Guide to mobile menu UI: bold buttons and intuitive types of navigation

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Whether a mobile site uses a hamburger icon, menu button or alternative forms of navigation, it is critical that it stands out.

It should encourage the user to interact; it should work as intended; and when the menu is triggered, the user is greeted with a menu that is logical, usable and visually appealing.

The first column in this series on mobile menu best practice looked at:

  • The hamburger icon and alternative menu buttons.
  • Supplementing, or replacing the menu, with visible navigational tabs and buttons.

This column will look more closely at the design and user interface (UI)/user experience (UX) aspects, including:

  • Making the menu and navigational buttons standout. Type, size, color and placement of buttons.
  • Navigational discipline, taking a logical approach to size, number and names of menu items.
  • The different types of menu, including overlay; off-canvas; multi-toggle; full-screen takeover; and no-menu.

In the interest of continuity, let’s return to the wise words of Norm Cox, a member of the design team on the world’s first graphical user interface for the Xerox “Star” and the originator of hamburger icon, 35 years ago:

“The hamburger is merely another widget in a designer’s arsenal of tools that s/he can use… well… or poorly. It has no inherent goodness/badness, or rightness/wrongness, except in the context of how it’s applied by the designer. Poor UI design is not the widget’s fault. It’s a failure of poor communication using the tools and primitives of a toolkit.

Just as all writers have the same set of primitives (alphabet, words and phrases) and guidelines (syntax, structure, tense, etc.) as the next guy; the writer’s skill comes in how well they arrange them to communicate their thoughts.

Good UI design is similar… we designers also have primitives and guidelines with which we work. How well we communicate a design and its behavior is a skill set grounded in a broad base of knowledge in design, soft sciences, human sciences, technology and maybe a little magic.”

Navigational buttons that standout

Mike D’Agruma, lead front-end developer, Evolve Creative Group, a web design agency in Akron, OH, USA, suggests four best-practice rules for menu buttons.

  • Make it obviously tappable.
  • Make it large enough to tap (44px x 44px).
  • Place it in familiar locations.
  • Provide a text description.
  • D’Agruma submits two sites to illustrate his point. On the Stanek Windows site (developed by Evolve), the menu button is large, in a prime location, and defined from the background header by a different color – which all helps to make it look like an interactive button.

    Meanwhile on the Akron Beacon Journal, the menu button is smaller, and not defined from the background. (The open menu we will discuss below).

    Location, location, location

    The most common placement of the menu and other navigational buttons (such as search or most popular sections) on a mobile site, like on the desktop, is at the top of the webpage. There is no default spot, but it is often found in the top left or top right corner, adjacent to the logo.

    One innovation is the fixed or sticky navigational tab that keeps the menu on screen as the user scrolls down the page. Where this occurs on mobile web, it tends to be at the top of the screen.

    Some native iOS apps, such as Facebook (see previous column) have introduced a bottom navigational tab, but this has not migrated to web or Android apps, perhaps because they might interfere with the native hardware buttons at the bottom of Android screen.

    Nick Babich, editor of UX planet:

    “For mobile and desktop websites there is a good option: sticky navigation. This means the menu is permanently visible even during scrolling.

    The traditional location for this type of menu is top (header) of the page. You still can put a menu to the bottom (e.g. make it bottom navigation), but this is a break with user expectations – because most web users expect to find a menu at the top of the page.”

    The most familiar example of sticky navigation is Google Maps. The search box and hamburger menu icon are ever present, regardless of zooming, horizontal or vertical zooming.

    Also of note on Google Maps is the immobile location and navigation buttons, in the prime spot on the lower right of the screen.

    From this, it is clear that Google has determined which actions users are most likely to want to do next with maps: view present location, navigate to, or search for new place, and has made it very easy for users to achieve these goals.

    As explained in the previous column by 4ourth Mobile’s Steven Hooper, these actions that users are most likely to do next, are known as secondary actions.

    The less common/predicable user intentions – referred to as tertiary actions – are addressed through the website’s hidden menu.

    Menu discipline

    There are no hard and fast rules on menu format, but plenty of recommendations such as this checklist from the experts at Nielsen Norman Group.

    The important thing is to take a logical approach. Prioritize the links that users are most likely to require, make them obvious and easy to interact with.

    Don’t guess what users want. Research how popular mobile sites use mobile menus and test out different approaches with real customers.

    Comparing the open menu for the Akron Beacon Journal example in the first image, with either the Google open menu above or any of the examples below, it is clear that there are many more menu items and they are smaller and closer together which could make them harder to read and tap accurately.

    D’Agruma makes the following recommendations for open menus.

  • Use category labels that are familiar and relevant. Navigation is meant to funnel the user through a site. This isn’t an area for experimentation.
  • Condense menu lists where possible. People will scroll, but length should be kept to a minimum.
  • Longer lists need to be easy to scan, so left justify labels, if you can.
  • Make link areas large enough to be tapped accurately.
  • Make it clear where there is a subsections using down arrows or plus signs, obvious color contrast and hide/show functionality.
  • Give users the ability to swipe within the active screen without accidentally triggering a menu option.
  • Provide an easy, intuitive way to close the menu.
  • Types of mobile menu

    Both the Google Maps and Akron Beacon Journal, pictured above are examples of a navigational style called the off-canvas menu. These are popular for responsive/mobile sites that have large number of menu items, which often open into sub-navigations.

    There are lots of other approaches to mobile menus. They are explained and demonstrated, with sample HTML code, on the excellent ResponsiveNavigation.net (view it on a mobile device).

    The examples of menu types below were shared with ClickZ by author of the ResponsiveNavigation.net, Erick Arbe, entrepreneur and founder of HIBR.

    • Menu Overlay: Tapping the menu icon drops down a menu in one or two columns over the top of the webpage. This works well for concise menus. The menu button changes state to an X, which, when tapped, closes the menu.

    Example, pictured: HIBR.

    • Full Screen Takeover: Creates an overlay – this is also referred to as modal – over the entire webpage. As this happens the menu icon switches to a prominent X. To cancel and return to the webpage, the visitor taps the cross. Again only for brief menus.

    Example, pictured: R+Co

    • No menu/Do nothing: One option, where there are few menu items, is to ditch the menu entirely in favor of visible navigational tabs.

    Example, pictured: Google Ventures.

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    • Off-canvas: Opens by sliding in from the right, pushing the main screen of to the left. One third or one quarter of the webpage remains visible, but often with a shadow overlaid, to show change of state. To cancel the menu and return to the page, the user taps the main screen or taps a close menu button. Popular for sites with large menus.

