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Ask the Expert Part Two: 4 Ways To Make The Most Out of Your Customer-Generated Content

September 11, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Key Takeaways:

  • Test aspects of your Customer-Generated Content on product detail pages, such as the sort order of reviews and page layout, to see how you can get the most conversion lift.
  • Put Customer-Generated Content analytics, like an average star rating or review count, on parts of your site besides the product detail page—such as the home page or a product category page.
  • Share the insights gleaned from your Customer-Generated Content internally with your buyer and merchandising teams. Let them know what’s working and what’s not.
  • Be as responsive as possible to shoppers leaving Customer-Generated Content. It helps build goodwill and can resolve customer service issues quickly.
Ross Reitman headshot

TurnTo Customer Success Manager Ross Reitman

In Part One of our “Ask the Expert” blog series, TurnTo Customer Success Manager Ross Reitman, our in-house expert, shared 3 easy hacks to getting more Customer-Generated Content for your eCommerce site.

In Part Two of the series, Reitman imparts 4 tips on how online stores can get the most out of the content they’ve already collected.

Here’s what he had to say:

1. Test and Optimize Aspects of Product Detail Pages Such as Sort Order and Layout

Once you make sure you’re getting as much content and coverage as possible, the next step is making sure your product detail page [PDP] is optimized. One of my favorite examples of this is our client Rockler Woodworking and Hardware.

Rockler customizes the layout of its product detail pages by putting Customer-Generated Content high up on the page, sometimes right next to the “Add to Cart” button.

Rockler Woodworking Product Detail Page

Rockler also A/B tested the default sort order of their reviews. They changed their site to showing reviews sorted by “Highest Rated” by default, instead of “Most Helpful.” That alone increased their Revenue Per User by 19%.

So my advice is to play around with your product detail page and apply your learnings. Change the colors. Change the placement of Customer-Generated Content. Change the sort order. Add a gallery of customer-submitted photos right under the product photos. You don’t really know what’s going to work unless you test it.

2. Spread Customer-Generated Content Across Your Site

Another good strategy is layering in your Customer-Generated Content outside of your product detail page, such as in a carousel on your homepage, or on category pages. That aids the customer journey because you’re providing information that can help shoppers land on a purchase.

But you have to show shoppers the right information. Don’t only showcase the five-star rating of pair of shoes that only has one review—show the review count as well. Your shoppers might bounce without the additional context. Instead, show them a display for a pair of shoes that has 100 reviews and a 4.5 average star rating.

You can also show customers’ Checkout Comments on pages other than a product detail page. Spreading your Customer-Generated Content around lets your shoppers customize their own journeys.

Some of our clients use a visual pinboard that shows recent purchases with a Checkout Comment. It’s a very visually focused way for customers to interact with products, and it helps retailers identify products that are trending.

Sur

3. Share Your Insights Internally

Our products generate a trove of data and insights, and you should try to get all of that information into the right hands. Customers submitting Ratings & Reviews are giving you valuable feedback on your products, that’s something your buyers or merchandisers would benefit from learning about.

If people are always asking the same question or complaining about the same topic in a review, highlight those learnings internally. Maybe you can change the copy in the product detail section or change its location on the product detail page.

If there’s something that people really love about the product, pull a quote from a review and place it somewhere else on the page.

Retailers can also share insights about products with their brands, which can help foster a good relationship between the two.

4. Engage With Your Customers

Reviews help build trust with your shoppers. The more content you have, the more trust you can generate because you’re letting other people speak for you and your products.

But Customer-Generated Content tools like those offered by TurnTo also provide a platform to respond to your shoppers, which is a great way to build loyalty. If someone leaves a good review, you can thank them. If a shopper leaves a bad review, you should absolutely try to resolve their problem.

If people are asking questions, you or your community of shoppers should answer them quickly. The faster they get an answer, the more it’s going to impact their purchase decision.

When Twitter was first being used by consumers to lodge complaints, the smart companies jumped on it as a customer service tool immediately because it let them respond faster.

Retailers can also loop brands in by letting them answer customer questions. In fact, brands actually have a big incentive to get involved because they want people to buy them over their competition.

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How TurnTo Can Help Improve Your eCommerce Site’s SEO

August 21, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Speed Matters for SEO

In recent years, many of Google’s changes to its much vaunted search algorithm and ranking system have made site speed more important than ever. Essentially, Google wants everything on the web to be faster, and now gives preference to sites that load quickly, especially mobile sites.1

TurnTo has made improving our clients’ SEO a core performance metric for our four products—Ratings & Reviews, Community Q&A, Visual Reviews, and Checkout Comments. Here’s how:

  1. TurnTo’s product widgets are written using an extremely lightweight JavaScript framework for the fastest display rendering.
  2. Our JavaScript bundle is one-half to one-quarter the size of our competitors’ and it’s fully optimized for speed.
  3. TurnTo’s code libraries dynamically load only what’s needed on a given page, improving browser performance.

TurnTo JavaScript File Size vs. Competitors

The Freshness Factor

Search engines love active pages that are frequently updated. TurnTo’s products capture more content than the competition with innovations like Inbox Submission, which lets shoppers submit product reviews and ratings directly from within the body of an email. Features like this and others provided by TurnTo give your product pages a steady stream of frequent updates. That’s a signal to search engine web crawlers that your page is important and will boost your SEO as a result.

