Ratings and review sites have become a crucial tool for business owners. A study by BrightLocal, SEO tool specialists, found 85 percent of consumers read online reviews before choosing local businesses, and 79 percent trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. What’s more, nearly two-thirds of consumers form an opinion of a business after reading only six reviews. Keeping positive reviews coming in ensures the good reviews move to the top of the list and get read. Here’s what to do—and what not to do—to get good online reviews.
Don’t make up a fake review. If your business has zero reviews on a site, you might be tempted to create one just to “get the ball rolling.” This will get you in big trouble with review sites so it isn’t recommended to even try.
Don’t pay for reviews. Payment for reviews violates any legitimate review site’s policies. Holding a contest or drawing where people can enter by writing reviews violates Google’s review policy, so it’s best to avoid this tactic.
Don’t set up a “review station.” Some businesses install computers on site and ask customers to review them right there. This tends to generate “forced” reviews (how honest would you be if the business owner was standing right behind you?).
Do find the right review sites. Yelp!, Google+ Local, and Yahoo! Local are three of the most obvious, but don’t forget niche review sites relevant to your business. For restaurants, that might be UrbanSpoon; for contractors, Angie’s List; and for a bed and breakfast, TripAdvisor.
Do choose your words carefully. Yelp! actively discourages soliciting reviews, but has no problem with you or your staff encouraging reviews. As Yelp! puts it, “There is an important distinction between ‘Hey, write a review about me on Yelp,’ [BAD] and ‘Hey, check us out on Yelp!’ [GOOD].” Make sure you and your employees know the difference.
Do get visual. Let your customers know which review sites you’re on by posting decals in your windows, signage at the point of sale or with icons on your marketing materials.
Do make it easy. Put linked icons for review sites on your website’s home page, and include them in your marketing emails or post-sale follow-up emails. That way, customers can just click and review your business instead of searching for it on a review site.
Do offer options. Get real: People without a Yelp! or Angie’s List account probably won’t create one just to leave you a review. The more review sites you’re listed on, the more likely each customer will find one they like.
Don’t fear negative reviews. Why are bad reviews good? Because all-positive ones make consumers suspicious you’re too good to be true, or somehow gaming the system. Respond quickly to negative reviews and, once you resolve the situation, see if the customer will write an updated review. After all, there’s no better advertisement for your business than being able to turn a hater into a raving fan.