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?