As more consumers turn to Yelp to help make purchasing decisions, your small business’s reputation on this is more critical than ever before. If you’ve ever visited Yelp, you might have noticed that while some reviews are obviously legitimate and helpful, others are simply fake.
Some businesses out there aren’t playing by the rules, and they try to get positive Yelp reviews by paying people to post them. These fake reviews are often easy to spot, but ultimately, buying and selling fake reviews is harmful to consumers who are looking online for the best businesses.
How Is Yelp Handling It?
About a year and a half ago, Yelp decided to combat these fake reviews by issuing Consumer Alerts. So if your business was caught trying to get fake reviews, customers who search for your business on Yelp would see a message explaining that someone from the business has been acting dishonestly—not a good message to send to your customers.
Any small business owner wants to avoid getting a Consumer Alert at all costs. Even if you’ve had a positive review on your Yelp page, it will be discredited if there is also a Consumer Alert on your page. Without question, this flag from Yelp can be devastating to a small business’s reputation. To learn more about managing your online reputation, turn to our local marketing experts for help.
Keep in mind that even if you don’t pay directly for positive reviews, you can also be flagged for offering discounts, gifts, or any type of incentive in exchange for a review.
If your business does get hit with a Consumer Alert that you think might be a mistake, it is important for you to address the matter with Yelp as quickly as possible.
Yelp Turns Up the Heat on Violators
When the program was first launched, only a handful of businesses were faced with the dreaded Consumer Alert box on their Yelp page. But now, according to some sources, nearly 300 businesses have been flagged with an Alert in only a few months.
Given that this is a major area of concern for Yelp, which is protecting its own reputation as a consumer review website, it is likely that Yelp will continue to crack down on people and businesses that aren’t playing by its rules.
The Bottom Line
As long as you’re running your small business with integrity, you probably don’t need to worry about Yelp’s Consumer Alerts. In fact, we in the local internet marketing business understand that Yelp’s recent moves are actually good for small business owners as well as consumers. When consumers can rely on trustworthy a source of information, they’re bound to find the small business—possibly yours—that fits their needs.
With all of the website analytics tools available to small businesses, it’s easy to focus too much on where links are going. After all, building website authority is important. But sometimes small business owners also need to stop and take a look at the basic formatting of their website text and hyperlinks.
Get Back to Basics
Internet users have been trained over the years to recognize blue underlined text as a link, so it’s best for small businesses to stick with the tried and true. Keep in mind that the purpose of links is to steer people toward more web content and, as a result, increase their engagement with your business. There’s no need for flashy pop-up links; users like it when links are simple and easy to find.
If you decide against the blue underlined text because it clashes with your website’s color scheme, or for some other reason, at least make sure that your links stand out from the rest of the text on your website. Surprisingly, many companies don’t format their links at all, which costs them lots of web traffic. Also, if you change the style of your links to something other than blue underlined text, make sure you apply the same formatting to all of the links on your website.
As a general rule, avoid underlining any text that isn’t a link. When people try to click on it and go nowhere, they become frustrated and may even decide to leave your website.
Make It Easy on Users
Without the ability to use the Back button in their browser window, many users are lost. Yet some small businesses fail to recognize the importance this basic web navigation tool when they format links to open in a new browser window. That’s why local marketing experts say it’s best to make all links open in the same browser window.
Think About Your Internal Linking Strategy
An internal linking strategy is one of the key components of search engine optimization. Remember that the goal of your internal linking strategy should be to provide value to your customers. Think about what information they need and make sure that you give them an easy route to their destination.
Also, make sure that you’re using keyword-rich anchor text. If your links say “Click here” or “Learn more” instead of “View our custom window frame options,” you could be missing out on better search results.
If you take your customers’ needs into account and apply it to your website structure and formatting, it will be easy for search engines to recognize which pages on your website are most important, and they will index your website appropriately. As always, small businesses can turn to local internet marketing professionals for help with their website.
Most people who are involved in local internet marketing understand the importance of using relevant, captivating images in online communication, especially when it comes to local social media marketing. After all, without images most memes are meaningless.
Although it is quite easy to find images through a Google Image search, it is important to avoid using copyrighted images. Many professional photographers apply watermarks to their online images to prevent people from taking their photos without their permission, but this is not always the case.