Star Ratings Drive Click-Throughs

TurnTo’s star ratings are fully indexable by search engines. That lets an average star rating for a product on your website show up right on the search engine results page (SERP). A recent study from Conversion XL found that having star ratings appear in search results can improve click-through rates by as much as 35%.2

Carhartt Product Listing Ad example

Lots of Long-Tail Keywords

Some great news about voice of the customer: your customers write product reviews using the same words and phrases that people searching for those products also use. Product reviews embed these long-tail keywords right into your site, with little to no effort on your part.

Long-tail keywords are especially useful to eCommerce sites because they tend to be three- or four-word phrases that are highly specific and indicate that a shopper is close to a purchase. That means your website and product pages will rank higher in search engine results pages for shoppers who are pretty far down the sales funnel and have signaled a strong intent to make a purchase.

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Sources:

1 Using Page Speed in Mobile Ranking; Google Webmaster Central Blog, January 2018

2 Do Review Stars on Google Help Click-Through Rate?; Conversion XL, December 2017

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5 Ways to Improve Your eCommerce Site’s Product Detail Pages

August 8, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Your product detail pages (PDPs) are arguably the linchpin of your eCommerce site. Think about everything they do:

  • They’re tasked with displaying a ton of product information to help your shoppers make informed decisions
  • They’re expected to reflect your site’s inventory in real time
  • They serve as the destination for traffic coming from paid and organic search, as well as social media.

And that’s just for starters.

“[A product detail page] is not only an awareness driver and a consideration driver, but also a conversion driver. Once a consumer determines that your page is a relevant result, they’re going to click through, look at your page, and determine whether to purchase your product” said Megan Harbold, vice president of The Mars Agency in a recent interview with eMarketer.1

Are your product detail pages optimized to take advantage of buyer intent and lead your shoppers to a conversion? Here are 5 recommendations to help you get there:

1. Optimize for Mobile

Suffice it to say that if your product detail page (and by extension, your website) is not easy to use and read on mobile, you’re in trouble. The internet has shifted the customer’s path-to-purchase from something that was once largely linear to a much more labyrinthine process. And mobile plays a key role.

A recent report from Episerver found that 50% of visits to retail sites were made on smartphones, with 41% coming from shoppers on desktops.2

However, people are buying more items on desktops than on their smartphones—average units per order are actually 24% higher on desktops than on mobile phones, according to Episerver. Taken together, the two data points suggest that shoppers are often browsing and researching their purchases on mobile devices, but then using a desktop to complete their purchase.

Episerver suggested that pattern of behavior results from desktops offering a better user experience than smartphones with smaller screens. They even concluded that it was “critical for retailers and brands to re-evaluate and optimize mobile experiences including addressing site speed, content priority, and user experience.”

2. The More Photos The Better

There are reams of data regarding how important product photos are to the online shopping experience. It makes perfect sense. Customers can’t see an item in person or hold it in their hands. Photos are the next best thing to that sort of tactile experience, so eCommerce sites need to get their visuals right.

A survey of smartphone users from Field Agent revealed that 83% said that product images and photos influenced their digital purchase. Visual content held sway over consumers more than any other product detail feature, including product descriptions and specifications.3

Research also shows that, when it comes to photos, volume matters. A study commissioned by Salsify found that online shoppers across all verticals wanted a baseline of six images for each product. But their analysis found that even top-selling items fell below that count, averaging less than four images.4

But eCommerce businesses should be thinking beyond just carefully stylized and curated catalog photos. Shoppers who have already made a purchase can augment catalog photos with Customer-Generated Content, displayed right alongside it.

Customer-submitted visual content can also give shoppers a wealth of information about products that might not be readily apparent from a catalog photo. For example, user-generated photos can give shoppers a better sense of how product characteristics such as size and color might look out in the real world. In some cases, such as with apparel, shopper photos can even help other customers get an idea of how to style an item.

TurnTo’s Visual Reviews product was designed to make it easy to collect photos and videos from your shoppers by using a visual-first collection flow for smartphone users, with an easy submission process for mobile shoppers.

3. Provide Social Proof

Social proof does wonders for eCommerce conversion rates. Humans have a basic psychological need for assurance that they’re making the right decision. Social proof provides that assurance from a source that’s highly trusted by your customers—other shoppers.

On a product detail page, social proof can be provided in a few ways. One of the most common is an average star rating that’s paired with a review count. This approach gives shoppers a lot of information that can be digested with just a glance.

Written reviews are another great way to feature social proof on your product detail page. These types of customer testimonials can help assuage doubts or concerns that your shoppers might have and guide them to a purchase.

The more reviews, the happier your customers will be. In TurnTo’s research report, 2019 State of Customer-Generated Content, we found that 76% of shoppers were less likely to make a purchase from a site when it lacked content like Ratings & Reviews.

Collecting a higher volume of reviews can result from getting some basics right, like optimizing the timing of your review solicitation emails, asking reviewers to submit additional reviews when they’re in the best mindset to do so, and making review submissions painless for smartphone users.

Another key way eCommerce sites can boost their Ratings & Reviews count is through product review syndication. With syndication, reviews collected by brand eCommerce sites can be shared with retailer sites. That gives the products featured on retailer sites a higher review count and gives brands greater exposure on retailer sites. It’s a win-win.

