Online Reviews of Your Business

Steve Strauss, founder of www.theselfemployed.com, explains why online reviews are so important to your business and the best ways to manage them.

Steve Strauss headshot My youngest daughter is headed off to college soon and as a graduation present, my wife and I wanted to get her a nice used car. We all looked around quite a bit and finally found what we thought was a reputable dealer and a solid car.

Although the car needed a little work, the owner of the place was a charming fellow, he promised that he would get the car in tip-top shape, and so we struck a deal.

Just to be safe, a few weeks later after the work was “done,” I took the car to another mechanic and had it double-checked. We were surprised to receive a list of five or six things that were still wrong with the car. Hint one that something was amiss: The original guy was not surprised at all and didn't blanche one bit when I asked him to fix it all.

Hint two came after we took the revised car home and I still had to put another $500 into it to get it right. It was only then that we looked online at the reviews of the shop (duh!) and saw that many people had had the same experience: “Charming owner, but a shyster.”

When I stopped back at the shop last week to pick up a part they had ordered, I mentioned the reviews to the gal who runs the office. “Yeah,” she said, “that’s why we’re almost out of business.”

Well, actually, that’s not why. The reason why is that the owner does shoddy work and makes promises he seems to have no intention of keeping. All the reviews did was amplify the reality of the situation.

And that is exactly what review sites do. In this Internet age, opinions about your business are multi-fold more important to the average small business than ever before. Do good work, have a good business, and online reviews are your best friend. Run a bad business, rip people off, and online reviews can be your worst nightmare.

But this is also true: Bad reviews need not be the end of the world. After all, they might reveal something new to you about your operation of which you were not previously aware. In this regard, a bad review can ultimately help you have a better business and better serve your customers.

The key to review success is to be proactive about what is being said about you online. Here’s how:

1. Pay attention to Yelp

: Yelp is probably the most important general review site out there and as such, you need to understand and master it; there are concrete steps that you can take to use Yelp effectively:

  • Sign up for a free Yelp for Business Owners account. Yelp provides promotional tools and analytical data to those who sign up
  • With a Business Owners account, you can tactfully and professionally respond to the reviews that people post, and that’s exactly what you should do. If your side of the argument is logical and strong, you can often transform a negative into a positive. You can even email reviewers privately about their reviews. 

Responding to Yelp reviews shows that you are paying attention to the feedback and that you take the needs of your customers seriously.

2. Don't Overlook Facebook and Twitter

: Many business owners may not immediately think of Facebook and Twitter when it comes to online reviews of their businesses, but they should. While this type of posting and commenting may not be as obvious as Yelp, you can be certain that Facebook posts can and do have an impact. Again, this not only shows a dedication to customer service, but it also can cause folks to erase the bad reviews if you solve the problem they mention.

3. Check out industry-specific sites

: There are also review sites to be aware of that are business specific, such as TripAdvisor. Other sites to keep an eye on are Angie’s List and Citysearch.

4. Work to get good reviews

: Clearly, as my sad little experience above shows, the best way to get good reviews is to keep your customers happy and consistently offer quality products and services.

Finally, there is one other thing you can do to help ensure good reviews: Ask for them. If someone emails you with a compliment, or talks you up in your shop, kindly request that they post a review online. Most folks will, and your business will be the better for it.

Today’s tip: It goes without saying that you should never post angry or aggressive responses to any negative review no matter how inaccurate it happens to be. Doing so will lead many to believe the negative reviewer may indeed be correct in his or her assessment.

About the Author

Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer and writer and is one of the country's leading experts on small business as well as an international business speaker. The best-selling author of 17 books, his latest is the all-new 3rd ed. of The Small Business Bible. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success Powered by Greatland, visit his new website for the self-employed, TheSelfEmployed, follow him on Twitter, and "like" TheSelfEmployed on Facebook. You can e-mail Steve at: sstrauss@mrallbiz.com. © Steven D. Strauss