    Example, pictured above: Google Maps. Pictured below: Nixon.com

    • Multi-toggle: Often used with the off-canvas menu, this accordion-style menu opens submenus when menu items with a + symbol are tapped. The submenu is closed again by tapping the – or X symbol.

    Example, pictured below: Nixon

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    Read the reports:

    DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 1: Planning

    DNA of a Great M-Commerce Site Part 2: The 12 Pillars of Mobile Design

    Voice: the future of next-gen search – expert predictions

    voice search semrush

    The expansion of digital systems has resulted in the recent rise of voice search.

    More people today are using various digital assistants created by the major players of the technology market, such as Apple’s Siri, Google Now, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Amazon’s Alexa.

    The development of these systems and the recent improvements in their ability to interpret natural language queries have made voice search easier and more accurate.

    By examining the 2016 edition of Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends Report 2016, we can see an explosive growth in voice queries, according to Google Trends.

    In her report, Meeker notes that queries associated with voice commands have risen more than 35-fold since the launch of the iPhone and Google Voice Search.

    To adapt your digital marketing efforts to this trend, you should pay attention to how people are searching.

    Recently, SEMrush had a roundtable discussion on voice search with three industry experts: Will Critchlow, Chris Marentis and Neil Walker.

    During our talk, they shared some great insights into how voice search is shaping today’s digital marketing, as well as their own predictions for the next generation of search. Below you will find some new opportunities for capitalizing on voice search growth.

    1) Voice search isn’t a big thing – yet

    Mobile devices have already changed the world of search engine optimization in many ways. But now, there’s a lot of talk about the impact that voice search will have on the SEO landscape.

    Some experts believe that the full potential of voice search has yet to be seen. “For me [voice search] is still in that uncanny valley where it’s not quite good enough to rely on,” Will Critchlow explains.

    It’s still too early to tell how voice search has influenced SEO, but it’s constantly evolving. “We’re still in the very early days, but I can see voice search literally changing the search landscape in some way over the next few years,” says Neil Walker.

    Chris Marentis points out that it’s really interesting how accurately artificial intelligence (AI) voice control interprets what users ask for. “I think it’s a conceptual framework that we are going to think about a lot, test and validate over the next few years,” he points out.

    blue brain

    Nevertheless, voice search is on the rise. Its popularity is increasing, because providers are improving text-to-speech technologies. Will Critchlow believes that the quality of speech recognition is going from strength to strength.

    Just in one year – between 2014 and 2015 – voice search grew from “statistical zero” to 10% of overall search volume globally, according to Timothy Tuttle from MindMeld. This shift accounts for the incredible number of voice searches per month – 50 billion.

    Millennials and Generation Z are more likely to engage with voice search.

    In 2014 a study from Northstar Research revealed that 55% of teens (age 13-18) use voice search more than once a day. And it comes as no surprise, because computers and technologies are quite indispensable to younger generations. They have grown up with these things, as Chris Marentis points out.

    Takeaways:

    Voice search is still evolving. One of its major problems is related to its ability to understand different users, including their accents and inflections. Nevertheless, digital assistants are getting better at understanding these differences, and search continues its shift towards mobile devices.

    This will result in the further growth of voice search, and businesses can’t ignore it.

    2) Voice search has changed the way people interact with search engines

    Obviously, the human brain structures written and verbal information differently, which means that written search queries differ from verbal ones.

    Today users expect to find exactly what they’re looking for on the first try, because Google is constantly improving its search capabilities.

    Search engines today, especially Google, are working to align the process of online search with so-called “natural language,” or everyday speech. Voice-based queries are different in nature. They tend to consist of longer phrases, as well as complete sentences and questions.

    It’s also interesting that experts are expecting another significant change that has nothing to do with voice search.

    “Alongside voice search, we are going to see a huge growth in query-less search,” Will Critchlow says. Platforms like Google Now, Apple’s Siri, and Microsoft’s Cortana are improving the way users interact with search in a predictive, query-less manner. This principle is based on a semantic prediction of needs.

    In other words, search engines return results based on the user’s historical behavior and the current context. “I think that’s where voice search really comes into its own – when your device is saying to you some things you might want to know,” suggest WIll Critchlow.

    The growth of voice search is leading to more natural language queries. These queries contain larger amounts of contextual information about users’ intent.

    Takeaways

    Will Critchlow told us how he was just searching “breakfast.” Years ago, this type of search would have probably turned up a Wikipedia article on the subject. But if you searched this term today, you might get a list of highly rated restaurants that are currently serving breakfast.

    google breakfast search

    Also, AI technology is evolving to better understand user intent and context based on various elements, such as previous search queries, location, past user’s behavior and actions.

    3) Google continues to learn

    As we have already discussed, today digital assistants are more advanced. Although these systems might not understand exactly what we want at first try, they’re getting better, thanks to the improvement of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

    Neil Walker believes that voice search is just the beginning, and there’s no doubt that Google is always learning.

    Voice-activated search systems, including Siri, Cortana and Alexa, are based on similar technology that provides searchers with direct results, rather than a search result page.

    A screenshot of a conversation with Siri in which the user (our editor Christopher Ratcliff) tells Siri "Open the pod bay doors HAL", a reference to the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Siri wearily replies, "Oh, not again."

    It’s interesting that today we can already get some information we need without actually visiting a website because of Google’s special featured snippet block at the top of SERPs, which shows a summary of the answer to a user’s question.

    “We are already getting used to the fact that answers are being delivered straight to us without having to click on any sites,” Neil Walker explains.

    Soon there will be no need for users to type blunt queries into their smartphone’s browser, because they will be able to pick up their phone and literally ask it what they want. And digital assistants will start focusing on the meaning behind a particular query, rather than a set of query keywords, and provide users with instant answers to their questions.

    Because of the development of machine learning businesses will have to rethink their content, make it more conversational, focus on sentence structure and use natural phrases, rather than basic keywords.

    Takeaways

    Google, along with other technical giants, is investing in artificial intelligence, transitioning from text-based search algorithms to more semantic systems that can deliver more relevant results to searchers – results that they really want.

    Today the search engine is making efforts to serve up results that are more in line with the real intent behind a user’s search, rather than the actual words they use.

    4) Conversion rates decrease

    We also asked our guest experts what opportunities voice search can provide for online businesses that are looking to increase their conversion rates.

