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The Feed Is Coming. Here’s How Google Could Monetize It

If you use the Google app on your mobile device, you may already be aware of Google’s recent addition of a newsfeed, a Facebook-y, portal-like feature that allows would-be searchers to skip the search completely and dive right into new content relevant to their interests (based on their past searches as well as topics they opt into, plus Google’s now ever-present machine learning algos).

google could monetize its new feed feature 

If you’re Mark Irvine, this feature makes you very nervous:

 mark irvine reacts to google feed

Well, prepare to get even nervouser. Google just announced that “the feed” will soon extend beyond the mobile app to appear on Google’s homepage across devices.

Outside of sounding like a low-budget horror flick, and G apparently thinking its user base is comprised solely of Brooklynite neckbeards (“Whether you’re a pet-loving, Nietzsche-reading, sports fanatic; a hip-hop head and burgeoning brewmaster; or anything in between, your feed should fit your fancy”), the feed appears to be a perfectly practical application for app users who don’t want to bounce between search and social for news updates.

 hipsters the first audience targeted by google feed

But wait, there’s more!

Per the BBC, Google plans to implement the feed on Google.com as well; the media outlet also claims that “the focus of the service [is] to make Google more useful and drive users to its other services,” but there are no (public) plans for monetization. Yet.

What is The Feed?

Simply put, the feed is Google’s answer to Facebook’s News Feed and Twitter’s, well, Twitter-ness.

A reality: Search is all about intent. This positions Google as the apex ad platform, a place where advertisers can reach prospects at any point during the sales cycle based on the words typed (or spoken) by those prospects. The ROI is awesome because you’re only bidding on terms that show intent relevant to your wares.

When it comes to news, though, people prefer a little bit of serendipity. Google doesn’t really do serendipity. Sorry, didn’t do.

google feed brings serendipity to search 

Per Google, the feed’s goal is to make it “easier than ever to discover, explore and stay connected to what matters to you—even when you don’t have a query in mind.” How does it accomplish this? The cards in your feed are “not only based on your interactions with Google, but also factors in what’s trending in your area and around the world. The more you use Google, the better your feed will be.”

Incentivized activity? Limitless utility? Tell me that isn’t the foundation for a new revenue stream and I’ll never believe another word you say.

Before I get to the speculation about how the feed-as-ad-platform might exist, some credit where credit is due.

The Feed: The First Step Towards A Balanced Media Diet

Unlike Twitter (where I get most of my news), the feed can grow and evolve without exacerbating the curated media echo chambers in which the majority of us reside.

Again, here’s Google: “To provide information from diverse perspectives, news stories may have multiple viewpoints from a variety of sources, as well as other related information and articles. And when available, you’ll be able to fact check and see other relevant information to help get a more holistic understanding about the topics in your feed.”

 google feed could eliminate the media filter bubbles we live in

The ability to synthesize informed thought based on multiple sources, how novel!

In all seriousness, this is really cool. Comparably interesting, at least from an SEM perspective, is the fact that the topics in a user’s feed link to a SERP (you know, one with ads).

And now, some advertiser-focused speculation…

How Will Google Monetize The Feed

Note: that wasn’t a question.

Without a stated path towards monetizing the feed, a lukewarm take might be something like…

“The ‘follow’ button will be used to create audiences for advertisers to use on existing channels”

Or…

“Turning to Google for news, sports, culture, etc. instead of Facebook/Twitter will incite more searches (from links and due to an influx in overall use), which in turn means more opportunity for Google to sell text ads on the SERP.”

Google didn’t monopolize search by glossing over valuable opportunities in the name of altruism (“helping people find information!”) , and that’s exactly what the feed is: a valuable opportunity for Google to monetize native ads and audience-targeting.

Native Ads

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always yearned for a side of “you’ll never believe what these 9 child stars look like today” on my SERP.

 google feed native ads speculation

The feed seems like the perfect place for Google to test native ads in a very big way. The tiny white and green “Ad” tag appended to text ads makes it clear(ish) to searchers that the results atop their SERP were paid for; how will Google go about distinguishing between curated news, opinions, and an “article” about buying a new pair of shoes written and paid for by BIG SHOE?

I’m all for a new approach to news (we need it), but the potential for it to become bogged down with clickbait feels very real.

Audience Targeting

As I mentioned earlier, search is fantastic because intent is clear; audience-based targeting (the likes of which you use on Facebook) represents a different kind of value.

 google feed audience targeting speculation

While audiences on the Display Network are relatively robust, they don’t hold a candle to the audiences available on Facebook (or even LinkedIn).

But imagine if Google had information on exactly what you like, how long you’ve been into it, and how your preferences shift over time; that’d be pretty damn valuable to advertisers, don’t you think?

Whether these potential audiences would be used to target users via Search and Display or with (speculative) native ads is anyone’s guess; that being said, it seems completely logical to assume Google would implement a means of testing pure, audience-based targeting—a keyword-free model of targeting outside of the third-party dependent Display Network—in a way that doesn’t disrupt their existing ecosystem (and by “ecosystem,” I mean “substantial revenue stream”).

 google feed dr seuss quote personified

There’ll be some gorgeous irony in the use of Dr Seuss’s “there is no one alive who is you-er than you” quote if your you gets lumped in with a bunch of similar you’s, shaken up, packaged, and sold as a top-of-funnel targeting method to enterprising individuals.

Do people really want a new home page that’s not social media based?

Google has attempted to chase the Facebook experience before. It didn’t go well.

It’s also a bit presumptuous of the Search juggernaut to assume that people want a new home page that doesn’t simultaneously inform them of foreign affairs, the Sox, and what their pal ordered at Taco Bell.

While the feed could very well be the future of digital news consumption, a source for content that exists outside of users’ pre-existing points of view, I’m infinitely more interested in how Google lets us use it to grow our brands and push existing prospects down the funnel with yet another touchpoint. We’ll keep an eye on it, and let you know how things develop!

About the Author

Allen Finn is a content marketing specialist and the reigning fantasy football champion at WordStream. He enjoys couth menswear, dank eats, and the dulcet tones of the Wu-Tang Clan. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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7 Nuggets of Search Marketing Wisdom from #MozCon

The mass exodus of fellow search-nerds from Seattle has begun; amidst a wave of fanfare, beers, and tears (bye, Rand!), MozCon has drawn to a close.

mozcon 2017 sem tips 

We sponsored a booth this year which gave our team hundreds of opportunities to connect with interesting people from all corners of the Earth (including some incredibly enthusiastic WordStream customers); three days of chatting also meant missing out on some really engaging speakers.

Fortunately, between glad-handing and MozCrawling, we somehow managed to catch our fair share of presentations (shout out to the genius at Moz who decided to put the couch and live stream in the back by the cold brew: so clutch). And while most of the presentations focused on analytics, content, and, of course, SEO, some significant PPC-related knowledge was dropped.

 mozcon mozcrawl wordstream lindas tavern

Better still, almost every speaker provided at least one nugget of wisdom that will help advertisers and digital marketing agencies improve their PPC efforts. From killer copy to CRO to emphasizing creativity throughout the customer journey, below we’ve gathered some of the best PPC-centric advice shared at MozCon.

Before we begin, though, I’ve got a favor to ask…

Since we missed some of the presentations, we almost certainly left a couple of AdWords-related gems off the list. If something you learned at MozCon totally blew your mind, let us know about it on Twitter and in the comments below!

MozCon Nugget #1: You have to be willing to come up with shit ideas in order to come up with great ideas

Lisa Meyers, “How to Get Big Links”

Outside of some incredible, Oglivy-esque outreach email copy and the illest sneakers at MozCon, Verve Search CEO Lisa Meyers dropped a valuable tidbit of marketing philosophy…

lisa meyers mozcon 2017 

Her agency has relied on this mantra to maximize her team’s creative output, resulting in some seriously infectious, oft-linked content. By cultivating creativity, viewing the subsequent barrage of ideas as a path towards generating something exceptional instead of seeing it as time wasted, Verve has created everything from interactive data visualizations to vintage posters depicting long-extinct animals hailing from travel destinations.

While there are significantly fewer opportunities to incite virality with an Expanded Text Ad than, say, an interactive Hollywood body count, the underlying premise is totally applicable to PPC. Constantly dream up and implement new ideas and when you find a formula that works (whether it’s an interactive data viz. or an exceptional CTA) , don’t be afraid to re-skin and reuse it.

MozCon Nugget #2: You are not your customer. Stop trying to think for them.

Joel Klettke, “How to Write Customer-Driven Copy That Converts”

This was probably my favorite presentation of the week (copywriting, shocker), and I thought the HubSpot case study Joel shared offered a textbook approach to customer-focused landing page optimization.

By listening to customers, making a concerted effort to understand what they want as opposed to ramming unrelated value propositions down the throats of innocent people, you can completely reconfigure what to expect in terms of results.

Case in point…

joel klettke mozcon 2017 copywriting landing pages 

2x conversion rate. 2x inbound call volume.

A little bit of due diligence and a lot of listening can go a long way, huh?

If you’re in the midst of overhauling your own landing pages, remember:

  • Conduct. Customer. Research.
  • Shift your focus from product features to instead highlighting consumer benefits and customer testimonials.
  • Structure your landing page based on customer priorities

MozCon Nugget #3: Create a Simple Template for Success

Katie Cunningham, “How to build an SEO-intent based framework for any business”

In both SEO and PPC, intent rules the roost. Katie Cunningham uses a simple but powerful framework to approach SEO keyword research with an eye towards intent.

By prioritizing keywords with modifiers…

katie cunningham mozcon 2017 

… she helps searchers find exactly what they’re looking for (which in turn sets her clients up to provide some serious value).

And once you’ve implemented an intent-centric keyword strategy, you need a way to ensure it’s working. Katie’s got that covered, too!

  1. Establish your KPI goals
  2. Audit current performance (with brutal honesty)
  3. Research keywords to discover intent-based modifiers
  4. Strategize with an emphasis on valuable keywords
  5. Execute
  6. Measure your KPIs
  7. Repeat in perpetuity!

MozCon Nugget #4: Intent beats Identity. Immediacy beats loyalty.

Rob Bucci, “Reverse-Engineer Google’s Research to Serve Up the Best, Most Relevant Content for Your Audience”

I wouldn’t call myself a numbers guy by any stretch of the imagination, but Rob’s presentation on reverse-engineering the SERP to serve hyper-relevant content really resonated with me.

After analyzing Share of Voice metrics for featured snippets, images, maps, shopping, video, places, news, and regular old organic search results, one of Rob’s takeaways was that digital marketers need to recognize when they need a paid strategy to win.

 rob bucci stat at mozcon 2017 serp topology

Killer SEO can do wonders for your business, but when your competitor is using shopping ads to put a stranglehold on the SERP, all the organic efforts in the world won’t do you any good. Just look at all that blue!

As Google continues to pad search results with shiny new toys (Google Careers, anyone?), well-crafted ads—search or shopping— are one of the few ways to stay ahead of your competitors and Google.

MozCon Nugget #5: Paid social is the perfect way to amplify unicorn content

Kane Jamison, “The 8 Paid Promotion Tactics That Will Get You to Quit Organic Traffic”

Segmentation! Split-testing! Implementing paid search and social in a complementary fashion! Kane Jamison’s presentation gave SEOs and content folks a taste of how paid social can amplify and complement their existing content promotion. I particularly enjoyed his two suggestions for leveraging email lists and custom audiences in Facebook:

  1. Build a custom audience made up of prospects who don’t open your emails and advertise to them on Facebook with the best content you’ve got
  2. Build 1% lookalikes of high-engagement email subscribers and customers to find even more people just like them!

And if those kernels aren’t enough to sate your thirst for paid social knowledge…

kane jamison mozcon 2017 paid social to amplify content 

Here’s the scaffold for Kane’s entire presentation!

MozCon Nugget #6: The primal motivation behind most purchasing decisions is TRANSFORMATION

Tara-Nicholle Nelson, “How to Be a Happy Marketer: Survive the Content Crisis and Drive Results by Mastering Your Customer’s Transformational Journey”

Though presented as a solution for creating content that resonates with prospects, I found Tara-Nicholle Nelson’s presentation particularly applicable to paid search.

