Here’s the Scoop on Online Reviews
March 9, 2021
Navigating the world of online reviews can feel a bit like a blessing and a curse. On one hand, positive comments and reviews can provide a boost to brand image and awareness. On the other hand, unjustified negative comments and reviews can do a lot of damage and take up a lot of time you need to devote to other things.
Like it or not, online reviews are an unavoidable aspect of the buyer’s journey and have a demonstrated impact on sales for all businesses. Not only are the majority of consumers reading online reviews before making a purchase, but online reviews can also provide valuable market research insights that can inform strategic decisions.
If you’ve just launched a business or don’t know much about how online reviews work, then this post is for you. We’ve put together our best advice to help small businesses maximize the important role of online reviews and take the guesswork out of how to manage all the moving pieces. Let’s dive in!
Here’s Your Quick-Start Guide to Managing Online Reviews
1. Assess, Monitor, and Maintain Your Digital Footprint>
Your company’s digital footprint encompasses the full expression of your brand online. Everything from your official website and Google My Business page, to social media accounts and any mention of your company online, work together to comprise your digital footprint. Having a proactive plan in place to regularly check on your digital footprint will help you catch issues before they become problems and ensure that whatever is being said about your business online is accurate. (Related: How SEO Can Improve Your Digital Footprint)
Our team can help manage all aspects of your business’s digital footprint including addressing comments your customers are making about your company on social media (e.g. Twitter mentions), and any other online comments or reviews posted on third-party review sites, directories, or in other unexpected places.
2. Create and Update Your Google My Business Page
If you’re limited on time and can only focus on one online directory, Google My Business is it. If you’re unfamiliar with the terminology, Google My Business pages appear on the right side of the search engine results page when you search on a company name with a listing.
Aside from the SEO benefits of Google My Business, it just makes sense to have a full-fledged listing in Google’s online directory because the majority of internet searches are performed on Google. Also, keep in mind that your leads and customers aren’t the only ones looking at your company’s digital footprint. Google algorithms place a high value on businesses that have a Google My Business listing and will prioritize those businesses in search results over a competitor without a listing.
3. Claim Your Space on Third-Party Review Sites
Depending on your industry, there are a number of go-to third-party review sites where people can post reviews about your company’s products or services. There are also sites that aren’t exclusively dedicated to reviews where you may need to claim your stake. With most of these sites, people can review your company even if you haven’t created an official account on the site. It’s best to have an official listing in any online directory relevant to your product or service.
It’s important to think through all the places people could be reviewing your products or services online. For example, one of our mobile app clients offers on-demand beauty and cosmetology services and has been featured on the wedding website theknot.com. TheKnot isn’t specifically an online review site but it is a hub for all things wedding-related and offers a marketplace for vendors including online reviews.
Similarly, the website Houzz.com is like Pinterest for home improvement ideas, but also offers local directories and online reviews for relevant businesses. We would be happy to help you think through all the places your business needs to list your services online.
4. Incorporate Keywords into Your Directory Listings and Profiles
We recently wrote a post on all things keywords, but in case you missed it, the TL;DR is this: keywords are the words your ideal customers are typing into search engines to find products or services you offer. The problem with keywords is that you’re not the only business offering products or services to meet those needs. Therefore, you need to do keyword research to understand which keywords make the most sense for optimizing your content online.
Here’s a quick tip: Do a search on the words you think people are searching to find what you offer and see what comes up. Scroll beyond page one and look to see if there are any review sites or online directories that you haven’t thought of yet. Also, make note of the competitors that come up in your experiment and review how they are (or aren’t) using online listings and third-party sites to their advantage. There may be a big opportunity here for you to increase your page ranking from backlinks alone!
5. Use Caution When Asking for Reviews
When you have all your online real estate claimed and ready to go, it can be very tempting to call all your friends and family members and ask them to leave you positive comments and a five-star review. Don’t do this. The thing is, all these sites work to maintain the integrity of reviews and are always searching for any hint of fraud. If you go from zero reviews to 20 positive reviews in a short period of time, you’re bound to set off at least a few red flags.
It’s better to ask happy customers for reviews at a slow and steady pace. If someone tells you they’re satisfied with your service, ask them to leave a review. Offer to send them a link. But don’t set up a computer in your store for people to leave real-time reviews on the spot. If you have a ton of reviews from the same network and IP address, the red flags will go off and you could get kicked off the platform entirely.
6. Take Online Review Problems Offline
When adding up the headaches that come along with online reviews, the one that can be the most aggravating is an unjustified negative review. Anyone who has ever shopped online has probably seen a review thread full of drama. How the brand responds to threads like these may be the most important part of its online review strategy.
In some cases, unjustified negative reviews are also unsubstantiated. These comments are coming from a troll or someone trying to get something for free and the obvious common denominator is unsupported negativity. Reviews without specific examples or detailed customer experiences are likely coming from a source with ulterior motives.
These are the kinds of reviews we consider unjustified but unfortunately, you cannot ignore them. Rather than responding to reviews like this on a case-by-case basis, it’s wise to have a plan in place to address these kinds of comments before you get one. Here are some tips for responding to unwarranted negative reviews:
- Don’t engage in the drama. Many times people who leave these kinds of reviews are looking for a fight or for a freebie. You don’t need to get into an argument with the poster but you do need to respond.
- Don’t be defensive. When someone attacks you or your business it is very natural and understandable to want to defend yourself, your brand, or your position. But the reality is that a person trying to pick a fight online is looking for attention, not a resolution. Keep the response brief and stick to the facts.
- Do provide contact information. Strive to take the conversation offline. Customers with legitimate concerns will be glad to engage with you outside of the public eye. Trolls and instigators are there for the attention and will be uninterested in speaking with you privately.
- Do respond in a gracious and humble tone. It can be difficult to convey tone with words on a screen. Even so, work to create a response that demonstrates your brand values and care for your customer, because troll or not, other legitimate leads and customers are reading your response.
Unfortunately, there are always going to be people who try to get something for free by leaving bad reviews and there will inevitably be trolls lurking around to make matters worse. While it can be stressful to run damage control, keeping your cool and being prepared with a fact-based response will diffuse the situation and help other readers get a sense of the customer service you provide.
We hope this gives you a good overview and a strong starting point for winning at online reviews. If you have any questions or need help with any aspect of this process, please schedule a meeting with us. We’d love to help you see how online reviews can be a really helpful part of your digital marketing strategy!