July 27, 2011

How to Keep User Reviews from Defeating Your SEO and SEM

You’ve optimized your product pages for SEO - copy on the page targets the primary personas for the product, you’ve improved your site design for usability, meta tags are complete, and you’ve A/B tested the calls-to-action and the product graphic to increase conversions. You’ve even improved your SEM – your ppc ads are optimized to crush the competition, you’ve blogged, tweeted, and posted your facebook updates with links to the product page. Yet the conversion rates on the product page have not increased. If you’ve got user reviews on the product page (and you really should allow your customers to review products on your site), here are the options for preventing bad or irrelevant user reviews from negatively impacting your conversion rate:

Option A: Dealing with Irrelevant User Reviews

• Have an employee monitor your user reviews on all your product pages. For instance, a few days before James Rollins’ latest book was published, I went to barnesandnoble.com to check on the price. Since barnesandnoble.com limits the number of reviews seen per screen to five reviews, the reviews I saw on the product page consisted of two negative reviews complaining about the prices charged for ebooks for the Nook and two counter reviews from individuals explaining that authors have no control over ebook pricing.

Oh, and my favorite, one review for a different book was a link to a competitor’s web site with the coupon code listed in the review.

Who cares? I certainly didn’t consider any of the four reviews to be relevant to the actual book. However, not every visitor to your product page will read the reviews, opting instead to just look at the average rating of all reviews. All irrelevant ratings affect the total average rating so delete the irrelevant reviews.

• Update your site policy to state that all irrelevant reviews will be deleted and include examples of irrelevant reviews. Make certain to include a link to this policy on the form page where your site visitors enter their reviews and prominently list your customer service phone number on both pages so any disgruntled customer can call and complain to a human being.

• In Barnes and Noble’s case, create a call-to-action button for visitors who have “comments” about your Nook and ebook pricing. Include that button on at least the product user review form page and site policy page. Then, link the call-to-action button to a page where you address the issue with ebook pricing (how are the prices determined, why are some prices higher than the paperback version of the book, why do prices differ between ebooks, etc.), the issue with employees overstating the benefits of buying the Nook, what you’re doing to resolve all issues and complaints, and then providing a form for your disgruntled customers to submit their comments and view the comments that other users submitted.

Option B: Dealing with Bad Reviews

• Do not delete the bad product reviews. The last thing you need is for the negative word-of-mouth to spread about how you’re deleting negative reviews and misleading the public.

• Have an employee monitor all product reviews, categorize the negative product reviews (furniture pieces not properly manufactured, sizing is too small or too big, colors of shoes don’t match, etc.) and forward the reviews to the appropriate staff members.

• Send a thank-you to each customer who had a bad experience, apologize for the problem(s), state how your company is resolving the issue and offer an incentive to return to your site and make another purchase.

In the overall scheme of the business world, you can plan ahead all you want but you will never be able to control how your customers or competitors behave. How is your company or client handling negative reviews and irrelevant reviews?

July 12, 2011

Pavlov’s Online Sweepstakes?

If Pavlov were alive today would he be working for the BIC Soleil razor brand? Based on BIC Soleil’s “100 Days of Sunny Moments” online sweepstakes, it’s highly possible.

The “100 Days of Sunny Moments” online sweepstakes contains four main points that not only make it a great example of how to run a sweepstakes, but also improves upon the Pavlovian concept seen in sites such as woot.com.

1. Daily Drawing with Four-Hour Entry Time Frame – Why condition dogs to drool when you can get humans to rush to your web site everyday from 1:00PM – 5:00PM ET to enter your daily drawing? Unlike most contests that offer a 24 hour entry period, BIC gives registered participants a four hour entry period.

2. Surprise Daily Bonus Prizes- I was pleasantly surprised one day to find that I could enter the bonus prize drawing for that day. BIC doesn’t list when their surprise bonuses will be held, which creates the extra incentive to return to the site each day, even if you’re not interested in the daily prize, so you don’t miss out on entering the drawing for the bonus prize.

3. Voting for Grand Prize as part of Entry – Instead of merely having participants enter the grand prize drawing, BIC has participants vote for one of two vacation spots while entering the grand prize drawing. The vacation destination with the most votes will be the grand prize. (This is also a fantastic way to end internal bickering in your department when it comes to choosing a grand prize.)

4. Transparency – BIC lists the daily prize winners and poll results for Grand Prize voting on the site so site visitors can see that the contest is legitimate.

If you’re going to have an online sweepstakes for a geographical region that only covers a few time zones, using the daily limited time period seems like a good way to increase repeat participation. What do you think?

June 14, 2011

Four Email Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Some marketing emails I receive are so bad I wonder if the person who created and sent the email did so on purpose.  Are they getting revenge on a bad boss or client?  If you don’t want to fall into the “bad email marketing” category, here are four mistakes to avoid in your next email:
1.    Bland or Misleading Title – Your email title is often the only chance you get to capture your audience’s attention.  Why waste that opportunity with an email title that doesn’t compel the recipient to click through and read your email?  One restaurant I occasionally eat at has a track record for sending emails with titles that leave room for improvement:
a.    "We Belong to the Land" - advertising a one-man play (The title was in quotes on the email.)
b.    “A Matter of Taste” – promoting a wine tasting event
c.    “Gift Cards for Everyone!”  - trying to sell gift cards (Based on the title, I was expecting this to be a gift card giveaway.)
d.     “Thanks for Sticking With Us!” - thanking you for your business (Regardless of your type of business, certain phrases such as this title tend to imply that your customers have had negative experiences in the past.)
Get creative with your email titles but make certain that the titles you use imply exclusivity, offer a benefit for the reader (does not need to be a coupon or sale), and pertain to the purpose of the email.  For instance, Ace Hardware sent me an email with the title “Thank you for being one of our best customers!”  The restaurant could easily have used a similar email title that has a positive connotation and makes the reader feel appreciated instead of leaving the reader wondering if they want to risk a bad experience by visiting the restaurant.
2.    Irrelevant Graphics – Other than your logo and standard footer, and navigation bar for ecommerce sites, any graphics you include need to be relevant to the purpose of the email.  Having a wine tasting event?  Use an image of a glass of wine, a person drinking wine, or people at a wine tasting. Using the graphic below for a wine tasting doesn’t help to create any positive emotion that would compel a reader to spend money by registering for your wine tasting event.

