Why Online Reviews are Good for Business
Businesses can be hesitant to jump into the waters of online review sites like Yelp, Google+, and others. The concern that they will get a negative review can psychologically outweigh the benefits, usually, because they haven’t seen increased foot traffic and business that can result from positive customer reviews. However, the local marketing and search engine optimization benefits are too huge to be ignored and negative reviews can easily be turned around to help, not hurt, the business in question. Let’s look at what some of those benefits are so you can make an informed decision for your business.
It’s Easy to Get Started
Registering your business on Google Places, Yelp, and TripAdvisor is an easy process. The more businesses they get on their radar, the better the response for them, so they make it as simple for you as possible. Google does require you to sign up for a Google Account, but that process is fast and you don’t need to use it for anything but managing your Google business profiles. Concerned about your customers not wanting to sign up for a Google Account too? Don’t be. Google is steadily growing its social sign-in market share, and other review sites allow customers to sign in using their Facebook and other social profiles, which practically everyone already has (except my mom and maybe a few others).
Your Customers Trust Online Reviews
A recent study found that 72% of customers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. Old marketing wisdom holds that word-of-mouth advertising is golden, and online reviews are its online equivalent. Restaurants, in particular, should be on Yelp, as many people plan their nights out with a quick glance at the online review site. There’s a good CBC Article on how your choices might be influenced. UrbanSpoon is another hotspot online for restaurants. If you’re not there, potential customers may be wondering what you have to hide.
How do you tell the difference between Real Reviews and Fake Reviews?
Many business owners and marketing folks we talk to, express concerns about “fake reviews.” It would be possible, of course, for one of your competitors, or even a disgruntled former employee, or maybe even a dissatisfied customer to post a very negative review of your business/organization. Alternatively, it’s also possible that people would contract or ask others to write overwhelmingly positive reviews about a business or organization. So, how are you supposed to figure out what’s real and what’s fake? If you ever think you or someone else is subject to a fake review, or reviews, you can flag inappropriate reviews on the page. It may take some time, but Google will act on it.
All 5s Using Google+ as the sample – has a 0 to 5 review scale. If you visit a Google+ page, and you see All 5s for the reviews, this doesn’t mean they’re all fake, it means you should look a little closer. There are other things to look at, and questions you should ask yourself:
- Are all the reviews from “A Google User” or are they specifically identified? (If there are 10+ reviews, and they’re all “A Google User” that can be a warning sign.)
- What do the reviews say? Do they seem to have a bit of personality and individual voice, or do they all sound like a brochure?
- If you visit a Google+ page, and you see All 5s for the reviews, this doesn’t mean they’re all fake, it means you should look a little closer. There are other things to look at of course.
Not a Restaurant or Hotel? Your Business Can Still Benefit from Reviews
If you are a bricks-and-mortar business selling to local customers or a contractor, the answer is yes. Yelp includes all businesses in its reviews, not just restaurants. Financial services, automotive, and professional services are just a few of the categories on the popular review site. Google Places is the same. Of course, if your business is a restaurant or a hospitality-based operation like a B&B or hotel, there isn’t even a question. You need to be on the online review sites to get business.
Search Engines Love Online Reviews and Google Places
If you’re trying to promote your business to local consumers with smartphones, it’s a must to be on Google Places whether you’re looking for reviews or not.
Try this exercise – search for a product or service and include your town’s name on Google. You’ll notice that the first results on the page are Google Places listings. And if you’re not there for your own product or service, you’re not top of mind for computer users or, more importantly, those with smartphones who are looking to walk into your location right now.
Online reviews also give your business valuable backlinks from major review sites. Google has never backed off from saying that backlinks figure into its own algorithm, although they’ll never say what the precise weight is. In lay terms, it can only help your search engine ranking to have a backlink from a large site like Yelp or TripAdvisor.
Negatives Can Be Turned Into Positives
At least once in the life of your online presence, you can expect a negative review. As a business owner, you know not all clients are satisfied 100% of the time. But the key to handling a negative review is managing the conversation. All review sites allow the owner of the business to respond to reviews. In fact, it’s a good idea to respond to your positive reviews with a quick “thanks” if you have the time. But in the case of a negative review, keep your response even and only address the issues with your business.
Don’t get personal, even if the reviewer is going there. In fact, the nuttier the negative review looks and the more even-handed your response is, the better your business will look to people reading the review. Always offer to have the reviewer come in and talk to you about their complaint, as it will look like a genuine effort to resolve the situation. Some may take you up on it and you can turn that complaint into a resolution that will net you a customer for the life of your business. Check out this blog post for some excellent concrete steps to being proactive about not getting negative reviews in the first place and what to do with them when they pop up.
Don’t Have the Time? Contract It Out
Having an independent third-party handling your reviews for you can be a lifesaver, as you probably don’t have the time to do it yourself and they’re not as personally invested in the situation. Their sole concern is to give you a glowing reputation online, and if you work closely with them to resolve a dispute, you’ll have that reputation.
Do not even do business with a company that offers to fabricate reviews for your business, as they may have other questionable business practices that could land your online reputation in the doghouse. Definitely do not give in to the temptation to have family and friends post reviews themselves, as it is very easy to spot a fake review. Good reviews will happen, you just have to give it time.
Getting Reviews is Simple
To get the review party started, you can do small things like include links to your review site profiles in email newsletters to existing clients, and have signs at the cash showing which review sites you are on. In fact, a notice to your existing client base through an email newsletter or post on your blog that you’re on a review site should be enough to get reviews started since you’re dealing with people loyal to your business in the first place.
Online reviews do require a small investment of time to set up and manage. But the ROI will be increased foot traffic and an edge over your competition. In the end, if you work to make your business the best like most company owners do every day, it will show in your reviews and your business will increase when people can read unvarnished accounts of just how good you are.