Bad Reviews: How Online Reputation Can Make or Break a Business

November 19th, 2013

As Amy Gesenhues points out in her April 9, 2013 article “Survey: 90% Of Customers Say Buying Decisions Are Influenced By Online Reviews” “an overwhelming 90 percent of respondents who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive online reviews influenced buying decisions, while 86 percent said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews.”

The moment I saw the increased benefit of marketplace reviews I was concerned about the “dark side”. How is this going to be manipulated: people placing bad reviews on a competitor, owners “requesting” employees to create positive reviews, purchased reviews, etc. If you spend some time looking at reviews it is very easy to see suspect reviews. Are your reviews suspect? How are you handling both positive and negative reviews?

Paying a company or employees to write fake reviews will end up costing you, according to the FTC fake online reviews are illegal. In September, 2013 New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced “9 companies had agreed to cease their practice of writing fake online reviews for businesses and to pay more than $350,000 in penalties. ”Operation Clean Turf,” a year-long undercover investigation into the reputation management industry, the manipulation of consumer-review websites, and the practice of astroturfing, found that companies had flooded the Internet with fake consumer reviews on websites such as Yelp, Google Local, and CitySearch. In the course of the investigation, the Attorney General’s office found that many of these companies used techniques to hide their identities, such as creating fake online profiles on consumer review websites and paying freelance writers from as far away as the Philippines, Bangladesh and Eastern Europe for $1 to $10 per review. By producing fake reviews, these companies violated multiple state laws against false advertising and engaged in illegal and deceptive business practices.”

Let’s face it, a bad review is bad for business. It doesn’t matter if it WAS a competitor, a disgruntled employee, or a customer who just had bad service, but it’s crucial how your company handles the response. Take a deep breath before you respond and make sure you are speaking rationally…remember once you put something on the Internet it can haunt you forever! If you aren’t sure about how to handle bad reviews or bad press you may want to hire or consult with a company who specializes in online reputation management.

For example, our client had a scathing review show up on Google. We advised the President of the company to contact her directly about the situation and he worked with her to resolve her complaint. In fact the company ended up implementing some new policies based on her complaint. The review writer was so pleased with the outcome she retracted her previous review and wrote about how the President contacted her directly. This spurred several follow-up reviews by other customers who tell of their great experiences with the company. This review still appears on the 1st or 2nd page of Google, but her retraction is shown along with all of the other positive reviews.

Not all bad press found on the Internet can be turned around such as lawsuits, arrests, Health Department code violations, etc. But how you handle the situation can directly impact your business.

The bottom line – paying for reviews is illegal. With the increasing number of review outlets on the Internet someone on your team should be viewing and responding to both positive and negative reviews about your business. If you aren’t sure where to start or how to proceed give us a call or send us an email to discuss your legitimate review options.

PPC Advertising – An Introduction

November 13th, 2013

At its simplest level pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is just like it sounds. Paid advertising on the Internet! Search engines display ads enticing searchers to come to your site – you only pay when a searcher clicks on your ad to visit the site. You select the keyword search phrases that you want your ad displayed for and you specify the ad text and what page the searcher will land on when they visit your site.

It sounds simple, but there are a number of things to take into account. This post will discuss three basic issues to consider. Although there is considerable overlap between these issues, for clarity of thinking it’s helpful to think about them separately as well as in an integrated fashion.

What are my website goals? Will PPC help achieve goals?

Identifying your business and website goals are fundamental for any marketing effort and the same is true for PPC advertising. You need to consider whether you want to drive more website traffic to increase business visibility and name recognition, do you want to sell products or services, or is it a reference site for current or prospective customers? These are not either/or questions. In most cases there is more than one goal for a site. Do you need to achieve these goals immediately? If so, a pay per click advertising may be the best solution for your business

What is the target audience for my website? What goal do I want website visitors to complete once on my site?

This goes a little deeper into the nature of your business than the simple goals listed above. If you are in a very competitive market, where it’s difficult to rank with an organic SEO campaign, a pay per click program may be the best choice.

