Word of mouth. Social proof. Referrals. Whatever you call it, customer opinions have always made a difference in growth and sales. Today, online reviews and social media discussions have multiplied the influence of past customers on future business.
With that in mind, here are some of the common questions I get asked about online reviews. This is a big piece of your marketing puzzle, so it’s important to know what best practices will put you at the top of the pile.
What are the most popular online review websites?
If you have a brick & mortar location, you should play closest attention to:
- Google reviews (attached to your local My Business page)
- Facebook (attached to your Facebook business Page)
People can also leave public reviews on your online Yellowpages listing and the Better Business Bureau website. While these are less commonly used, they should not be ignored: these sites could pop up on an online search for your business, and one lone bad rating could have a big impact on a searcher’s impression. Industry-specific review sites such as TripAdvisor for tourism and Angie’s List for contractors should also be on your radar.
E-commerce and SaaS companies should also keep an eye on review platforms like these:
- Review systems integrated with selling platforms, such as Etsy or Amazon reviews
How much do people read and care about online reviews?
A LOT. Here are a few stats that show just how powerful online reviews are in today’s buyer journey.
These figures indicate that reviews are important to the majority of consumers. They also show that more and more people look at online reviews each year. Clearly, this is not something we can afford to ignore
What do I want my business review page to look like?
Of course, we all want a review page FILLED with 5-star accounts from trustworthy people. That’s easy enough to understand. But what else should you aim for on these profiles?
- Mostly positive reviews (but a few negatives are okay!). Contrary to popular belief, a few negative reviews in the mix can help legitimize the more positive reviews in the pile. Research by Revoo found that people are 68% more likely to trust a review page when they see both good and bad scores. According to their study, a few negative reviews accompanied by lots of raves was a trust-builder that boosted conversions.
- Caring responses from the business owner. When a business owner responds appropriately to positive and negative reviews alike, it makes a potential customer feel like that business will treat them right. Be sure not to get too defensive in the case of a negative review – explain a miscommunication and offer to make things right, but don’t insult the reviewer in the process.
- Constantly updated reviews. People are far more likely to trust feedback submitted recently – in fact, 43% say a review must be written within a month to be considered relevant. Don’t stop encouraging people to share their experiences just because you’ve collected a healthy number.
- Accurate information. Websites like Yelp, Google My Business, and Facebook allow you to claim and maintain a profile for your business. This not only allows you to respond to online reviews, but also gives you the ability to update information like your website, phone number, and hours of operation. If someone reads a great review of your business and wants to learn more, you should make it easy for them to do so!
Should I leave a review for my own business?
Heck. No. Your role as a business owner is to keep buyers happy, respond to their feedback, and to ensure contact information is up-to-date. Pretending to actually be one of your customers? Not a good call.
If you leave a review for your own business, you can lose more than trust – regulators have levied huge fines for companies posting misleading or “fake” reviews. You can also get dinged for having employees leave reviews without a disclaimer about their affiliation. For example, Bell was hit with a $1.25 million fine with after encouraging employees to leave positive reviews on its new app. Yikes!
How can I encourage customers to write positive reviews?
You know your customers love your business, but on popular review sites it’s all crickets. What’s the deal?
The first step is to ask. Specifically, ask nicely and personally. If a favourite cashier tells a regular customer that a review would mean a lot to him, that will be much more motivating than a “review us!” sign on the door. For this reason, it’s a good idea to build asking for a review into your customer service process.
Making it easy for people to review you is also a good idea. You can do this by sending an email that links a happy customer directly to a review site. If this email has a personal touch, such as the person’s first name and a signature from the business owner, all the better!
Can I offer incentives to encourage customer reviews?
A small gift in exchange for five stars seems innocent enough, right? Wrong.
Giving away free items, exclusive offers, or other kickbacks exchange for a positive review is seen as a truth in advertising violation. You can offer a thank-you to a customer who has reviewed your business, but offering freebies in exchange for reviews – especially if you specify that preferred content of the reviews – can turn people off and lead to possible legal trouble down the road.
Do online reviews influence SEO?
You betcha! Search engines are in the business of giving people the best results for their search queries. If you search for “pizza delivery near me,” a search engine will respond with listings for pizza places that they think are relevant to your interests. That means they’ll find places close by, places that are open, and – you guessed it – places that other customers recommend.
In fact, since Google knows how important reviews are to potential customers, they even show the star rating right on the results page. How silly would their search engine look if it recommended a restaurant with 3 stars over one with 5 stars? Unless one is significantly closer to the searcher, it’s not gonna happen. SEO is one of the major reasons why reviews are so important to businesses today.
What should I do about a negative review?
The first thing you should do is respond to the review using the following formula:
- Apologize that the person had a bad experience or felt unsatisfied
- Clarify any misconceptions you think a reader may have from looking at the review. Avoid being overly defensive or blaming the reviewer.
- Offer to make it right
- If there is still an outstanding issue to resolve, take it offline
For example, for someone who complains about a long wait the following response would be appropriate:
“Hello [name], thank you for trying our restaurant on Friday night. I’m sorry to hear you felt rushed with your meal. We do try our best to seat people as quickly as possible, though wait times can sometimes reach 20-30 minutes on busy nights. The best way to secure your seat is by calling or using our online form to make a reservation. Please feel free to mention my name in your next reservation, and I will personally make sure you get the best seat in the house. Thanks again for this feedback and for giving us a try. We hope you will try our restaurant again in the future! If you have any additional questions or concerns about your experience, please feel free to contact me directly through our website.”
It’s absolutely possible to set the record straight without coming off as petty or rude. You should always make sure the reader knows both sides of the story while still showing that you care about the customer’s experience.
If a customer is particularly disgruntled, the best practice is to take the conversation offline and do your best to turn their experience into a positive one. In many cases, customers will remove defamatory reviews once their issue is resolved.
Why your online presence matters
So many businesses have grown thanks to the power of word of mouth.
With online reviews and social media, “word of mouth” can do even MORE for your business than ever before. And when you’ve collected some killer reviews on your Facebook page, chances are you’ll want to spread that word.
That’s where Needls comes in.
With Needls, you can get the word out about your business with optimized Facebook ads. Combined with great content and positive reviews, the traffic from your ads can be a game-changer in your business. Click here to get started today!