3.    Bad Copy – Does your copy help create a scene or emotion that will cause the reader to click-thru and make a purchase, register for an event, or fill out a contact form?  If not, why are you wasting this opportunity?  Even battery-powered, scented candles can be sold by using email copy such as “It’s cold and dark outside, but you’re relaxed and rejuvenated indoors with your everlasting wax candles.  No open flame or melting wax to worry about.  And, each candle lasts more than 100,000 hours.  Available in three stress-reducing scents.”
Also, communicate to your readers in their language and terminology.  The restaurant mentioned in #1 used this copy in their email trying to get readers to buy gift cards:

Firstly, who says, “Let’s close the deal.”?  Secondly, giving someone a restaurant gift card as a present will probably not result in the gift receiver “marveling at your generosity”, especially if the gift receiver spent half a day shopping for the perfect present for you.  Email copy that conveyed how buying this restaurant’s gift cards at the last minute could save the gift giver from the embarrassment of not having any gifts to give would have been an improvement over the existing copy.
4.    No Call-to-Action – Using “click here” should be outlawed in emails.  (If you’re not certain about this, it’s time to A/B test the call-to-action used in your emails.) What action do you really want the reader to take? Use a call-to-action that spells out what action you want the reader to take such as “Register Now” or “Find Your Favorites”. 
The bottom line is that if you’re not sending out quality emails to everyone on your mailing list, you’re only hurting your business or organization.
Now, it’s your turn.  Take a look at emails you’ve sent in the past.  Are there any parts of the emails that could have been improved?  Or, have you ever dealt with a client who refused to allow you to improve their emails?


June 5, 2011

Why the Fat Lady Sang

It isn’t over till the fat lady sings.” In my family, this quote is used during sporting events with anyone attempting to gloat before the event is finished. After all, the opera isn’t finished until the fat lady sings.  In the case of Halls latest online marketing campaign, it appears that the fat lady sang before the campaign ended.
I learned of Halls’ The Operahh of Irritations campaign via email.  The campaign requested that people state, via Twitter or facebook, what irritates them and Halls would have opera singers sing those comments, which could be watched live on facebook.  I tweeted my comments for the opera singers, including the hashtag Halls created, and clicked through to the campaign facebook page only to see two bored opera singers with nothing to sing and that I was one of 61 viewers. 

Later that day, the Halls Twitter account @GetHalls followed me.  (The Halls Twitter account had about 45 friends – accounts they were following - and 23 followers that day, May 20.)
While I missed the operatic version of my tweet, I couldn’t help but think about what companies could do to improve the results of their marketing campaigns:
·    Identify Your Customers – Who are they?  What are their likes and dislikes?  How does your campaign idea fit with your customers?  If the campaign isn’t a good fit, are you really going to attract enough new customers to make up the revenue for the customers you’ll lose with this marketing campaign?  What percentage of Halls customers are opera fans?  (On the positive side for Halls, their reach was so low with this campaign that there aren’t that many people who will look at a bag of Halls and think of the opera.)

·    Use Twitter to Build Relationships – It appeared that Halls didn’t even have a Twitter account before they decided on their opera campaign, and Halls did a poor job of creating their Twitter account.  Make certain when you create your company account that you use the company logo, include your URL and a description of your company, and make certain any background image you use ties in with your brand.  Don’t assume that anyone knows about your company or what products you make or sell. 
How can you tell what this company does?

Next, search for people tweeting about your industry and build relationships with them.  (Search for complaints, too, and don’t just search based on hashtags.) It’s okay to tweet those people and say that you agree with them, or just tweet them a link to some resources that are not on your web site.  (During a short stint with a small ecommerce site, I tweeted a man who was looking for a specific item that the site didn’t carry.  My tweet included two links to competitors’ sites.  If you don’t have the product that someone tweets they’re looking for, point them in the right direction.  They’ll remember you tried to make their life easier.)  Then work on increasing your interaction with your customers and potential customers.  Ask for their input and feedback, share exclusive news with them, etc.  Make interacting with you so enjoyable that people tweet about you.
·    Tell the Truth – People can find out the truth in a hurry.  If your campaign wasn’t a success, don’t claim that it was.  Just tweet your thanks to everyone who participated.

·    Test in Advance – If any part of your campaign involves using equipment for video or transmitting a live feed, test everything in advance. Twice.  The last thing you want is to have technical problems the moment your campaign is supposed to be live.  You might not think that technical problems affect your brand/company image but the people deciding which vendor to hire or which product to purchase will disagree with you.
If Halls had planned ahead, this campaign probably would have had better results, even though I doubt many Halls customers are big opera fans.  What do you think?