4. Feature a Clear Call to Action

It should go without saying, but your product detail page’s call to action (CTA) should be clear, simple and easy for shoppers to complete. The less complicated it is for a shopper to find and click, the better.

In the example below, beauty brand Tarte Cosmetics has boiled the product detail page down to the most salient information, avoiding design clutter and letting the browser’s eye drift naturally to the ‘’add to bag” button.

Still, the page manages to include compelling visuals of the product, an average star rating, a review count, a CTA, and details about the product, and fit it all at the top of the page in a clean, efficient fashion. The CTA is short and to the point, and differentiated from the rest of the page with a colored button.

5. Answer Frequently Asked Questions

Your product detail page can’t always give shoppers all the information they’re looking for. That’s where a frequently asked question feature that’s unique to a specific product can come into play, providing an elegant solution to the problem while keeping your shoppers onsite.

Here’s a great example: watch-seller Nixon lets shoppers ask customers who’ve already made a purchase through a Community Q&A feature on its product detail pages. Shoppers who’ve already bought the item receive the question via email.

And while you might assume customers receiving these emails would be unlikely to respond, that’s just not the case with TurnTo’s optimized Q&A email. TurnTo is able to identify customers that are most likely to respond to these questions. As a result, more than 90% of questions sent to customers through TurnTo’s Q&A received an answer. It turns out that people seem to like helping out other people!

Nixon also allows its in-house customer service team to answer questions. In the example above, a staff member identified by a badge provided the answer to a question posed by a shopper. This approach can be useful when the question asked is highly technical, or is something that the average shopper won’t know the answer to.

Optimize Your PDPs!

To recap, here’s a rundown of some solid strategies to improve your product detail pages:

  1. Make sure your page is optimized for mobile devices. This move will yield benefits for your eCommerce site far beyond just your product detail page.
  2. The more photos you have, the better. TurnTo’s Visual Reviews product is designed with a visual-first collection flow and makes it simple for shoppers on smartphones to submit visual content.
  3. Give your shoppers social proof in the form of Ratings & Reviews.
  4. Make sure your call to action—effectively your buy button—is simple and clear.
  5. Draw on previous customers and customer service to answer shopper questions by using a feature like Community Q&A.

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Sources:

1 Why Product Detail Pages Matter; eMarketer, October 2018.

2 The 2018-2019 B2C Dot-Com Report; Episerver

3 The Digital Shopper: Insights Into Today’s Most ‘Connected’ Shoppers; Field Agent, April 2018

4 5 New Rules To Tackle Shoppers’ Rising Expectations on Your Brands; Salsify, March 2019

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4 Ways for eCommerce Sites to Take Advantage of Customer Testimonials

July 31, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Your products are flying off the digital shelf. Five-star ratings and positive reviews are flowing onto your product detail pages (PDPs) faster than you can even read them.

That’s great. Research shows that shoppers rely heavily on Customer-Generated Content (CGC) during their path to purchase. And displaying all of that material on your product pages gives your customers a ton of product information, along with solid word-of-mouth marketing from a highly trusted source—other shoppers.

But are you taking full advantage of the persuasive power that customer reviews and testimonials offer?

Your shoppers are handing you some ad copy that might be better than anything an agency could ever pump out. Make it count.

Here are four ways you can use Customer-Generated Content outside of your product pages:

1. Digital Ads

You probably only have a handful of seconds to attract the attention of an internet user with a digital display ad. One way to counter that problem is by boiling your Customer-Generated Content down to its essentials.

An average star rating paired with a review count for your product can convey a ton of easily digested information at a glance. A good model for this approach is the Google Product Listing Ad (PLA), a search ad format that shows searchers a product image, a price, and a short description.

In the example above, a Google search for “Carhartt medium pants” returns a list of Product Listing Ads that feature average star ratings and review counts.

Brands and retailers should make sure average star ratings and review counts (the number of reviews a product has collected) are being automatically shared with Google for inclusion in their PLAs.

For digital display ad formats with more real estate, online sellers should consider including a quote pulled from a positive review. But be a judicious editor; slapping a wall of text into your ad is an easy way to lose the attention of online browsers.

2. Email Marketing

Customer testimonials can work really well as part of an email marketing strategy, especially in abandoned cart emails.

Every eCommerce site understands that sometimes browsers need a little nudge to become buyers, and abandoned cart emails are a useful way to re-engage with shoppers.

Direct to consumer (DTC) bedding brand Brooklinen is a great example of an eCommerce company that uses an engaging abandoned cart email technique that features customer testimonials at its core.

Brooklinen sandwiches its customer testimonials between two calls-to-action (CTAs), both of which take the shopper back to their abandoned cart.

Brooklinen doesn’t bother trying to match the product reviews featured in the email with the SKUs of items in the shopper’s cart. Instead it uses more general reviews to convey a sense of customer satisfaction and draws on humor to engage readers.

The reviews are smartly intended to match Brooklinen’s brand and overall tone in the hopes they’ll provide the nudge needed to get shoppers to convert.

Footwear brand Adidas takes a slightly different approach with its emails by including more targeted content. In the example below, the company draws on the email recipient’s browsing history to showcase a product they recently viewed.

Adidas also includes a quote pulled from a customer review, along with a star rating—but it uses content specific to the product. It also pairs that material with customer-generated photos, a technique that probably works best in the footwear and apparel verticals

3. Social Media

Social media can help improve customer engagement and drive clicks to your website when paired with a customer testimonial.

