How to Get Better Reviews Online in 5 Simple Steps

Directory listings are an essential part of your online strategy that you must utilize to be successful. This post will explore how to get better reviews and successfully use online directories. There are many different sites you can list your business including outlets like Google Places, Yelp! and the about section of your Facebook Business page. Additionally, many professions have review sites that are industry specific. You can also easily join the growing number of business owners listed in the Locable Places Directory by creating your free IMPACT listing.

Did you know many local publishers, like local magazines and daily newspapers also have directory listings and reviews on their website? These can be extremely valuable forms of traffic to your website because of the highly localized nature of their readers. Check your town’s most popular lifestyle magazines and newspapers and you are likely to find a place to list your business for little to no cost.

There also are a growing number of sites that are industry specific like Zillow for Realtors, or HomeAdvisor for contractors. If you are in a professional or trade service, you will most definitely want to be listed on an industry site. When visiting the site you may find that you already have a profile. If that is the case it is essential that you check it for the correct information and fill it out completely. Google “ reviews” and your industry to find out if there are any major review sites for your industry that you may not know of.

Being listed in as many as possible is a great way to get new customers that are ready to buy right now. Some may avoid these sites because of the chance of receiving a bad review, which can be detrimental to your business. That is a risk and we will get into that topic shortly. For now, here are the 5 most critical ways to handle online reviews.

1. Personal Touch and Outstanding Customer Service

It is impossible to start talking about online reviews and directories without starting with customer service. The very essence of online reviews start with delivering an excellent experience to the client or customer that will give them a reason to talk about you online.

In today’s market, businesses are becoming more and more systematic and people can sometimes feel like a cog in the machine. One of the steps you should be taking to avoid that is a personal approach. Employ a strategy of really connecting with customers in order to make them feel special. Train your staff to make eye contact, ask how people are doing (genuinely) and make it OK to have a conversation with a person.

No one likes to be treated like a number and employing a customer service strategy that goes above and beyond will help you build great online reviews exponentially faster.

2. The Right Way To Approach Directories and Reviews

By now, hopefully you have taken the first step and gotten your business listed in as many places as possible. Make sure all your listings have the appropriate links back to your website to help you get more traffic. You will also want to complete each profile as fully as possible with information like the areas you service, your specialties, and your most current address and contact information.

Now that you are listed in these directories, you have to look at them like living extension of your business online. They are working 24/7 to introduce your business to new people. But you need to keep an eye on them all to make sure they are doing a good job. Keep a running list of all your listings and passwords so you can periodically check in on them. We recommend checking at least once a month to see if everything is running smoothly.

After you have made your list, you can then begin to see which reviews sites are most helpful to your business. You will typically want to focus most of your energy on sites that will return the most value.

Each local community is unique and the dominant site for reviews can vary. Do a little research and find out which directory and review sites are used most in your community. Some towns might have a huge Yelp! following, others may have Google Places, and others may still may be a popular local publication in your area.

Identify the most popular sites by looking at the top businesses in your field and seeing how many reviews they have. Focusing your effort on a site that the average business has 50-100 reviews is much better than going with a site that averages only a few reviews per business.

The only exception is dominating a site by having the most reviews in your industry, even if its just a few, can sometimes have huge value. This strategy can be used if you are trying to build up your online credibility quickly.

3. How Review Quality Effects Which Reviews Are Shown

Now that you have identified the different review sites and chosen which ones to focus on, there are a few things to keep in mind about each of them.

Not all review sites are created equal. Some sites will give weight to certain reviews based on a number of factors like how often the reviewer posts, or how many friends they have on the network. Yelp! in particular gives preference to their heaviest users know as “Yelp! Elite” and typically features their reviews more prominently and for longer periods of time.

Some of these sites also do not even show reviews if the reviewer doesn’t have an active profile. In this case, you may get an excellent review, but no one will ever see it. Keep this in mind when asking for reviews. If possible, check with your customer or client before asking for a review. If they are not already active on a site, their review could be filtered out and not seen at all.

