SMB Online Reviews: Still no Sheriff in the Wild Wild ‘Net

Do you know what your customers are saying about you online?

If you’re like me, you are more frequently searching for businesses or products online…and reading reviews that people have posted about it.

Google Online Reviews

Click on

I started spending hours on Amazon reviews back in the 90’s when I realized you have to somewhat figure out the perspective, and ‘likes’, of the reviewer before you can really make a decision based on it. Matter of fact, I learned that you can only educate yourself better, but not decide anything, if there are only a few reviews.

For several recent years, I’ve accessed Star ratings and associated reviews on Google and Yahoo search engine pages (SERPs). And I’ve actually caught “fake” reviewers on a few businesses that were obviously their competition or an angry ex-employee, once you look at when the account/profile was created, what other reviews they’ve posted (frequently, it’ll only be for that business), unusual misspellings that are common between posters that seem to support each other…and were created on the same day, etc. Further investigation on one I was doing for a client actually drilled down to the same exact person using four fake accounts, something I’m certain happens MUCH MORE than many ‘lay people’ small business owners realize. It’s even rampant on Apple’s App store, especially in the $.99 apps market. (Access the iTunes store on your computer, not phone, and click on reviewers names to see their ‘other reviews’. You may easily notice a pattern that suggests whether this is a paid reviewer because all his reviews are 5 stars and only for apps from the same company. And competitors will be the opposite of that pattern. Seriously, how often do you make an effort to award 5 stars to a company, but have NEVER posted a 1-4 star with a complaint.)

And now…there’s lots of smartphone apps that HELP people review your business right after finding out that last sale item is no longer available. Yelp, Foursquare, Urbanspoon…and really TWITTER is just a big megaphone shouting out how bad your business is to anyone that might ‘hear it’.

Many business owners I talk with haven’t even tried searching on their own company and accessing the reviews. But when they do…that’s when the pain can really set in. Bottom line? Business Owners cannot do anything about negative reviews, except to proactively promote good reviews in various ways.

If you want to know how NOT to handle bad reviews…plus some positive ways you should handle them, read this long Inc Magazine article, “You’ve Been Yelped“.

So, if you’re now thinking you need to take action, what steps should you follow?

I’d start by searching for your business on Google’s, Yahoo’s, Bing’s and Yelp’s sites and review what people are saying online. DO NOT post right away, rather read them all, have a trusted peer or co-worker review them. Consider if valid issues have been resolved, maybe you can email the reviewer and ask them to check back and update the review. Maybe you need to start some type of ‘loyal customer’ campaign where you ask your customers to consider posting positive reviews.

When I last visited my GP, I mentioned to the Dr that they have some people complaining online about the long waits. I suggested he should add wi-fi in the lobby as well as promoting his new appointment system that significantly reduces waiting and really communicating this with signage in his lobby to both reduce waiting times and making it more productive while waiting. If nothing else, it will show he is listening and cares about his customers.

Great Step-by-step for linking & unlinking MCC, ADwords, Gmail, Adsense & other accounts

The one ‘gotcha’ many people stumble across, including myself and other GAPs, is in the area of setting up accounts initially for clients and linking them to our My Client Center accounts; whether you are setting up a client’s analytics account, adwords account or adsense account. Sometimes, it seems to make no sense at all. I’ve just had yet another GAP mention he’s having trouble, so I turned to Google’s blog search feature to see what might be out there. And…I found something.      🙂

Here’s a great blog post with step-by-step instructions for various scenarios that should really make this much easier. Thanks to Mergen at WebGuru for putting it together. I know I’ve got it bookmarked.  🙂 Here’s a simple graphic that he created which shows the end results possible:

MCC Account Structure

How a Master MCC account looks

Google.com adds “Near Me Now” on iPhone & Android Mobile Phone Searches

Clearly “All Things Mobile Marketing” is the lead horse out the gate in 2010. Before we’ve hardly had time to take down our decorations early this year, we’ve learned that SMS Marketing Responses and Demographics are stunningly effective (compared to most direct marketing metrics), Google has added “Click to Call” within mobile Pay Per Click Adwords Campaigns, and now…

Google has added a new feature to Google.com when searching from “location aware” GPS smartphones such as Apple’s iPhone & Android-based ones. Now, if you search on Google.com from your iPhone, and have allowed it to access your location, you’ll see a “Near Me Now” feature.

Google Near Me Now Mobile Search

Near Me Now on Google.com Mobile Search

 You are initially shown some basic categories at the bottom, but you can expand those to include a range of businesses defined in various categories within Google’s Local Business Center. I’ve previously blogged about the importance, especially for retail shops, of getting your business registered within their LBC. I believe Google’s 2010 focus will be on enabling small businesses to embrace these ‘new’ online advertising tools, by making them simpler, more effective…and pervasive.

If you aren’t sure how to get started, call me or send me an email. I’ll be glad to spend some time just conversing and we’ll see what makes sense.

Want to use SMS, the top Mobile Marketing Method?

Mobile Marketing. I’ve blogged several times about one of the most important upcoming marketing venues of the future, IMO.