Makeup company Morphe is a great example of an eCommerce site leveraging the power of social media. It actually draws images from its shoppers’ Instagram posts, then pairs the customer-generated photos with a star rating and short review.

This way shoppers can see a real-world application of Morphe’s makeup, right next to a bit of social proof. The customer testimonial is also buy button-adjacent to make the path to purchase as frictionless as possible.

Morphe’s approach is a good reminder that, while traditional staged product photos are still a necessary element of any product detail page, augmenting them with customer-submitted images can add a splash of dazzle. They can also help shoppers get a better sense of product attributes like size, color, and even styling.

4. Catalogs

In a world where digital increasingly dominates, it’s easy to overlook old-school media. But there’s some strong evidence that catalogs can be an effective component of your marketing mix.

Just last year Amazon rolled out a printed holiday toy catalog that it mailed to millions of its customers. Amazon is very likely drawing on its troves of customer data to integrate its catalogs with its digital marketing strategy.

But even if you don’t have access to the type of customer data that Amazon does, you can still use Customer-Generated Content to support your direct mail efforts.

For example, woodworking and hardware retailer Rockler mines its Ratings & Reviews to power its “Customer Favorites Sale,” a promotion that features inventory with high star ratings and stellar reviews.

These ratings and reviews are featured as customer testimonials in the print catalog promoting the sale. Product listings are often accompanied by a pull quote from a review, along with a star rating.

Rockler’s customer testimonials are carefully chosen. They go beyond the generic endorsement of an item, instead highlighting a product’s ease of use or some aspect of its functionality. It’s a good lesson to learn for retailers looking to maximize the impact of their customer testimonials.

How TurnTo Can Help 

TurnTo’s platform collects more high-quality Customer-Generated Content than any other solution in the market. This shopper-supplied material can aid your digital word-of-mouth marketing strategy, but can also be repurposed in places aside from your product detail pages.

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Why Reviews Matter: Almost 70% of Shoppers Have Left a Product Page Because They Wanted More Info

April 4, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Is your eCommerce site failing to give your shoppers all of the information they want? Some recent data from Salsify1 suggests that might be the case.

In a survey of 1,000 US adults, Salsify discovered that nearly 70% of respondents abandoned a product detail page (PDP) because it didn’t offer enough product detail or other information.

To put those survey results in context: more people left a product page because they wanted more information than those that left because prices were too high, or because they were concerned about potentially buying a fake product.

Nearly 70% of respondents abandoned a product detail page (PDP) because it didn’t offer enough product detail or other information.

eCommerce sites that fail to do the simple work of including enough product information on their PDPs are basically leaving money on the table.

But the problem is also easily fixable. Here are some key takeaways from the report that eCommerce companies should take to heart:

1. The More Reviews, the Better

112 is the magic number. No, that’s not a typo. It’s the average number of reviews that shoppers want to see when they’re looking at a product online, according to Salsify. And that figure was even higher among younger demographic groups.

 

On average, shoppers ages 25- to 34-years old wanted to see 159 reviews per product; that figure jumped to an average of 203 reviews per product among those ages 18 to 24.

In short, your customers want reviews. Lots of them. Why? Because a high review count is social proof that a product is good, and that can alleviate shoppers’ hesitation about pulling the trigger on a purchase.

On average, shoppers want to see 112 reviews for each product

“Consumers are really looking for that extra degree of validation, and it’s not even necessarily the star rating,” Andrew Weber, Data Insights Manager at Salsify, told Retail TouchPoints in an interview. “Those ratings are pretty similar between the top performers and poor performers. The difference is the average review count.” 2

2. Images Are Also in High Demand

The desire for more content extends beyond just five-star ratings and written reviews. Customers want to see more visual content like photos and videos on the product page than they did just a few years ago. In fact, Salsify found that shoppers expect a baseline of six images for each product. But even top-selling items in the image-focused grocery and electronics verticals only had an average of four.

 

The same went for videos; shoppers indicated they wanted, on average, a minimum of two per product page. And some age groups wanted as many as four to five videos for each product.

3. Customers Trust Each Other

It’s not just numbers that matter—customers also want to see highly relevant reviews on product pages. Salsify found that 30% of respondents said it was a good sign that a brand or retailer understood them when product reviews came from people similar to them.

Today’s shoppers place a tremendous amount of faith in one another to share authentic and honest feedback about online goods. Product ratings and reviews written in a conversational tone resonate better with shoppers, rather than marketing copy, which might read as inauthentic.

4. Shoppers Have Questions—Give Them Answers

Unfortunately for online shoppers, there’s usually no sales associate standing by to respond to questions. But your customers still want answers.

In fact, Salsify found that most shoppers wanted answers for anywhere from eight to 13 questions about a particular product to appear right on the product detail page.

“One option is to put in more textual descriptions that reveal what a specific product feature actually does, or have common Q&A questions literally right on the product page that can be interactively displayed,” Weber said in his interview with Retail TouchPoints.

Salsify also noted that commonly asked questions sometimes reveal shortcomings in product descriptions. Brands and retailers can respond to this valuable feedback by updating their product detail pages.

