Digital Mainstreet is a free government program that helps small and home-based businesses grow, promote and sell online.
There are a lot of obstacles small and home-based business owners face when it comes to adopting digital tools and technology, including time, money, and lack of tech savvy. A new program aims to help.
Digital Mainstreet is a free, government-run program that targets small and home-based business that want to increase their online presence.
When a small business is accepted into the program, it will be assigned an advisor. This is an experienced digital expert who will help the business owner build strategies and assess the businesses’ needs. Advisors are paid through the program, and each business gets up to six hours of its advisor’s time at no charge.
Any work recommended by the advisor, including building an online store, website, or social media page, is done by recent graduates under the supervision of experienced professionals. The grads get valuable hands-on experience, and entrepreneurs get a a digital platform to grow their businesses online. Talk about a win-win!
Here are some Digital Mainstreet success stories I know about:
- My kids’ hair salon had an e-commerce website built so they could sell haircare products online;
- A home-based artist had a full website built to promote paintings online;
- An addiction not-for-profit is getting a whole new website and Google Ads training;
- A local restaurant is putting their menu online and introducing take-out service; and
- A psychotherapist’s Facebook page is being redesigned and she is getting social media training.
Learn More and Apply
Ottawa’s Digital Mainstreet program is operated by Invest Ottawa. Learn more and apply.
Not in Ottawa? Digital Mainstreet is an Ontario-wide program. Visit their main website to learn more.
This is a great opportunity for businesses to get some expert assistance with their online presence. Let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you for coming to today’s webinar. You can download your copy by clicking on the presentation picture below:
Uncover Your Website Secrets with Google Analytics will be my next webinar. We’ll talk about setting up goals and reading some of the more significant reports. The webinar is free, just register by completing the short form:
Customer Reviews are more than just a huge compliment. They offer social proof to potential customers that your product or service is worth the purchase, and they help with your Google rankings.
I’ve seen several of my customers move from internet obscurity to the top of search results because of positive reviews on their Google My Business listing.
Customers See Success After Asking for Reviews
One of my customers gets more than 75 reviews a year (actually in six months, it’s a seasonal business) and has a 4.8 star rating out of five. She runs a bike tour and rental company in downtown Ottawa, and at the end of each tour, she asks her customers to review her business if they enjoyed the tour.
Another customer gets close to 150 reviews a year and maintains a 4.7 star rating out of five. When their customers receive a follow-up text on their phones for their next appointment, it is accompanied by a request for a review, and a link to where that review can be written and submitted.
Both customers consistently appear in the ‘map pack’ on Google’s search results, and both receive more than 40% of their sales leads from their Google My Business listing.
How to Get a Customer Review – Ask for it!
Reviews make a difference! It’s too bad every satisfied customer does not automatically go to Google and post a review. Instead, we must ask for reviews, which can feel awkward. I have helped a lot of my customers with this.
I’m often asked, ‘How do I get more reviews?’ The simple answer is: Ask for a review.
No, really. When you know your customer is happy with your product or service, just ask them to leave a positive review. Here are some examples of how this can be done:
Face to Face or On the Phone: How to ask for a Google Review
‘Would you mind giving my business a review on Google’?
‘Would you mind sharing your experience in a Google Review?’
Follow up with an email
If the customer has not posted a review within a couple of days, send a follow up email that includes the link to your reviews (see below).
Hi Customer Name; that was a great meeting / phone call on X day. If you have time, could you please give a review of your experience?
Ask for a Google Review in an Email
You may choose to send an automated ‘ask for a review’ email to your customers. If you are a high-volume transactional business, this kind of system may work well for you.
Here are some email messages that have worked well:
If you’ve been working with the customer for a few months or more:
Subject Line: A Favour
Hi First Name;
I hope you are doing well. Last X Month, we worked together on your Google Analytics and Google My Business accounts. I wanted to check in to see if you had questions or need anything explained. Please let me know.