    Will Critchlow expects to see lower conversion rates. And here’s why… Voice search will continue to get better at natural language. The whole process of search might shift from the current model towards one that looks more like a chat bot, for example. SERPs might not look like a classic web interface in Chrome. Instead, users might see images, buttons or even dropdowns.

    “I think we’re going to see a different kind of conversion and, probably, lower conversion rates,” Will Critchlow pointed out. He also added: “I’m more interested in increasing an absolute number of conversions without worrying necessarily about conversion rates.”

    Neil Walker agrees with his point and thinks that the major challenge for digital marketers will be to predict what elements are going to be displayed in SERPs without users visiting a website.

    Takeaways

    In fact, we don’t know exactly what changes voice search will bring to digital marketing and search strategies. But voice search is not a thing of the future. It’s here today.

    To capitalize on voice search, businesses should grasp new technologies and be open to exploring new avenues in the search industry.

    5) Intent search

    We already know that RankBrain, Google’s machine learning artificial intelligence system, was designed to help the search engine provide users with the most relevant search results.

    According to Danny Sullivan, it’s mainly used as a way to interpret the queries that people use to find pages that may not even contain the exact words that were searched before. What sets it apart from other existing algorithms is its ability to learn.

    Will Critchlow suggests that online businesses must rank for user intent. RankBrain technology doesn’t try to match the words on your webpage to the words that a person spoke. When trying to figure out the best search results, it has to do with interpretive step.

    What’s more, in the future, Google might return more limited results. For example, if a user wants to know the nutrition facts for a banana, they don’t actually need to read a full page of content to find their answer.

    google banana search

    In this example, they’re just looking for some brief information, some numbers, and maybe even a couple of simple sentences. Google doesn’t send you to the website and might not even show you the website. Will Critchlow believes that increasingly the search results are going to be an answer or an action.

    Chris Marentis also feels that search is moving away from simply displaying websites. Especially when it comes to local search, your strategy should involve more than just creating a contact page for your company. Businesses should consider encouraging their customers to leave reviews both on their site and through platforms like Yelp.

    Chris Marentis suggests: “If you are a local window replacement contractor and you don’t have a great presence on Yelp, then you’re not going to rank on the first page of Google organically.”

    Takeaways

    Today, marketers need to be as customer-oriented as ever. If you don’t understand what most users mean when they use a certain query, you might be targeting the wrong keywords.

    It’s important for companies to rank for the user intent. Businesses should consider using more long-tail keyword phrases that highlight user intent and create user-intent models to better understand where the searcher is in their customer journey.

    Needless to say, voice search is already changing the SEO and search landscapes. The only question that remains is, how are brands going to handle this shift?

    Image credits: SEMrush design

    Olia is a PR/Content Manager at SEMrush and a contributor to SEW. You can connect with Olia on Twitter or LinkedIn.

    Preparing for SEO in 2017: yes it’s that time already

    captain america civil war review rich snippet

    It might be hard to believe, but we will soon be entering the fourth quarter of 2016 and it will be time to start preparing our digital strategies for 2017.

    The world of SEO continues to change at lightning speed.

    Customer usage and expectations, not to mention Google’s algorithm updates, keep us marketers continuously making adjustments.

    Complacency will easily destroy your rankings, and this will be dangerous for any business interested in surviving in modern marketing.

    Considering that 93% of online experiences begin with search, prioritizing the latest best practices in digital marketing and optimization will be critical to the success of any website.

    As we prepare to head into Q4 2016, it is a good idea to look at the trends and developments that we have seen throughout this year to start to understand where we are likely heading next.

    Here are a few trends that we singled out as being particularly important as we prepare or 2017…

    Schema

    Using a schema markup is becoming increasingly important with changing Google and user trends.

    Schema makes it easier for search engines to understand your site, thereby helping to ensure that it is displayed correctly. Schema can also be particularly helpful when Google decides to display rich answers, such as Quick Answers or a Rich Card.

    Google likes to display answers that make it easier for users to find what they are looking for. Currently, rich snippets are displayed for recipe and videos, AMP articles, local businesses, music, reviews, and TV & movies. Although this may change in the future, using the schema helps to ensure that your site is always ready.

    Google has also been increasing its usage of Quick Answers, growing from just over 22% in December 2014 to over 40% by the beginning of 2016. Schema can help make the purpose and content of your site clear, so your text is more appealing for a snippet boxes.

    Of course, we can not neglect the trends of SEO 2017 without talking about RankBrain and artificial intelligence.

    Since this machine learning is now Google’s third most important ranking factor, brands need to make sure their sites are easy for a machine to interpret. Schema can help make this a reality. As artificial intelligence is likely to grow in the future, using schema now can keep your site prepared for whatever the future brings.

    Hybridization and breaking down barriers

    As users become increasingly sophisticated online and the demands of digital marketing draw professionals closer together, it is clear that the brands maturing in modern marketing break down the silos that separate their digital marketing departments.

    Mobile users access their email messages, desktop users redeem social media coupons, and those clicking on your PPC ads expect a consistent user experience with what they had when they landed on your site through organic.

    To reach these customers, an estimated 80% of digital marketers worldwide expect to be running hybrid campaigns, and professionals need to be prepared for these changes.

    To make sure your team is on board:

    • Host trainings where you help members of different teams get to know each other’s goals and strategies
    • Create collaborative projects where members of different teams come together for joint goals
    • Develop common documents between the different teams that define vocabulary, expectations, and roles so that everyone can communicate effectively

    Changes on the SERPs

    Google has been experimenting this past year with the SERPs. Specifically, they have been increasing the number of characters allowed in some of the meta descriptions and titles.

    then-and-now

    This trend can be a challenge for marketers to take advantage of because they have not been rolled out to all websites, nor has Google announced that they are permanent.

    For the sites that do receive the extra real estate, however, there are great opportunities for including more keywords and more compelling descriptions to help attract people to the website.

    To take advantage of these developments, you should consider:

    • Continuing to use your main keyword at the beginning of your title and meta description in case you are restricted to the original character limits
    • Using the extra space to expand your description
    • If your meta descriptions are less than 100 characters, increase them to avoid having your description get buried with the new longer limits

    SEM alignment and intent signals

    Since searches with commercial intent on average display a higher number of ads at the top of the page than other searches, click-through-rates are lower for organic search results as compared to those with fewer top-of-the-page.

    4 pack results

    Knowing which terms have organic search results above the fold is critical to prioritizing efforts.

    For these topics, organic and paid search teams should work together in targeting these terms to boost ROI for both paid and organic efforts.