How TurnTo Can Help

Salsify’s research attests to the need for eCommerce sites to provide their customers with more written reviews, better visual content, and answers to their questions. TurnTo’s industry-leading innovations can help with that:

  • More reviews – Our Ratings & Review product is designed to increase review collection rates right off the bat. We do that with features like Inbox Submission, which lets customers submit reviews directly from the body of an email, increasing content collection rates by as much as 200%. Our review solicitations are optimized for mobile, so it’s really easy for customers to submit content on their smartphones. All of that adds up to more Ratings & Reviews for your products.
  • Better Visual Content –TurnTo’s Visual Reviews product is the easiest way for eCommerce sites to collect even more photos and videos. Our review collection flow is designed to collect photos and videos first from smartphone users—and submit reviews without any typing. These customer-created images can help improve sales at every step of the customer journey.
  • Give Shoppers Answers – With our Community Q&A product you can supply answers to customer questions right on the product page. Believe it or not, most customers are happy to share their knowledge—we’ve found that about 90% of questions sent to previous shoppers get answers. But Community Q&A can also draw on information from places like existing product descriptions, previously asked questions, and even a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page to deliver near-instant responses to questions.

Want to learn more?

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Sources:

1 5 New Rules to Tackle Shoppers’ Rising Expectations of Your Brand; Salsify, March 2019

2 Study: 69% of Shoppers Leave a Site if Product Info is Subpar; Retail TouchPoints, March 2019

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Are Customer Reviews Part of Your eCommerce Site’s SEO Strategy? They Should Be.

March 13, 2019 by Rahul Chadha

Let’s start with the obvious: search engine optimization (SEO) needs to be a core element of any eCommerce site’s business strategy.

How can SEO help your eCommerce business? Solid SEO practices can help drive organic traffic to your site, capturing shopper intent and putting your customers seamlessly on the path to purchase.

But if talk of schema markup and other technical jargon makes your head spin and your eyes glaze over, don’t worry. There are some great resources designed to ensure your SEO strategy employs established best practices, even if you’re a beginner.

Start with Google

The best place to start is probably with the 800-pound gorilla of search: Google. If you’re going to focus your SEO strategy on one search engine, make it the company that handles more search queries than any other in the US. According to recent data from Jumpshot complied by SparkToro, Google or Google-owned properties controlled more than 90% of US search share as of fall 2018.1

At the highest level, Google suggests that websites:

  • Give visitors the information they want. That means putting high-quality, useful content on your webpages that’s clear and accurate.
  • Get other sites to link to yours. When another site links to yours—or backlinks—it’s a signal to Google that your site is reputable and generating good content. These links should be “natural,” meaning they weren’t created for the sole purpose of gaming Google’s algorithm. Google’s software is pretty sophisticated and can ding your site’s search results if it decides that sites are linking to yours in an unnatural fashion.
  • Don’t “keyword stuff” or create hidden content targeted to crawlers. It’s tempting to put a bunch of keywords or other hidden content designed to better appeal to Google’s indexing software. But, again, Google can identify these tactics and will rank your site lower as a result.

Google has a helpful SEO Starter Guide that goes into much greater detail on how to improve your organic rankings.

Go Deeper for eCommerce

Google’s best practices are a good place to start. But eCommerce sites need to go beyond the basics to increase the online traffic to their digital storefronts. Thankfully, SEO service and tools provider Ahrefs has created a step-by-step guide for an eCommerce SEO strategy.

The Ahrefs guide understandably highlights the use of the company’s own tools and services, but the guide still contains some valuable concepts that any eCommerce site can apply.

Ahrefs suggests that eCommerce companies:

  • Do keyword research. This entails using keyword planning tools to figure out the best keywords for both category pages and product detail pages. That can include the use of “long-tail” keywords that might not be immediately obvious, but that can deliver strong results over a long period of time.
  • Optimize on-page SEO strategies. This does involve creating meta tags and schema markup. But don’t worry, the Ahrefs guide will walk you through those techniques, as well as the benefits of things like optimized URLs and unique content on both category pages and product detail pages.
  • Fix “technical” SEO problems. This includes things like removing duplicated content—something that Google’s crawler is not terribly fond of—as well as eliminating “deep” or “orphaned” pages that are more than three clicks removed from your home page.

How TurnTo Can Help with SEO

Ratings & Reviews are incredibly important to shoppers. Our research shows that three-quarters of shoppers are less likely to buy something from a site that lacks Customer-Generated Content like Ratings & Reviews.

Why? Because Customer-Generated Content provides an authentic voice to shoppers from a trusted source—themselves.

But more than that, product reviews can yield serious benefits for your SEO efforts. TurnTo’s Ratings and Reviews are fully viewable and indexable by search engines. That means shoppers who submit a review are actually adding relevant keywords to your product detail pages, without you having to do anything.

Reviews also give product detail pages unique content, something highly regarded by search engine algorithms. Product detail pages that are regularly updated are also indexed by search engines with greater frequency, delivering even more value to your SEO strategy.

TurnTo’s widget platform is fully indexable by Google. And the indexability of our reviews also means they’re included in Googles’ “rich snippets,” the search results that include extra information, like a product’s star rating, that’s placed between the URL and the description of a search result.

Rich snippets like the one seen above tend to get higher click-through rates, generating more traffic for your site.

In addition, TurnTo’s Community Q&A product, which lets shoppers answer questions posed by other shoppers directly on the product detail page, also provide the same SEO benefits. They offer new, organically created content that’s updated frequently and can help surface items to customers on search engines.