Too often, ETA copy reads like it was written by and for robots; there’s little personality and even less consideration for the human beings to whom the ads are served. This is because it’s super easy to see prospects as damsels in distress just waiting for you to swoop in with [solution to problem] and save the day. They should just know that your widget is great and therefore worthy of purchase, right?

Big shocker here: not so much.

your customers are heroes mozcon 2017 

Tara suggests framing your offering not as a product, but a mode of transformation.

This consumer-centric approach empowers your prospect, positioning your offering as a tool to be used in pursuit of solution rather than as the solution itself. Your customers are heroes: treat them accordingly!

MozCon Nugget #7: The last web traffic analytics spectrum you’ll ever need

Matthew Barby, “Up and to the Right: Growing Traffic, Conversions & Revenue”

I’m a sucker for, um, colorful language.

Even if Matt’s presentation hadn’t been riddled with compelling evidence to support his premises, I’d probably have included this gem:

 matthew barby hubspot at mozcon 2017

Matt identified a pretty alarming statistic: most companies have 1 or 2 channels that contribute to at least 60% of their acquisition funnel. In the event one of those channels goes belly up, your lead flow will dry right up, resulting in a case of “S.O.N.D.L.G.”

If you’re super reliant on organic traffic to generate opportunities and suddenly, Google implements a major change, your lead flow goes POOF! and AdWords alone can’t make up the difference without significant investment.

But if in addition to your phenomenal organic search presence you’re also using:

  • AdWords
  • Facebook Ads
  • Bing Ads

You’re set up to weather any storm! 

If only there was one piece of software that could help you make that happen…

About the Author

Allen Finn is a content marketing specialist and the reigning fantasy football champion at WordStream. He enjoys couth menswear, dank eats, and the dulcet tones of the Wu-Tang Clan. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Is the New, Most Powerful Ranking Factor “Searcher Task Accomplishment?” – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Move over, links, content, and RankBrain — there’s a new ranking factor in town, and it’s a doozy. All kidding aside, the idea of searcher task accomplishment is a compelling argument for how we should be optimizing our sites. Are they actually solving the problems searchers seek answers for? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand explains how searcher task accomplishment is what Google ultimately looks for, and how you can keep up.

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Searcher Task Accomplishment

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, we’re chatting about a new Google ranking factor.

Now, I want to be clear. This is not something that’s directly in Google’s algorithm for sure. It’s just that they’re measuring a lot of things that lead us to this conclusion. This is essentially what Google is optimizing toward with all of their ranking signals, and therefore it’s what SEOs nowadays have to think about optimizing for with our content. And that is searcher task accomplishment.

So what do I mean by this? Well, look, when someone does a search like “disinfect a cut,” they’re trying to actually accomplish something. In fact, no matter what someone is searching for, it’s not just that they want a set of results. They’re actually trying to solve a problem. For Google, the results that solve that problem fastest and best and with the most quality are the ones that they want to rank.

In the past, they’ve had to do all sorts of algorithms to try and get at this from obtuse angles. But now, with a lot of the work that they’re doing around measuring engagement and with all of the data that’s coming to them through Chrome and through Android, they’re able to get much, much closer to what is truly accomplishing the searcher’s task. That’s because they really want results that satisfy the query and fulfill the searcher’s task.

So pretty much every — I’m excluding navigational searches — but every informational and transactional type of search — I mean, navigational, they just want to go to that website — but informational and transactional search query is basically this. It’s I have an expression of need. That’s what I’m telling Google. But behind that, there’s a bunch of underlying goals, things that I want to do. I want to know information. I want to accomplish something. I want to complete an activity.

When I do that, when I perform my search, I have this sort of evaluation of results. Is this going to help me do what I want? Then I choose one, and then I figure out whether that result actually helps me complete my task. If it does, I might have discovery of additional needs around that, like once you’ve answered my disinfect a cut, now it’s, okay, now I kind of want to know how to prevent an infection, because you described using disinfectant and then you said infections are real scary. So let me go look up how do I prevent that from happening. So there’s that discovery of additional needs. Or you decide, hey, this did not help me complete my task. I’m going to go back to evaluation of results, or I’m going to go back to my expression of need in the form of a different search query.

That’s what gives Google the information to say, “Yes, this result helped the searcher accomplish their task,” or, “No, this result did not help them do it.”

Some examples of searcher task accomplishment

This is true for a bunch of things. I’ll walk you through some examples.

If I search for how to get a book published, that’s an expression of need. But underlying that is a bunch of different goals like, well, you’re going to be asking about like traditional versus self-publishing, and then you’re going to want to know about agents and publishers and the publishing process and the pitch process, which is very involved. Then you’re going to get into things like covers and book marketing and tracking sales and all this different stuff, because once you reach your evaluation down here and you get into discovery of additional needs, you find all these other things that you need to know.

If I search for “invest in Ethereum,” well maybe I know enough to start investing right away, but probably, especially recently because there’s been a ton of search activity around it, I probably need to understand: What the heck is the blockchain and what is cryptocurrency, this blockchain-powered currency system, and what’s the market for that like, and what has it been doing lately, and what’s my purchase process, and where can I actually go to buy it, and what do I have to do to complete that transaction?

If I search for something like “FHA loans,” well that might mean I’m in the mindset of thinking about real estate. I’m buying usually my first house for an FHA loan, and that means that I need to know things about conditions by region and the application process and what are the providers in my area and how can I go apply, all of these different things.

If I do a search for “Seattle event venues,” well that means I’m probably looking for a list of multiple event venues, and then I need to narrow down my selection by the criteria I care about, like region, capacity, the price, the amenities. Then once I have all that, I need contact information so that I can go to them.

In all of these scenarios, Google is going to reward the results that help me accomplish the task, discover the additional needs, and solve those additional needs as well, rather than the ones that maybe provide a slice of what I need and then make me go back to the search results and choose something else or change my query to figure out more.

Google is also going to reward, and you can see this in all these results, they’re going to reward ones that give me all the information I need, that help me accomplish my task before they ask for something in return. The ones that are basically just a landing page that say, “Oh yeah, Seattle event venues, enter your email address and all this other information, and we’ll be in touch with a list of venues that are right for you.” Yeah, guess what? It doesn’t matter how many links you have, you are not ranking, my friends.

That is so different from how it used to be. It used to be that you could have that contact form. You could have that on there. You could not solve the searcher’s query. You could basically be very conversion rate-focused on your page, and so long as you could get the right links and the right anchor text and use the right keywords on the page, guess what? You could rank. Those days are ending. I’m not going to say they’re gone, but they are ending, and this new era of searcher task accomplishment is here.

Challenge: The conflict between SEO & CRO

There’s a challenge. I want to be totally up front that there is a real challenge and a problem between this world of optimizing for searcher task accomplishment and the classic world of we want our conversions. So the CRO in your organization, which might be your director of marketing or it might be your CEO, or maybe if your team is big enough, you might have a CRO specialist, conversation rate optimization specialist, on hand. They’re thinking, “Hey, I need the highest percent of form completions possible.”

So when someone lands on this page, I’m trying to get from two percent to four percent. How do we get four percent of people visiting this page to complete the form? That means removing distractions. That means not providing information up front. That means having a great teaser that says like, “Hey, we can give this to you, and here are testimonials that say we can provide this information. But let’s not give it right up front. Don’t give away the golden goose, my friend. We want these conversions. We need to get our qualified leads into the funnel,” versus the SEO, who today has to think about, “How do I get searchers to accomplish their task without friction?” This lead capture form, that’s friction.

So every organization, I think, needs to decide which way they’re going to go. Are they going to go for basically long-term SEO, which is I’m going to solve the searcher’s task, and then I’m going to figure out ways later to monetize and to capture value? Or am I going to basically lose out in the search results to people who are willing to do this and go this route instead and drive traffic from other sources? Maybe I’ll rank with different pages and I’ll send some people here, or maybe I will pay for my traffic, or I’ll try and do some barnacle SEO and get links from people who do rank up top there, but I won’t do it directly myself. This is a choice we all have.

How do we nail searcher task accomplishment?

All right. So how do you do this? Let’s say you’ve gone the SEO path. You’ve decided, “Yes, Rand, I’m in. I want to help the searcher accomplish their task. I recognize that I’m going to have to be willing to sacrifice some conversion rate optimization.” Well, there are two things here.

1. Gain a deep understanding of what drives searchers to search.

2. What makes some searchers come away unsatisfied.

Once they’ve performed this query, why do they click the back button? Why do they choose a different result? Why do they change their query to something else? There are ways we can figure out both of these.

To help with number 1 try:

Some of the best things that you can do are talk to people who actually have those problems and who are actually performing those searches or have performed them through…

  • Interviews
  • Surveys

I will provide you with a link to a document that I did around specifically how to get a book published. I did a survey that I ran that looked at searcher task accomplishment and what people hoped that content would have for them, and you can see the results are quite remarkable. I’ll actually embed my presentation on searcher task accomplishment in this Whiteboard Friday and make sure to link to that as well.

  • In-person conversations, and powerful things can come out of those that you wouldn’t get through remote or through email.
  • You can certainly look at competitors. So check out what your competitors are saying and what they’re doing that you may not have considered yet.
  • You can try putting yourself in your searcher’s shoes.

What if I searched for disinfect a cut? What would I want to know? What if I searched for FHA loans? I’m buying a house for the first time, what am I thinking about? Well, I’m thinking about a bunch of things. I’m thinking about price and neighborhood and all this. Okay, how do I accomplish all that in my content, or at least how do I provide navigation so that people can accomplish all that without having to go back to the search results?

To help with number 2 try:

Understanding what makes those searchers come away unsatisfied.

  • Auto-suggest and related searches are great. In fact, related searches, which are at the very bottom of the page in a set of search results, are usually searches people performed after they performed the initial search. I say usually because there can be some other things in there. But usually someone who searched for FHA loans then searches for jumbo loans or 30-year fixed loans or mortgage rates or those kinds of things. That’s the next step. So you can say, “You know what? I know what you want next. Let me go help you.” Auto-suggest related searches, those are great for that.
  • Internal search analytics for people who landed on a page and performed a site search or clicked on a Next link on your site. What did they want to do? Where did they want to go next? That helps tell you what those people need.
  • Having conversations with those who only got partway through your funnel. So if you have a lead capture at some point or you collect email at some point, you can reach out to people who initially came to you for a solution but didn’t get all the way through that process and talk to them.
  • Tracking the SERPs and watching who rises vs falls in the rankings. Finally, if you track the search results, generally speaking what we see here at Moz, what I see for almost all the results I’m tracking is that more and more people who do a great job of this, of searcher task accomplishment, are rising in the rankings, and the folks who are not are falling.

So over time, if you watch those in your spaces and do some rank tracking competitively, you can see what types of content is helping people accomplish those tasks and what Google is rewarding.

That said, I look forward to your comments. We’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Why We Can’t Do SEO WIthout CRO from Rand Fishkin

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11 Examples of Great Customer Testimonial Pages

As we all know, it’s easy for marketers to brag about how great their product or service is. Writing compelling copy, shooting enticing photos, or even producing glamorous videos are all tactics we use to draw attention to our brands.

While all of these strategies can be successful, there really is no better way to gain trust and prove the validity of your brand like customer testimonials.

Testimonials take the spotlight away from the seller, and shine it on the customer. Your customer was once in the shopper’s shoes, debating what product to choose, comparing prices, reading marketing message after marketing message. Once the potential new buyer hears from someone they can actually relate to—someone who isn’t being paid to say these wonderful things—then their trust deepens, and their chances of purchasing rises.

For these reasons, it is absolutely critical for businesses to display customer testimonials on their websites. There are many ways you can use testimonials—for example, on landing pages and in emails—but there’s no better way to feature client quotes than on your very own beautiful customer testimonial page.

I went hunting for examples of the best customer testimonial pages I could find. These 11 companies show how powerful customer testimonials can be, and how to make the most of them. If you’re just getting started with a customer testimonial page, these examples should provide you with plenty of inspiration.