Local directories on local publishers sites, and places like your Facebook Business page typically show all reviews submitted. If you want to build up visible reviews quickly without worrying about them disappearing, these can be good places to start.

4. The Right and Wrong Way to Ask For Reviews

Once you understand how reviews are displayed and which sites are popular in your area, it is time to start gathering reviews. Just creating your directory page is not enough. To get the ball rolling you must be active in asking for reviews.

Sites like Yelp! frown on asking for reviews directly, whereas sites like Zillow have stock messages built into tools to actively solicit reviews. We recommend that you reject both of these approaches and find a better method that works for you.

When asking for reviews be genuine and true to who you are. Make sure the message you are spreading is authentic to your brand. You can post to Facebook with something like “We really appreciate all our great customers out there, would you please take some time to leave a review on (your directory of choice).”

If you are planning to reach out to specific clients and customers, don’t be too pushy about it. A quick email checking in with someone then adding a link to review at the bottom, or a personal phone call, can go a long way toward getting some good reviews. You might also think about adding some text to your email signature along the lines of “It would mean the world to me if you took a few moments to review me on XXX” with a link to your review page.

A few things to avoid:

Popups on your site asking for reviews or feedback- People hate popups and some even think they are associated with computer viruses.

Mass emails– Your customers can tell if you are sending a personal or mass email. Mass emails might feel like spam and although it may get you a few reviews it could hurt overall customer relations more than it helps.

Too many follow-ups– depending on the medium one or two follow-ups may be acceptable, but you should be careful not to overdo it. If you called the first time, following-up with an email a few days later is perfect. You can also do the opposite: start with a quick email, and call a few days later to follow up. Just make sure you aren’t hounding your customers with multiple calls or emails every day, no matter how badly you are trying to get reviews.

5. The Right And Wrong Way To Reply to Reviews

Now that you are listed across a few outlets and have compiled some reviews, you should be feeling pretty good. Keep on working to gather more good reviews and your directories will really start working for you.

However, after a while, there may be a chance of you getting a bad review. The most important thing you can do to help avoid a bad review is serving your customers well. Focus on improving your product or service and if there is a dispute, do your best to handle it in person to the customer’s satisfaction so they don’t leave angry. A customer that leaves angry or slighted is the most likely to leave a bad review.

In the rare chance you do receive a bad review, there are a few steps you can take to help mitigate it. The first is to verify that the person leaving the review is a real customer or a client. If not, most sites have a process for reporting someone that has never been your customer or is leaving a fake review to get that review removed.

If it turns out they were a customer and still left a bad review, we suggest first sending a message through the review site privately, most sites have a way for business owners to respond to the review internally. Use this method first to see if there is anything you can do to remedy the situation and apologize for any problems they had with your business.

If they don’t reply to your private message you have a few options to consider. First, you can leave the review out there and not respond. If you choose this method do your best to compile more good reviews quickly to drown out.

The second is a bit more difficult: answer the bad review publicly. This gives you a chance to show you care about each and every customer. Make sure to apologize, be sincere, and again try you best to communicate that you want to do better for the customer. Avoid at all costs disputing the customer, telling them they are wrong, or insulting or talking down to them. Even if the customers are wrong, these disputes will come off as insensitive or crass.

Conclusion

After taking these steps you will be well on your way toward creating a great online reputation and create many more customers that find you online. Eventually, after managing these sites for a while, business will be rolling in from people that initially found you through review sites and directories.

You will eventually create a snowball effect because customers that found you on review sites are much more likely to post their own review without even being prompted. As you can see, there are many benefits and a few pitfalls to online directories and reviews, but if you follow this advice you will become a review machine in no time!

Now let’s hear from you! Have you had any good/bad experiences with online reviews? How did you handle them?