Want to learn more about how TurnTo can improve your SEO strategy?

Let’s Talk.

1 2018 Search Market Share: Myths vs. Realities of Google, Bing, Amazon, Facebook, DuckDuckGo, & More; SparkToro, October 2018

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5-Stars for Netflix’s Move to a Thumbs Up Rating System

March 23, 2017 by John Swords

5-Stars for Netflix’s Move to a Thumbs Up Rating SystemI have never been a fan of the Netflix rating system. I’ve found it to be one of the most frustrating elements of my daily Netflix experience. The plan to completely change the rating system for the platform is thrilling, overdue and very much welcomed by this movie fan and consumer content geek.

While much of the news about the change has focused on the switch from a star rating to a thumbs up/down rating, the details are much more interesting.

The star rating system at Netflix has always been confusing and misleading. For example, I may see the BBC docu-series “Planet Earth” in my Netflix menu with a 5-star rating. My sister, who is not a fan of such shows, could see the same title with a 1-star rating.

I may give a movie a 4-star rating but I’m never really told what benefit that has to me. Will the rating shape future recommendations? The answer is yes. Will it impact the movie’s rating? Kinda, but not really (Keep reading!).

Netflix was showing you a star rating of how much they thought you would enjoy a show rather than the more common aggregating and averaging of ratings by fellow viewers. This could often lead to the assumption that I wouldn’t like something based on previous viewing habits when a show, in fact, could be highly-rated by the majority of viewers. The VP of product at Netflix summed this up by saying, “What you do versus what you say you like are different things.”

This tail-chasing dynamic of what marketers think is best vs, what consumers want stunts so many commerce marketing strategies. Is it segmentation and personalization or is it social proof?

To add another layer to the Netflix ratings wreck, there are longer format written reviews on the Netflix website that are not available in most apps and connected TV platforms. That star rating may not match as you move between site, app or device.

Specific to UGC, marketers should focus on providing a platform for customers and shoppers to have a dialog about products, service and brand interactions that can help them to discover new products, answer questions and buy with confidence. The experience should be consistent across devices and channels.

Marketers can help to shape these interactions, but making assumptions, forcing the conversation and/or trying to control the dynamics of consumer interaction can lead to failure and distrust by shoppers and customers.

So, yes, Netflix’s switch from a star rating to a thumbs up/down system is significant, but I look forward to how this move to a binary choice will impact the larger algorithms and how Netflix will feature ratings across their platform.

Hopefully the experience will be more consistent and representative of the ratings given by fellow Netflix viewers while still being peppered with the ever-evolving algorithms that power the Netflix experience.

 

Take this Exit: UGC and the Customer Journey

February 23, 2017 by John Swords

Organized. Structured. Logical. Predictable. None of these words describe your customer’s path to purchase. There is no grid system. No wide-lane expressway will guide your shopper from initial awareness to the ultimate destination of submitting an order.

Marketers struggle to steer shoppers down the purchase path when there are so many cost-cutting, channel-crossing competitors distracting the shopper along the way.

Rather than trying to dictate each move on the customer journey, marketers can shift strategies to support the consumer as they shop.

Your site and stores may be the roads that customers use, but tools such as user-generated content and email can help to keep them focused, engaged and on course to complete a purchase.

Driving the Customer Journey: User-Generated Content and the Purchase Path

 

TurnTo’s white paper series, “Driving the Customer Journey: User-Generated Content and the Purchase Path,” examines how this ecommerce evolution has impacted consumer behaviors, marketing strategies and the role of user-generated content in the customer journey.

Part one of the series, “The Journey Begins – Pre-Purchase,” details how thoughtfully featuring UGC throughout the purchase path can engage shoppers from initial product searches to product pages.

While the customer’s journey is an unpredictable, winding road, there are ways you can keep the shopper focused and moving toward a purchase. Download “Driving the Customer Journey: The Journey Begins” to learn more.

 

 

 

 

3 Behaviors that Build Better User-Generated Content

December 20, 2016 by John Swords

3 Behaviors that Build Better User-Generated ContentWhether you are exploring your first user-generated content strategies or looking for ways to expand your current UGC offerings, it can be a challenge to figure out which tools and methodologies are going to connect with your shoppers.

Many marketers may simply add ratings and reviews to product pages and think they have launched enough of a UGC program that will boost sales and engagement. Rarely will that “just flip a switch” strategy be enough to truly impact the customer experience or your bottom line.

Imagine throwing a dinner party where you invite friends, family and co-workers. When the first guests arrive, you run upstairs and hide hoping everyone will get along, converse, find the food and have an enjoyable evening. A few guests will make the most of the situation, but most will probably feel a bit confused and may just leave.

The evening would be much more enjoyable if you are a good host. You must consider how the various groups will interact and foster an environment that will bring everyone together. Guide the conversation. Serve the main course. Delight with a dessert.

Make these same considerations when you are planning your UGC implementations. Your shoppers and customers are showing up to your site, what are you doing to bring them together? Analyze your customer segments to identify behaviors that could encourage content submissions, spark conversations and educate first-time shoppers.

Check out these 3 common customer behaviors and how they can be translated into a powerful UGC strategy.

