SCORE

Reputation marketing and online reviews are taking the business world – and digital marketing industry -- by storm.

Ever since Amazon first began allowing people to leave reviews (good AND bad ones) on their site, consumers have turned to online reviews to make judgments about a business, product or service -- sometimes exclusively on what other people are saying and the star ratings/reviews people give.

Think about the last time you made a purchase, ate at a new restaurant or needed your car repaired. You probably first went online and either asked your Facebook friends and family for recommendations and/or did a search on Google for local businesses in your area. As you were searching, you probably couldn’t help but notice Google reviews show prominently in search results.

Google search results

Not only does Google show reviews consumers left on their platform, Google also shows other online web reviews about a company on the business’ Google My Business listing:

Google My Business listing

If you think that online reviews don’t matter to your business…think again.

According to BrightLocal’s recent consumer online review study, 84% of people trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation. That’s HUGE! Not only do online reviews impart consumer trust in a business, they can also increase landing page conversions and click-through-rates.

Here are just a few of the findings:

  • Having a 5-star rating boosts search click-throughs by 28%
  • Going from a 3-star to a 5-star rating drives 25% more clicks
  • 56% of consumers select a business if it has positive reviews
  • 83% of the people thought the business with the user-generated reviews on a landing page was trustworthy
  • 74% of people who saw reviews on landing pages said they would contact the businesses
  • 7 out of 10 people will leave an online review if tehy're asked by the business to leave one

But there are a lot of questions about reputation marketing

Reputation marketing can be confusing for business owners. How do you get reviews? Do you ask customers directly? Can you post reviews on your customers’ behalf? (No, you can’t.) What do you do if someone leaves a bad review?

We decided to look at some of the common questions real business owners have about online reviews and answer some of them here so everyone can benefit! So here we go….

Q. How do businesses "get on" Yelp?

A. First go to biz.yelp.com and search for your business. If your business isn’t found/listed, you can then click “Add your business to Yelp.”

If your business is listed but there is no option to claim the listing, that means that somebody already claimed it, or you may have recently submitted your business to Yelp and it’s pending approval. You can find out more information about claiming your business on Yelp here.

Q. What can you do to offset Yelp and their "review filtering?" I've seen many real reviews get filtered out by Yelp and it's frustrating!

A. I hear ya! I agree. Unlike Google who encourages businesses to ask customers for reviews, Yelp discourages it.
They want customers to organically/naturally leave reviews about a business and can suppress reviews if their algorithm thinks that the review was left because the business asked a person to leave it. Additionally, Yelp gives more credibility to reviews that are left by visitors who frequently review a variety of businesses on Yelp. (i.e. “Yelpers.”)

If you’d like a customer to leave a review on Yelp, first ask them, “Do you use Yelp?” If they say, “Yes,” then chances are their review will be viewed by Yelp as a legitimate one. Additionally, if a business gets too many reviews in a short period of time (i.e. a business has no Yelp reviews and suddenly has five reviews submitted), Yelp’s algorithm will flag them as being suspicious.

I know it can be frustrating, and out of all the review sites, Yelp is probably the pickiest, and you should think about your Yelp review strategy ahead of time.

Q. Can you block consistent bad reviews from one customer? Especially one that you have made attempts to rectify the customer’s experience. Is it a good idea to just block the customer after a period of time?

A. On most review sites, you can’t “block” reviews.
(Although Google recently began allowing businesses to “flag” suspicious reviews, but they’re not the norm.) In most cases, you just want to respond to the bad reviewer (politely) and tolerate it. Ask them to call you to take the dispute offline. You will then want to create a strategy to get more GOOD reviews from happy customers which will eventually push down the negative reviews.

It’s generally not a good idea to delete reviews -- even if you have the ability to do so. Most people can see the true complainer for who they are.

Q. Can you publish feedback without the customer’s permission? Like comments in an email or provided on Facebook? Are there restrictions in this area?

A. NEVER post a review online on behalf of a customer.
First, ideally you want that customer to go online and leave the review themselves. That makes it truly genuine. Second, the review sites can tell where the online reviews are coming from. This means if you start typing in a bunch of customer reviews from your office computers on Google, Insiderpages, Yelp, etc., Google and the other review sites will know that (they can see your IP address and other details) and will either penalize you or delete the reviews. It’s NOT worth the risk.

Always ask your customers to leave reviews for you. You can do this many ways:

  • Send them a thank you email saying how great it was to work with them, and ask for a review
  • Send them a physical letter thanking them and asking for a review
  • Include a line at the bottom of your invoice asking for a review
  • Add “How are we doing?” with a link to a review site in your email signature line
  • Call a happy customer, and just ask

NOTE: Always provide customers with the DIRECT URL to your review site’s page (i.e. “Tell us how we did! Please leave a review for us on facebook.com/CompanyName.” Don’t just say, “Please leave a review for us on Facebook.” Give them the direct page to your business on a review site, so they don’t have to search and hunt for it. Make it easy for customers to leave reviews. (If they have to search and work at it, the chances of them actually leaving a review are diminished.)

Q. Do you think that Facebook reviews are as important as Yelp or Google reviews?

A. Almost ALL of the credible review sites are important.
Yelp, Google My Business/Google and Facebook are probably the top three, but don’t stop there! If there are niche review directories (like Angie’s List or Cars.com), ask customers to leave reviews there, too. Mix it up. You want a good balance of reviews on a variety of the top review sites.

Looking for more information on reputation marketing?

I recently gave a SCORE webinar that taught attendees how building their online reputation can drive more clicks, calls and sales to their business. If you missed out on this SCORE webinar, you can watch the replay here.