Highlight Local Real Estate Listings Online To Gain More Traffic

Our weekly real estate roundup template shows you how, plus you can gain between 100 and 300 extra page views of traffic per week (that’s 400 – 1200 pageviews per month) when you highlight your locoal community real estate online.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about hyperlocal, community journalism, it’s that people love looking at other people’s houses. If the neighborhood or home itself is easily recognizable, you’ll get quite a few clicks. Why?

First, people take pride in their own homes. Therefore, when a nearby house goes up for sale on the market, they want to see the nitty gritty details: what’s it look like inside? How much is it selling for? What recent updates were done?

Second, life is much busier now than ever for many Americans. With demands at the workplace increasing and the digital landscape capturing much of our attention, sometimes we miss the big “For Sale” signs in our own cul-de-sacs. So, a weekly report may reveal to your average follower that a neighbor’s house is for sale.

One of our goals is to be the community our communities need. The old town, Main Street feel many of us desire to relive can be rebuilt right here online at your publication.

Real estate reports are not only valuable, but easy to put together, as well. It takes me 15-30 minutes on average to do one. So, let’s get started:

1.  Go to Realtor.com and search “For Sale” and your zip code/town name.

2. Open the most 5-10 recent houses put up for sale (each should have at least one high-quality exterior photo); make sure they’re opened up in separate windows or tabs.

3. In the body of your report, start with this:

“Looking to own some real estate in [town name]? Here are [#] local area houses for sale, ranging from $[lowest price] to $[highest price], as featured on realtor.com. Search for these homes on realtor.com for more photos and a full list of features.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 9.00.30 AM

4. Download the best photo for each listing to a safe place, then upload into your photo gallery. Name your gallery: “[town name] Homes Report – [Date].” Make sure each photo is captioned as the house’s address, and has a photo credit (Photo courtesy of Realtor.com)

5. Introduce each home by listing the address and home value (price), and then copy and paste the description (if it’s an extra long description, you can edit it down to the important stuff only)

6. Add each photo as “Full Width” above each listing, choose the best one as your main image (try not to make the main image the first listing, it will look strange)

7. Read over all the descriptions and choose the 2-3 best features out of all the homes listed and feature them in the title

8. Tag your topics: homes for sale, real estate

9. For extra content, you can also show what homes recently sold for in the area, by searching “Recently Sold” on Realtor.com, and list “Recently Sold by Date.” It’s rare you can do this weekly, but monthly is a good rhythm.

10. Showcase on Facebook and try to garner some engagement. Maybe ask “which would you rather have, an outdoor gazebo or an indoor man cave?”

Conclusion

Using these exact steps, you should get anywhere between 100 and 300 extra page views to your site each time you run the report. Plus, the possibilities are endless. If it ever gets stale, you can mix it up. In Southlake, we featured Troy Aikman and Terry Bradshaw’s homes. They weren’t in Southlake, but we knew our readers would enjoy that. So, take a look around in the news. You can find some unique spins to put on your stories anytime.

How To Source Local Stories Fast Using Google News & Alerts

Connections, bloggers, canned content and the like are one thing, but at one point or another, you’ll need to do some story sourcing to fulfill your editorial calendar. Here’s a smart and effective way to find great leads.

As a publisher with a specific editorial strategy, you want to serve your audience to the best of your own abilities. If you or your staff have your hands full with breaking news or large features and you’re highly effective with those particular types of stories, you should focus most of your efforts there.

However, if you still want to provide variety and cover all of the bases for your readers, there are some great shortcuts you can take using Google. There are two ways to find news you may have missed but still want to send to your audience, and they both involve Google.

The first is setting up Google alerts. It’s as easy as going to www.google.com/alerts and typing in the name (or names) of the towns/cities in your coverage area. You’ll receive a daily email with the top headlines on the web for that 24-hour period (you can decrease this to once a week if you wish, but we don’t recommend more than once a day).

Secondly, if Google Alerts did not prove useful in a given week, you can always use Google’s news search. Again, simply type the name of your city/town into Google Search. After you administer the search, click on “News” at the top of the page. You’ll then be directed to a list of news stories about your town.

