Ask The SEO

Multiple Websites, Live Chat, and Reviews

This issue, we’re going to tackle three questions that have come my way recently and with some regularity.

Q: I think having multiple websites from different companies will let me test the effectiveness of each one. Is this a good idea?

A:  To start, I have to be clear that I’m a big fan of testing options and ideas that allow customers to give us real feedback and good data leading to an informed decision. However, a local business running multiple websites in no way qualifies as a proper experiment leading to good data.

There are some fundamental flaws with this model that impact the business, your staff, your customers, and your ranking on Google.

Your website is another storefront, a major point of contact and experience for your customers. As retailers, we understand that if I opened stores on Chevrier Blvd., Taylor Blvd., and Fernbank Ave. in Winnipeg it would hardly be a fair test to determine which store layout or signage generated the most business. These are different areas, with different demographics, and different traffic patterns. We all acknowledge that would be a foolish test, and yet too many florists assume the answer to boosting online sales is to add another website and hope that the pixies of the “interwebz” bless them with new business.

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In truth, having multiple websites hurts you by confusing customers, complicating life for your staff (“Which website are you looking at?”), duplicating overhead costs, and suppressing your rankings in Google. Remember, search ranking is all about confidence —the more confident Google is that you’re the solution to the query, the higher you will rank.

Google expects a local business to have one website. And let’s be honest, you’re probably only going to promote one anyway, right? Having three different URLs on your business card or delivery van just confirms your indecisive nature to the world. We’re all limited in time, energy, creativity, and money. Instead of dividing your resources across several poorly supported websites, choose one great site that shows off your brand and thrills your customers. Put all your time, money, links, and love into one site that will love you back.

Q: I’m seeing more and more websites with these Live Chat buttons. Is this really a thing? How does anyone make it work and still run a business?

A: It’s true—more and more businesses are realizing the benefits of having a Live Chat service on their website. Plenty of studies have shown that it increases sales as much as 20%, reduces costs, and boosts both customer satisfaction and confidence. Still, the biggest roadblock for many shops is figuring out how to staff the chat window. Most of us don’t have enough sales volume to dedicate one or more people to answering chats all day long, so it has to be a coordinated effort. Even if one person is tasked with the responsibility, chat can still work if the team member is diligent in marking themselves as “Away” for any extended absence from the computer.

We know that customers are becoming more and more resistant to phone interactions. Email is too slow for a quick question because there’s no promise of an immediate reply. Texting is extremely popular, but that requires either a business number that can send and receive SMS messages, or the use of a personal phone. Live Chat is a very low commitment for the customer, with the implied promise of a quick solution.

Why not try out a free service like Tawk.to? You might just be surprised by how many more web orders you get—and how many “I’m on your website, but I have a question …” calls you avoid!

Q: Help! I’ve been hit by some bad reviews, and my rating on Google/Yelp/Facebook has dropped. I know it’s costing me sales. What can I do?

A: We hear this one a lot. On Facebook, at conferences, on sales calls, through email. Business owners have a love/hate relationship with reviews; we know they are important, and we love the validation that comes with praise from a happy client, but we fear the negative review (especially the fake ones!).

The best defence against bad reviews is a simple two-step process of replying promptly —and graciously—to the negative comments, and building up a portfolio of as many positive reviews as possible. There’s no escaping the significance of business and product reviews; studies show they influence more than 80% of consumer shopping transactions.

The best approach combines regular requests for feedback with a system for monitoring the most significant review sites. Strider has an automated system for this, but if you prefer a manual approach, it’s quite feasible—with some work. It’s important that your stream of reviews has a natural pace to it. If a business with four reviews on Google suddenly receives a dozen or more over the span of a couple of days that will certainly appear suspicious. Be consistent in asking your customers for feedback, and when the feedback is good, you can prompt them to post on their favourite review site.

As an added bonus, you may just get to rescue your relationship with some unhappy customers who were either going to quietly take their business elsewhere, or post their displeasure online.

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theRKF
Publisher at Canadian Florist
Ryan Freeman is the Publisher of Canadian Florist, 5th generation florist, and President of Strider Online Marketing. He has been engaged in web design and online marketing since 1994.
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