    It’s also important for these teams to understand what content is currently ranking for these buying terms and to align their content strategy and planning to create web pages and assets that map to what searchers are looking for.

    Conversely, for discovery topics where search results have fewer ads, organic search teams should take the lead in identifying content needs and developing high-performing online experiences that attract and convert more customers.

    Mobile and speed

    Since Google first introduced the AMP project at the end of 2015, the importance of speed, particularly on mobile devices, has grown.

    Google has always known that slow load times hurt the user experience, which is why a one second delay results in a 7% reduction in conversions. With AMP, Google can amplify the importance of speed.

    AMP was initially created for news sites. The format strips away all the extras of a website, helping it load faster. According to Google, using AMP can improve loading speeds by 15 to 85%.

    Mobile has also seen a growing emphasis on the importance of micro moments.

    micro moments

    The micro moments describe the reflex of people turning to a device to answer an immediate need.

    These needs fall under one of the following categories:

    • The I-want-to-know moments
    • The I-want-to-go moments
    • The I-want-to-buy moments
    • The I-want-to-do moments

    When brands are able to answer these needs, they are able to provide the optimal mobile experience and improve their reputation.

    These AMP pages serve the I-want-to-know moments in particular. Recently, however, AMP has begun spreading beyond this niche industry to the I-want-to-buy moments, with eBay optimizing millions of pages for ecommerce users.

    As speed, due to the AMP optimization, begins to dominate more of the mobile digital ecosystem, it will become even more important for brands to shorten their loading times. Even brands that do not use AMP will still be impacted by the increasing expectations of customers for fast sites.

    To make sure your brand is ready, consider:

    • Avoiding unnecessary images and scale down the images that are placed
    • Do not use images that are very complicated and would require long load times
    • Keep only the essential cookies
    • Compress your website if possible

    SEO in 2017 is likely to be just as surprising and exciting as it has been in the past. Brands need to use their time now, however, to start strengthening their sites for the trends of the future.

    Will Instagram Stories put a dent in the rise of Snapchat?

    Instagram copies Snapchat

    Instagram has announced the launch of Stories, a new feature which introduces the concept of fun and ephemeral posts that disappear after 24 hours. Sound familiar?

    It wasn’t long ago when I was writing about the big battle between Facebook and Snapchat with the latter trying hard over the past year to challenge the most popular social network, seeing quite a lot of success in some areas.

    However, Facebook wasn’t ready to lose its domination on every aspect, so it decided to use Instagram this time as an alternative way of battling Snapchat in what made it sp popular… its ephemerality.

    Snapchat’s audience loved the idea of ephemeral content which disappears after 24 hours, as this was more authentic and spontaneous. Stories was all about blending many different snaps and creating a storytelling event throughout the day, that could be either consistent, or completely irrelevant from one snap to the next.

    Instagram isn’t ashamed to name its new feature in the exact same way, using the same small circles for each user, only changing the spot the stories appear, placing them on top of the platform.

    According to their blog post:

    “With Instagram Stories, you don’t have to worry about overposting. Instead, you can share as much as you want throughout the day — with as much creativity as you want. You can bring your story to life in new ways with text and drawing tools. The photos and videos will disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in feed.”

    Instagram’s CEO gives credit to Snapchat

    We’re not used to seeing one social network giving credit to another for an idea, but Instagram’s CEO, Kevin Systrom, couldn’t deny the similarity between the two Stories.

    That’s why he mentioned this to TechCrunch:

    “When you are an innovator, that’s awesome. Just like Instagram deserves all the credit for bringing filters to the forefront. This isn’t about who invented something. This is about a format, and how you take it to a network and put your own spin on it.”

    And he continues reminding us of the different audience:

    “We’re bringing some new creative outlets with ‘neon drawing.’ You have different ways of navigating back and forth with this. You have a completely different audience. If you’re a business, if you’re a celebrity, if you’re an interest-based account, you can have a giant audience. It’s going to feel very different. I don’t believe these two things are substitutes, and that’s okay.”

    How users reacted to #InstagramStories

    We weren’t surprised to discover all the following tweets about #InstagramStories and how Instagram clearly copied Snapchat. These are some of our favourite reactions:

    #InstagramStories this is how Instram had the idea to creat a storypic.twitter.com/YsbiTfhQNr

    — Tv réalité (@realitetv_news) August 3, 2016

    When all you wanted was a chronological timeline, but instead you got #InstagramStories 👌👌pic.twitter.com/4zZ8KjrZCd

    — Missguided (@Missguided) August 3, 2016

    My favorite meme from yesterday… #InstagramStories pic.twitter.com/8uVn8z7UPg

    — Matthew James Morgan (@MattMO2Go) August 3, 2016

    To: Instagram
    Subject: #InstagramStories
    From: Everyone
    Message: pic.twitter.com/Rac4EGnIw7

    — James Mazey (@jamesmazey) August 3, 2016

    What does it mean for Snapchat?

    It will be very interesting to examine whether Snapchat will be affected by Instagram’s addition, especially in a longer term. As ephemerality arrives on a bigger social network, in the most obvious and identical way, will Snapchat be able to motivate its audience to remain on the platform?

    The two social networks certainly share a common target audience, with Instagram reaching more users though, while it also has Facebook’s support in terms of popularity and innovation.

    Snapchat still offers the face filters, the geo filters and the curation of live content, while the Discover section is hoping to establish a new type of content consumption. All these things cannot be ignored, but they may not be enough sooner or later, especially if Facebook and Instagram continue to imitate its features.

    Now it’s up to Snapchat to react accordingly and strengthen its attributes, in order to proceed to a more mature stage where competition will only be higher. And that’s a really challenging task.

    What does it mean for users?

    Users of both social networks need to decide which of the two platforms they’ll use more from now on regarding this particular feature and this may depend on the target audience they prefer. As more users flock on Instagram, do you want to reach a larger audience, or do you prefer to remain loyal to Snapchat and its fun dog filters?

    Instagram Snapchat dog filter

    I am expecting a period of confusion soon with the fact that the features are too similar among the two platforms and this may affect Snapchat’s engagement, but this won’t last long, as sooner or later only one of the two will prevail.

    Is there any reason to use both platforms to share your daily stories, or do you have so many stories to share that you’ll use each platform accordingly?

    For the time being, I felt quite confused with Instagram’s initial layout for the Stories, which may be another factor on whether someone prefers Snapchat’s user experience.

    What does it mean for social media managers?

    Many social media managers must have thought: “Great, I was just trying to explain to my clients how Snapchat Stories work, at least I won’t have to do it again”

    However, an interesting question is whether they should share different content on the two platforms when posting about a company now that they both have the same creative concept with stories.