Results aren’t ordered by date, so you’ll want to be aware of that, and you can find some gems by digging deep into the search. We recommend clicking through 10 pages of search results per publication in one search session scheduled each week.

Once you find a story that suits your audience, you then tell the story in your own words, citing the news outlet/source, and linking out to the original story. Here are a few examples that we’ve done through our Publisher Concierge service:

These are some of the top performers as we generally see our audiences enjoy reading about hometown heroes/celebrities (especially in athletics), strange activity/police stories, and rankings lists containing the area/neighborhood.

If you have a bit more time, you can also write your own profile/story by performing traditional interviewing and pursuing sources for more in-depth conversations. Question & Answer (Q&A for short) stories are very easy to administer either by phone or via email. You can also write your own.

This is all as easy as reaching out to people/businesses/nonprofits and asking to do an email interview. Check out these examples from our Publisher Concierge service:

You can also write actual articles (non-Q&A form) like these:

This is just scratching the surface of the types of things you can do with your web editorial operations but be sure to setup your Google Alerts and set aside some time to share relevant news with your audience.

5 Facebook Posts Used By Superstar Steven Jack To Promote His Latest Contest

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say when promoting a contest on Facebook so we’ve pulled together 5 Facebook posts used by superstar Steven Jack at OnlyOswego.com to promote his latest contest.

 

The Introduction Post

The Intoduction Post

 

The Reminder Post

The Reminder Post

 

The Value Post

The Value Post

 

The Urgency Post

The Urgency Post

 

The Winners Post

The WInners Post

 

The bottom line? Be genuine, remind often, show what’s in it for them, create urgency and follow through.

The 9 Most Critical Sources Of Local Content For Local Publishers

Police and FireWhether you’re looking to build a local news media site or a local lifestyle publication, finding great local content is critical to your success. Taking the time to develop a few key relationships within your community will help keep a steady stream of news and stories filling your inbox and making your life easier.

Steven Jack, a veteran local journalist who runs the very successful Only Oswego website in Oswego, IL, was kind enough to share a few thoughts regarding which relationships are most important to develop as part of your community outreach plan.

Police/Fire/Sheriff

Without question the biggest driver of traffic on any hyperlocal news site will be police and fire reporting. It is essential to first make contact with any and all local Public Information Officers. Ask them to immediately add you to their media contact list so that you may start getting their information right away.

Schools

Depending on the make-up of your community, school news could be the second biggest traffic source on a hyperlocal news site. Make early contact with public relations officials, friendly pricipals and administrators, union reps and leaders of parent organizations.

Chamber of Commerce

Joining and covering the chamber of commerce is essential to your business. Most chambers these days are very savvy with social media and will evangelize on your behalf, especially if you’re a paying member. Contacting your local chamber president should be one of your first orders of business before even launching a site. This will also be an invaluable source of revenue for you, as most local businesses are members. Do your best to get to a few of their networking events early on in the process.

Economic Development

Make a good source out of your local economic development official. Economic development news is the No. 3 biggest driver of traffic in hyperlocal. People are constantly looking for new ways to spend their hard-earned cash and new restaurants or businesses coming to town are always a hit on local news sites.

City Government

Developing good sources with elected officials will take time. If you can get a contact within each faction of local government, you will be doing well, though it’s not always possible. Most city governments today have a public relations or communications employee who will be able to funnel you all the essential local government news, including meeting agendas and upcoming events. However, don’t expect them to give you the inside scoop.

Political Leaders

Getting to know and introducing yourself to local political leaders is important. These are local influencers who can tip you off early to stories that you may not even be aware of, and they love to talk about initiatives they are spearheading. Don’t be afraid to ask them direct questions about what’s happening behind the scenes. Most of the time they’ll answer you, even if it’s off the record.

Local Nonprofits

Ingratiating yourself with local nonprofit agencies will quickly result in a constant flow of usable content. Most nonprofits are desperately searching for free ways to spread their message, and you’re constantly looking for easy local pieces of content — a match made in heaven.