#1: ZenDesk

Talk about a beautiful customer testimonial page. ZenDesk, a help desk software, literally provides tools for customer service. How could they do this without showcasing their happy customers? 

Customer Testimonial Examples Zendesk

ZenDesk’s testimonial page is beautifully laid out AND functional, with a silent customer video playing on loop to serve as the banner, a menu to filter testimonials by location, company size, industry, and use case, and lastly thumbnails linking to the full customer stories for a variety of big-name brands. This is a clean and concise way to showcase their happy customers, and help prospects gain the assurance they need before investing.

#2: ChowNow

ChowNow’s customer testimonial page is another beauty. Its simple design focuses on videos and standout quotes from customers. This approach is clean, straightforward, and skimmable—not bogged down with big blocks of text that can be overwhelming and easy to skip. 

Customer Testimonial Examples ChowNow

ChowNow clearly invested in sending a video crew out to their customer restaurant locations to produce these high-quality video testimonials, but I’d bet it was well-worth the investment. Video may be the best way to display happy customers because it allows the viewer to connect on an emotional level that can be harder to convey via text alone.

Note, too, how the featured quotes mention why customers chose ChowNow over competitors and call out specific numbers and metrics (“increased our sales 20-25%”).

#3: Startup Institute

Startup Institute used their business model to create a unique and compelling way to display their customer testimonials as “Love Letters.”

Customer Testimonial Examples Startup

Startup Institute is a career accelerator that allows professionals to learn new skills, take their careers in a different direction, and pursue a career they are passionate about. Naturally they receive praise from the students that have completed the program.

Whether it’s a student raving that they have landed their dream job or just a message of appreciation, these letters are truly authentic testimonials. This page is a creative and thoughtful way of sharing customer testimonials.

#4: Bizzabo

Bizzabo is a company that provides tools to help professional event planning and execution, and their customers are very happy folks! The thing I love about their customer testimonial page is that it provides a variety of content formats. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Bizzabo

For instance, the top of the page shares short and concise tweets from customers; as you scroll you’ll then see a customer service rating, a series of case studies, and then a video customer testimonial. The layout is like a choose-your-own-adventure giving the potential customer options on how they prefer to digest these stories.

#5: Steve & Kate’s Camp

Steve & Kate’s camp runs summer camps for children across the U.S. The unique thing about Steve & Kate’s camp is that their entire website is essentially a series of customer testimonials.

For example, visit their homepage, and watch the video. Doesn’t that make you want to go to camp? Or at the very least send your kids to that camp? 

Customer Testimonial Examples Steve and Kate

As you can see, certain businesses don’t even need a dedicated page, but they can let their website speak to customers with emotion-provoking videos. Sending a child to summer camp can be a very nerve-racking thing for a parent, but by using the power of video testimonials across their website a sense of trust is gained.

#6: Hootsuite

Hootsuite, a social media management platform, has another great example of a customer testimonial page that really demonstrates how their product can work for anybody. They start off by sharing a video mashup featuring several of their customers, and as you scroll down the page, you’ll see case studies in three sections separated by goals or needs—brand building, speed/efficiency, and reporting capabilities. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Hootsuite

Lastly, there’s an area to check out case studies specific to your industry. Something for everyone!

#7: Booker

Booker provides software that helps retailers manage their stores. This company leverages their customers to tell the story of what makes their software great, making this page a focal point of their website’s main navigation. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Booker

#8: HubSpot

HubSpot is another software company, providing inbound marketing and sales tools that help grow your business. Their software can get quite pricy if your company is relying on it for things like email marketing campaigns and lead generation, but the investment is worth it for many customers as you see from their customer testimonial pages

Customer Testimonial Examples HubSpot

The first page you land on features thumbnails with company logos and the main outcomes they saw from using HubSpot. What I love most about this page is the ability to filter by industry, company size, challenges, location, etc. to discover the stories most in-line with your own business and needs. 

Customer Testimonial Examples HubSpot Two

There’s also a separate testimonials page featuring quotes and photos of happy customers. So HubSpot gets it both ways – there’s the brand recognition of the corporate logos, plus the human connection of seeing other customers as real people.

#9: Codecademy

Learning how to code can seem like a very intimidating thing, especially if your experience is far away from the technical world. Codecademy’s mission is to break that barrier, and teach newbies how to learn new coding skills online.

Their customer testimonial page is a powerful way of explaining this mission, and they have a number of students who were willing to share their stories. They use the power of video to tell a story about how Codecademy helped an individual change his career completely by gaining these new skills. The page then documents plenty of others who had similar success stories—click on a story and you’ll see a longer interview with the student about how and why they got into coding. This method of using their customers as advocates helps break the intimidation barrier for those hesitant to sign up for a coding course.

Customer Testimonial Examples Codecademy

Codecademy also uses the copy on this page to subtly remind visitors that they can learn to code from anywhere: “Learner stories from around the world.”

#10: Squarespace

Did you know that Squarespace powers millions of websites across hundreds of industries? Well, if you head over their customer testimonial page you can get all the details and more. 

Customer Testimonial Examples SquareSpace

Since their business is website building, their customer testimonial is not what you typically think of (i.e., a quote or a longer text-based story). Rather, Squarespace uses this page to share a host of real website examples from some of the most glamorous brands that use their site builder, showing proof of concept and providing design inspiration.

The page feels sleek and particularly helpful for those looking to see if Squarespace will meet their needs.

#11: Shopify

Lastly, we have Shopify’s “Success Stories” page. At first glance it looks a lot like other testimonial page examples we’ve seen, but it has one cool new idea: There’s a prominent call to action that asks Shopify customers to share their own stories! 

Customer Testimonial Examples Shopify

What a creative way to crowdsource more customer testimonials!

9 Tips for Creating a Great Customer Testimonial Page

Based on all these great examples, here are some tips and ideas you can use when designing and building your own testimonials page:

  1. Use the highest-quality photos and video you can manage (send out a crew if you can!)
  2. Make your customers look good (not just your own business and your product)
  3. Ask your customers to share concrete numbers that demonstrate the ways you helped their business
  4. Give visitors to your page the ability to filter testimonials or case studies by industry, company size, and location so they can find the stories that are most relevant to them
  5. Try out different formats – tweets and other social media posts can be testimonials! (Just get permission)
  6. Make it easy for more customers to submit a testimonial
  7. Don’t forget to use testimonials across your site where you want to drive conversions – including the home page
  8. Don’t just use quotes; show examples of your product in action
  9. Display a mixture of familiar logos and real customer faces

About the Author:

Margot is a Customer Success Manager at Wistia. She loves all things digital, and spends her free time running, traveling, and cooking. Follow her on:

Twitter: @ChappyMargot

Google+: +Margot da Cunha

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2uzgKFO

11 Examples of Great Customer Testimonial Pages

As we all know, it’s easy for marketers to brag about how great their product or service is. Writing compelling copy, shooting enticing photos, or even producing glamorous videos are all tactics we use to draw attention to our brands.

While all of these strategies can be successful, there really is no better way to gain trust and prove the validity of your brand like customer testimonials.

Testimonials take the spotlight away from the seller, and shine it on the customer. Your customer was once in the shopper’s shoes, debating what product to choose, comparing prices, reading marketing message after marketing message. Once the potential new buyer hears from someone they can actually relate to—someone who isn’t being paid to say these wonderful things—then their trust deepens, and their chances of purchasing rises.

For these reasons, it is absolutely critical for businesses to display customer testimonials on their websites. There are many ways you can use testimonials—for example, on landing pages and in emails—but there’s no better way to feature client quotes than on your very own beautiful customer testimonial page.

I went hunting for examples of the best customer testimonial pages I could find. These 11 companies show how powerful customer testimonials can be, and how to make the most of them. If you’re just getting started with a customer testimonial page, these examples should provide you with plenty of inspiration.

#1: ZenDesk

Talk about a beautiful customer testimonial page. ZenDesk, a help desk software, literally provides tools for customer service. How could they do this without showcasing their happy customers? 

Customer Testimonial Examples Zendesk

ZenDesk’s testimonial page is beautifully laid out AND functional, with a silent customer video playing on loop to serve as the banner, a menu to filter testimonials by location, company size, industry, and use case, and lastly thumbnails linking to the full customer stories for a variety of big-name brands. This is a clean and concise way to showcase their happy customers, and help prospects gain the assurance they need before investing.

#2: ChowNow

ChowNow’s customer testimonial page is another beauty. Its simple design focuses on videos and standout quotes from customers. This approach is clean, straightforward, and skimmable—not bogged down with big blocks of text that can be overwhelming and easy to skip. 

Customer Testimonial Examples ChowNow

ChowNow clearly invested in sending a video crew out to their customer restaurant locations to produce these high-quality video testimonials, but I’d bet it was well-worth the investment. Video may be the best way to display happy customers because it allows the viewer to connect on an emotional level that can be harder to convey via text alone.

Note, too, how the featured quotes mention why customers chose ChowNow over competitors and call out specific numbers and metrics (“increased our sales 20-25%”).

#3: Startup Institute

Startup Institute used their business model to create a unique and compelling way to display their customer testimonials as “Love Letters.”

Customer Testimonial Examples Startup

Startup Institute is a career accelerator that allows professionals to learn new skills, take their careers in a different direction, and pursue a career they are passionate about. Naturally they receive praise from the students that have completed the program.

Whether it’s a student raving that they have landed their dream job or just a message of appreciation, these letters are truly authentic testimonials. This page is a creative and thoughtful way of sharing customer testimonials.

#4: Bizzabo

Bizzabo is a company that provides tools to help professional event planning and execution, and their customers are very happy folks! The thing I love about their customer testimonial page is that it provides a variety of content formats. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Bizzabo

For instance, the top of the page shares short and concise tweets from customers; as you scroll you’ll then see a customer service rating, a series of case studies, and then a video customer testimonial. The layout is like a choose-your-own-adventure giving the potential customer options on how they prefer to digest these stories.

#5: Steve & Kate’s Camp

Steve & Kate’s camp runs summer camps for children across the U.S. The unique thing about Steve & Kate’s camp is that their entire website is essentially a series of customer testimonials.

For example, visit their homepage, and watch the video. Doesn’t that make you want to go to camp? Or at the very least send your kids to that camp? 

Customer Testimonial Examples Steve and Kate

As you can see, certain businesses don’t even need a dedicated page, but they can let their website speak to customers with emotion-provoking videos. Sending a child to summer camp can be a very nerve-racking thing for a parent, but by using the power of video testimonials across their website a sense of trust is gained.

#6: Hootsuite

Hootsuite, a social media management platform, has another great example of a customer testimonial page that really demonstrates how their product can work for anybody. They start off by sharing a video mashup featuring several of their customers, and as you scroll down the page, you’ll see case studies in three sections separated by goals or needs—brand building, speed/efficiency, and reporting capabilities. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Hootsuite

Lastly, there’s an area to check out case studies specific to your industry. Something for everyone!

#7: Booker

Booker provides software that helps retailers manage their stores. This company leverages their customers to tell the story of what makes their software great, making this page a focal point of their website’s main navigation. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Booker

#8: HubSpot

HubSpot is another software company, providing inbound marketing and sales tools that help grow your business. Their software can get quite pricy if your company is relying on it for things like email marketing campaigns and lead generation, but the investment is worth it for many customers as you see from their customer testimonial pages

Customer Testimonial Examples HubSpot

The first page you land on features thumbnails with company logos and the main outcomes they saw from using HubSpot. What I love most about this page is the ability to filter by industry, company size, challenges, location, etc. to discover the stories most in-line with your own business and needs. 

Customer Testimonial Examples HubSpot Two

There’s also a separate testimonials page featuring quotes and photos of happy customers. So HubSpot gets it both ways – there’s the brand recognition of the corporate logos, plus the human connection of seeing other customers as real people.

#9: Codecademy

Learning how to code can seem like a very intimidating thing, especially if your experience is far away from the technical world. Codecademy’s mission is to break that barrier, and teach newbies how to learn new coding skills online.

