Is Your Reputation Killing Your PPC ROI?

We’re all influenced by online reviews. Recent studies have even shown that many people give as much weight to online reviews as they do to personal recommendations from friends and family! There is even an entire discipline built around online reputation management. What I wanted to talk about today is the highly critical intersection of a business’ online reputation and search marketing efforts on their behalf.

We talk about road blocks to conversions in PPC all the time:

  • poor targeting
  • lousy ad copy
  • atrocious landing pages
  • confusing calls to action
  • broken links
  • malfunctioning shopping carts

But what about a client’s online reputation? How does that impact their potential success with PPC advertising?

Consider this example I saw today in a promoted tweet (highlighting mine):

Holy bad reviews Batman!

Here is a promoted Tweet, a paid placement, with a crappy 2 star rating right in the middle of it. How do you not check this before creating this ad? It’s like you put a great big “Don’t Do It” right in the middle of your own ad!

This same issue holds true for other types of ads as well. The most obvious point about reviews directly impacting PPC ad clickthroughs would be review extensions that appear as part of ads. A strong star rating shown in an ad is definitely powerful:

orkin_ad

Obviously if you have a mediocre or even poor rating, this will impact clicks. But what about the more circuitous route that some users take in ultimately becoming a customer?

Consider this path of potential customer behavior:

  1. Performs search for desired product or service
  2. May click on ads and/or organic results returned
  3. Does not make immediate decision
  4. Comes back to search again and sees your client’s ad
  5. May click on the ad or may decide to research on their favorite review source
  6. Goes to favorite review source and searches for your client’s product or service
  7. Reads reviews
  8. Makes decision about whether to pursue business with your client based on reviews read

In this day and age, the above user journey is by no means unusual. You have to assume that at least some proportion of your potential customers will seek out reviews of a company online before making a buying decision. You can have the most optimized, best targeted PPC campaigns in the world running, but if you have an online reputation problem, you’ve just taken the potential achievable success rate of your PPC efforts and cut them by some percentage. What that percentage is exactly, I can’t really say. But I can tell you that if your client has a reputation problem, they are also having a PPC problem. People don’t buy from companies that have poor reviews. It is the world we live in.

So How Can We Help Clients Address Reputation Issues?

Step one would be to do an online reputation audit. This can be as simple as just searching on some of the major review sites and looking to see how your client is rated.

  1. If there are negative reviews, how have they responded to them?
  2. Have they responded to them?
  3. Do people tend to make the same types of complaints?
  4. Is there a large volume of reviews posted?

If you find that there are either very few reviews and/or the existing reviews are positive (in the 4 star range) – congratulations! You don’t have to take any rehabilitative actions. If you do find negative reviews or largely mediocre reviews, some action is needed. If, you unfortunately find that there are quite a few negative reviews, you have a bigger task in front of you.

For middling reviews, clients can often “fix” that issue by taking some time to encourage satisfied customers to post reviews. No, I am not suggesting bribing them to do so, but rather impressing upon happy and loyal customers that one of the best ways for them to help a business is to post a positive review about their experience. For a true reputation problem, the root of the issue must be addressed before any lasting rehab of the online reviews can be achieved. If customers complain about staff rudeness, it must be investigated and addressed by the company in question. If they complain about poor customer service, again this must be investigated and corrected. If they complain about price gouging, it’s time to do some investigating of your market and make sure your prices are competitive. You get the idea. If people are complaining about things in any type of recognizable pattern, you probably do have a business problem.

Only when you have cleaned up the internal issues that are causing customers to be dissatisfied with their experiences can you truly hope to restore and improve an online reputation.

Add Reputation Check To Your PPC Audit Checklist

We all have our methods and priorities in doing PPC account audits. Some concentrate just on the accounts themselves, and others look at account structure and performance in combination with competitive landscape factors. Performing at least a cursory check of the client’s online reputation should be a part of any PPC audit, for the benefit of both the client and the PPC provider. We should all go into any PPC management relationship with as much information as possible so that the right strategy can be crafted and proper expectations can be set. Reputation plays heavily into this. Be sure you know how before jumping in to the nuts and bolts of an account!

Is checking online reputation already part of your audit tasks? Had any experiences where a client’s online reputation tanked a PPC effort? As always, we welcome your thoughts and comments here or over on Twitter!

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