Parks & Rec

Making contact with park and rec officials is much the same as making contact with the local library. Generally these aren’t stories or posts that drive a lot of traffic, but including their news shows that  you care and have an idea of what people are actually participating in around town. These departments normally have communications professionals, as well, who can send frequent information.

Library

Contacting your local library director can pay off in a couple of different ways. One: people still use the library — lots of people. Announcing their special events or other occasional news is a good will gesture. It’s not going to drive a lot of traffic, but it shows you care.

As Steven says, it’s about showing you care! People want to hear the news and read the stories that are most relevant to them no matter how big or small and often larger news outlets and publications do a poor job of covering the small but important things well. By taking the time to create some key relationships within the community, you’ll be able to easily fill in the gaps and make your publication a daily must read among a very competitive landscape.
A Side Note to Lifestyle Publications

Even if your one of the few publishers that are hesitant to cover local news, you can still get tremendous value out of developing these key local relationships. For example, instead of reporting the news of a local fire destroying a local business, you could cover the story from a different angle such as how the owner plans to rebuild afterwards. Of course, we’d recommend you do both but in either case simply being on the police/fire list will help you generate ideas for great local stories.


Creating great local content will also help you rank better in Google as we outlined in this weeks office hours: SEO for Local Publishers. For tips on how to turn any article into a great local article that will drive more traffic and engagement check out the video.

Remaining Print-Only is Foolish But Not for the Reasons You Think

Digital is not replacing print – at least not in the way you think if you’re a local publisher.

In nearly every business you strive to identify opportunities to introduce new product lines. My father-in-law runs a local HVAC (heating and air conditioning) business and a few years ago added solar installation because his company was fundamentally well equipped to offer this new product which results in new value and more revenue.

A retailer is always on the lookout for new clothing lines that will be well received by their customers – either to meet their current customers needs or to attract a new clientele.

Product extension doesn’t detract from the ‘current’ offering when done well it enhances and complements it.

Why? Because there are two ways to increase revenue: sell more to existing customers and attract new customers. Period. New product offerings can accomplish both of these things when done well.

We all make foolish mistakes in business from time to timeYears ago, print publishers would welcome product extension in the form of inserts, special advertising sections, an event business, printing services and the like however for some reason digital has been viewed as something entirely different rather than an additional offering as it should be.

Sure, some advertisers are no longer buying print ads but that’s a combination of normal cyclical behaviors (buyer fatigue?), other offerings better suited for their marketing goals or budget, momentum and hype, and – yes – some trends. But this dynamic is at play regardless of whether you actively and effectively embrace new (digital) products or not.

Here are three very different examples of how publishers are becoming more profitable ADDING digital products to their print core.

First, one of our new publishers who just launched her magazine site with us this week pre-sold 10 digital sponsorships to existing print advertisers. In addition to their print ads because they wanted to expand and enhance their campaign. She literally pre-sold her website and has a solid approach to deliver (just like how publishers used to pre-sell print).

In an alternative example, the publisher of Mansfield Magazine sent us the following message this week:

Thought you guys would like to know. This office used to run print ads with me ($1200 every other month or $600/month) but they have not run an ad in almost 2 years. I spoke with him last week, and while I couldn’t get him to include print with his ad plan he is running an initial 6-month digital package at over $400/month… I’m way ahead of where I was yesterday because he had no interest in print, so I had digital to offer. Plus, I can use this as a springboard for future potential digital customers.

So, not only was she nearly even on-net from when they were buying print-only 2-years ago (adjusting for the print cost of fulfillment) but she’s $400+/month ahead on-net from last week.

In our final example, we’ve had a half-dozen publishers running special Valentine’s Day promotions each with 3-8 paying sponsors. If I didn’t explicitly say they were run digital on Facebook with promotion on their website, email lists, and – where it aligned with their print cycle – in print,  you might be tempted to think I was referring to a print-only promotion.