Their customer testimonial page is a powerful way of explaining this mission, and they have a number of students who were willing to share their stories. They use the power of video to tell a story about how Codecademy helped an individual change his career completely by gaining these new skills. The page then documents plenty of others who had similar success stories—click on a story and you’ll see a longer interview with the student about how and why they got into coding. This method of using their customers as advocates helps break the intimidation barrier for those hesitant to sign up for a coding course.

Customer Testimonial Examples Codecademy

Codecademy also uses the copy on this page to subtly remind visitors that they can learn to code from anywhere: “Learner stories from around the world.”

#10: Squarespace

Did you know that Squarespace powers millions of websites across hundreds of industries? Well, if you head over their customer testimonial page you can get all the details and more. 

Customer Testimonial Examples SquareSpace

Since their business is website building, their customer testimonial is not what you typically think of (i.e., a quote or a longer text-based story). Rather, Squarespace uses this page to share a host of real website examples from some of the most glamorous brands that use their site builder, showing proof of concept and providing design inspiration.

The page feels sleek and particularly helpful for those looking to see if Squarespace will meet their needs.

#11: Shopify

Lastly, we have Shopify’s “Success Stories” page. At first glance it looks a lot like other testimonial page examples we’ve seen, but it has one cool new idea: There’s a prominent call to action that asks Shopify customers to share their own stories! 

Customer Testimonial Examples Shopify

What a creative way to crowdsource more customer testimonials!

9 Tips for Creating a Great Customer Testimonial Page

Based on all these great examples, here are some tips and ideas you can use when designing and building your own testimonials page:

  1. Use the highest-quality photos and video you can manage (send out a crew if you can!)
  2. Make your customers look good (not just your own business and your product)
  3. Ask your customers to share concrete numbers that demonstrate the ways you helped their business
  4. Give visitors to your page the ability to filter testimonials or case studies by industry, company size, and location so they can find the stories that are most relevant to them
  5. Try out different formats – tweets and other social media posts can be testimonials! (Just get permission)
  6. Make it easy for more customers to submit a testimonial
  7. Don’t forget to use testimonials across your site where you want to drive conversions – including the home page
  8. Don’t just use quotes; show examples of your product in action
  9. Display a mixture of familiar logos and real customer faces

About the Author:

Margot is a Customer Success Manager at Wistia. She loves all things digital, and spends her free time running, traveling, and cooking. Follow her on:

Twitter: @ChappyMargot

Google+: +Margot da Cunha

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2uzgKFO

11 Examples of Great Customer Testimonial Pages

As we all know, it’s easy for marketers to brag about how great their product or service is. Writing compelling copy, shooting enticing photos, or even producing glamorous videos are all tactics we use to draw attention to our brands.

While all of these strategies can be successful, there really is no better way to gain trust and prove the validity of your brand like customer testimonials.

Testimonials take the spotlight away from the seller, and shine it on the customer. Your customer was once in the shopper’s shoes, debating what product to choose, comparing prices, reading marketing message after marketing message. Once the potential new buyer hears from someone they can actually relate to—someone who isn’t being paid to say these wonderful things—then their trust deepens, and their chances of purchasing rises.

For these reasons, it is absolutely critical for businesses to display customer testimonials on their websites. There are many ways you can use testimonials—for example, on landing pages and in emails—but there’s no better way to feature client quotes than on your very own beautiful customer testimonial page.

I went hunting for examples of the best customer testimonial pages I could find. These 11 companies show how powerful customer testimonials can be, and how to make the most of them. If you’re just getting started with a customer testimonial page, these examples should provide you with plenty of inspiration.

#1: ZenDesk

Talk about a beautiful customer testimonial page. ZenDesk, a help desk software, literally provides tools for customer service. How could they do this without showcasing their happy customers? 

Customer Testimonial Examples Zendesk

ZenDesk’s testimonial page is beautifully laid out AND functional, with a silent customer video playing on loop to serve as the banner, a menu to filter testimonials by location, company size, industry, and use case, and lastly thumbnails linking to the full customer stories for a variety of big-name brands. This is a clean and concise way to showcase their happy customers, and help prospects gain the assurance they need before investing.

#2: ChowNow

ChowNow’s customer testimonial page is another beauty. Its simple design focuses on videos and standout quotes from customers. This approach is clean, straightforward, and skimmable—not bogged down with big blocks of text that can be overwhelming and easy to skip. 

Customer Testimonial Examples ChowNow

ChowNow clearly invested in sending a video crew out to their customer restaurant locations to produce these high-quality video testimonials, but I’d bet it was well-worth the investment. Video may be the best way to display happy customers because it allows the viewer to connect on an emotional level that can be harder to convey via text alone.

Note, too, how the featured quotes mention why customers chose ChowNow over competitors and call out specific numbers and metrics (“increased our sales 20-25%”).

#3: Startup Institute

Startup Institute used their business model to create a unique and compelling way to display their customer testimonials as “Love Letters.”

Customer Testimonial Examples Startup

Startup Institute is a career accelerator that allows professionals to learn new skills, take their careers in a different direction, and pursue a career they are passionate about. Naturally they receive praise from the students that have completed the program.

Whether it’s a student raving that they have landed their dream job or just a message of appreciation, these letters are truly authentic testimonials. This page is a creative and thoughtful way of sharing customer testimonials.

#4: Bizzabo

Bizzabo is a company that provides tools to help professional event planning and execution, and their customers are very happy folks! The thing I love about their customer testimonial page is that it provides a variety of content formats. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Bizzabo

For instance, the top of the page shares short and concise tweets from customers; as you scroll you’ll then see a customer service rating, a series of case studies, and then a video customer testimonial. The layout is like a choose-your-own-adventure giving the potential customer options on how they prefer to digest these stories.

#5: Steve & Kate’s Camp

Steve & Kate’s camp runs summer camps for children across the U.S. The unique thing about Steve & Kate’s camp is that their entire website is essentially a series of customer testimonials.

For example, visit their homepage, and watch the video. Doesn’t that make you want to go to camp? Or at the very least send your kids to that camp? 

Customer Testimonial Examples Steve and Kate

As you can see, certain businesses don’t even need a dedicated page, but they can let their website speak to customers with emotion-provoking videos. Sending a child to summer camp can be a very nerve-racking thing for a parent, but by using the power of video testimonials across their website a sense of trust is gained.

#6: Hootsuite

Hootsuite, a social media management platform, has another great example of a customer testimonial page that really demonstrates how their product can work for anybody. They start off by sharing a video mashup featuring several of their customers, and as you scroll down the page, you’ll see case studies in three sections separated by goals or needs—brand building, speed/efficiency, and reporting capabilities. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Hootsuite

Lastly, there’s an area to check out case studies specific to your industry. Something for everyone!

#7: Booker

Booker provides software that helps retailers manage their stores. This company leverages their customers to tell the story of what makes their software great, making this page a focal point of their website’s main navigation. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Booker

#8: HubSpot

HubSpot is another software company, providing inbound marketing and sales tools that help grow your business. Their software can get quite pricy if your company is relying on it for things like email marketing campaigns and lead generation, but the investment is worth it for many customers as you see from their customer testimonial pages

Customer Testimonial Examples HubSpot

The first page you land on features thumbnails with company logos and the main outcomes they saw from using HubSpot. What I love most about this page is the ability to filter by industry, company size, challenges, location, etc. to discover the stories most in-line with your own business and needs. 

Customer Testimonial Examples HubSpot Two

There’s also a separate testimonials page featuring quotes and photos of happy customers. So HubSpot gets it both ways – there’s the brand recognition of the corporate logos, plus the human connection of seeing other customers as real people.

#9: Codecademy

Learning how to code can seem like a very intimidating thing, especially if your experience is far away from the technical world. Codecademy’s mission is to break that barrier, and teach newbies how to learn new coding skills online.

Their customer testimonial page is a powerful way of explaining this mission, and they have a number of students who were willing to share their stories. They use the power of video to tell a story about how Codecademy helped an individual change his career completely by gaining these new skills. The page then documents plenty of others who had similar success stories—click on a story and you’ll see a longer interview with the student about how and why they got into coding. This method of using their customers as advocates helps break the intimidation barrier for those hesitant to sign up for a coding course.

Customer Testimonial Examples Codecademy

Codecademy also uses the copy on this page to subtly remind visitors that they can learn to code from anywhere: “Learner stories from around the world.”

#10: Squarespace

Did you know that Squarespace powers millions of websites across hundreds of industries? Well, if you head over their customer testimonial page you can get all the details and more. 

Customer Testimonial Examples SquareSpace

Since their business is website building, their customer testimonial is not what you typically think of (i.e., a quote or a longer text-based story). Rather, Squarespace uses this page to share a host of real website examples from some of the most glamorous brands that use their site builder, showing proof of concept and providing design inspiration.

The page feels sleek and particularly helpful for those looking to see if Squarespace will meet their needs.

#11: Shopify

Lastly, we have Shopify’s “Success Stories” page. At first glance it looks a lot like other testimonial page examples we’ve seen, but it has one cool new idea: There’s a prominent call to action that asks Shopify customers to share their own stories! 

Customer Testimonial Examples Shopify

What a creative way to crowdsource more customer testimonials!

9 Tips for Creating a Great Customer Testimonial Page

Based on all these great examples, here are some tips and ideas you can use when designing and building your own testimonials page:

  1. Use the highest-quality photos and video you can manage (send out a crew if you can!)
  2. Make your customers look good (not just your own business and your product)
  3. Ask your customers to share concrete numbers that demonstrate the ways you helped their business
  4. Give visitors to your page the ability to filter testimonials or case studies by industry, company size, and location so they can find the stories that are most relevant to them
  5. Try out different formats – tweets and other social media posts can be testimonials! (Just get permission)
  6. Make it easy for more customers to submit a testimonial
  7. Don’t forget to use testimonials across your site where you want to drive conversions – including the home page
  8. Don’t just use quotes; show examples of your product in action
  9. Display a mixture of familiar logos and real customer faces

About the Author:

Margot is a Customer Success Manager at Wistia. She loves all things digital, and spends her free time running, traveling, and cooking. Follow her on:

Twitter: @ChappyMargot

Google+: +Margot da Cunha

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2uzgKFO

11 Examples of Great Customer Testimonial Pages

As we all know, it’s easy for marketers to brag about how great their product or service is. Writing compelling copy, shooting enticing photos, or even producing glamorous videos are all tactics we use to draw attention to our brands.

While all of these strategies can be successful, there really is no better way to gain trust and prove the validity of your brand like customer testimonials.

Testimonials take the spotlight away from the seller, and shine it on the customer. Your customer was once in the shopper’s shoes, debating what product to choose, comparing prices, reading marketing message after marketing message. Once the potential new buyer hears from someone they can actually relate to—someone who isn’t being paid to say these wonderful things—then their trust deepens, and their chances of purchasing rises.

For these reasons, it is absolutely critical for businesses to display customer testimonials on their websites. There are many ways you can use testimonials—for example, on landing pages and in emails—but there’s no better way to feature client quotes than on your very own beautiful customer testimonial page.

I went hunting for examples of the best customer testimonial pages I could find. These 11 companies show how powerful customer testimonials can be, and how to make the most of them. If you’re just getting started with a customer testimonial page, these examples should provide you with plenty of inspiration.

#1: ZenDesk

Talk about a beautiful customer testimonial page. ZenDesk, a help desk software, literally provides tools for customer service. How could they do this without showcasing their happy customers? 

Customer Testimonial Examples Zendesk

ZenDesk’s testimonial page is beautifully laid out AND functional, with a silent customer video playing on loop to serve as the banner, a menu to filter testimonials by location, company size, industry, and use case, and lastly thumbnails linking to the full customer stories for a variety of big-name brands. This is a clean and concise way to showcase their happy customers, and help prospects gain the assurance they need before investing.

#2: ChowNow

ChowNow’s customer testimonial page is another beauty. Its simple design focuses on videos and standout quotes from customers. This approach is clean, straightforward, and skimmable—not bogged down with big blocks of text that can be overwhelming and easy to skip. 