    Should you post the same stories on both, or does this mean that you’ll need to come up with more creative ideas to differentiate the company’s content from one platform to another?

    Testing Snapchat Stories

    Also, some people believe that Instagram’s move will be crucial for Snapchat’s future and this reminded them of Vine, and how it disappeared when everyone Instagram started copying it.

    The discussion is ongoing and it’s a topic that is not expected to end soon.

    Can you even pick a side on this battle?

    Here’s a new way to track AdWords sitelinks in Google Analytics (which you may have missed)

    sitelinks-data-google-analytics

    Pssst, hey did you miss it?

    Google Analytics quietly rolled out a new feature for measuring AdWords performance in April that could have easily been overlooked, but is packed with data and happens to be one of my favorite features right now.

    Let’s have a closer look…

    The feature release

    On April 11, 2016, Google Analytics posted “release notes” with a laundry list of features that have been added. If you’re like me and crave the maximum AdWords data that you can get your hands on, you’re going to love this new feature built into Google Analytics.

    From the release notes:

    New Sitelinks report in AdWords reporting section in GA: The AdWords reporting section in GA reports on most features available in AdWords. Based on advertiser feedback, the main missing feature was Sitelinks. We’ve now added a new Sitelinks report to the AdWords reporting section in GA. Note that this report includes data for actual clicks on Sitelinks leading to a website visit.

    The sitelinks feature received some media coverage, but I’m still seeing PPC professionals discovering the new feature for the first time even months later, so I know it was easy to miss.

    If you happen to already spend a lot of time in Google Analytics, you may have noticed the “new” callout next to the report link:

    Why is this new feature so awesome? This new reporting view allows you to see which individual sitelinks are performing on any given campaign, and how those sitelinks contribute to performance after a click to a website – huge win!

    How it used to be

    Google had mentioned in the past that AdWords sitelinks boost clickthrough rate on average by 10-20%, and for branded terms, 20-50%. Knowing that, plus the data we had access to the in AdWords platform on sitelinks was enough to keep us happy.

    Yes, you can get a fair amount of data on sitelinks by accessing ad extension stats in the AdWords dashboard. Things like clicks, clickthrough rate, costs, average position, etc.

    This shows you how the individual sitelinks are performing, but we lacked the additional insight of what happened after a click on the sitelink.

    What’s changed?

    Below, you can see the sitelinks organized by top performers in GA:

    sitelinks-analytics-ga

    Plus, you can add secondary dimensions as well, and explore sitelinks by campaign, for example. You can also click around on your goals tabs, and see if the sitelink contributed to any goals you have set up in Google Analytics.

    goals-sitelinks-ga

    You can also see things like costs, bounce rate and pages per session. All of this data gives you a testing ground. See which sitelinks are driving sales, and which perhaps need to be switched out with something else.

    Armed with that data, you can now show your clients or your team, for example, that maybe that “FAQs” sitelink isn’t the best sitelink for the ad, and that it should be replaced with a link to the top-selling product/service instead.

    I recommend checking out this new feature to view sitelink performance if you’re already using Google Analytics. And if you haven’t yet linked your AdWords and Google Analytics… what are you waiting for?

    Join a smorgasbord of marketing experts, analysts, trainers, unicorns and data scientists

    CZLSF Speakers

    Come to San Francisco this August 29-31 as we bring together the leading minds in digital marketing for not one, not two, but three separate events, each focusing on a different aspect of digital.

    Here’s a rundown of what’s coming up, some of which requires a fee and some which is completely free – so no excuses!

    1. ClickZ Live San Francisco | August 29-31

    ClickZ Live is our original digital marketing event series (you may remember us as SES Conference & Expo) that has been running for over 20 years.

    Taking an advanced deep-dive into all aspects of digital marketing our all new accelerator session will enable you and your team to execute your campaigns faster, smarter and more efficiently than ever before.

    Training workshops take place on day one and the main event with over 40 trainers and speakers takes place on August 30-31 .

    Topics: Mobile, SEO, PPC, Content, Analytics, Data, B2B, Email, Social, Attribution, Conversion Rate Optimization

    Speakers include:

    Pricing & tickets:

    Passes range from $695 for a day pass to $1,495 for the full three days. (Prices rise on August 12)

    Find out more here.

    2. Shift San Francisco | August 30

    Launched in London in May, Shift is our latest series of events which focuses on digital transformation, disruption and leadership.

    Bringing together senior marketers and business leaders Shift’s agenda will look at how you can harness, protect and grow your business by tackling digital disruption head on.

    Topics: Responding to Disruption, Unlocking the Trapped Value of Digital, Building a Company that Stands Out, Disrupts and Changes Lives, Marketing in a Digital Age, Conquering the Data Mountain, Digital Transformation Survival Guide

    Speakers:

    Pricing & tickets:

    There are a limited number of complimentary VIP passes still available to senior client/brand side marketers.

    One day passes are $995. (Prices rise on August 12)

    Find out more here.

    3. The ClickZ Intelligence Forum | August 31 – FREE

    Join the ClickZ Intelligence team and special guests from Google and Southwest Airlines (plus more TBC) for an exclusive look into the latest trends and actionable tactics to succeed in the digital world.

    Drawing insights from a series of in-depth reports and research published by our analysts, this half-day forum will provide you with a comprehensive overview backed up by in-depth analytical research and statistics of the latest opportunities and trends you need to be aware of.

    Topics: Telling your Story through Data, The Art of Digital Engagement, The Latest Trends in Digital, VR & AR, The Future of Digital

    Speakers:

    ClickZ Intelligence Forum

    Pricing & tickets:

    The ClickZ Intelligence Forum is open to all, however there are only 100 places available. Places are filling up fast so request your pass today!

    A wait-list will be available.

    Find out more here.

    Photo credit: jfew via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

    How to add Schema.org markup to your email marketing

    Two screenshots side by side showing one-click actions in Gmail, where the action appears as a grey label, and Inbox, where the action appears as blue text.

    If you’ve ever used Schema.org to mark up your webpages, you’ll know it’s a great way to help search engines interpret your content and create more relevant, rich and attractive search results.

    But its uses don’t begin and end with webpages.

    In this guide, I’ll look at some of the handy things you can do with email markup. This will include adding quick actions to your emails, triggering Google Now cards and enriching your users’ search results with information from their inbox.

    I will also show how you can get started with adding simple markup to your emails.