I’ll conclude this mild rant with some basic math to put a finer point to these examples:

  • The average community has 1 small business for every 10-20 people who live their (population)
  • The average publisher has 40-120 advertisers in print
  • A community of just 25,000 people has 1250-2500 small businesses
  • The average publisher in this community of 25k people currently FAILS to have 1130-2460 local businesses as a paying customer. Put another way, at best they have 9.6% of the local businesses as advertiser and more likely have a measly 1.6% of local businesses as a paying customer
  • Local businesses are spending 25%+ of their marketing budget on digital
  • If you could attract just an additional 1% of 1250 local businesses you’d have an additional 125 paying customers, if their average spending were just $100/month you’re looking at $12,500/month in additional revenue

How much are you failing to make from digital today?

Here’s a simple model you can use to fill in the gaps for your market, if you need help pencilling how much money your’e currently losing by not doing print right or how you can effectively sell and deliver digital as a complement to print you can contact us to schedule a free 1-hour digital overview and we’ll show you how.

My population is ___,_____ people.

We have _____,______ local businesses (multiply population by 5-10% or contact your local government, chamber or economic development office.

Our current monthly revenue is $____,______ which means our potential digital revenue just by up selling clients is (current Rev * 25%) $___,_____

If we could add $___,_____ (digital revenue from current clients) in new, profitable, digital revenue I’d take a vacation too __________ (Favorite or bucket-list vacation destination)

Don’t Overlook Opportunities to Add Value in Mundane Conversation

When someone asks a question it’s easy to give a simple answer however there’s often much more to the sentiment behind the questions.

We regularly field questions from publishers ranging from simple things like how to update their homepage or target an advertisement to more advanced things like how to effectively post their print content online and leverage it across social media and email newsletters. I make it a personal goal to not merely answer their immediate question but help them attain a deeper understanding.

It’s good business and the right thing to do.

It’s akin to the difference between giving a man a fish and teaching a man to fish, in the latter case they become self sufficient.

So, how does something like this work?

You can see a brief exchange below, I could have opted to be brief and only address the subject at hand but I wanted to ensure she knew about a few resources that could be very important to her.

If she disregarded my message it cost me a few minutes, if she takes me up on my suggestion it could transform her business. Definitely worth the effort!

SImple conversations are the spice of life and can make a big difference.
SImple conversations are the spice of life and can make a big difference.

 

Are You Engaging? A Simple Example and a Quick Tip From Facebook About Using Facebook

How you do things matter as much as what you do, especially when it comes to content and it’s reach within search engines and social media.

For instance, there are two publishers we work with with comparable ‘fan bases’ but very different engagement. Publisher A has just under 7k FB fans and serves a community of some 30-40k people. Publisher B has just under 8k FB fans and serves a community of a few hundred thousand people.

Publisher A‘s average post reaches 7k people with better posts reaching 15k or more (keep in mind FB average is roughly 2% of the fanbase so even ‘average’ posts are killing it).

Publisher B‘s average post reaches 200-300 people with poor posts reaching just dozens… pretty much inline with Facebook averages.

The difference can surely be attributed, in part, to the type of content which is more timely and relevant as opposed to simple lifestyle content but there’s more to the story. Publisher A is authentic and engaging not merely talking-at-his-audience this has resulted in tremendous goodwill over time and an audience looking forward to the next post.

It’s often hard to communicate some of this nuance but today I received and email from Facebook For Business and they had a nice little example which I’d like to share:

How you post matters more than what you post in many cases.
How you post matters more than what you post in many cases.

“Even if you have a compelling offer, keep in mind people turn to News Feed for interesting stories—family photos, funny videos, important headlines—and not heavy-handed sales language.

  • Attract customers with a tasteful message
  • Avoid the hard sell (using ALL CAPS, % OFF, SALE!)

The better you can tell a story, the more people will love your posts.” – FB for Business

The difference between successfully reaching a large audience and speaking to an empty room isn’t more effort it’s about being more authentic.

