22 March 2018
22 March 2018
Citations and Mentions: How to Brand Yourself Online
Many businesses focus on SEO, social media and content to build their online presence. One way to accelerate your online growth is to focus on growing your brand through citations and mentions. Both Google and Bing have indicated that they can track brand mentions and that they matter for search engine rankings. Duane Forrester, a former senior product manager at Bing, stated that unlinked mentions can be just as strong a signal as links for measuring a site’s authority.
"Unlinked mentions can be just as strong a signal as links for measuring a site’s authority"
Aside from being able to track mentions, search engines can also tell if mentions are positive or negative, which means that companies need to be proactive when it comes to maintaining a positive reputation. In fact, some SEO’s speculate that brand mentions could become more important than links in the future for determining a site’s authority.
So what are some ways that companies can brand themselves online? Here are a few tips to get more citations and brand mentions for your business.
1. Customer reviews
According to a study by Brightlocal, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
One of the best ways to increase online mentions is by getting reviews from your own satisfied customers. Customers that are actually using your product or service will be able to share the details about what makes your product or service worth using and a great recommendation can even convince prospects to pick your business over your competitors.
So how do you get customers to leave reviews for you? Here are a few tips…
Follow up with customers through email to make sure they are having a great experience
You can set up an automated email to go out to your customers shortly after they receive your product to see if they have any questions or concerns. Follow up emails show your customers that you care about them and also give you the opportunity to correct any problems with dissatisfied customers.
If your customer is happy with their purchase, then you can simply ask them for a review. Many customers are happy to help out if you just ask them.
Make it easy for customers to review your business
You can link to reviews sites in your emails and on your site so that customers can easily go there and post their review. If you are collecting reviews on your own site, make sure the process is simple and that the customer can complete their review quickly without having to go through a lot of steps.
Your site and review form should also be mobile responsive, since many people are using mobile devices to view online content.
Run retargeting ads to get customers to review sites
Retargeting ads are inexpensive and you can use retargeting ads on Facebook and Google to get your customers to visit review sites. Consumers are busy people and sometimes they just need to be reminded to leave a review. Ads are a non-invasive way to ask for a review from your customers.
Reward people who take the time to review your product
Providing an incentive or reward can encourage more people to take the time to write a review online. Rewards can include discounts on future products or other products or services that the customer might enjoy.
Be careful about incentivizing reviews as some sites, like Yelp, don’t want businesses to offer rewards to customers for leaving reviews. Check the terms and conditions of review sites before you ask for reviews from your customers.
2. Influencer marketing - Building relationships with influencers
Another way to get more brand mentions is to utilize influencer marketing to reach your target audience. Influencers have different motivations and needs, so get to know as much as you can before approaching each influencer.
Some influencers do affiliate marketing and are looking for relevant products to pitch to their audience. Other influencers might be willing to share your product with their followers for a fee.
"Influencers might be willing to share your product with their followers for a fee"
Many influencers offer their own product or service but are open to collaborations that benefit their audience. Start conversations with influencers and see if it makes sense to collaborate.
Finally, form legitimate relationships with influencers just like you would with people you meet in real life. Instead of emailing and asking for something (like what most people do), think about how you can help them out first.
Get to know influencers in your niche by subscribing to their blogs and following them on social media. Find where they are actively participating in online conversations and engage them there. Influencers are sometimes active on social media, answering their own blog comments or in other online communities.
Link to their content and share their articles on social media while you are building your own brand and influencers will start to notice you and possibly promote you too.
3. Guest blogging
Guest blogging is another great way to indirectly increase citations and brand mentions. Some people try guest blogging to quickly grow their audience, but even if a guest post doesn’t send you a ton of new subscribers, it can still be great for brand exposure.
To be successful with guest blogging, you need to think of a topic that really stands out. In the digital marketing niche, for example, case studies and marketing success stories seem to work really well. It takes a good amount of time to achieve marketing results, so case studies are somewhat scarce and usually in demand.
Guest posting on a popular blog can get you a lot of brand exposure quickly. For the best results, become a regular contributor so that people become familiar with your name. Here is a list of places to guest post.
Find blogs that actively promote old content. Sometimes guest posts on popular blogs will rank in Google and get ongoing traffic, which can result in people finding out about you and your brand long after your article is published.
4. Brand monitoring (social customer service)
If your brand is already somewhat well known, then you should strongly consider doing some brand monitoring.