Mobile Moments

You know your shoppers are using mobile devices to research products and to check the status of their orders. You have probably invested in mobile-friendly product pages and checkout processes. Augment these efforts by including a mobile-optimized UGC submission flow. Give customers the power to take and submit photos on their mobile phones when they are reviewing a product. Ensure that this UGC is easily found on your mobile site and viewable on a variety of devices by shoppers considering their next purchase.

Pride and Projects

Brand advocates are rarely bashful. From unboxings to shopping hauls, completing a project or completely taking a product apart, your most active customers have a lot to say and a lot to show off. Help your most enthusiastic customers to share their stories by prominently featuring customer-created video reviews of your products. Build awareness that videos can be included on your site and then actively share their hard work to spread their message as well as your own!

Continued Conversations

An informed shopper can become a valuable customer. They may just need to have a few questions answered before they can confidently make their first purchase. Think about conversations your customer service reps and store employees have with customers. Identify the topics that happen organically in your product reviews and Q&A sections. Certain products or product categories could benefit from having these themes prominently featured on product pages or in search results. For tough to answer questions or overly complex products, consider developing videos or written guides that can be an additional resource for shoppers. UGC comments and Q&A can supplement and complement these efforts and motivate shoppers to move further along the customer journey toward completing a purchase.

Using existing consumer behaviors to build a UGC strategy can help you to develop meaningful site interactions, motivate shoppers to buy and give customers a reason to come back and share thoughts on purchases. As you plan to add UGC features to your site, think about how you can help to expand on these successes rather than just adding features to your product pages and hoping for the best.

Learn how TurnTo customer Sur La Table identified a UGC collection opportunity on their order confirmation page. Download the “The Power of the Customer Voice” white paper.

 

The End is Near: Engage Last-Minute Holiday Shoppers with UGC

December 6, 2016 by John Swords

The end is near. Not exactly the holly, jolly message you want to hear during the holidays. Whether you’re ready or not, you only have a few days to grab that gift that every marketer wants – record-breaking Q4 revenue!

As your festive promotions approach their final days, you may find your marketing messages getting staler than your Aunt Bertha’s fruitcake. How many times can you effectively promote percent off sales, dollar discounts and free shipping offers?

It may be time to change the conversation you are having with your customers. After all, you don’t want to be that person at the holiday party who keeps repeating the same story.

User-generated content can be an effective tool to re-energize your exhausted shoppers. Inboxes have been overstuffed with emails and sites have been slammed with special seasonal sales. It can all take its toll on consumers.

Shifting the conversation away from what you want to say to what other consumers say about your products can be a refreshing way to fight shopper fatigue. User-generated content can help you to pivot the promotional perspective of your holiday marketing without having to significantly overhaul your existing plans.

TurnTo’s 2016 UGC Holiday Lookbook showcases various ways top retailers featured user-generated content during the peak shopping days of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These UGC strategies can be a source of inspiration as the holidays wrap up.

Here are a few ways to use your existing user-generated content to mix up your final few merry messages.

Get into the Gifting Groove
Your remaining holiday messages will likely feature lifestyle shots of your products being worn or used. Pair these promotional photos with quotes and comments that your customers left as reviews on your product pages. UGC that evokes the senses can be especially impactful during this season of gifting. Remember, many shoppers will be buying for others. Help shoppers who are unfamiliar with your products to buy with confidence by quoting reviews that explain why customers love the product.

This email sent by Garnet Hill contains a quote from a review of a customer who bought the product as a gift. This kind of quote may be more effective than one that focuses on product details that could motivate someone buying for their own use.

 

Garnet Hill Holiday Promotion with Customer Quote

Click to view larger image.

Feature the Quality and Quantity of Ratings
Curated collections are perfect for last-minute shoppers looking for those final few gifts. Many retailers will feature shop by price, gifts by recipient (him/her, mom/dad), top sellers, staff picks, etc…

These gift guides will help the shopper to self-select their shopping path and help you to direct them to related products. Boost the power of these promotions by coupling the collections with the ratings for related products.

A simple star rating may be an effective addition to a variety of hand-picked products, though you should consider additional UGC data points that could entice the shopper to click and cart the items.

The numerical value of the star rating, the quantity of reviews and even the number of questions answered or customer photos can offer a more compelling reason for the shopper to explore a collection.

Athleta added the star rating, numerical rating and the number of reviews to the products featured in their Black Friday email.

 

Athleta Holiday Promotion Ratings and Reviews

Click to view larger image.

Boost Your Brand
Shipping deadlines are quickly approaching. Last-minute shoppers will be searching for expedited shipping offers, in-store pick-up and digital gifts that can help them to check off the final few folks on their list.

Calm these procrastinating purchasers by assuring them that your brand can make things merry before Christmas Day arrives. Feature customer service ratings and quotes that highlight happy customers and showcase your company’s commitment to their satisfaction.

This strategy can be effective for retailers who do not have a rich supply of UGC to use, sell bespoke products or have limited inventory items.

In addition to featuring how their products were showcased on Ellen, Balsam Hill used quotes from happy customers to give shoppers even more reasons to buy.

 

Balsam Hill Holiday Promotion

Click to view larger image.

The holiday season is a crazy, chaotic stress fest for marketers. Months of planning will go into ensuring that year-end revenue goals are met. As you approach these final days of the final quarter of 2016, take a moment to see if there are any tweaks you can make to your marketing plan that will build on the successes seen so far this season. UGC can be a valuable resource for boosting holiday sales and finishing the season strong.

