam boards and review sites that are more than willing to publish misleading, unfounded and erroneous reviews without doing any prior fact checking. It’s even possible for a disgruntled employee or your competition to post a damaging review that’s fictitious and that these sites are more than willing to make public. Once a negative review is out there, it can easily be blown out of proportion and get published on other sites that will surely taint your online reputation.
If you take a look at the infographic above from 540seo.com, you’ll see a nicely laid out graphic that shows the results from several studies of the US market. In this study, it was determined that 87% of those consumers surveyed stated a positive online review strengthened their resolve to make a purchase of a service or product that had been brought to their attention. On the other hand, a negative review was able to change the mind of 80% of those surveyed about whether they should go ahead with making a purchase of the product or service in question.
While it may not be possible to remove a negative, unsubstantiated review about you, your business or brand, it is possible to bury the negative content down to the later pages of Google and other search engines by working on promoting the positive content that’s out there. With the use of proper online reputation management, you are able to control what people see when they first search for your business. By highlighting material that’s true and positive about your business or brand, you’ll ensure that you are not losing potential customers who could otherwise be turned off to your business if they were to see the negative content.
Check out the following interview below or via this link between Michael Stelzner and Johnson and Johnson’s Robert Halpner, Director of Video Communications, via the video below or by visiting Social Media Examiner. You’ll learn how to engage your audience, the importance of social media communication, how social media can help with increasing brand awareness, how to connect with your audience via video and much more.
The use of mobile devices is growing at an exponential rate. Apple has currently sold 316 million iOS devices in total and in 2011, they sold 156 million iOS devices which surpassed the total number of Macs sold (122 million) in the company’s entire 28 years of existence. Check the chart below, created by Asymco, to see the cumulative sales for Apple, and in particular to see how quickly mobile device sales are growing for Apple.
This increase in mobile device sales isn’t just limited to Apple. Google has also seen an acceleration in their growth rate, seeing a 250% year-on-year growth rate. They also recently announced that approximately 850,000 new Android devices are turned on and activated daily.
There is little doubt that with the rapid proliferation of web-enabled smartphones and tablet devices, a change is occurring in the way customers research their purchases, interact with brands and shop online. Mobile technology holds a potential benefit for businesses, but only if they are optimized for mobile. Many businesses have difficulty in understanding how to best adapt their marketing strategies in the wake of this rise of mobile consumers. While the answer will vary from business to business there are a few steps that businesses can take to start taking advantage of their customers’ mobile habits.
1) Optimize Your Website for Mobile
Have you taken a look at your company’s website from a mobile, web-enabled device such as a smartphone? Most websites have been designed with the intention of being viewed from a larger computer screen as opposed to a long and narrow screen. A design that may look great on a laptop might appear as cluttered on a smartphone creating usability issues that end up frustrating your mobile customers. This can lead to lower conversion rates and put a damper on your online marketing efforts.
If you want to make mobile a priority in your online sales funnel, then it’s important to optimize your website for mobile browsers. Thankfully, it’s possible to create a mobile website, without having to change your current website design when viewed by a computer. You can create a second version of site that only users with smartphones or tablets get directed to. This mobile site should incorporate a more simplified navigational menu and layout to keep it mobile friendly.
2) The Importance of Social Mobile
Social media and mobile marketing are the fastest growing segments within the marketing industry. Nearly 75% of consumers are believed to connect with the companies and brands they have interest in through the use of Social media making it important for businesses to approach social media marketing through amobile lens.
When creating your ad campaigns, you should put a focus on content that’s social mobile-friendly; it should be concise and visually appealing.
The use of mobile devices and social media is not a trend, but a reality. Don’t allow yourself to fall behind your competition. By recognizing this shift in consumer behavior and accepting it, you can adjust your marketing efforts to ensure that you stay ahead.
According to news reports from Reuters, Velo Holdings Inc, the parent company of Neverblue, Lava Life, Vertrue and other affiliate programs is filing for chapter 11 reorganization in a United States bankruptcy court.