Also, I wanted to know if you would be interested in leaving a review of my work on Google. It helps others know what they are getting into when/if they hire me. If you wish to leave a review, here’s the link: [Insert your Google link – see ‘Do Not Forget Your Review Link’ section below]
As ask as part of a general email
The following review request was at the bottom of a mass email I received from a company I do business with (I do not know how well it worked):
‘If you feel we have earned it, please leave us a positive Google review (they should have added their link), like our Facebook page or follow us on Instagram. Your recommendation and referrals are the greatest compliment we can ever receive. Thank you!’
Review request delivered with the product
This request came with a USB hub that I ordered from Sabrent:
Do Not Forget Your Review Link
Google makes it easy for you to ask customers for a review. You can get a link directly from your Google My Business homepage. Here’s how:
- Log into your Google My Business account.
- Scroll down on the homepage until you see this:
- Click on ‘Share review form’ and this screen opens:
- Copy and paste that link into your message. When your customer clicks the link, it goes directly to your review page. They don’t have to look for where to place their review. Here’s what your customer sees – all they have to do is write the review:
Respond to Reviews
When the reviews start pouring in, don’t forget to respond to each one: The good, the bad, and even the man cold reviews!
Warning: Do not Compensate Customers or offer discounts and Get Fake Reviews
Google is on the lookout for fake reviews, good and bad. It’s not unheard of for Google to penalize companies that engage in fake reviews or get caught compensating for reviews. I highly recommend you not do this!
Review Requests That Have Worked for You
If you have review requests that have worked for you, please share them in the comments below.
Google and Facebook are two of the most powerful digital advertising platforms available to businesses. Both reach huge population segments and operate on a ‘pay per click’ basis, where advertisers only pay when the user clicks on their advertisement. If the user doesn’t click, the advertiser doesn’t pay.
I manage the Google and Facebook Advertising accounts for several customers, and I have seen both platforms succeed and fail. Here’s my take on what works and what doesn’t, based on the data I’ve seen from my customers’ campaigns.
Buyers and Browsers
Which is better, Facebook or Google? I’m asked this question almost weekly.
My response, in a nutshell, is ‘it depends.’
Facebook is exceptionally good at finding browsers—those who are considering different ways to resolve a problem or obtain a desired outcome.
Google is exceptionally good at finding buyers—those who have decided they want to apply a specific solution to resolve a problem or obtain a desired outcome. The buyers have determined how much money and time they will apply to achieve their outcome.
Just so we are clear in my definition; there are two states of mind; those who:
- Are considering different solutions; and,
- Have decided on a specific solution and budget.
Attracting a browser to your website is a good thing. They may subscribe to your mailing list, bookmark your page, or otherwise engage with your site. Email marketing is very powerful and is a very high-converting traffic source. The caveat is that the business must be committed to continuous email content generation that nurtures the email list toward purchase.
Attracting buyers is also good because they may choose to give you their money. Buyers tend to search with specific intentions. For example, they may search for an apartment in Westboro (neighbourhood), rather than an apartment in the City of Ottawa, which contains the Westboro neighbourhood.
Best of Both Worlds: Use Both Google and Facebook Advertising
In a perfect world, businesses would have the resources to advertise on both Facebook and Google. Facebook would pull the masses and generate email signups, while Google would bring the buyers to your door.
For a few of my customers, advertising on both platforms was possible, which allowed me to determine how well these platforms worked together. Here’s one example one of my customers experienced:
Facebook Vs. Google Mini Case Study
Hintonburg Connection is a new premium high rise apartment building in Ottawa’s Hintonburg neighbourhood. The building is professionally managed by Colonnade BridgePort.
While the building was under construction, the advertising objective was to build an email subscription list to target potential residents when the building opened. A secondary objective aimed to get subscribers to make a phone call or submit an email to a member of the leasing team immediately.
For the email subscription goal to be considered complete, a subscriber had to provide their name and email address.
For the contact request, there was considerably more commitment required on the part of the subscriber. The Subscriber needed to fill out a form with their name, phone number, email and desired suite type. Plus, there was the expectation the person would spend time on the phone speaking with the leasing agent.