    Why should you use email markup?

    If you haven’t encountered Schema.org structured data vocabulary before, or aren’t too clear on what it does, in short: Schema.org is the result of a collaboration between Google, Microsoft, Yandex and Yahoo to create a universal ‘language’, or markup, that any search engine can understand.

    It takes the form of code that you add to your webpage to label and identify different elements like images, names, addresses, recipes, ratings and much more.

    This helps search engines to ‘read’ your content and pull more relevant information, as well as rich data, into search results. But aside from webpages, you can also add Schema.org markup to emails, and use it to create Rich Pins on Pinterest for increased engagement.

    Schema.org for emails is a Google initiative, and so far the functionality is only available to Gmail accounts.

    Google says that it “has worked with the schema.org community to standardise its mail-related schemas so that other email services and email clients can also take full advantage of them”, but this seems to still be a work in progress.

    One-click actions in Gmail and Inbox for Gmail | Source: Google Developers

    What does marking up your emails with Schema.org achieve?

    For marketers, the goal is always to entice users into opening and engaging with their emails. But email open rates average around 22% (according to MailChimp), with a click-through rate of just under 3%.

    What if you could put calls to action – like “RSVP”, “Complete purchase” or “Confirm subscription” – directly in the email subject line?

    You can add Schema.org markup to your emails which will let you do just that.

    Email confirmations for events, flight details, hotel reservations and so on which use Schema.org markup will also be added automatically to the recipient’s Google Calendar.

    You can mark up emails to appear as answer cards in Google searches, which will put details from your email right at the top of search when they search for relevant information.

    Email markup can also trigger Google Now cards to deliver updates about your products and services to customers.

    Getting started with Schema.org email markup

    Before you can get started using Schema.org in your emails, there are a few hoops you need to jump through.

    First, you’ll need to be registered with Google. This is a multi-step process aimed at making sure that the emails you’ll be sending out are secure and not spam.

    You’ll have to meet a series of quality guidelines, including authenticating your emails via SPF or DKIM, making sure your emails come from a static email address, and following the Gmail Bulk Sender Guidelines.

    A Gmail message is authenticated if you see “mailed-by” with the domain name, and “Signed by” with the sending domain

    You should also have a very low rate of spam complaints from users, along with a “consistent history of sending a high volume of mail from your domain”, which Gmail qualifies as sending a minimum of 100 emails per day for at least a few weeks.

    You might think that sending your users a hundred emails per day is the quickest way to start getting spam complaints, especially if you’re a small business. But remember that sending emails from your domain doesn’t just mean newsletters; notifications, receipts and confirmation emails all count towards your total.

    You can start testing the waters of email markup even while you’re still going through the registration process, as long as you send any test emails to yourself.

    Any emails where the sender and recipient are the same ignore the registration requirements, and so can be used for self-testing. This means you can try out your markup and see how well it works before you commit yourself to a lengthy registration.

    How to add Schema.org markup to your emails

    Jump to:

    • How to mark up your emails with Microdata
      • An example using inline markup
    • How to mark up your emails with JSON-LD

    If you’ve used Schema.org with webpages, you’ll know that there are several different formats you can use to add the markup to your website, including Microdata, RDFa and JSON-LD. With email markup, there are two: Microdata and JSON-LD.

    Normally, one of the main differences between Microdata and JSON-LD formatting is that Microdata is added inline (where the code goes around the page elements being marked up, the images and names and places themselves) whereas JSON-LD is confined to the header, meaning you can mark up things which aren’t necessarily present in your content, and also keep your content and your markup nice and separate.

    With email schemas, however, it’s possible to write all of your Microdata markup in the head of your email, and I personally recommend using this method for two reasons…

    One, all of the up-to-date examples on Google Developers use Microdata in the header, and the only inline example is several years old. So if you want to write the code yourself using Google Developers as a reference point, you really need to use header markup.

    And two, Google’s Email Markup Tester seems to prefer it, which is helpful when you want to check for errors. If you’re absolutely dying to use inline markup, I’ve included an example of what that might look like at the end of the section on Microdata.

    How to mark up your emails with Microdata

    Let’s say we want to send out an email confirming a customer’s ticket registration for our Shift San Francisco event on 30th August. The HTML for our email might look something like this:

    Dear Andrea, thanks for booking your ticket to Shift San Francisco. Please find below a confirmation of your order details.

    BOOKING DETAILS

    Order for: Andrea Ellenby

    Event: Shift San Francisco

    When: August 30th 2016 8:00am PST

    Venue: Park Central Hotel, 50 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, US

    Reservation number: SF12345

    In between the tag and the

    paragraph tag below it is where we’re going to add our Schema.org markup. All of the tags we can use for an event reservation email are listed on the Event Reservation page on Google Developers.

    Ours is a very simple email, so we’ll only need a few of them. Mainly, we need to identify who the reservation is for, the reservation number and status (confirmed), and the details of the event: what it is, when and where.

    First, we’re going to put in a tag identifying our email type as an event reservation. This uses the tags itemscope and itemtype: itemscope basically specifies that the email is about a thing, and itemtype identifies what that thing is.

    With Microdata, item types are given as URLs, in this case http://schema.org/EventReservation. So our first line will be:

    Next we’re going to use a tag to specify our customer’s reservation number for the event. This tag has two halves: itemprop is used to label the individual “sub-items” within an item type, and we’ll be using it to tag most of the data in our email. The second half of our tag, content, gives the details.

    Essentially, the itemprop is saying “this is a reservation number” and the content tag is saying “this is what the reservation number is.”

    Our customer’s reservation status needs to be specified using a URL, which takes a tag:

    For the rest of the markup, we can basically repeat the structure of the first two lines: a tag at the beginning of each section, followed by meta tags to mark up the components.

    Our finished code should look like this:

    Dear Andrea, thanks for booking your ticket to Shift San Francisco. Please find below a confirmation of your order details.

    BOOKING DETAILS

    Order for: Andrea Ellenby

    Event: Shift San Francisco

    When: August 30th 2016 8:00am PST

    Venue: Park Central Hotel, 50 Third Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, US

    Reservation number: SF12345

    You might be wondering about the time-stamp on the start date, “2016-08-30T08:00:00-08:00.” As far as I can tell, when writing start times for an event using Microdata formatting, you have to specify the timezone in UTC. So because our event is in San Francisco, UTC-8, our 8am start time is written as 08:00:00-08:00. If it were a 9am start in UTC+7, it would become 09:00:00+07:00, and so on.