Some tools that you can use to get notified whenever someone mentions your brand online include Mention, Google Alerts and Talkwalker alerts. With these tools, you can simply enter your company name, any brand names you own or even any keyword phrases you want to track and they will send you an email whenever your brand gets a link or mention online. You can also hire a company to do it for you.
If someone complains about your product, you can quickly jump into the conversation and rectify the situation. Providing a positive customer service experience, even when people aren’t asking for it can be a great way to show other prospects that you care about your customers.
Sometimes people will mention your brand online without linking to your site, so if you are doing SEO, you can thank people for mentioning you and ask them to convert the mention into a link.
5. Competitor monitoring
Monitoring your competitors is another way to find opportunities for more citations and brand mentions. Tools like Mention and Talkwalker alerts can send you an email every time your competitor gets mentioned online.
Does your competitor do a lot of guest blogging? Monitoring them can reveal where they are guest posting and provide blogs and publications for you to pitch your own guest posts.
Did another writer or blogger write about your competitor? Perhaps you can reach out to that writer and let them know about your product or service.
Aside from monitoring direct competitors, you can also monitor businesses that are selling related products or services. Set up some alerts and see what kind of results show up in your email.
Monitoring competitors and related businesses is one of the best ways to look for opportunities to get more brand mentions for your own business.
6. Forums and communities
Forums and communities that target your desired audience are another good place to indirectly get more brand mentions. Communities are a great place to network with other people with similar interests and potential customers.
Some people have been able to get clients and customers simply by staying active in their favorite online community. Another advantage of communities is that they are filled with active members who are more likely to comment on your blog and share your content.
Here are a few places to look for communities to participate in:
- Inbound and Growth Hackers – These communities target people who are interested in digital marketing and include marketing executives, bloggers and SAAS business owners.
- Reddit – Reddit has a lot of communities around various topics. You can search for communities in their search bar and see if there are any active communities in your niche. Reddit discourages self-promotion, but if you contribute valuable content regularly, people may start to become curious about who you are and what you do.
- Facebook groups – Another place to look for active communities is Facebook groups. Unlike Facebook pages, which have experienced a decrease in organic reach, posts in active Facebook groups are much more likely to show up on people’s Facebook feeds.
- Google search – Finally, a quick Google search may turn up niche communities that may be worth joining. Search for terms like “your niche + forums” or “your niche + communities”.
A lot of people overlook communities as a place to get more brand exposure, but they can be a great place to build your own brand especially if you are just starting out.
7. Public speaking, events and networking
One counter-intuitive way to get more online citations and mentions is to invest in more offline marketing activities, like public speaking and in person networking. Networking in person allows you to form a more personal and genuine relationship with someone.
Additionally, if you are a public speaker, you also gain instant recognition as an expert in your field. Find events that target your prospective customers or audience and ask the event organizer if they are looking for speakers.
"A quick Google search will often turn up a list of conferences in your industry"
A quick Google search will often turn up a list of conferences in your industry. Other places to look include Eventbrite and industry associations. Here’s a list of other places you can go to look for public speaking opportunities:
A friend of mine use to own a dance studio and he was active in the community, participating in activities like fund raisers and charity events. Even though he didn’t really focus on SEO or online marketing, his website got links and mentions from some of the charities he helped out.
It’s difficult to measure the ROI of activities like public speaking and networking and getting online mentions probably shouldn’t be your primary goal when participating in these activities. But they can be effective when it comes to growing your brand and forming real relationships.
Citations in local business directories can help local businesses get more search engine traffic and exposure. Getting listed in local business directories often just involves filling out forms with your business information.
Google My Business is the first place a local business should submit their information and it’s free. Having a completed profile allows you to show up on Google Maps and you can even add information about your business and photos to entice visitors to come to your store or business location.
You should also submit your information to other business directories. Here is a list of places where local businesses can get citations:
9. Advertising and sales
Paid advertising and direct sales is another way to get more brand mentions. The goal of advertising and sales is to generate more revenue, but as more people use your product you will get more brand mentions.
If your paid advertising has a good ROI, you can scale your growth very quickly. Big brands have been using this strategy long before online marketing became popular to grow their businesses.
You don’t have to be a big brand to invest in advertising or sales. As long as you can spend money and make a profit, paid ads should be a channel worth considering. Native advertising, social media ads and Adwords are a few options to look into.
If you are trying to build an audience for content marketing, paid ads could be a great way to build that audience very quickly.
To Sum It Up…
Getting brand mentions is an important part of getting great results from your online marketing. Use tools to monitor brand mentions of your own brand and your competitors and spend time on activities that increase awareness of your business.