Facebook ads were tracked in Google Analytics using UTM codes. Google Ads were tracked in Google Analytics with Auto Tagging turned on.
We advertised on both Facebook and Google. Spending slightly more on Google search advertising, and the geographic targeting was the same for each.
Facebook excelled at getting the email signups. Google excelled at getting the contact requests—remember it’s harder to get contact requests than email signups.
In October 2019, Hintonburg Connection opened and began accepting live viewings with a leasing agent. The email list signup was disabled, and the primary advertising objective was to get people to book an appointment with a leasing representative to view the model suite.
We kept the spend and geo targeting the same for both Facebook and Google Search advertising. The results were stunning:
Google’s performance at generating sales leads was significantly stronger. The cost per sales lead was 35% lower than Facebook.
Other observations of Facebook versus Google
- Facebook brought a higher volume of website visitors that Google.
- Facebook brought more new users to the website than Google.
- Facebook had a higher bounce rate (percentage of people who viewed landing page and left the site) than Google.
Application of the Experience
When it was time for Colonnade’s next apartment building opening, 1960 Scott Street, we applied our experience. During the pre opening phase of gathering email subscribers we spent more heavily on Facebook. And then as we switched to actively leasing units, we applied more spend to Google Search Ads.
Dental Office Stopped Facebook Advertising
A small dental office I work with was doing both Google search ads and Facebook ads. After six months, they stopped the Facebook ads because their cost per lead was too high (form completion was $108, versus Google Search at $59).
They too experienced high traffic volumes and bounce rates.
Getting the Word Out Quickly on Facebook
Another customer used Facebook to announce a new product. Their goal was to reach as many people as quickly as possible about the new product. Facebook reached far more people much faster than Google.
Facebook Advertising worked better on softer commitments like email signups
My experience advertising with Google search and Facebook has shown me that Facebook is particularly good at reaching a lot of people quickly. It’s good at driving traffic to your website and getting people to make small commitments, like subscribing to an email list.
In short: Facebook advertising generates a lot of traffic and small commitments, but results in very few leads or sales.
Why Facebook excels at smaller user commitments
Typically, Facebook users leisurely scroll through their feeds to see what friends are doing, and to relax. They click on ads that intrigue them, but most are not in the mood to do a lot of thinking and analyzing, or especially to make large commitments, such as committing time to go to a leasing office or make a purchase.
If the Facebook user has an interest, they will complete a quick mailing list form, because that fits with their relaxed mood.
Google Search Advertising works better on the ‘Money Commitments’
It’s been my experience with customers advertising on both Facebook and Google that Google brings in the money. The user is typically ‘Googling a problem’ because they are looking for a solution. In this way, they are in the mood to listen, especially when a seller has the solution to their problem. And when they find the solution, they’re more willing to make that bigger commitment or purchase.
Is Google Search Advertising Better than Facebook Ads?
These two platforms are built for different objectives. In my opinion, Facebook excels at softer commitments like email signups and getting large volumes of people to your website quickly. Google search is made to get buyers to find you. It excels at getting people who are actively searching and ready to buy your product or service to your website.
The key for small- and medium-sized businesses with restrictive budgets is to make it clear what they want users to do after they land on their website.
Why decline so many Facebook advertising request
Unfortunately, many businesses lack the resources to advertise on both Facebook and Google. Their budgets force them to choose one over the other. In order for a Facebook advertising campaign to be successful, a business needs to have the email or content marketing in place or be willing to build it. That’s a significant commitment, which can be difficult on a small budget. In my experience, those who want Facebook advertising but don’t have an email infrastructure will struggle.
Advertising across multiple platforms is a great way to increase sales. But how do you know which advertising works, which advertising results are best? Which advertising source brings you the most sales?
Checking the data on each platform individually is time-consuming and inefficient and that usually pushes most of us to guess.
We’re in the digital age and tracking advertising results is really not that hard.
Keep All Your Advertising Results In One Place
It’s best to track all your advertising data in one place such as Google Analytics website tracking application. With just a quick tweak to the link in your ad you can have all your results in Google Analytics.