    As I mentioned earlier, Google’s Email Markup Tester is really helpful when you want to check your code for errors or things you might have missed. It will often flag up a series of “recommended properties” which it thinks you ought to have, but you can ignore them if they don’t apply to your email.

    Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper also has an ‘email’ function which can do the hard work of tagging for you – all you need to do is highlight the relevant part of your content and select the right item type from a drop-down menu.

    A screenshot showing the Google Structured Data Markup Helper for emails.

    However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the markup helper uses inline microdata, and there are a few elements which Google’s Email Markup Tester considers to be ‘required’ properties that might not necessarily be present in your content. For instance, in our example email there’s nowhere to add reservation status inline, but as it’s a required element, we’d still need to add it in the header.

    An inline markup version of our email might look something like this:

    Dear Andrea, thanks for booking your ticket to Shift San Francisco. Please find below a confirmation of your order details.

    BOOKING DETAILS

    Order for:

    Andrea Ellenby

    Event:

    Shift San Francisco

    When:
    August 30th 2016 8:00am PST

    Venue:

    Park Central Hotel,

    50 Third Street,
    San Francisco,
    CA
    94103,
    US

    Reservation number:
    SF12345

    How to mark up your emails with JSON-LD

    JSON-LD is a web standard and W3C recommendation which was added as a Schema.org formatting in 2013. Google also recommends to developers that they use JSON-LD when writing Schema.org markup.

    Its main advantage is that it confines your markup to the header, meaning that a) you can keep extra tags out of the body of your email, and b) you aren’t restricted to only marking up elements that appear in the email content.

    JSON-LD notation is contained inside a script block () and a pair of curly brackets, also called curly braces. So to start off our code and signal that we’re using JSON-LD format, we would input:


    {

    At the end, to close these, we’ll add another } and close the script tag with .

    Next, we need to use the keyword @context to signal that we’re using Schema.org vocabulary to mark up our email. Each line of code should also have a comma at the end of it, as follows:

    "@context": "http://schema.org",

    The keyword @type defines the type of email we’re marking up, so an event reservation. This is equivalent to the itemtype tag in Microdata.

    "@type": "EventReservation",

    Unlike Microdata, there’s no keyword that defines item ‘sub-types’ or properties like the itemprop tag does. Instead, they just go on a separate line underneath, like so:

    "@type": "EventReservation",
    "reservationNumber": "SF12345",
    "reservationStatus": "http://schema.org/Confirmed",

    If our ‘sub-types’ have further attributes that we need to mark up, then we can enclose those in another pair of curly braces. This kind of code structure is known as an object structure. So when marking up our customer’s name details for the reservation, we can write it like this:

    "underName": {
    "@type": "Person",
    "name": "Andrea Ellenby"
    },

    We can write the rest of our markup this way, putting each attribute on a new line and containing any ‘sub-properties’ within curly braces. Our finished markup should look like this:


    {
    "@context": "http://schema.org",
    "@type": "EventReservation",
    "reservationNumber": "SF12345",
    "reservationStatus": "http://schema.org/Confirmed",
    "underName": {
    "@type": "Person",
    "name": "Andrea Ellenby"
    },
    "reservationFor": {
    "@type": "Event",
    "name": "Shift San Francisco",
    "startDate": "2016-08-30T08:00:00-08:00",
    "location": {
    "@type": "Place",
    "name": "Park Central Hotel",
    "address": {
    "@type": "PostalAddress",
    "streetAddress": "50 Third Avenue",
    "addressLocality": "San Francisco",
    "addressRegion": "CA",
    "postalCode": "94107",
    "addressCountry": "US"
    }
    }
    }
    }

    Google’s Email Markup Tester is really helpful when you want to check your code for errors or things you might have missed. It will often flag up a series of “recommended properties” which it thinks you ought to have, but you can ignore them if they don’t apply to your email.

    Once you’ve mastered the basics of email markup and sent a few test emails, you’ll have a good foundation in place to move onto more advanced forms of markup like email actions, enriching search results and triggering Google Now cards.

    In the next instalment of our beginner’s guides to Schema.org, I’ll be looking at how to mark up email actions with Schema.org, from one-click actions to RSVPs, reviews and go-to actions. Stay tuned!

    What is content syndication and how do I get started?

    telephone-wires

    Here we’ll take a look at the practice of content syndication and answer a few questions…

    What is it? How do I get started? How do I find content syndication platforms? Is it helpful for SEO?

    Please note, this is a new version of our previously published guide to content syndication published in 2013, written by Andrew Delamarter. All the information has been revised and updated.

    What is content syndication?

    Content syndication is the process of pushing your blogpost, article, video or any piece of web-based content out to other third-parties who will then republish it on their own sites.

    Why would I use content syndication?

    Content syndication is particularly useful if you’re a smaller publisher or an up-and-coming writer who wants a larger audience from a more authoritative site.

    By having your blog content published on The Guardian (for instance) you will be exposed to a much wider audience that isn’t your own, who may then visit you on your own blog.

    The other major reason for doing this is SEO. Some of that bigger site’s authority should be passed down to you.

    But doesn’t that create a duplicate content issue?

    Not if you and your distribution partner carry out your SEO work correctly.

    Yes there will be two or more versions of your content flying around the internet, and ordinarily when this happens Google will only index one of those versions (it won’t penalise you, it will just decide which version should appear in search results and ignore the other) – however there is a safe way to ensure all the link-juice flows towards your original content…

    SEO-friendly ways of syndicating content

    Here are a few methods you and your syndication partner can try to ensure safe content indexing…

    rel=canonical tag

    The site that has republished your content needs to make sure they’ve implemented a rel=canonical tag on their page, which links back to your original content.

    This will pass all of the PageRank and other Google ranking signals back to your webpage, and will also inform Google that yours is the page that should appear in search results.

    If you want to doublecheck that your syndication partner is using a canonical tag, you can run their page through a tool like SEO Review Tools’ canonical checker.

    There are other safe ways to syndicate content too. Both of the following ideas are from Eric Enge’s Whiteboard Friday video as featured on Moz.

    meta noindex tag

    According to Eric Enge, this is the same principle as the canonical tag. The authority site implements a meta noindex tag on their page and it instructs the search engine to remove the page from the index, thus solving the duplicate content problem.

    Clean link to original article

    You may find that your syndication partner can’t be bothered with the extra coding or still want their version of your article to be indexed in search results. So they’ll just use a clean text link on their page to the same article on your site.

    Like this – 10 most shared Olympic ads so far.