Customer Testimonial Examples ChowNow

ChowNow clearly invested in sending a video crew out to their customer restaurant locations to produce these high-quality video testimonials, but I’d bet it was well-worth the investment. Video may be the best way to display happy customers because it allows the viewer to connect on an emotional level that can be harder to convey via text alone.

Note, too, how the featured quotes mention why customers chose ChowNow over competitors and call out specific numbers and metrics (“increased our sales 20-25%”).

#3: Startup Institute

Startup Institute used their business model to create a unique and compelling way to display their customer testimonials as “Love Letters.”

Customer Testimonial Examples Startup

Startup Institute is a career accelerator that allows professionals to learn new skills, take their careers in a different direction, and pursue a career they are passionate about. Naturally they receive praise from the students that have completed the program.

Whether it’s a student raving that they have landed their dream job or just a message of appreciation, these letters are truly authentic testimonials. This page is a creative and thoughtful way of sharing customer testimonials.

#4: Bizzabo

Bizzabo is a company that provides tools to help professional event planning and execution, and their customers are very happy folks! The thing I love about their customer testimonial page is that it provides a variety of content formats. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Bizzabo

For instance, the top of the page shares short and concise tweets from customers; as you scroll you’ll then see a customer service rating, a series of case studies, and then a video customer testimonial. The layout is like a choose-your-own-adventure giving the potential customer options on how they prefer to digest these stories.

#5: Steve & Kate’s Camp

Steve & Kate’s camp runs summer camps for children across the U.S. The unique thing about Steve & Kate’s camp is that their entire website is essentially a series of customer testimonials.

For example, visit their homepage, and watch the video. Doesn’t that make you want to go to camp? Or at the very least send your kids to that camp? 

Customer Testimonial Examples Steve and Kate

As you can see, certain businesses don’t even need a dedicated page, but they can let their website speak to customers with emotion-provoking videos. Sending a child to summer camp can be a very nerve-racking thing for a parent, but by using the power of video testimonials across their website a sense of trust is gained.

#6: Hootsuite

Hootsuite, a social media management platform, has another great example of a customer testimonial page that really demonstrates how their product can work for anybody. They start off by sharing a video mashup featuring several of their customers, and as you scroll down the page, you’ll see case studies in three sections separated by goals or needs—brand building, speed/efficiency, and reporting capabilities. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Hootsuite

Lastly, there’s an area to check out case studies specific to your industry. Something for everyone!

#7: Booker

Booker provides software that helps retailers manage their stores. This company leverages their customers to tell the story of what makes their software great, making this page a focal point of their website’s main navigation. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Booker

#8: HubSpot

HubSpot is another software company, providing inbound marketing and sales tools that help grow your business. Their software can get quite pricy if your company is relying on it for things like email marketing campaigns and lead generation, but the investment is worth it for many customers as you see from their customer testimonial pages

Customer Testimonial Examples HubSpot

The first page you land on features thumbnails with company logos and the main outcomes they saw from using HubSpot. What I love most about this page is the ability to filter by industry, company size, challenges, location, etc. to discover the stories most in-line with your own business and needs. 

Customer Testimonial Examples HubSpot Two

There’s also a separate testimonials page featuring quotes and photos of happy customers. So HubSpot gets it both ways – there’s the brand recognition of the corporate logos, plus the human connection of seeing other customers as real people.

#9: Codecademy

Learning how to code can seem like a very intimidating thing, especially if your experience is far away from the technical world. Codecademy’s mission is to break that barrier, and teach newbies how to learn new coding skills online.

Their customer testimonial page is a powerful way of explaining this mission, and they have a number of students who were willing to share their stories. They use the power of video to tell a story about how Codecademy helped an individual change his career completely by gaining these new skills. The page then documents plenty of others who had similar success stories—click on a story and you’ll see a longer interview with the student about how and why they got into coding. This method of using their customers as advocates helps break the intimidation barrier for those hesitant to sign up for a coding course.

Customer Testimonial Examples Codecademy

Codecademy also uses the copy on this page to subtly remind visitors that they can learn to code from anywhere: “Learner stories from around the world.”

#10: Squarespace

Did you know that Squarespace powers millions of websites across hundreds of industries? Well, if you head over their customer testimonial page you can get all the details and more. 

Customer Testimonial Examples SquareSpace

Since their business is website building, their customer testimonial is not what you typically think of (i.e., a quote or a longer text-based story). Rather, Squarespace uses this page to share a host of real website examples from some of the most glamorous brands that use their site builder, showing proof of concept and providing design inspiration.

The page feels sleek and particularly helpful for those looking to see if Squarespace will meet their needs.

#11: Shopify

Lastly, we have Shopify’s “Success Stories” page. At first glance it looks a lot like other testimonial page examples we’ve seen, but it has one cool new idea: There’s a prominent call to action that asks Shopify customers to share their own stories! 

Customer Testimonial Examples Shopify

What a creative way to crowdsource more customer testimonials!

9 Tips for Creating a Great Customer Testimonial Page

Based on all these great examples, here are some tips and ideas you can use when designing and building your own testimonials page:

  1. Use the highest-quality photos and video you can manage (send out a crew if you can!)
  2. Make your customers look good (not just your own business and your product)
  3. Ask your customers to share concrete numbers that demonstrate the ways you helped their business
  4. Give visitors to your page the ability to filter testimonials or case studies by industry, company size, and location so they can find the stories that are most relevant to them
  5. Try out different formats – tweets and other social media posts can be testimonials! (Just get permission)
  6. Make it easy for more customers to submit a testimonial
  7. Don’t forget to use testimonials across your site where you want to drive conversions – including the home page
  8. Don’t just use quotes; show examples of your product in action
  9. Display a mixture of familiar logos and real customer faces

About the Author:

Margot is a Customer Success Manager at Wistia. She loves all things digital, and spends her free time running, traveling, and cooking. Follow her on:

Twitter: @ChappyMargot

Google+: +Margot da Cunha

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2uzgKFO

11 Examples of Great Customer Testimonial Pages

As we all know, it’s easy for marketers to brag about how great their product or service is. Writing compelling copy, shooting enticing photos, or even producing glamorous videos are all tactics we use to draw attention to our brands.

While all of these strategies can be successful, there really is no better way to gain trust and prove the validity of your brand like customer testimonials.

Testimonials take the spotlight away from the seller, and shine it on the customer. Your customer was once in the shopper’s shoes, debating what product to choose, comparing prices, reading marketing message after marketing message. Once the potential new buyer hears from someone they can actually relate to—someone who isn’t being paid to say these wonderful things—then their trust deepens, and their chances of purchasing rises.

For these reasons, it is absolutely critical for businesses to display customer testimonials on their websites. There are many ways you can use testimonials—for example, on landing pages and in emails—but there’s no better way to feature client quotes than on your very own beautiful customer testimonial page.

I went hunting for examples of the best customer testimonial pages I could find. These 11 companies show how powerful customer testimonials can be, and how to make the most of them. If you’re just getting started with a customer testimonial page, these examples should provide you with plenty of inspiration.

#1: ZenDesk

Talk about a beautiful customer testimonial page. ZenDesk, a help desk software, literally provides tools for customer service. How could they do this without showcasing their happy customers? 

Customer Testimonial Examples Zendesk

ZenDesk’s testimonial page is beautifully laid out AND functional, with a silent customer video playing on loop to serve as the banner, a menu to filter testimonials by location, company size, industry, and use case, and lastly thumbnails linking to the full customer stories for a variety of big-name brands. This is a clean and concise way to showcase their happy customers, and help prospects gain the assurance they need before investing.

#2: ChowNow

ChowNow’s customer testimonial page is another beauty. Its simple design focuses on videos and standout quotes from customers. This approach is clean, straightforward, and skimmable—not bogged down with big blocks of text that can be overwhelming and easy to skip. 

Customer Testimonial Examples ChowNow

ChowNow clearly invested in sending a video crew out to their customer restaurant locations to produce these high-quality video testimonials, but I’d bet it was well-worth the investment. Video may be the best way to display happy customers because it allows the viewer to connect on an emotional level that can be harder to convey via text alone.

Note, too, how the featured quotes mention why customers chose ChowNow over competitors and call out specific numbers and metrics (“increased our sales 20-25%”).

#3: Startup Institute

Startup Institute used their business model to create a unique and compelling way to display their customer testimonials as “Love Letters.”

Customer Testimonial Examples Startup

Startup Institute is a career accelerator that allows professionals to learn new skills, take their careers in a different direction, and pursue a career they are passionate about. Naturally they receive praise from the students that have completed the program.

Whether it’s a student raving that they have landed their dream job or just a message of appreciation, these letters are truly authentic testimonials. This page is a creative and thoughtful way of sharing customer testimonials.

#4: Bizzabo

Bizzabo is a company that provides tools to help professional event planning and execution, and their customers are very happy folks! The thing I love about their customer testimonial page is that it provides a variety of content formats. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Bizzabo

For instance, the top of the page shares short and concise tweets from customers; as you scroll you’ll then see a customer service rating, a series of case studies, and then a video customer testimonial. The layout is like a choose-your-own-adventure giving the potential customer options on how they prefer to digest these stories.

#5: Steve & Kate’s Camp

Steve & Kate’s camp runs summer camps for children across the U.S. The unique thing about Steve & Kate’s camp is that their entire website is essentially a series of customer testimonials.

For example, visit their homepage, and watch the video. Doesn’t that make you want to go to camp? Or at the very least send your kids to that camp? 

Customer Testimonial Examples Steve and Kate

As you can see, certain businesses don’t even need a dedicated page, but they can let their website speak to customers with emotion-provoking videos. Sending a child to summer camp can be a very nerve-racking thing for a parent, but by using the power of video testimonials across their website a sense of trust is gained.

#6: Hootsuite

Hootsuite, a social media management platform, has another great example of a customer testimonial page that really demonstrates how their product can work for anybody. They start off by sharing a video mashup featuring several of their customers, and as you scroll down the page, you’ll see case studies in three sections separated by goals or needs—brand building, speed/efficiency, and reporting capabilities. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Hootsuite

Lastly, there’s an area to check out case studies specific to your industry. Something for everyone!

#7: Booker

Booker provides software that helps retailers manage their stores. This company leverages their customers to tell the story of what makes their software great, making this page a focal point of their website’s main navigation. 

Customer Testimonial Examples Booker

#8: HubSpot

HubSpot is another software company, providing inbound marketing and sales tools that help grow your business. Their software can get quite pricy if your company is relying on it for things like email marketing campaigns and lead generation, but the investment is worth it for many customers as you see from their customer testimonial pages

Customer Testimonial Examples HubSpot

The first page you land on features thumbnails with company logos and the main outcomes they saw from using HubSpot. What I love most about this page is the ability to filter by industry, company size, challenges, location, etc. to discover the stories most in-line with your own business and needs. 

Customer Testimonial Examples HubSpot Two

There’s also a separate testimonials page featuring quotes and photos of happy customers. So HubSpot gets it both ways – there’s the brand recognition of the corporate logos, plus the human connection of seeing other customers as real people.

#9: Codecademy

Learning how to code can seem like a very intimidating thing, especially if your experience is far away from the technical world. Codecademy’s mission is to break that barrier, and teach newbies how to learn new coding skills online.

Their customer testimonial page is a powerful way of explaining this mission, and they have a number of students who were willing to share their stories. They use the power of video to tell a story about how Codecademy helped an individual change his career completely by gaining these new skills. The page then documents plenty of others who had similar success stories—click on a story and you’ll see a longer interview with the student about how and why they got into coding. This method of using their customers as advocates helps break the intimidation barrier for those hesitant to sign up for a coding course.

Customer Testimonial Examples Codecademy

Codecademy also uses the copy on this page to subtly remind visitors that they can learn to code from anywhere: “Learner stories from around the world.”

#10: Squarespace

Did you know that Squarespace powers millions of websites across hundreds of industries? Well, if you head over their customer testimonial page you can get all the details and more. 