For example, a real estate agent selling real estate in an upscale market would probably want to target visitors who are interested in buying real estate, in that specific geographic location. Since real estate is not an e-commerce product people typically “browse” sites before selecting a realtor and scheduling appointments to view property. The target audience may be visitors who are early in the buying cycle. This would be an ideal situation for a paid advertising campaign since the primary goal is to have a prospective client contact you. A secondary goal may be to keep a visitor on your site long enough to learn about why they should contact you. To get best results, especially if you want more traffic, it can be very useful to creatively think about a variety of people who could be part of your target audience – not just the first ideas that come to mind.

If you are not offering a service there may be a variety of things you want visitors to do on your site and you may have a different goal for each type of visitor. For example if you sell bicycles; you may want to attract visitors who are ready to make a purchase; visitors who are browsing to see what new models are available; visitors who are getting ready to buy and are in the process of comparing features and prices. You may also want visitors to find your store location so they can come to your location. These different goals may have a different value (dollar amount) for how much each type of visitor activity is worth to you. In this situation a PPC campaign would be an excellent fit. You may even consider hiring a company to setup and manage your pay per click campaign.

How much will a PPC campaign cost me?

1. It depends on the market. The actual amount you can expect to pay for a click varies widely from one business segment to another. Some markets have click costs that average around $.20 per click, while for other segments the average cost is closer to $7.00 per click.

2. It depends on the value of your goal(s). For example, if you sell a product that generates a relatively small amount of profit per sale you will not want to pay a lot for clicks to get that sale. On the other hand, if each sale can generate $400. profit – you’d be willing to spend more money on PPC site visits to get that sale.

The most important thing to know is that you control the degree of financial risk. Google & Bing both allow us to specify a maximum daily budget. Within the maximum daily budget you can set keyword bids to maximize the placement of your best keywords.

While there are many complexities around PPC advertising, we hope answers to these initial questions can help you get started. Should you decide to contact a pay per click Management Company this information can help you ask better questions and help you understand the answers when communicating with a professional PPC management company.

The Need for a Mobile Website

November 6th, 2013

According to Nielsen on September 17, 2013, “Smartphones make up 64% of all mobile phones in the US” and, “smartphones still have room to grow in several top emerging markets”.

Smartphone usage is taking over and that means more and more people will be accessing the Internet from their mobile devices rather than just a traditional desktop or laptop computer. To compete in the Internet marketing arena today, businesses MUST think about designing or redesigning their websites with a mobile marketing strategy in mind.

Knowing these statistics, the next question you should ask yourself is “what’s the best mobile marketing approach for my business and website?” You’ve heard the buzz words – mobile friendly, mobile optimization, responsive design, mobile compatible and I’m sure if you search the web long and hard enough there will be even more terms to confuse you.

We’ll try to relieve some of your confusion. Remember there are always some grey areas among all the terms but for simplicity sake, here are the basic meanings behind the terms.

Mobile Compatibility
A mobile compatible website is simply the ability to view and use your website on a smartphone or tablet – BUT the site is not optimized for use on these devices. What you see on your desktop or laptop computer you will see on your smartphone and tablet, these sites will have the same URL on any device. Browsing a site on these devices can be frustrating for the user. They may have to scroll in all directions, the text may be so tiny they have to zoom in to read it and the links may be so small and difficult to click with their fingertips. Are you frustrated already? You should be AND so will your potential customers!! With the growth in smartphone usage having a website with mobile compatibility is the least expensive method to ensure users can find and use your website.

Mobile Friendly aka Mobile Optimization
A mobile friendly or mobile optimized website is a site designed specifically for viewing on a smartphone or tablet and may have separate urls for desktops and mobile devices. Mobile optimized websites are built to be efficient, with larger navigation buttons that only require a tap, reformatted optimized content, smaller images, and any media are optimized for quick loading. Mobile friendly websites are ideal if you need a commerce site to sell your goods and/or services. Customers are using a mobile device for browsing are usually looking for key information quickly and easily. A website with mobile compatibility allows users to find this key information with ease. Of course, this is the most expensive approach both in development and maintenance. However, the investment may bring a substantial return. It all depends on your Internet marketing goals and objectives.