Earlier this week, I blogged about a report that shows SMS, or Text Messaging, marketing showed huge success numbers, compared to both traditional and online click through rates (CTR) and more. And just hours later, I blogged about a Google announcement where they have enabled registered Businesses within their Local Business Center to display a “Click to Call” button when map searches on iPhones and other capable smartphones are conducted. The user, rather than clicking on a link to read more can click on the displayed phone number and they’ll automatically dial the business.  

I’ve had several companies contact me directly for more advice on how to begin or evaluate this method. Here at Astute Marketing, we believe we can help most small businesses figure out the best use of their marketing budget…and for some it will include some SMS marketing going forward, I believe. I do find it interesting that not ONE person wanted to comment publicly about adopting it. All my inquiries came directly to me in my in-box. Seems they’re like me, not 100% convinced they want to use this method but as good business managers they realize they’d better consider it.

Now today, QWASI, Inc (“one of the leading enterprise mobile marketing application companies”) announced the QWASI Mobile Marketing Center 2.0. It’s intended for small to medium sized US businesses that want to build, manage and analyze mobile marketing campaigns.

Disclaimer: I have not used, nor can I recommend the QWASI technology at this time. If you would like for me to evaluate the platform for you, please let me know and I’ll get started on it soon.

Google adds “Click to Call” on Mobile Adwords

Wow, talk about timing. I don’t think my last blog post about the impressive response percentages to SMS or Text ‘Marketing’ messages had even managed to hit most RSS streams before I saw the below Google announcement on a new “Click to Call” business feature sent to my inbox. While I think overall this is a fantastic opportunity for most retail businesses, I’m not thrilled with the limited flexibility they provide as to how to control whether your business phone number shows or doesn’t show.

However, this additional feature continues to make it more and more important that retail businesses formalize their mobile marketing plans:

Coming Soon: Click-to-Call in Ads on Mobile Devices with Google AdWords

Dear AdWords Advertiser,

We’re pleased to announce that beginning in January, your location-specific business phone number will display alongside your destination url in ads that appear on high-end mobile devices. Users will be able to click-to-call your business just as easily as they click to visit your website. You’ll be charged for clicks to call, same as you are for clicks to visit your website.

How will phone numbers appear in my ads? Based on the customer’s geographic location, the phone number and closest business address will appear as a fifth line of ad text when the ad appears on mobile devices with full HTML browsers (e.g. iPhone, Android, Palm WebOS).

Where will I be able to see the results? At launch, you’ll be able to view calls from your ads on your Campaign Summary page within AdWords from the “click type” segment option under the “Filter and Views” drop down.

How will I be charged for phone calls I get from my ad? The cost of a click to call your business will be the same as the cost of a click to visit your website.

What actions should I take?
If you’d like your ads to show location-specific phone numbers when displayed on mobile devices, make sure that your campaign is targeting iPhones and other mobile devices with full HTML browsers, and that you have included phone numbers with your business addresses in the locations under your Campaign settings. If you would prefer your ads not show phone numbers, simply remove the phone number from the business listings included in your campaigns targeting mobile devices.

We hope this new feature enables you to connect more easily with your potential customers. If you have any questions or feedback, please email us at ctc-feedback@google.com.

Sincerely,

The Google AdWords Team

Google Inc.

New Mobile Marketing Report Puts Txt (SMS) on Top

Should we be surprised? I certainly am.

Even though I’m ‘in the business’, it doesn’t mean that I agree or like all aspects of marketing. Using SMS, or more commonly known as Txt messaging, to send mostly ‘unsolicited’ Ads directly to phones feels way too intrusive to me as a professional marketer. I have four mobile phones in my household and three of them are on some type of ‘limited’ text message amount per month. Sending Ads to those phones either uses them up, or costs us money. Plus, I generally take a negative attitude toward companies that have been sending me those unsolicited.

Apparently…I’m NOT the norm.

Direct Marketing Association just released a report which they tout as the “First Ever Consumer Survey” that explores mobile phone marketing. The full report runs hundreds of dollars, but this synopsis of much of it is available and very revealing.

What is most surprising? 24% of those surveyed have responded to a mobile offer AND 21% of THOSE people respond to three or more offers PER MONTH. For this survey, that amounts to 40 out of 800, or 5%.

Five Percent probably doesn’t seem like a big number to most people, but when decades-old traditional methods, ALONG WITH typical online Click Through Rates assume 2% is “a good average”, this medium is 2.5 times more effective than any other direct marketing methods, be it online or offline.

Plus, people earning more than $60K annually were more likely to respond to mobile offers than folks below that amount. Therefore, you not only enjoy a more effective response, or click-through rate, you should also see a higher conversion rate, due to their higher discretionary funds that are available to purchase.

While I have been fully expecting ‘in game’ advertising, related product promotional offers, mobile display Ads and other less costly/intrusive mobile marketing to take off BIG, I fully expected SMS marketing to somewhat be left behind in the dust.

Looks like my expectations should have been lower. That, as usual, shouldn’t surprise me at all.    :-O