Customer Testimonial Examples SquareSpace

Since their business is website building, their customer testimonial is not what you typically think of (i.e., a quote or a longer text-based story). Rather, Squarespace uses this page to share a host of real website examples from some of the most glamorous brands that use their site builder, showing proof of concept and providing design inspiration.

The page feels sleek and particularly helpful for those looking to see if Squarespace will meet their needs.

#11: Shopify

Lastly, we have Shopify’s “Success Stories” page. At first glance it looks a lot like other testimonial page examples we’ve seen, but it has one cool new idea: There’s a prominent call to action that asks Shopify customers to share their own stories! 

Customer Testimonial Examples Shopify

What a creative way to crowdsource more customer testimonials!

9 Tips for Creating a Great Customer Testimonial Page

Based on all these great examples, here are some tips and ideas you can use when designing and building your own testimonials page:

  1. Use the highest-quality photos and video you can manage (send out a crew if you can!)
  2. Make your customers look good (not just your own business and your product)
  3. Ask your customers to share concrete numbers that demonstrate the ways you helped their business
  4. Give visitors to your page the ability to filter testimonials or case studies by industry, company size, and location so they can find the stories that are most relevant to them
  5. Try out different formats – tweets and other social media posts can be testimonials! (Just get permission)
  6. Make it easy for more customers to submit a testimonial
  7. Don’t forget to use testimonials across your site where you want to drive conversions – including the home page
  8. Don’t just use quotes; show examples of your product in action
  9. Display a mixture of familiar logos and real customer faces

About the Author:

Margot is a Customer Success Manager at Wistia. She loves all things digital, and spends her free time running, traveling, and cooking. Follow her on:

Twitter: @ChappyMargot

Google+: +Margot da Cunha

from Internet Marketing Blog by WordStream http://ift.tt/2uzgKFO

“SEO Is Always Changing”… Or Is It?: Debunking the Myth and Getting Back to Basics

Posted by bridget.randolph

Recently I made the shift to freelancing full-time, and it’s led me to participate in a few online communities for entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small business owners. I’ve noticed a trend in the way many of them talk about SEO; specifically, the blocks they face in attempting to “do SEO” for their businesses. Again and again, the concept that “SEO is too hard to stay on top of… it’s always changing” was being stated as a major reason that people feel a) overwhelmed by SEO; b) intimidated by SEO; and c) uninformed about SEO.

And it’s not just non-SEOs who use this phrase. The concept of “the ever-changing landscape of SEO” is common within SEO circles as well. In fact, I’ve almost certainly used this phrase myself.

But is it actually true?

To answer that question, we have to separate the theory of search engine optimization from the various tactics which we as SEO professionals spend so much time debating and testing. The more that I work with smaller businesses and individuals, the clearer it becomes to me that although the technology is always evolving and developing, and tactics (particularly those that attempt to trick Google rather than follow their guidelines) do need to adapt fairly rapidly, there are certain fundamentals of SEO that change very little over time, and which a non-specialist can easily understand.

The unchanging fundamentals of SEO

Google’s algorithm is based on an academia-inspired model of categorization and citations, which utilizes keywords as a way to decipher the topic of a page, and links from other sites (known as “backlinks”) to determine the relative authority of that site. Their method and technology keeps getting more sophisticated over time, but the principles have remained the same.

So what are these basic principles?

It comes down to answering the following questions:

  1. Can the search engine find your content? (Crawlability)
  2. How should the search engine organize and prioritize this content? (Site structure)
  3. What is your content about? (Keywords)
  4. How does the search engine know that your content provides trustworthy information about this topic? (Backlinks)

If your website is set up to help Google and other search engines answer these 4 questions, you will have covered the basic fundamentals of search engine optimization.

There is a lot more that you can do to optimize in all of these areas and beyond, but for businesses that are just starting out and/or on a tight budget, these are the baseline concepts you’ll need to know.

Crawlability

You could have the best content in the world, but it won’t drive any search traffic if the search engines can’t find it. This means that the crawlability of your site is one of the most important factors in ensuring a solid SEO foundation.

In order to find your content and rank it in the search results, a search engine needs to be able to:

  1. Access the content (at least the pages that you want to rank)
  2. Read the content

This is primarily a technical task, although it is related to having a good site structure (the next core area). You may need to adapt the code, and/or use an SEO plugin if your site runs on WordPress.

For more in-depth guides to technical SEO and crawlability, check out the following posts:

Site structure

In addition to making sure that your content is accessible and crawlable, it’s also important to help search engines understand the hierarchy and relative importance of that content. It can be tempting to think that every page is equally important to rank, but failing to structure your site in a hierarchical way often dilutes the impact of your “money” pages. Instead, you should think about what the most important pages are, and structure the rest of your site around these.

When Google and other search engine crawlers visit a site, they attempt to navigate to the homepage; then click on every link. Googlebot assumes that the pages it sees the most are the most important pages. So when you can reach a page with a single click from the homepage, or when it is linked to on every page (for example, in a top or side navigation bar, or a site footer section), Googlebot will see those pages more, and will therefore consider them to be more important. For less important pages, you’ll still need to link to them from somewhere for search engines to be able to see them, but you don’t need to emphasize them quite as frequently or keep them as close to the homepage.

The main question to ask is: Can search engines tell what your most important pages are, just by looking at the structure of your website? Google’s goal is to to save users steps, so the easier you make it for them to find and prioritize your content, the more they’ll like it.

For more in-depth guides to good site structure, check out the following posts:

Keywords

Once the content you create is accessible to crawlers, the next step is to make sure that you’re giving the search engines an accurate picture of what that content is about, to help them understand which search queries your pages would be relevant to. This is where keywords come into the mix.

We use keywords to tell the search engine what each page is about, so that they can rank our content for queries which are most relevant to our website. You might hear advice to use your keywords over and over again on a page in order to rank well. The problem with this approach is that it doesn’t always create a great experience for users, and over time Google has stopped ranking pages which it perceives as being a poor user experience.

Instead, what Google is looking for in terms of keyword usage is that you:

  1. Answer the questions that real people actually have about your topic
  2. Use the terminology that real people (specifically, your target audience) actually use to refer to your topic
  3. Use the term in the way that Google thinks real people use it (this is often referred to as “user intent” or “searcher intent”).

You should only ever target one primary keyword (or phrase) per page. You can include “secondary” keywords, which are related to the primary keyword directly (think category vs subcategory). I sometimes see people attempting to target too many topics with a single page, in an effort to widen the net. But it is better to separate these out so that there’s a different page for each different angle on the topic.

The easiest way to think about this is in physical terms. Search engines’ methods are roughly based on the concept of library card catalogs, and so we can imagine that Google is categorizing pages in a similar way to a library using the Dewey decimal system to categorize books. You might have a book categorized as Romance, subcategory Gothic Romance; but you wouldn’t be able to categorize it as Romance and also Horror, even though it might be related to both topics. You can’t have the same physical book on 2 different shelves in 2 different sections of the library. Keyword targeting works the same way: 1 primary topic per page.

For more in-depth guides to keyword research and keyword targeting, check out the following posts:

Backlinks

Another longstanding ranking factor is the number of links from other sites to your content, known as backlinks.

It’s not enough for you to say that you’re the expert in something, if no one else sees it that way. If you were looking for a new doctor, you wouldn’t just go with the guy who says “I’m the world’s best doctor.” But if a trusted friend told you that they loved their doctor and that they thought you’d like her too, you’d almost certainly make an appointment.

When other websites link to your site, it helps to answer the question: “Do other people see you as a trustworthy resource?” Google wants to provide correct and complete information to people’s queries. The more trusted your content is by others, the more that indicates the value of that information and your authority as an expert.

When Google looks at a site’s backlinks, they are effectively doing the same thing that humans do when they read reviews and testimonials to decide which product to buy, which movie to see, or which restaurant to go to for dinner. If you haven’t worked with a product or business, other people’s reviews point you to what’s good and what’s not. In Google’s case, a link from another site serves as a vote of confidence for your content.

That being said, not all backlinks are treated equally when it comes to boosting your site’s rankings. They are weighted differently according to how Google perceives the quality and authority of the site that’s doing the linking. This can feel a little confusing, but when you think about it in the context of a recommendation, it becomes a lot easier to understand whether the backlinks your site is collecting are useful or not. After all, think about the last time you saw a movie. How did you choose what to see? Maybe you checked well-known critics’ reviews, checked Rotten Tomatoes, asked friends’ opinions, looked at Netflix’s suggestions list, or saw acquaintances posting about the film on social media.

When it comes to making a decision, who do you trust? As humans, we tend to use an (often unconscious) hierarchy of trust:

  1. Personalized recommendation: Close friends who know me well are most likely to recommend something I’ll like;
  2. Expert recommendation: Professional reviewers who are authorities on the art of film are likely to have a useful opinion, although it may not always totally match my personal taste;
  3. Popular recommendation: If a high percentage of random people liked the movie, this might mean it has a wide appeal and will likely be a good experience for me as well;
  4. Negative association: If someone is raving about a movie on social media and I know that they’re a terrible human with terrible taste… well, in the absence of other positive signals, that fact might actually influence me not to see the movie.

To bring this back to SEO, you can think about backlinks as the SEO version of reviews. And the same hierarchy comes into play.

  1. Personalized/contextual recommendation: For local businesses or niche markets, very specific websites like a local city’s tourism site, local business directory or very in-depth, niche fan site might be the equivalent of the “best friend recommendation”. They may not be an expert in what everyone likes, but they definitely know what works for you as an individual and in some cases, that’s more valuable.
  2. Expert recommendation: Well-known sites with a lot of inherent trust, like the BBC or Harvard University, are like the established movie critics. Broadly speaking they are the most trustworthy, but possibly lacking the context for a specific person’s needs. In the absence of a highly targeted type of content or service, these will be your strongest links.
  3. Popular recommendation: All things being equal, a lot of backlinks from a lot of different sites is seen as a signal that the content is relevant and useful.
  4. Negative association: Links that are placed via spam tactics, that you buy in bulk, or that sit on sites that look like garbage, are the website equivalent of that terrible person whose recommendation actually turns you off the movie.

If a site collects too many links from poor-quality sites, it could look like those links were bought, rather than “earned” recommendations (similar to businesses paying people to write positive reviews). Google views the buying of links as a dishonest practice, and a way of gaming their system, and therefore if they believe that you are doing this intentionally it may trigger a penalty. Even if they don’t cause a penalty, you won’t gain any real value from poor quality links, so they’re certainly not something to aim for. Because of this, some people become very risk-averse about backlinks, even the ones that came to them naturally. But as long as you are getting links from other trustworthy sources, and these high quality links make up a substantially higher percentage of your total, having a handful of lower quality sites linking to you shouldn’t prevent you from benefiting from the high quality ones.

For more in-depth guides to backlinks, check out the following posts:

Theory of Links

Getting More Links

Mitigating Risk of Links

Does anything about SEO actually change?

If SEO is really this simple, why do people talk about how it changes all the time? This is where we have to separate the theory of SEO from the tactics we use as SEO professionals to grow traffic and optimize for better rankings.

The fundamentals that we’ve covered here — crawlability, keywords, backlinks, and site structure — are the theory of SEO. But when it comes to actually making it work, you need to use tactics to optimize these areas. And this is where we see a lot of changes happening on a regular basis, because Google and the other search engines are constantly tweaking the way the algorithm understands and utilizes information from those four main areas in determining how a site’s content should rank on a results page.

The important thing to know is that, although the tactics which people use will change all the time, the goal for the search engine is always the same: to provide searchers with the information they need, as quickly and easily as possible. That means that whatever tactics and strategies you choose to pursue, the important thing is that they enable you to optimize for your main keywords, structure your site clearly, keep your site accessible, and get more backlinks from more sites, while still keeping the quality of the site and the backlinks high.

The quality test (EAT)

Because Google’s goal is to provide high-quality results, the changes that they make to the algorithm are designed to improve their ability to identify the highest quality content possible. Therefore, when tactics stop working (or worse, backfire and incur penalties), it is usually related to the fact that these tactics didn’t create high-quality outputs.