 

3 Super-Easy Ways to Use Family Features Content to Make Your Editorial Life Easier

Face it: the life of a publisher isn’t an easy one. We’ve got people pulling us in tons of different directions. The sales staff, the editorial team, advertisers, business partners, prospects, leads, our families… Where do we find time to concentrate on driving traffic and gaining a better social media following?

On the other end of the spectrum, what if you’re doing it all on your own? Cut your focus down to about 20 percent on each given area of your business and you quickly begin to realize one of those areas could be struggling in a given week. You may be just starting out, low on costs, or both. How can you make the content part of your day/week easier?

A few months ago, we announced a tech partnership with Family Features to incorporate free family-oriented content into the Community Content Engine but their content is available to anyone to use free of charge. Some publishers may gawk at the idea of using “canned content,” but today, we’ll show you three ways to use it to your advantage without sacrificing quality.

1) Weekend Filler – If you want to have a life outside of the office, you’ve got to find a way to get content up on the weekends. Some weeks, that will be no problem, with an overflow of great events, or articles to write about and promote. Other times (especially during the slow holiday season), this can be daunting and stressful. That’s why using Family Features to fill out your page on the weekends is key. Set it, forget it, collect some page views, and come back to the office on Monday fresh and ready to go!

2) As a Conversation Starter – Your social media accounts must engage the community. If they are not already doing that, it’s an uphill battle to gain the adoration and trust of your audience. Make sure you are constantly engaging in quality discussions over the topics you share with your audience (more on this in a later post). One way to do this, especially if you are just starting out, is to use Family Features content as a conversation starter. Some Family Features content is a bit light and fluffy, but there are a number of great articles to choose from that also talk about important issues for readers who may very well be in your demographics. Take this one as an example and run with it.

Conversation Starter

Conversation Starter

3) To Localize – The absolute best way to use Family Features content is to localize it for your audience. You’ll want to take a relevant topic from one of the many articles offered and consider how it relates to your readership. Next, reach out to local experts (business owners, doctors, educators, etc) for opinions. You can quickly plug quotes, business listings, events and more local information right into the article. Make sure you change your headline for better SEO on the local level. Having trouble finding sources to talk to about a given topic? Check your pool of advertisers/partners. So long as you are not directly promoting a business just for the heck of it, you can get some valuable, easy and willing content from your partners as relates to the Family Features content. Best of all, you can “throw them a bone” while not crossing the line of “church and state” we commonly hear about in the publishing industry.

 

What unique ways have you succeeded in using Family Features so far? Tell us in the comments.

 

One Thing Every Publisher Needs To Do In 2015

Call it a New Years resolution or call it a goal but the one thing every publisher needs to do in 2015 is to start treating their digital presence as an opportunity to drive real revenue rather than a necessary evil! Even if you’re like many publishers and look at your website as an expense, it’s relatively easy to turn that around quickly. In 2015 resolve to leverage your digital efforts to increase revenues and your bottom line with this simple plan.

 

1) Find Community Sponsors

What is it? Community sponsorships are an advertising package that helps an advertiser show their support for their community,  join the conversation that you cultivate online and align their business with the values of your community. While you can put any type of package together, we recommend including a premium directory listing, a snapshot ad for them to promote an offer (i.e., a free consultation or 10% off), a monthly article, and perhaps most importantly their logo on every page of your site as shown below.

Community Sponsorship Footer
Community Sponsorship Footer With Links To Their Directory Listing

 

Of course, you should make sure to share their articles via email and social media as well as occasionally thank them for their support where it makes sense!

How does it help your advertisers? Advertisers first and foremost want to find new customers so they will benefit greatly from the added exposure this package provides as you grow your audience, especially from having their logo on every page of your site. The directory listing provides a strong local presence and should be referenced in all future articles or events on your site that reference the business. The monthly article is their opportunity to build their brand by being the local “expert” while the snapshot ad is their opportunity to convert your readers into paying customers. The whole deal!

