Owning Your Online Reviews: Tips, Tricks, and Best Practices (Part 1)
Recently I extolled the virtues of online reviews for small businesses. Reviews are important for consumers, because they help sort out “good” businesses from “bad.” We’ve all had bad experiences with businesses; experiences we don’t care to repeat. And so more and more, we go online to read what others have had to say before the first visit.
As much as a review can tell customers whether a business is good or bad, it can also provide insider information for potential new customers. If most of the reviews for a tiny taqueria rave about the tamales, chances are high that I’ll try the tamales when I go. If some reviewers warn to avoid the masseuse named Kate at a day spa, I’ll make sure the receptionist doesn’t schedule my appointment with her. If reviewers are suggesting that Mondays are the sale days at a local clothing boutique, you can bet I’m clearing time next Monday to check it out. You get the drift.
Online reviews elevate awareness for your business in ways that your company website can’t, because current customers are sharing their unique experiences. And if those experiences tend to be positive, more customers will be encouraged to go — generating more sales. In fact, generally speaking, every extra star in a business review leads to a 5-9% jump in revenue.1
Yet a majority of small businesses still ignore review sites, or mistakenly assume they’re only good for restaurants (not true — in 2011 the number of reviews for retail shops surpassed the number of reviews for restaurants on Yelp according to Darnell Holloway, Yelp’s manager of local business outreach).
If you’re one of these business owners, I’ve got good news. Here’s a guide to taking charge of your presence on review sites, with some tips, tricks, and best practices to take along with you.
Finding or setting up your business
Even if you have never looked at a review site before, your business may already have a profile page. Why? Because review sites often pull business data from public records, or sometimes a user has already tipped the site off to your existence. Search review sites for your business first, and if your page exists you can usually claim or “unlock” it. If your business is unlisted, go through the steps of signing up and setting up your information.
Which review sites matter
All review sites matter — some are just more influential than others. Here are the top three:
Angie’s List reviews are known for quality because users actually have to pay for a membership in order to conduct research. This helps weed out fakes and crazies — you know, the ones behind those extreme rants and raves often inexplicably written with the caps lock on. Instead of the star system, businesses are graded on an A-F scale, and the reviews are geared toward service-based businesses.
Unlike Angie’s list, Yelp is a free review site that operates on a 5-star system. Yelp’s system also favors independent businesses, which is good news for the little guys. How? Well, since an experience at a chain business is likely to be the same locally as it is anywhere else, users don’t tend to bother with them. Michael Luca’s restaurant research corroborates this — when Yelp penetrates a market, he says, “there is a shift in revenue toward independent restaurants.”
Formerly known as Google Places, or casually known as Google Reviews, these are the ratings from Google+ users that pop up along with the pertinent information (hours, location, phone number, etc.) when you search for a business on Google. Since Google remains one of the top search engines, it goes without saying that these reviews are highly visible — and highly important. Like most sites, Google+ Local pages operate on a 5-star review system, but if you own a restaurant, you may also see an additional Zagat (0-30) score derived from your existing reviews.
Yahoo! Local, Insider Pages, Citysearch
These sites have less of the eyeball share than the top three, but they’re probably still worth your time. Insider Pages’ and Citysearch’s reviews get indexed by search engines, so even if a customer doesn’t bother looking on either site, he or she may still come across one of their reviews while searching for your business.
TRICK: A word about Bing Local. While Bing has currently surpassed Yahoo! in search engine market share (up to 17.4% of the usage over Yahoo!’s 11.9% as of May 2013), Bing’s local search results are powered by Yelp. So in other words, if you’re good on Yelp, you’re good on Bing.
BONUS TIP: There are some “niche” review sites not mentioned here that, if your business falls into their category, it might behoove you to add to your list. For example, if you own a restaurant, you’ll want to check out Urban Spoon.
Got it. So what now?
Now that you’ve zeroed in where to focus your efforts and made sure to create and thoroughly fill out your business owner accounts on those sites, what next? Next you’ll focus on how to get reviews, how to respond to the reviews you have, and how to keep the momentum going. Click here for the next post!
1 Based on a study of the Seattle restaurant industry by Michael Luca, a professor at Harvard Business School
Owning Your Online Reviews: Tips, Tricks, and Best Practices (Part 2) | Dowitcher Designs
[…] Part 1 I talked about why online reviews are so important to your business and how to get started on […]
I would like to know how to go about removing a review that gives my company a 5 star review but also advertises a competitors name, address, phone # and the persons name for an appointment.
Where is the review located? You may want to begin by checking the terms of service for that platform — for example, Yelp’s Terms of Service are located here.
Unless the review violates the Terms of Service, it unfortunately cannot be deleted. If this is true in your case, then you have the option of replying to the review in a positive way to make your business look even better than the competition’s. For example, a response that thanks the reviewer for their feedback and then reiterates your business’s unique qualifications without acknowledging the competition could work.
We have a couple of other posts about responding to reviews here and here, in case those might be helpful. Good luck! This is a hard situation to be in.
I own a private computer Training Institute in Pune (India). We already have a SEO friendly website. We do conduct short term IT training courses. At the end of each course we ask the candidates to put reviews on Google Business (g+) from our institute premises only. Will Google consider these reviews as proper reviews or as a practice of black hat SEO. Because some online sites say collect reviews immediately and some say if the reviews are from the same location Google does not consider them as reviews taken by good practices. Can you please guide or share any article or blog on this.
The way I understand it is that Google doesn’t want review sources tied to the same physical location, because it considers those reviews forced — for example, some businesses have been known to sneakily write their own reviews while posing as fake customers. Because of this, Google frequently flags or filters out multiple entries from one IP address. So, if you’re asking candidates to write reviews on-site, they would all be coming from one IP address and could pose a problem for you.
It might be possible to get around this by having candidates use their mobile devices to complete their reviews at the end of training, as long as those mobile devices aren’t connected to your wifi.
I hope this helps!