There are dozens of studies that report from 51 percent to 90 percent of consumers read and trust online reviews. No surprise there. I do it all the time. That means over half of consumers pay attention to online reviews.
Which makes good reviews critical if you have the type of business where people look for and read online reviews of products or services.
What a lot of business people fail to remember is that you can have a direct impact on reviews affecting your business. Here are ten ways you can increase the number of positive reviews of your business:
- Monitor your reviews. The first step is to learn where reviews of your business are likely to appear. Google, Bing, Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, Better Business Bureau and Yellow Pages are some of the better known review places. But you should also look for review sites covering your industry, as those may be even most important places to have good reviews. For instance, product reviews appear on ecommerce platforms like Amazon, reviews of home services may appear on sites like Home Advisor, and so on. Monitor for new reviews at least once a week to determine your progress and always deal with negative reviews.
- Accurately complete your online profiles. Take the time to add your hours of operation, product details, locations and other information. If offered, make sure you choose the proper categories to be associated with. Having complete online business listings, product descriptions on ecommerce platforms, and local profiles makes it appear you actively care about your business. And always correct any inaccurate information. If your profile says you are open to 7:00 p.m., but you close at 6:00 pm, you can probably expect a poor review from someone who made the trip and found your place was closed?
- Include awesome photographs. Make your profiles stand out in local search results and on review websites using photographs. Your photographs need to be high quality. The clearer and better the image looks, the more professional and impressive the business will appear to those searching online.
- Demonstrate customer reviews are important to you. Having a system that lets customers know their opinions matter to your business goes a long way toward getting more positive reviews. Create a system of follow-up email or verbal communications. A business or product with a higher number of reviews tends to get more attention on review sites. Plus, the more positive reviews you have to offset a negative review or two, the higher your overall rating will be.
- Tell happy customers verbally of review sites. When someone is at the cash register, ask how the meal or experience was. If positive, remind them to visit review sites. Beware that it is against the guidelines of some review sites to actually ask a customer to leave a review for your business. But, even in those situations it is usually acceptable to remind customers to 'check out' your business on a certain site, such as Yelp. Familiarize yourself with the allowable practices on the different review sites before you phrase your request.
- Use software to seek feedback and testimonials. Investigate review software services that can be programmed to send post-sale emails to customers asking what they thought of your product or service. For a positive review, send a follow-up communication making it easy for the customer to click a button and share that positive experience on a review site (done in such a way as to not violate terms of service of review sites).
- Do not EVER incentivize customer reviews. It's tempting. You think, why don't I just offer freebies or discounts to get customers to leave reviews? First, this violates the terms of service of many review sites. It may also violate FTC rules and state deceptive trade practice regulations. Your customer might have been willing to leave a positive review anyway, but by giving an incentive you just made the review invalid or a liability. Don't do it. See more on rules.
- Never set up a review station on premises. Do not set up a tablet or laptop for customers to review your business. This also crosses the line of the rules of service on some review sites. For example, Google's policy states: 'If you're a business owner, don't set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.' In addition, all reviews that come from a single IP address may be flagged by the review site as fake reviews, and do more harm than good for your reputation.
- Always respond to negative reviews. But, respond in the right way. Admit it if you made a mistake and offer to make things right or explain what you will do differently going forward. This type of response shows you care. Remember, other prospective customers can see your response so handling criticism gracefully is important. Don't become defensive or engage in a nasty public fight - it only makes matters worse.
- And respond to positive comments. This is a way to turn happy customers into enthusiastic advocates who spread positive a word of mouth. For instance, if someone says something nice on Twitter about your business, tweet back a simple thank you. Some companies go so far as to respond on social media with a short personal video to show their gratitude. If you got one of those as a customer, wouldn't that endear you even more? And possibly get you to share the nice thank-you to your followers and friends?
But the ultimate way to get positive reviews is to always deliver great products and/or services to customers.