Responsive Design
Responsive design is a way of building websites that gives the most favorable user experience in different environments like tablets, mobile phones, desktops and even TV’s. In this design, the device automatically adjusts according to the device’s screen size and orientation. This method has been termed “future friendly” mainly because of the growing number of device types. When you design for optimization you need to create and maintain a separate design for each device – with responsive design, one design covers all the devices. No matter device the user visits, they will get the same content and it will be designed in the way they need it. Google has stated that responsive design is the preferred standard.

Remember there are grey areas among of your mobile website options. But rest assured that mobile usage and users need for instant gratification will continue to grow. Now is the time for businesses to work with their IT department and marketing team to decide which mobile web strategy is the best approach for their customers, their bottom line, and future growth!

Preparing for the 2013 Holiday Marketing Season

October 28th, 2013

I’m constantly amazed at how quickly stores are pushing the next holiday on us before we even have a chance to celebrate the current holiday! I thought this year it was just a quirk that stores started putting out Halloween merchandise before school even started. Just the other day I was shopping online at a major retailer and I was surprised they had their Holiday Shop live in the middle of October. As Internet Marketers we know the time to start planning for the peak holiday season was back in January and we should just be putting the finishing touches on any plans we do have. What are you to do if you have not started to plan at this time? Here are some quick and easy things you can do.

First things first walk through your website as if you are a user who has never been to your website before. Do you have the most recent contact information including phone number, address and email address listed? Is your website easy to navigate and purchase from? Does your shopping cart function properly? Do you have calls to action encouraging the users to complete the desired outcome? For example, is your desired goal to have a customer purchase something, sign up for a newsletter, or request a brochure. Is this clear to the user? Once you have done these things you need to drive traffic to your website either directly, through social media outlets, search engines or other advertising mediums.

The quickest and easiest way to get your company name out to the masses is to create a PPC campaign either on Google or Bing. This is an effective advertising medium for quick results. An effective PPC program will take a bit of effort on your part to set up campaigns, write effective ads, choose the right set of keywords, and a budget. If you do not have the time it may take to get this working for your company you can contact a PPC management specialist who will do this for you.

If paid placement isn’t what you are looking to do there are a number of other items you could try. Social Media outlets, such as Twitter and Facebook, are great places to interact with current and future clients. You can include any number of promos from flash sales, free shipping, percentages off, or free gifts. If you are looking to increase the number of page likes or followers you can offer special promotions to those users only if they like or follow your page.

Do you send newsletters to your customers? This is a great place to include information about holiday specials and offers. Before the holiday season is even over you should have a post-holiday email blast ready to go with a “Didn’t get what you want?” or “Spend your gift certificate on these items…” themed emails.

Most importantly do not stress about the amount of things that need to be done before the holiday season hits. You have almost a full month before Black Friday and you still have time. If you are still worried about getting it all done give us a call and we will work with you to provide you the best solution for your business.

Harris Seeds Launches the Harris Seeds Cash Discount Program and the Harris Seeds Loyalty Discount Program

October 16th, 2013

Harris Seeds, a well-known company in the seed industry, is offering a unique customer discount program to say “Thank You” to both new and returning grower customers. This program is designed to reward growers who are loyal to Harris Seeds and those who pay cash at the time an order is placed. The Harris Seeds Cash Discount Program and the Harris Seeds Loyalty Discount Program are simple to use; with every purchase cash customers will save 3% and loyal, returning customers will save even more.

Customers who pay cash at the time of ordering will automatically receive a 3% Cash Discount when their cumulative account order totals $100 or more. Cash payment methods include credit card, debit card, cash, check or money order.

Customers who return from the previous season will receive a Loyalty Discount from 2%-6% that increases with the order size. Best of all, customers can combine Cash and Loyalty Discounts for a total savings of up to 9% off of the order.

Customers who use Terms or Extended Terms will also qualify for loyalty discounts ranging from 2%-5%. Please note that plugs and liners are not eligible for discounts, but they do count towards the cumulative order total for the year.

Customers can also save even more with free shipping on purchases of $500 or more! As of July 1, 2013, Harris Seeds began offering free shipping on seed and supply orders of $500 or more, which is a significant reduction in order size compared to the $1,000 order threshold in the past.
Complete details of Harris Seeds’ discount program and shipping and handling information can be found at or in any of the Harris Seeds Grower Catalogs.