Download the 2016 UGC Holiday Lookbook to see how top retailers featured user-generated content in their Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday marketing.

Further data on the importance of review volume

November 18, 2015 by George Eberstadt

A new study from L2 of the CPG personal care market looks at the relationship between review volume and search engine results and finds:

…products with more reviews enjoy superior search visibility.

SEO is a major reason to maximize the number of reviews you collect, but there are others:

  • A high review count displayed alongside the average star rating signals that a product is popular and also increases trust in the average rating by showing it is based on a meaningful sample.  In fact, a higher review count can more than make up for a lower average rating.  In this recent study, 61% of respondents preferred a product with a 4.5 star average based on 57 reviews over the same item with a 5 star average based on only 4 reviews.
  • Larger numbers of reviews drive higher average ratings by tapping into the “happy middle” of the customer base to dilute the over-influence of the often unhappy extreme that otherwise dominates.  Jockey.com (underwear) recently found that sending an email to request reviews not only increased review volume by 7X, it also increased the average  rating across the site by a half a star – a HUGE effect.

While it’s no surprise that more-reviews-is-better, in practice, we find many brands and stores are so focused on the average star rating for their products that they undervalue the raw volume count and miss opportunities to increase collection.

The L2 study points to review syndication from brand sites to retail sites as an effective strategy for increasing review volume at the point of purchase.  We would add that merchants should consider an open strategy for in-bound syndication, as closed networks can have significant limitations in reach, complexity, and cost.

We would also recommend that stores and brands evaluate their mechanisms for collecting reviews, as  platform limitations can crush the volume of reviews collected.  For example, the furniture store Raymour & Flanigan doubled the volume of verified-buyer reviews they collect by switching to an approach that automatically authenticates known reviewers rather than requiring a separate authentication step.  And for unrecognized users, a flow that enables review creation before requiring authentication is essential.  (Do you make your visitors register before they shop?!?)

 

The Unexpected Benefits of the Review Solicitation Email [Case Study: Jockey.com]

October 16, 2015 by George Eberstadt

You probably know that sending an email post-purchase to request a product review is critical to getting a healthy volume of reviews. But you may not know that it’s also essential for ensuring that the sentiment of the reviews you collect fairly represents the sentiment of your customer base, overall.

Here’s an example from Jockey.com. After switching to TurnTo for ratings & reviews, there was a period of 6 weeks when they were not sending out review solicitation emails (RSEs); the only reviews they collected were from shoppers who returned to their site, on their own, to submit one. Then Jockey turned on the RSEs. Not surprisingly, the volume of reviews they collected increased by 7X.jockey logo

But here was the surprise: the average rating also improved – by over half a star, from under 3.8 to over 4.3! That’s a huge improvement, with the critical benefit of accurately signaling to shoppers the high quality of Jockey products.

Why the improvement in average star ratings? It turns out that the people who go through the effort to come back to your site to write a review, without being prompted to do so, are disproportionately the unhappy ones – the ones with a complaint to vent. So if you are only capturing reviews from this group, you are over-representing the negative sentiment in your customer base and under-representing your happy customers. When you reduce the barrier to writing reviews by sending customers an email requesting one, you get a review-writing population that is much more representative of the overall sentiment of your customer base. In the case of Jockey, the before-and-after gain of over a half-star across their full catalog is the kind of improvement you might otherwise have to do a product-line refresh to achieve.

So in case the benefits of a much greater volume of reviews aren’t enough to convince you to send out a review solicitation email, keep in mind that you’ll be more accurately showing the positive sentiment of your customer base, too!

Sur La Table promotes “Cart Talk” to its customers through a creative email campaign

July 17, 2015 by John Swords

Collecting great customer-generated content (CGC) is only half the game.  Figuring out how to use it for maximum impact is the other half.  Here’s an example of a brand using a particular type of CGC – what we call “Checkout Chatter” – to power a great email campaign.  Tip-of-the-hat to Sur La Table for their creativity.  We think you’ll find this inspiring.

sur-la-table-emailHere, Sur La Table is building the email around a selection of the checkout comments from their “Cart Talk” pinboard.  They are not only introducing the Cart Talk function of the site, they are making a range of their products look super attractive by augmenting the product images with this particular type of CGC, providing endorsement and social validation.  While customer reviews can be difficult to work into outbound messaging without undermining their authenticity, checkout comments have a different feeling – an immediacy – that makes them well-suited for promotional uses.

Sur La Table’s “Cart Talk” captures customer sentiments at the time of purchase with the simple question, “Why did you choose this?” and turns it into a social share on the site for those still browsing.  Because it is captured at the point of purchase, the sentiment is consistently positive and it is a great asset to build enthusiasm around products – not to mention SEO.

It’s just one piece of the ongoing strategy Kevin Ertell, SVP of Digital at Sur La Table has for building community with customers leveraging product insights contributed by the customers themselves. You can read and hear more about that in our previous blog entry.

Our clients using Checkout Chatter capture these checkout comments from shoppers on up to 15% of all orders. What brand wouldn’t benefit from massive amounts of positive-sentiment user-generated comments about their products that could be easily sprinkled throughout their site?  Empowering customers with the ability to share their thoughts or experience with purchased products helps reassure their fellow shoppers that they will be making a wise decision. And that leads to increased conversion rates.