Like the fundamentals of SEO theory which we’ve already covered, the criteria that Google uses to determine whether a website or page is good quality haven’t changed all that much since the beginning. They’ve just gotten better at enforcing them. This means that you can use these criteria as a “sniff test” when considering whether a tactic is likely to be a sustainable approach long-term.

Google themselves refer to these criteria in their Search Quality Rating Guidelines with the acronym EAT, which stands for:

  • Expertise
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness

In order to be viewed as high-quality content (on your own site) or a high-quality link (from another site to your site), the content needs to tick at least one of these boxes.

Expertise

Does this content answer a question people have? Is it a *good* answer? Do you have a more in-depth degree of knowledge about this topic than most people?

This is why you will see people talk about Google penalizing “thin” content — that just refers to content which isn’t really worth having on its own page, because it doesn’t provide any real value to the reader.

Authority

Are you someone who is respected and cited by others who know something about this topic?

This is where the value of backlinks can come in. One way to demonstrate that you are an authority on a topic is if Google sees a lot of other reputable sources referring to your content as a source or resource.

Trust

Are you a reputable person or business? Can you be trusted to take good care of your users and their information?

Because trustworthiness is a factor in determining a site’s quality, Google has compiled a list of indicators which might mean a site is untrustworthy or spammy. These include things like a high proportion of ads to regular content, behavior that forces or manipulates users into taking actions they didn’t want to take, hiding some content and only showing it to search engines to manipulate rankings, not using a secure platform to take payment information, etc.

It’s always the same end goal

Yes, SEO can be technical, and yes, it can change rapidly. But at the end of the day, what doesn’t change is the end goal. Google and the other search engines make money through advertising, and in order to get more users to see (and click on) their ads, they have to provide a great user experience. Therefore, their goal is always going to be to give the searchers the best information they can, as easily as they can, so that people will keep using their service.

As long as you understand this, the theory of SEO is pretty straightforward. It’s just about making it easy for Google to answer these questions:

  1. What is your site about?
    1. What information does it provide?
    2. What service or function does it provide?
  2. How do we know that you’ll provide the best answer or product or service for our users’ needs?
  3. Does your content demonstrate Expertise, Authoritativeness, and/or Trustworthiness (EAT)?

This is why the fundamentals have changed so little, despite the fact that the industry, technology and tactics have transformed rapidly over time.

A brief caveat

My goal with this post is not to provide step-by-step instruction in how to “do SEO,” but rather to demystify the basic theory for those who find the topic too overwhelming to know where to start, or who believe that it’s too complicated to understand without years of study. With this goal in mind, I am intentionally taking a simplified and high-level perspective. This is not to dismiss the importance of an SEO expert in driving strategy and continuing to develop and maximize value from the search channel. My hope is that those business owners and entrepreneurs who currently feel overwhelmed by this topic can gain a better grasp on the way SEO works, and a greater confidence and ease in approaching their search strategy going forward.

I have provided a few in-depth resources for each of the key areas — but you will likely want to hire a specialist or consultant to assist with analysis and implementation (certainly if you want to develop your search strategy beyond simply the “table stakes” as Rand calls it, you will need a more nuanced understanding of the topic than I can provide in a single blog post).

At the end of the day, the ideas behind SEO are actually pretty simple — it’s the execution that can be more complex or simply time-consuming. That’s why it’s important to understand that theory — so that you can be more informed if and when you do decide to partner with someone who is offering that expertise. As long as you understand the basic concepts and end goal, you’ll be able to go into that process with confidence. Good luck!

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Fighting Review Spam: The Complete Guide for the Local Enterprise

Posted by MiriamEllis

It’s 105 degrees outside my office right now, and the only thing hotter in this summer of 2017 is the local SEO industry’s discussion of review spam. It’s become increasingly clear that major review sites represent an irresistible temptation to spammers, highlighting systemic platform weaknesses and the critical need for review monitoring that scales.

Just as every local brand, large and small, has had to adjust to the reality of reviews’ substantial impact on modern consumer behavior, competitive businesses must now prepare themselves to manage the facts of fraudulent sentiment. Equip your team and clients with this article, which will cover every aspect of review spam and includes a handy list for reporting fake reviews to major platforms.

What is review spam?

A false review is one that misrepresents either the relationship of the reviewer to the business, misrepresents the nature of the interaction the reviewer had with the business, or breaks a guideline. Examples:

  • The reviewer is actually a competitor of the business he is reviewing; he’s writing the review to hurt a competitor and help himself
  • The reviewer is actually the owner, an employee, or a marketer of the business he is reviewing; he’s falsifying a review to manipulate public opinion via fictitious positive sentiment
  • The reviewer never had a transaction with the business he is reviewing; he’s pretending he’s a customer in order to help/hurt the business
  • The reviewer had a transaction, but is lying about the details of it; he’s trying to hurt the company by misrepresenting facts for some gain of his own
  • The reviewer received an incentive to write the review, monetary or otherwise; his sentiment stems from a form of reward and is therefore biased
  • The reviewer violates any of the guidelines on the platform on which he’s writing his review; this could include personal attacks, hate speech or advertising

All of the above practices are forbidden by the major review platforms and should result in the review being reported and removed.

What isn’t review spam?

A review is not spam if:

  • It’s left directly by a genuine customer who experienced a transaction
  • It represents the facts of a transaction with reasonable, though subjective, accuracy
  • It adheres to the policies of the platform on which it’s published

Reviews that contain negative (but accurate) consumer sentiment shouldn’t be viewed as spam. For example, it may be embarrassing to a brand to see a consumer complain that an order was filled incorrectly, that an item was cold, that a tab was miscalculated or that a table was dirty, but if the customer is correctly cataloging his negative experience, then his review isn’t a misrepresentation.

There’s some inherent complexity here, as the brand and the consumer can differ widely in their beliefs about how satisfying a transaction may have been. A restaurant franchise may believe that its meals are priced fairly, but a consumer can label them as too expensive. Negative sentiment can be subjective, so unless the reviewer is deliberately misrepresenting facts and the business can prove it, it’s not useful to report this type of review as spam as it’s unlikely to be removed.

Why do individuals and businesses write spam reviews?

Unfortunately, the motives can be as unpleasant as they are multitudinous:

Blackmail/extortion

There’s the case of the diner who was filmed putting her own hair in her food in hopes of extorting a free meal under threat of negative reviews as a form of blackmail. And then there’s blackmail as a business model, as this unfortunate business reported to the GMB forum after being bulk-spammed with 1-star reviews and then contacted by the spammer with a demand for money to raise the ratings to 5-stars.

Revenge

The classic case is the former employee of a business venting his frustrations by posing as a customer to leave a highly negative review. There are also numerous instances of unhappy personal relationships leading to fake negative reviews of businesses.

Protest or punishment

Consumer sentiment may sometimes appear en masse as a form of protest against an individual or institution, as the US recently witnessed following the election of President Trump and the ensuing avalanche of spam reviews his various businesses received.

It should be noted here that attempting to shame a business with fake negative reviews can have the (likely undesirable) effect of rewarding it with high local rankings, based on the sheer number of reviews it receives. We saw this outcome in the infamous case of the dentist who made national news and received an onslaught of shaming reviews for killing a lion.

Finally, there is the toxic reviewer, a form of Internet troll who may be an actual customer but whose personality leads them to write abusive or libelous reviews as a matter of course. While these reviews should definitely be reported and removed if they fail to meet guidelines, discussion is open and ongoing in the local SEO industry as to how to manage the reality of consumers of this type.

Ranking manipulation

The total review count of a business (regardless of the sentiment the reviews contain) can positively impact Google’s local pack rankings or the internal rankings of certain review platforms. For the sake of boosting rankings, some businesses owners review themselves, tell their employees to review their employer, offer incentives to others in exchange for reviews, or even engage marketers to hook them up to a network of review spammers.

Public perception manipulation

This is a two-sided coin. A business can either positively review itself or negatively review its competitors in an effort to sway consumer perception. The latter is a particularly prevalent form of review spam, with the GMB forum overflowing with at least 10,000 discussions of this topic. Given that respected surveys indicate that 91% of consumers now read online reviews, 84% trust them as much as personal recommendations and 86% will hesitate to patronize a business with negative reviews, the motives for gaming online sentiment, either positively or negatively, are exceedingly strong.

Wages

Expert local SEO, Mike Blumenthal, is currently doing groundbreaking work uncovering a global review spam network that’s responsible for tens or hundreds of thousands of fake reviews. In this scenario, spammers are apparently employed to write reviews of businesses around the world depicting sets of transactions that not even the most jet-setting globetrotter could possibly have experienced. As Mike describes one such reviewer:

“She will, of course, be educated at the mortuary school in Illinois and will have visited a dentist in Austin after having reviewed four other dentists … Oh, and then she will have bought her engagement ring in Israel, and then searched out a private investigator in Kuru, Philippines eight months later to find her missing husband. And all of this has taken place in the period of a year, right?”

The scale of this network makes it clear that review spam has become big business.

Lack of awareness

Not all review spammers are dastardly characters. Some small-timers are only guilty of a lack of awareness of guidelines or a lack of foresight about the potential negative outcomes of fake reviews to their brand. I’ve sometimes heard small local business owners state they had their family review their newly-opened business to “get the ball rolling,” not realizing that they were breaking a guideline and not considering how embarrassing and costly it could prove if consumers or the platform catch on. In this scenario, I try to teach that faking success is not a viable business model — you have to earn it.

Lack of consequences

Unfortunately, some of the most visible and powerful review platforms have become enablers of the review spam industry due to a lack of guideline enforcement. When a platform fails to identify and remove fake reviews, either because of algorithmic weaknesses or insufficient support staffing, spammers are encouraged to run amok in an environment devoid of consequences. For unethical parties, no further justification for manipulating online sentiment is needed than that they can “get away with it.” Ironically, there are consequences to bear for lack of adequate policing, and until they fall on the spammer, they will fall on any platform whose content becomes labeled as untrustworthy in the eyes of consumers.

What is the scope of review spam?

No one knows for sure, but as we’ve seen, the playing field ranges from the single business owner having his family write a couple of reviews on Yelp to the global network employing staff to inundate Google with hundreds of thousands of fake reviews. And, we’ve see two sides to the review spam environment:

  1. People who write reviews to help themselves (in terms of positive rankings, perception, and earnings for themselves either directly from increased visibility or indirectly via extortion, and/or in terms of negative outcomes for competitors).
  2. People who write reviews to hurt others (for the sake of revenge with little or no consequence).

The unifying motive of all forms of review spam is manipulation, creating an unfair and untrustworthy playing field for consumers, enterprises and platforms alike. One Harvard study suggests that 20% of Yelp reviews are fake, but it would be up to the major review platforms to transparently publicize the total number of spam reviews they receive. Just the segment I’ve seen as an individual local SEO has convinced me that review spam has now become an industry, just like “black hat” SEO once did.

How to spot spam reviews

Here are some basic tips:

Strange patterns:

A reviewer’s profile indicates that they’ve been in too many geographic locations at once. Or, they have a habit of giving 1-star reviews to one business and 5-star reviews to its direct competitor. While neither is proof positive of spam, think of these as possible red flags.

Strange language:

Numerous 5-star reviews that fawn on the business owner by name (e.g. “Bill is the greatest man ever to walk the earth”) may be fishy. If adulation seems to be going overboard, pay attention.

Strange timing:

Over the course of a few weeks, a business skyrockets from zero reviews to 30, 50, or 100 of them. Unless an onslaught of sentiment stems from something major happening in the national news, chances are good the company has launched some kind of program. If you suspect spam, you’ll need to research whether the reviews seem natural or could be stemming from some form of compensation.

Strange numbers:

The sheer number of reviews a business has earned seems inconsistent with its geography or industry. Some business models (restaurants) legitimately earn hundreds of reviews each year on a given platform, but others (mortuaries) are unlikely to have the same pattern. If a competitor of yours has 5x as many reviews as seems normal for your geo-industry, it could be a first indicator of spam.