The Harris Seeds Family Inducted Into the Rochester Business Hall of Fame

October 11th, 2013

Harris Seeds founder and former president, Joseph Harris, and former presidents Selah Harris, Margaret Harris Sheldon and grandson, Joseph Harris were inducted into the Rochester Business Hall of Fame in October 2013.

The Hall of Fame originated in 2001 and is one of the highest honors given to business people in the Rochester, NY area. Inductees are honored for their business excellence, vision, innovation and outstanding contributions to the Rochester community. They are selected by the Hall of Fame Committee, which is advised by an independent group including past inductees.

Joseph Harris, the founder of Harris Seeds, was an English immigrant who settled in the Genesee Valley Region of Western New York in the 1850’s. He became extremely successful as a seedsman by selecting superior strains of vegetables and grains. His success led to the beginning of Harris Seeds in 1879, building it into a large mail-order company in Gates, NY. The company became popular because of Harris’ basic business philosophy, “Offer my customers a quality product at a fair price and they will return.” The business was later managed by a succession of Harris family members, including Selah Harris, Margaret Harris Sheldon and Joseph Harris (grandson of the founder). Harris Seeds is still going strong in Rochester, NY, selling vegetable and flower seeds, plants and growing supplies nationwide to growers and home gardeners. The principles that governed the business when it began in the 1870s remain today.

Harris Seeds and the other laureates of the 2013 Hall of Fame were honored on October 8, 2013 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Center, presented by Junior Achievement of Rochester New York Area Inc., the Rochester Business Journal and the Rochester Museum & Science Center.

Harris Seeds Launches Valentine’s Day Gift Shop

January 24th, 2013

Forget the roses and chocolate this Valentine’s Day, Harris has a great selection of gifts for the garden. Harris Seeds is offering sweetheart deals with the launch of its Valentine’s Day Shop at Shoppers will save 10% off items listed in the Valentine’s Day gift shop now through February 14, 2013.

Shoppers will find delicious and heart healthy vegetable seed varieties such as Sweet Slice cucumber, Red Satin radish, Honeynut butternut squash, Candy onion, Sweety Pepper, and Sweet Treats Tomato. Live vegetable transplant collections include ‘Fond Memories’ Heirloom Tomatoes, ‘Just So Lovely’ Hall of Fame Tomatoes, and ‘Sweet Spectrum’ Colored Bell Peppers.

Flower gardeners will fall in love with Harris’ selection of beautiful flower seed varieties including ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Wave petunia collection, ‘Hearts of Fire’ Zinnia Garden Collection, ‘Be My Valentine’ Benary’s Giant Zinnia Collection, and ‘Smile My Dear’ Cut Sunflower Collection. There are also live transplants available like ‘Be Mine’ Ride the Wave Petunia Plant Collection and NEW ‘Sun Lovers’ Sunpatiens Plant Collection, as well as gladiolus corms like ‘Gorgeous Gladiolus’ Harris’ Classic Rainbow Mix.

Find sweet deals on garden tools and supplies including discounts on Harris’ Beginner’s Light Stand Grow Kit, raised beds, hanging baskets, irrigation kits, soil test kits, mushroom kits, temperature stations and more. Check out the Greens with Envy Salad Kit – everything one needs to prepare fresh salads, any time of year. The salad kit contains 20 Alfresco Blend seed pellets, an attractive 16″ clay-colored Color Bowl planter, one bag of Potting Mix Plus soil, and organic Worm Power Fertilizer.

All items make great gifts for Valentine’s Day, at an attractive price. Why not give yourself a Valentine gift and stock up on your own gardening supplies! With less than a month remaining before Valentine’s Day, Harris Seeds recommends shoppers begin planning now to ensure the timely delivery of that special Valentine’s Day gift.