Using the Usage Rights Tools
Ultimately, it’s up to the users to make sure that they’re not stealing images. Since 2009, Google has allowed users to filter image search results to show only those that are available for reuse. However, until recently, this feature could only be found through the “Advanced Image Search” features. Now it’s available to users under the search tools, which appear automatically on the image search results page. To help users out, Google places all images in the following “usage rights” categories:
- Labeled for reuse with modification
- Labeled for reuse
- Labeled for noncommercial reuse with modification
- Labeled for noncommercial reuse
- Not filtered by license
A Word of Caution for Small Businesses
Now it’s easier to avoid copyright infringement, but there is one caveat. Sometimes people find copyrighted images in Google Images and publish them on their websites, then those stolen images appear in Google Images again frequently without any indication that they were originally copywritten, so you could inadvertently use an image that’s not labeled for reuse.
Nevertheless, the new placement of the “usage rights” filter is likely to deter people from stealing or “borrowing” online images.
Where to Find High-Quality Stock Images
To avoid the risk of legal trouble altogether, it might be best for your small business to subscribe to a stock image provider such as iStockPhoto or Shutterstock. Although both of these sites require a monthly subscription, it may be a wise investment for your small business, particularly if you also do a lot of print advertising.
Stock image providers such as these enable users to search for high-quality photos and even videos, and you can often find the perfect photo to make your website content stand out. Sometimes you can find images in vector format, which allows graphic designers to edit them.
Also, there are a number of free stock image websites, such as Morguefile and FreeStockImages.com, where you can often find what you’re looking for. However, the downside is that you will likely have to spend more time searching for what you need.
There’s no better time than Valentine’s Day to show your customers some love. We’ve taken a look at some of the best Valentine’s Day campaigns and compiled a list of tips for small business owners.
Create a Video to Announce Your Campaign
Some of the best Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns out there utilize short YouTube videos to generate interest among consumers. For example, Uber, the on-demand car service company, created a short video to advertise its Valentine’s Day flower delivery service. If you decide to go this route, be sure to keep your video short and to the point. If your campaign can’t be explained in less than 60 seconds or so, it’s probably too complicated for customers to want to participate.
Some brands choose to get their customers involved in creating videos, too. Set up a Vine video contest that ties in with your business and Valentine’s Day.
Tie in Social Responsibility and Advocacy
Keep in mind that a Valentine’s Day campaign doesn’t have to be all about your company. In fact, your customers may appreciate the opportunity to help others in need. For example, MegaRed, well known for its heart-healthy supplements, offered customers the opportunity to give a loved one a free sample of their product. Then MegaRed upped the ante by promising to help even more people: if 100,000 people requested samples, the company would donate $100,000 samples to the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.
Have Some Fun
When it comes to Valentine’s Day, consumers expect fun as well as a little creativity. To celebrate Valentine’s Day, Planter’s Peanuts made three funny e-cards available to people to download through their Facebook page. Not only did the company engage its audience in a fun way, it also communicated that peanuts are actually good for your heart, which ties in with National Heart Health Month
Use Social Media to Get the Word Out
Even if you’re running a last-minute campaign for Valentine’s Day, it can be communicated quickly through local social media marketing. In fact, some businesses and organizations have chosen to communicate their Valentine’s Day marketing campaigns solely through social media channels. Last year, the State of New Jersey and the Small Business Association worked together to encourage people to celebrate Valentine’s Day on the Jersey Shore to help the region regain economic strength after Hurricane Sandy.
The success of the State of New Jersey campaign proves that Valentine’s Day campaigns don’t necessarily need to take a lot of your time. Your campaign can be as simple asking your social media followers to weigh in on a simple question about Valentine’s Day.
Create a Short Survey
Some businesses take their questions for customers a step further, setting up a short survey for their blog. Customers who want to participate just answer a few simple questions, and the company’s social media managers highlight the best responses on their Facebook and Twitter feeds. The person with the best response receives some sort of small prize. This type of campaign works well for busy small businesses because it helps them get lots of business leads, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to implement.
As always, small businesses that are looking for marketing guidance can turn to local marketing experts for help.