What You Charge Your Advertisers: $75-200+ per month

Revenue Possibility: $300 – $2000+ per month

Considerations: For those publishers who are just getting started or have little or no traffic, pitch the community sponsorship as an investment in the community since you as a publisher are building a site to engage the audience the sponsors ultimately want to reach. Make sure to lock them in for 12 months at the “lower” price and then raise it after you’ve built up traffic and engagement. This way they will get the benefits of your efforts as you build up your audience while you can drive some revenue. A win-win!

 

Premium Directory Listing
Premium Directory Listing

2) Up-Sell Premium Directory Listings

What is it? Many publishers have a directory but miss the opportunity to make it a truly valuable resource for their advertisers. A good directory should have all the basic factual information such as name, description, logo, social links, photos, etc. but as a publisher you have an unfair advantage over other directory websites which is that you can create content to cultivate and engage an audience and promote the listings. This advantage can and should command a premium especially when combined with things like reviews, videos, and even spotlight ads (small ads that highlight the businesses listing on your home page).

How does it help your advertisers? As eluded to above, a listing with you is not the same as other listing services. When you write about businesses, you can and should link to their businesses listing to facilitate discovery. Likewise, when you post an event you should link to the venue (also a business listing). This way when you share articles and events via Facebook and email you are not only promoting your content but their business as well. It’s a uniquely local strategy that drives awareness and engagement for those businesses in your directory.

What You Charge Your Advertisers: $15-25 per month

Revenue Possibility: $600-2,000 per month (let’s assume that the average community has approximately 2,500 businesses and the average publisher has about 40-120 advertisers so a target of 40-80 paid listings which is completely reasonable even if you only up-sell your existing advertisers)

Considerations: Having the right tool is critical to being able to manage the process and make it worthwhile for your advertisers. While they’re many great directory tools out there, Locable’s Community Content Engine allows for easy cross-linking of articles, events, and listings, automated local spotlight ads and a reviews widget that allows businesses to show off their reviews on their own sites.

 

Social Promotion Design & Administration
Social Promotion Design & Administration

3) Offer “Agency Like” Services

What is it? Agencies exist to manage the marketing and advertising needs of businesses but not every business needs an agency and not every business can afford one. In either case, those businesses may still need the services that an agency would typically provide such as social promotion design and administration, audience extension (a specific form of ad buying), web design, listing management and more and you’re in an excellent position to help them out because you can also provide the audience to ensure these campaigns are successful. For example, social promotions can be leveraged to help your advertisers build their email list, audience extension can help them reach beyond your audience to reinforce their message and good web design allows you to help them convert those eyeballs into new customers. Since you likely already have a relationship with many local businesses, it doesn’t take much extra effort to bring up these options during your regular sales conversations. This is a great way to diversify your revenue streams while providing tremendous value to your advertisers.

How does it help your advertisers? Offering “agency like” services is all about offering your advertisers additional ways to work with someone they already like and trust. Many times they have more money to spend but not on the same things they already buying from you. Other times, they likely know they need to be doing some of these things but don’t want to have to think about it. If you have a good relationship you’ll be able to guides them to the right choices and they’ll also appreciate that they only have to deal with one person. This is all about providing more value to your advertisers and delivering results.

What You Charge Your Advertisers: $100-$1,000s per promotion, site or package

Revenue Possibility: Unlimited (but a good target would be about $27,000 per year broken down as follows: 4 Social Promotions @ $1,000 per promotion, 2 custom web design projects @ $2,500 per site, 5 Audience Extension packages @ $300 per month)

Considerations: Assuming that you don’t have the time or expertise to fulfill these types of offerings yourself, having the right partner is critical. You’ll want a partner that can both support the sales process but also execute the campaigns on your behalf when you need it and at a reasonable price. Locable offers these types of solutions including the IMPACT Marketing Suite which is an easy way for businesses to build an automated website that syncs listings, social media and enables them to easily tap into your audience to take advantage of even more advertising options).

 

If you’ve been following along that all equates to around $75,000+ per year in digital revenue! How does that sound to you?