Consumer reviews, left at sites such as Google Maps or Yelp.com, are becoming increasingly important (and will be even more critical in the future). The question is, how can you get more of these valuable ratings?
First off, let’s consider why you need reviews:
- People trust reviews (Nielsen study). If your business has lots of them, and they’re mostly positive, more people will contact you – and they’ll already be partway sold.
- Reviews can help your rankings in local search (Expert’s consensus). It’s good to have lots of reviews, it’s good to have them on lots of sites – and it’s probably even better if they’re positive reviews. These are all factors that appear to influence Google’s ranking of your company in the local results.
This article is going to cover how to encourage reviews – but let’s look at where you want to be reviewed first.
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Where To Be Reviewed
There are thousands of places online where a person could review your business. A few factors influence which is best.
Some reviews are syndicated around the web. For instance, a review written at Citysearch, ServiceMagic, or Yahoo Local may show up in Google Maps. Certain sites are syndicated more than others. Some of the sites that get good visibility include:
Citysearch in particular is syndicated all over the place – to see it’s coverage, read Mike Blumenthal’s post.
Ease Of Reviewing
People are put off by having to register for a new login at a site they’ve never seen. There is a good chance your customers already have a login at these sites:
- Google Maps – Google Accounts, created for Gmail or most Google services.
- Yahoo Local – Yahoo Accounts, created for Yahoo Mail or most Yahoo services.
- Citysearch, InsiderPages – Accept Facebook logins.
Vertical sites are dedicated to a particular industry. They may be more trusted by the search engines, and popular sites can be a good source of traffic. A few examples include:
There are many others. Run a few searches for your industry to see what you find.
Other Factors To Consider
Depending upon your location and the demographics of your customer base, particular sites may be more used. For instance, Yelp is popular with a more hip crowd in urban areas (although this is changing as the site grows).
It’s also good to encourage reviews in several sources, as it’s hard to know which sites will be most used or trusted in the future.
A Final Consideration – Active Reviewers
One final factor to keep in mind is that some of your customers are already reviewing local businesses. It’s best to encourage these people to use their favorite review site, regardless of where it is. This is because:
- The customer is already comfortable with and has a login for the site they usually use, making it more likely they will actually complete the review.
- Some sites are developing trust systems, monitoring users and allocating more authority to those that consistently provide reviews. Your company will benefit from having one of these experienced reviewers writing something on their favorite site.
How To Encourage Reviews
Ask For Them
If you want reviews, you’ll need to tell your customers. A few ideas for this include:
- When someone says you did a great job, tell them that you appreciate it – and really love receiving reviews online.
- Send a note to your mailing list, or Twitter/Facebook fans, asking them to review your business.
- After providing your service, ask for a review as part of your follow up email. (This is done automatically by DemandForce’s service for Dentists – and makes for massive numbers of reviews)
- If customers visit your business, place a sign on the counter, or have a stack of cards asking for reviews.
There might be other good ideas for your business – think about when you have a chance to ask someone to provide a review.
Make It Easy
A customer might be willing to provide a review, but they probably won’t work that hard to do it. It’s going to be easiest for most people if they can just click a link. A couple options for this include:
- Send an email with links to the review sites you recommend.
- Create an easy to remember location on your website, and place the links there.
The second option is something you could write out on a card or tell people over the phone.
Some businesses have also placed computers right in their customer area, with a note asking for reviews. This might rub some people the wrong way, particularly if you can watch them writing the review, but makes reviewing very easy.
Who Should I Ask?
There are basically two approaches you can take:
Ask happy customers – Just ask those customers you know had a good experience, probably because they told you. This will make sure all the reviews you encourage are positive – although it won’t prevent dissatisfied customers from expressing their opinion. This is probably best if your business has customer service issues.
Ask all customers – This is what I recommend for most companies. You’ll receive the largest number of reviews, and most reviews will probably be good (average reviews are 4 of 5 stars). The large number of reviews are probably helpful for search rankings, and will serve to drown out the occasional bad apple.
There are businesses that provide incentives for online reviews. This is frowned upon by some sites, such as Yelp, but less so at others. It can constitute anything from outright paying for reviews, to handing out dollar-off coupons with a note asking for reviews.
Incentives will look to some customers as if you are trying to game reviews (maybe you are?) and reviews could be removed if the recipient sites get wind. It’s best to avoid them, or beware the downsides if you decide it’s necessary.
Companies also write fake complaints regarding competitors. This is downright evil – please don’t. If you suspect that reviews of your own business were placed by competitors, contact the site hosting the review and give your reasons. Some sites are good at helping out, although at others you’ll probably be ignored (all the more reason to encourage lots of reviews).
Now You’re Prepared
As customer reviews become more common, and linked to social media accounts, consumers will see reviews written by their friends and contacts. The persuasive strength of reviews will become even more powerful.
If you’re consistently asking for and receiving reviews, you’ll be ready.