Strange “facts”:

None of your staff can recall that a transaction matching the description in a negative review ever took place, or a transaction can be remembered but the way the reviewer is presenting it is demonstrably false. Example: a guest claims you rudely refused to seat him, but your in-store cam proves that he simply chose not to wait in line like other patrons.

Obvious threats:

If any individual or entity threatens your company with a negative review to extort freebies or money from you, take it seriously and document everything you can.

Obvious guideline violations:

Virtually every major review platform prohibits profane, obscene, and hateful content. If your brand is victimized by this type of attack, definitely report it.

In a nutshell, the first step to spotting review spam is review monitoring. You’ll want to manually check direct competitors for peculiar patterns, and, more importantly, all local businesses must have a schedule for regularly checking their own incoming sentiment. For larger enterprises and multi-location business models, this process must be scaled to minimize manual workloads and cover all bases.

Scaling review management

On an average day, one Moz Local customer with 100 retail locations in the U.S. receives 20 reviews across the various platforms we track. Some are just ratings, but many feature text. Many are very positive. A few contain concerns or complaints that must be quickly addressed to protect reputation/budget by taking action to satisfy and retain an existing customer while proving responsiveness to the general consumer public. Some could turn out to be spam.

Over the course of an average week for this national brand, 100–120 such reviews will come in, totaling up to more than 400 pieces of customer feedback in a month that must be assessed for signs of success at specific locations or emerging quality control issues at others. Parse this out to a year’s time, and this company must be prepared to receive and manage close to 5,000 consumer inputs in the form of reviews and ratings, not just for positive and negative sentiment, but for the purposes of detecting spam.

Spam detection starts with awareness, which can only come from the ability to track and audit a large volume of reviews to identify some of the suspicious hallmarks we’ve covered above. At the multi-location or enterprise level, the solution to this lies in acquiring review monitoring software and putting it in the hands of a designated department or staffer. Using a product like Moz Local, monitoring and detection of questionable reviews can be scaled to meet the needs of even the largest brands.

What should your business do if it has been victimized by review spam?

Once you’ve become reasonably certain that a review or a body of reviews violates the guidelines of a specific platform, it’s time to act. The following list contains links to the policies of 7 dominant review platforms that are applicable to all industries, and also contains tips and links outlining reporting options:

Google

Policy: http://ift.tt/1sNDqed

Review reporting tips

Flag the review by mousing over it, clicking the flag symbol that appears and then entering your email address and choosing a radio button. If you’re the owner, use the owner response function to mention that you’ve reported the review to Google for guideline violations. Then, contact GMB support via their Twitter account and/or post your case in the GMB forum to ask for additional help. Cross your fingers!

Yelp

Policy: http://ift.tt/1TnZ1a3

Review reporting tips

Yelp offers these guidelines for reporting reviews and also advises owners to respond to reviews that violate guidelines. Yelp takes review quality seriously and has set high standards other platforms might do well to follow, in terms of catching spammers and warning the public against bad actors.

Facebook

Policy: http://ift.tt/wGaJfn

Review reporting tips

Here are Facebook’s instructions for reporting reviews that fail to meet community standards. Note that you can only report reviews with text — you can’t report solo ratings. Interestingly, you can turn off reviews on Facebook, but to do so out of fear would be to forego the considerable benefits they can provide.

Yellow Pages

Policy: http://ift.tt/2vwZrlg

Review reporting tips

In 2016, YP.com began showing TripAdvisor reviews alongside internal reviews. If review spam stems from a YP review, click the “Flag” link in the lower right corner of the review and fill out the form to report your reasons for flagging. If the review spam stems from TripAdvisor, you’ll need to deal with them directly and read their extensive guidelines, TripAdvisor states that they screen reviews for quality purposes, but that fake reviews can slip through. If you’re the owner, you can report fraudulent reviews from the Management Center of your TripAdvisor dashboard. Click the “concerned about a review” link and fill out the form. If you’re simply a member of the public, you’ll need to sign into TripAdvisor and click the flag link next to the review to report a concern.

SuperPages

Policy: http://ift.tt/2vwK24L

Review reporting tips

The policy I’ve linked to (from Dex Media, which owns SuperPages) is the best I can find. It’s reasonably thorough but somewhat broken. To report a fake review to SuperPages, you’ll need either a SuperPages or Facebook account. Then, click the “flag abuse” link associated with the review and fill out a short form.

CitySearch

Policy: http://ift.tt/1a9h4K2

Review reporting tips

If you receive a fake review on CitySearch, email customerservice@citygrid.com. In your email, link to the business that has received the spam review, include the date of the review and the name of the reviewer and then cite the guidelines you feel the review violates.

FourSquare

Policy: http://ift.tt/zhBv66

Review reporting tips

The “Rules and Conduct” section I’ve linked to in Foursquare’s TOS outlines their content policy. Foursquare is a bit different in the language they use to describe tips/reviews. They offer these suggestions for reporting abusive tips.

*If you need to find the guidelines and reporting options for an industry-specific review platform like FindLaw or HealthGrades, Phil Rozek’s definitive list will be a good starting point for further research.

Review spam can feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place

I feel a lot of empathy in this regard. Google, Facebook, Yelp, and other major review platforms have the visibility to drive massive traffic and revenue to your enterprise. That’s the positive side of this equation. But there’s another side — the uneasy side that I believe has its roots in entities like Google originating their local business index via aggregation from third party sources, rather than as a print YellowPages-style, opt-in program, and subsequently failing to adequately support the millions of brands it was then representing to the Internet public.

To this day, there are companies that are stunned to discover that their business is listed on 35 different websites, and being actively reviewed on 5 or 10 of them when the company took no action to initiate this. There’s an understandable feeling of a loss of control that can be particularly difficult for large brands, with their carefully planned quality structures, to adjust to.

This sense of powerlessness is further compounded when the business isn’t just being listed and discussed on platforms it doesn’t control, but is being spammed. I’ve seen business owners on Facebook declaring they’ve decided to disable reviews because they feel so victimized and unsupported after being inundated with suspicious 1-star ratings which Facebook won’t investigate or remove. By doing so, these companies are choosing to forego the considerable benefits reviews drive because meaningful processes for protecting the business aren’t yet available.

These troubling aspects of the highly visible world of reviews can leave owners feeling like they’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Their companies will be listed, will be reviewed, and may be spammed whether the brand actively participates or not, and they may or may not be able to get spam removed.

It’s not a reality from which any competitive enterprise can opt-out, so my best advice is to realize that it’s better to opt-in fully, with the understanding that some control is better than none. There are avenues for getting many spam reviews taken down, with the right information and a healthy dose of perseverance. Know, too, that every one of your competitors is in the same boat, riding a rising tide that will hopefully grow to the point of offering real-world support for managing consumer sentiment that impacts bottom-line revenue in such a very real way.

There ought to be a law

While legitimate negative reviews have legal protection under the Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016, fraudulent reviews are another matter.

Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Communication Act states:

Unfair methods of competition in or affecting commerce, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce, are hereby declared unlawful.”

Provisions like these are what allowed the FTC to successfully sue Sage Automotive Group for $3.6 million dollars for deceptive advertising practices and deceptive online reviews, but it’s important to note that this appears to be the first instance in which the FTC has involved themselves in bringing charges on the basis of fraudulent reviews. At this point, it’s simply not reasonable to expect the FTC to step in if your enterprise receives some suspicious reviews, unless your research should uncover a truly major case.

Lawsuits amongst platforms, brands, and consumers, however, are proliferating. Yelp has sued agencies and local businesses over the publication of fake reviews. Companies have sued their competitors over malicious, false sentiment, and they’ve sued their customers with allegations of the same.

Should your enterprise be targeted with spam reviews, some cases may be egregious enough to warrant legal action. In such instances, definitely don’t attempt to have the spam reviews removed by the host platform, as they could provide important evidence. Contact a lawyer before you take a step in any direction, and avoid using the owner response function to take verbal revenge on the person you believe has spammed you, as we now have a precedent in Dietz v. Perez for such cases being declared a draw.

In many scenarios, however, the business may not wish to become involved in a noisy court battle, and seeking removal can be a quieter way to address the problem.

Local enterprises, consumers, and marketers must advocate for themselves

According to one survey, 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business. If some of those 10 reviews are the result of negative spam, the cost to the business is simply too high to ignore, and it’s imperative that owners hold not just spammers, but review platforms, accountable.

Local businesses, consumers, and marketers don’t own review sites, but they do have the power to advocate. A single business could persistently blog about spam it has documented. Multiple businesses could partner up to request a meeting with a specific platform to present pain points. Legitimate consumers could email or call their favorite platforms to explain that they don’t want their volunteer hours writing reviews to be wasted on a website that is failing to police its content. Marketers can thoughtfully raise these issues repeatedly at conferences attended by review platform reps. There is no cause to take an adversarial tone in this, but there is every need for squeaky wheels to highlight the costliness of spam to all parties, advocating for platforms to devote all possible resources to:

  • Increasing the sophistication of algorithmic spam detection
  • Increasing staffing for manual detection
  • Providing real-time support to businesses so that spam can be reported, evaluated and removed as quickly as possible

All of the above could begin to better address the reality of review spam. In the meantime, if your business is being targeted right now, I would suggest using every possible avenue to go public with the problem. Blog, use social media, report the issue on the platform’s forum if it has one. Do anything you can to bring maximum attention to the attack on your brand. I can’t promise results from persistence and publicity, but I’ve seen this method work enough times to recommend it.

Why review platforms must act aggressively to minimize spam

I’ve mentioned the empathy I feel for owners when it comes to review platforms, and I also feel empathy for the platforms, themselves. I’ve gotten the sense, sometimes, that different entities jumped into the review game and have been struggling to handle its emerging complexities as they’ve rolled out in real time. What is a fair and just policy? How can you best automate spam detection? How deeply should a platform be expected to wade into disputes between customers and brands?

With sincere respect for the big job review sites have on their hands, I think it’s important to state:

  • If brands and consumers didn’t exist, neither would review platforms. Businesses and reviewers should be viewed and treated as MVPs.
  • Platforms which fail to offer meaningful support options to business owners are not earning goodwill or a good reputation.
  • The relationship between local businesses and review platforms isn’t an entirely comfortable one. Increasing comfort could turn wary brands into beneficial advocates.
  • Platforms that allow themselves to become inundated with spam will lose consumers’ trust, and then advertisers’ trust. They won’t survive.

Every review platform has a major stake in this game, but, to be perfectly honest, some of them don’t act like it.

Google My Business Forum Top Contributor and expert Local SEO, Joy Hawkins, recently wrote an open letter to Google offering them four actionable tips for improving their handling of their massive review spam problem. It’s a great example of a marketer advocating for her industry, and, of interest, some of Joy’s best advice to Google is taken from Yelp’s own playbook. Yelp may be doing the best of all platforms in combating spam, in that they have very strong filters and place public warnings on the profiles of suspicious reviewers and brands.

What Joy Hawkins, Mike Blumenthal, other industry experts, and local business owners seem to be saying to review platforms could be summed up like this:

“We recognize the power of reviews and appreciate the benefits they provide, but a responsibility comes with setting your platform up as a hub of reputation for millions of businesses. Don’t see spammed reputations as acceptable losses — they represent the livelihoods of real people. If you’re going to trade responsibly in representing us, you’ve got to back your product up with adequate quality controls and adequate support. A fair and trustworthy environment is better for us, better for consumers and better for you.”

Key takeaways for taking control of review spam

  • All local enterprises need to know that review spam is a real problem
  • Its scope ranges from individual spammers to global networks
  • Enterprises must monitor all incoming reviews, and scale this with software where necessary
  • Designated staff must be on the lookout for suspicious patterns
  • All major review platforms have some form of support for reporting spam reviews, but its not always adequate and may not lead to removal
  • Because of this, brands must advocate for better support from review platforms
  • Review platforms need to listen and act, because their stake in game is real

Being the subject of a review spam attack can be a stressful event that I wish no brand ever had to face, but it’s my hope that this article has empowered you to meet a possible challenge with complete information and a smart plan of action.

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