This way, when you advertise on Google and through social media platforms like Facebook, you can get an at-a-glance comparison of your sales leads from each source.
Three Basics of Advertising Results Tracking
In fact, there are three things that must be in place before I begin any advertising with my customers:
- Goals are set in Google Analytics.
- Google Ads Auto Tagging and Goal Import is set up.
- Facebook and all other online ads are tagged with a UTM code.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.
Google Analytics Goals
Google Analytics’ free website tracking application is the core of your data tracking. This is where you’ll go to view and compare your data.
Here’s how to set this up:
- Set up Google Tag Manager: This free product tracks clicks on your forms. On e-commerce sites, you can enable e-commerce tracking. For Shopify sites, the setting for e-commerce tracking is under ‘Online Store’ under ‘Preferences’. Ensure the ‘E-commerce’ box is enabled.
- Set your goals in Google Analytics: You will find those in the Admin section under the ‘View’ panel.
Google Ads Auto Tagging and Goal Import
Auto Tagging is what enables your Google Ads click and conversion data to be transferred between Analytics and Google Ads.
Here’s how to do it:
- Link your Google Analytics to your Google Ads account: In Google Analytics, go into Admin, and in the ‘Property’ panel, click ‘Linked Products.’ Select Google Ads and input your account number.
- Set up Auto Tagging: Go into your Google Ads account, and under ‘Account Settings’ on the side menu, ensure ‘Auto Tagging’ is set to ‘’
- Import your Goals from Google Analytics to your Google Ads account: Click the wrench icon in the upper right navigation menu, then click ‘Conversions.’ Select ‘Import,’ and your Google Analytics goals should appear. Check off the goals you want to import.
Facebook and other Advertising Tracking
When you compare all your traffic sources against each other in Google Analytics, you can actually see what sources are converting, bouncing, full of new users, and much more advertising results. The Google Analytics screenshot below shows the traffic volume from each source and the number of times a sales lead was generated from that source. What a wonderful instant comparison!
Notice numbers five, seven and ten: PaidSocial / Facebook, Kitchissippi Times (a local newspaper), and GMB (Google My Business) / Organic. None of these are included in Google Analytics by default; they are all third party advertising vehicles.
I track the performance of these advertisements by ‘tagging’ the link to back to your website.
Let’s play tag
A tag is a set of instructions that tells Google Analytics how to classify a link. It’s actually an HTML code called an UTM code that surrounds your link.
Here’s an example of what a tagged link (with HTML code embedded) might look like:
Don’t worry… it’s not as scary as it looks.
Wait it’s much easier…. There’s a free tool to do it for you.
First, here are a couple of useless facts:
- UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module.
- Urchin was a company that Google purchased many years ago.
Google has built an easy-to-use tool that does all the coding for you. It’s called Google URL Builder, and yes, it’s free!
When you open the Google URL Builder tool, the first thing you will need to do is input your landing page. This is the page you are sending the user to when they click your ad.
Next, there are three more fields to navigate:
Source: The site where the traffic is coming from. For example, Facebook, Google My Business, New York Times, etc.
Medium: This is a broad channel grouping. For example, Social, Organic, Paid, Email, Affiliates, PaidSocial.
Each medium may have many sources. For example Paid Social (representing social media advertising you are paying for) might include sources such as Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, and other social media sites.
Campaign (optional): This is the promotion or product that is being promoted.
Google URL Builder creates your tag as you complete the fields
As you complete the fields, you’ll notice a URL full of %, ? symbols at the bottom of the page. Don’t worry, it all means something. Once you’re done filling in the fields, just copy the URL and past it into your ads.
Some of these URLs might be overly long. I suggest using a URL shortener like Bitly to cut them down to size.
Make sure the link works
When you add your URL to your ads, test it to ensure it links to the correct landing page. Then, check your Google Analytics Realtime traffic sources to test that it is picking up the correct source and medium.
By following these simple steps, you can keep all your advertising data in one place, and quickly and easily see your advertising results.