    According to Eric Enge, when search engines see that link, they’re pretty good at understanding that it belongs to the original author, so you still may get some authority and avoid duplicate content.

    However to be certain, it’s perhaps best to use the rel=canonical tag.

    How to set up your syndication strategy?

    The following advice comes from Andrew Delamarter’s original article…

    The first step of content syndication is to establish goals that match your business model. For example, if you’re trying to build traffic on your blog to capture leads, syndicating full article content out to partners might not be the best approach.

    Syndicating a headline, the first paragraph, and a link back to the blog, however, might make sense. If you are mainly trying to build awareness of your product or brand in a broad sense, syndication of all forms may be in order.

    Once you know your goal, think about the kind of content you have and where you want to send it. Map out content distribution partners, their requirements, and your content and infrastructure (software) capability.

    Planning ahead for syndication makes sense. During a redesign or site launch, or when setting up your content strategy, content structure (think meta data schemas and content types), and content management systems, think about how you can build things to auto-generate feeds in a flexible fashion without a lot of manual work.

    Are paid content syndication partners any good?

    You could take the paid syndication route, and there are two major players in this space creating ‘recommended content’ widgets, which you may have seen hanging around at the bottom of various publisher’s articles.

    Personally I’m not a big fan of them, they seem to be cluttering up the web with less than reputable posts, taking visitors down rabbit holes of bad user experience, and the occasional NSFW image, even from more trustworthy publishers.

    empire content recommends

    However don’t let my opinion sway you, many of them – such as Outbrain – do have a better understanding of relevancy and taste then others, and feature on sites such as The Guardian, so it may be good for your blog.

    Content recommendation engines typically charge the advertiser or content promoter per click and then share revenue with the publisher if they are large enough.

    How do I find non-paid syndication partners?

    There are several syndication opportunities that don’t require huge amounts of expenditure, or in fact any amount. It just requires a little bit of elbow grease.

    Do some research, find the sites and blogs that are related to your industry. I guarantee they will always be looking out for good content (especially if it’s free) and there’s no such thing as publishing too many valuable and interesting features.

    Send a friendly email to the editor of the site that has a similar audience and interests to yours and include examples of your previous work. If you want a really helpful insider tip, include a post that’s ready for syndication immediately!

    Syndication partners will typically want to be the sole syndicator of any particular piece of content. You can have as many syndication partners as you like, but don’t try to get one specific article republished multiple times through multiple sites.

    Good luck and happy syndicating!

    Google AMP is coming to organic search results

    mobile amp organic search

    Six months ago, Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages initiative was only available in the ‘Top Stories’ carousel of it search results. Now Google has announced that AMP support will be rolled out across the entire organic search results page.

    In a blog post published just a couple of hours ago, Google is previewing exactly how this new layout will look.

    In fact, if you’re currently on a mobile you can just click on the following link for a live demonstration: AMP Demo

    And it totally works. Here’s my mobile search for ‘finding dory review’. Check out the middle result from The Guardian…

    As you can see from the above, being AMP enabled doesn’t automatically make a page rank higher, in fact Google reiterated today that AMP is not a ranking signal.

    “To clarify, this is not a ranking change for sites.”

    See, I told you.

    Google AMP is specifically designed to improve the mobile user experience offering stripped down versions of web pages that load instantly, have minimal navigation, are uncluttered with ads (for now) and require very little network power.

    Personally I now seek out pages with the little lightning symbol when I’m on my mobile… there’s just no other more satisfying way to find out the lyrics to Will Smith’s ‘Miami’ when on the move.

    AmpBlueLinksDemo_v4_garciarobert

    Don’t panic

    If you haven’t enabled AMP on your site, don’t worry just yet. Today’s announcement is designed to be an early warning (much like its previous ‘head’s up’ regarding its mobile friendly algorithm change) before it rolls out the feature more broadly later in the year.

    The post states:

    “We want to give everyone who might be interested in “AMPing up” their content enough time to learn how to implement AMP and to see how their content appears in the demo.”

    Google developing a sense of humour there that can only be described as ‘dad-like’.

    To date there are more than 150 million AMP docs in Google’s index, with more than 4 million new ones being added every week. You still have time to implement AMP if you haven’t already, but you’d better get your lightning fast skates on!

    Sorry. It’s quite late over here in the UK.

    Yelp targets businesses who threaten negative reviewers with legal action

    Legal-Alert

    Online reviews can in some cases make or break a business, so it’s no surprise that many businesses take their online reviews very, very seriously.

    But some take their concern over what customers are saying about them online too far, and try to silence customer criticism with legal threats.

    Others have incorporated legalese such as non-disparagement clauses into contracts that seeks to prevent them from posting negative reviews in the first place.

    The issue has caught the attention of lawmakers. One bill, the Consumer Review Fairness Act, would allow states and the Federal Trade Commission to go after businesses that use these clauses to gag their customers.

    But while the Consumer Review Fairness Act works its way through the legislative process, Yelp just gave businesses a good reason to think twice about threatening customers who post negative reviews.

    The popular online reviews service has added a new Consumer Alert that warns users about businesses that use “questionable legal threats” to try to silence unhappy customers.

    According to Yelp’s Senior VP of Corporate Communications & Public Affaris, Vince Sollitto, “Consumers don’t necessarily know that these threats are sometimes empty or meritless (and often both!), so the threat of legal action is enough to scare them into silence. We don’t think that’s right.”

    The new Consumer Alert aims to make sure that Yelpers are aware of their rights, and it could dent the online reputation of businesses that Yelp believes are violating those rights.

    For instance, Prestigious Pets, a pet sitting business located in Dallas, has 59 reviews on Yelp, and an enviable 4.5 star rating.

    But prospective customers who visit its Yelp page are greeted with the new Consumer Alert, which they must acknowledge before being able to read the business’ reviews. Needless to say, the alert might give potential customers of Prestigious Pets pause.

    Dealing with bad reviews

    The good news for businesses is that bad reviews, while obviously undesirable, need not be feared.

    Most reviews are positive, and even the not-so-positive ones help build authenticity and are better than no reviews. What’s more: negative reviews can be a gift.

    Not only are they are a source of valuable feedback that enable businesses to improve the quality of their products and services, they can provide businesses with an opportunity to identify customers who had an unsatisfactory experience so they can attempt to rectify the situation and save the customer relationship.

    The benefits of negative reviews, coupled with the steeper price Yelp is making overly aggressive and litigious businesses pay for intimidating unhappy customers, mean that businesses have no reason not to try making lemonade when online reviews hand them lemons.