Apparently this bankruptcy claim is due to major losses that Velo Holdings Inc. has sustained from re-billing and continuity practices.
According to Dow Jones:
Velo blamed, in part, tighter regulatory control of one of its online marketing practices for its strained finances. The method redirects customers who have completed a purchase on its discount retail website to another website, a Velo subsidiary that sells fraud and identity theft protection services, and asks the customer to enroll.
Velo defaulted on both its credit facilities in December to avoid a liquidity crisis, it said, prompting Moody’s Investors Services to downgrade the company’s debt ratings. As a result, Chase Paymentech LLC, Velo’s credit-card processor, notified Velo it would terminate their agreement on April 20.
When looking at the bankruptcy filing it appears that Valo Holdings Inc. has anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion in debts. Google is listed as the largest creditor with a claim for $3.7 million. The company will attempt to restructure its business and continue operations under Chapter 11 reorganization.
According to additional news released from Neverblue:
This filing will not impact Neverblue’s ability to meet client needs in any way – we intend to continue to operate business as usual without interruption. Neverblue’s business is fundamentally strong and we intend to make all affiliate payments on schedule, in a timely and reliable manner. We’ve built out our global, performance-based online marketing strategy across several unique verticals, and now operate one of the largest international cost per action networks. Neverblue is absolutely well-positioned for future growth as one of the most highly-valued lead generation companies.
Mobile devices are becoming more and more popular among U.S. consumers and the rest of the world. It’s estimated that there will be over 100 million new smartphones and web-ready mobile devices in 2012 on top of the already hundreds of millions of mobile devices that are currently being used. More people are browsing the web from a mobile device, even before using their PC. In fact, in the US, it’s been shown that nearly 7% of all web traffic is from a mobile web-based device and that those numbers will only be increasing. That’s why as a business, it should be very clear that you do not be without some sort of mobile version of your website. What might be less clear for some is what should be included when building their mobile website.
I’d like to outline several things you need to consider at the outset of your mobile site design project to ensure that your mobile website is a success.
1. Integrate social media. This is especially important as social media is a great way to allow mobile web users, who are probably the largest group of people using social media, to share it their contacts thereby promoting your business. A quick tap of the screen allows users to tweet your website or like your business.
Make sure to also link your mobile website from your Facebook page as well as Twitter where you can tweet promo codes and have SMS contests.
2. Keep the site search function. Have the search feature at the top of the page where it is visible for anyone visiting your mobile website. This can be a life saver for any of your visitors if there is a problem with your websites navigation or other site features.
3. Simplify when possible. Generally, when your converting a desktop website design to a mobile website, you want to try and simplify things. Even though cellular bandwidth speeds are getting faster, they can still be relatively slow at times, especially in areas where 4G isn’t available. Therefore you should try and keep file size and your websites load time down.
Also, as there is less screen real estate for the majority of mobile users (only about 30% of mobile web users are tablet users), you’ll want to consider a simplified approach when it comes to design, layout, and navigation.
Now that doesn’t mean that you can create beautiful designs for your mobile users… you just want to make sure that they are optimized. CSS3 is great for creating gradients, rounded corners and shadows.
4. Use mobile friendly features. These features are part of what helps to differentiate mobile websites from their full fledged versions. You should link phone numbers so that it’s easier for a visitor to your website to call you via one click. Include a link to a store finder if you have multiple locations. Make sure to have a map & direction feature that interacts with your clients phone navigation ability. Include incentives and mobile coupons whenever possible.
5. E-commerce features.Why miss out on another avenue for generating profits? Early evidence is pointing to mobile e-commerce becoming a huge trend, so if your business already generates income from its current website, there’s no reason to miss out on using e-commerce on your mobile version.
Remember in the end to keep your website simple. It should be quick, to the point and easy to navigate. If you need help with your web strategy, then please feel free to call us today.