Harris Seeds Offers Free Shipping and Handling and 12 Days of Discounts for the 2102 Holiday Season

November 19th, 2012

Harris Seeds is offering customers free shipping and handling on Harris Seeds orders for the Thanksgiving weekend. The offer begins Thanksgiving Day, November 22nd 2012 and will be valid through Monday, November 26th 2012. Customers, who are subscribed to Harris e-mail, will receive an e-mail with the promo code. Shoppers who follow Harris Seeds via social media will be notified of the promo code via Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

In December, Harris Seeds will roll out “12 Days of Discounts” and offer a different special every day for 12 days beginning December 1st. Customers can find out what the deal of the day is by following Harris Seeds on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ or checking the website. Bargain shoppers will find discounts on a variety of products including seed collections, vegetable seeds, organic seeds, mushroom kits, grow/light stands, soil test kits, weather stations and radios, and more. Specials will change daily.

To sign up to receive Harris e-mails and/or to find links to all of their social media sites, go to Harris Seeds’ website:

Holiday Gift Giving Ideas for Gardeners and Growers from Harris Seeds

November 12th, 2012

During the winter holiday season, shoppers can turn to Harris Seeds to find unique and practical gifts for the gardeners and growers in their lives. Through Harris’ online holiday gift shop, customers can browse through hundreds of gardening and planting products that are perfect for gift-giving, including brand-new items and long-standing customer favorites. Shoppers can browse products categorized by the recipient they are shopping for.

For beginning gardeners, shoppers will find how-to garden books and seeds to help new gardeners find that green thumb. These must have gifts for gardeners offer practical, simple, and fun ways for amateurs to start enjoying the rewards of the garden. For advanced gardeners, shoppers will find durable tools, professional quality seeds, and helpful books.

Even though it’s winter, women who garden are always looking towards spring. Gifts of seed collections, planters, and decorative accessories will bring warm thoughts despite the chilly winter air. These unique gifts for her have been selected to bring a touch of beauty to the garden this spring and for many seasons thereafter. For the men who garden, their springtime plans probably are already taking shape. Harris has quality tools, helpful gadgets, and practical supplies that will make next season’s garden endeavors even more productive, efficient, and fun.

Browse through a variety of gifts for techies including tools to help analyze soil, monitor weather, and tend crops more easily. While these gizmos provide all the fun of new toys, they are practical, are made to hold up for years, and will be used – and enjoyed – many times over.

Foodies not only love to eat, but they love the nuances of food. They seek foods with unique colors, shapes, and flavors, and they eagerly explore new culinary and gardening methods. Treat the foodies on your holiday shopping list to unique seeds and plants, or let their curiosity grow with our very popular mushroom kits.

Prepare the organic gardener in your life for a healthy, productive season with eco-friendly garden tools and supplies. Find an array of growing supplies approved for use in organic agriculture, including biodegradable Jiffy pots, natural fertilizers, and environmentally safe fungicides. Also find helpful resources and tools to help gardeners find success in organic growing. This practical, high-quality, eco-safe items are useful and effective in any organic garden, and they’re especially popular for kids’ garden projects.

Shoppers can also search for gifts by dollar amount. From professional-grade growing supplies to decorative items for the garden, every holiday gift selection is durable, useful, and sure to be appreciated. And don’t forget…gardeners always appreciate Holiday Gift Certificates from Harris Seeds!

Harris Seeds Proudly Sponsors the 3rd Annual NOFA-NY Locavore Challenge

September 11th, 2012

Harris Seeds is a proud sponsor of the 3rd Annual NY Locavore Challenge this September. The NY Locavore Challenge is a first of its kind, month-long campaign aimed at engaging consumers across the state in actively supporting the local organic food movement.

Harris Seeds proudly sponsors “Challenge of the Day” this September 11, 2012. Today, participants across New York are challenged to plant an organic herb or window garden. Raising herbs indoors is a simple way to add aroma and flavor to wintertime cooking, and it’s a manageable project for beginner gardeners.

To get started, gardeners can find a wide selection of untreated herb seeds, organic herb seeds, and organic fertilizers at Harris Seeds also offers organic vegetable seeds, untreated vegetable seeds, untreated cut flower seeds, organic vegetable and herb plugs, and OMRI listed supplies for organic growers and gardeners alike.

Today’s Locavore Challenge of the Day is part of NOFA NY’s unique, month-long event aimed at engaging consumers in seeking and using locally grown organic foods. Registered participants receive daily Locavore Challenge & Tip emails, and they can choose from a wide variety of family-friendly activities and challenges. NOFA NY offers helpful resources for sourcing local food and eating locally at