The ultimate guide to get online reviews (and manage negative reviews)

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Sheryl Maywood

Sheryl is a marketing whiz and an analytics expert. She's currently studying for her PhD in computational linguistics. She spends most of her time crunching numbers and developing new analytical models to help clients find the best way to market their products. Sheryl also has a knack for creating witty copy that gets people to buy things they never knew they needed!

Reviews, reviews, reviews. It’s the one thing that can have a huge impact on your business’ online marketing success. However, if you’re still on the fence about giving customers a carte blanche to publicly review your business — whether to sing your praises or to provide some constructive feedback — these five insights should help you see the upside that customer reviews can have on driving awareness and traffic to your business.

Why online reviews are important for Businesses?

People Love Reviews

Word-of-mouth endorsements are still one of the most powerful forms of recommendations out there today. It’s become a mainstay of consumer behavior to read customer reviews before making purchase decisions — especially when it comes to trying out a new local business for the first time. Generally speaking, people tend to feel more confident buying into products and services from businesses with more positive customer reviews. According to a recent BrightLocal Consumer Review Study, the overall star rating of a business is the most important factor people initially consider when it comes to choosing one business over another. The general mindset is that a business without any reviews or, even worse, a low star-rating, is either new, unpopular, or lacking in some way.

However, this isn’t always the case; for one reason or another, some businesses simply don’t have any customer reviews (even if they’ve had their doors open for years and have tons of loyal customers). So, the question remains: why don’t more businesses jump on the customer review bandwagon when it’s so obviously clear that ratings and reviews are one of the most important decision-making factors for today’s time-poor, on-the-go consumers? As a business owner, these questions should be top of mind.

More Reviews Lead to Higher Search Results Rankings

SEO experts agree that unique and relevant content found in reviews can boost search results rankings in a big way. In fact, we’ve oftentimes seen that the visibility of business profile pages increases after receiving the first 3-5 customer reviews compared to businesses with no reviews at all. Not only do higher rankings boost a business’s overall online presence, but they can also play an important role in driving customer confidence, as many people tend to overlook lower ranked search results. You could say that search results rankings have become a kind of popularity contest; the more reviews a business has, the more traffic a business gets.

Reviews Improve Search Result CTR

Now that we know that customer’s online reviews help business profile pages rank higher in search results rankings, the next thing we wanted to determine is how this boost in rankings impacts search result click-through-rates (CTR). Our findings were similarly positive, which really came as no surprise. After receiving five reviews, businesses tended to increase their CTR by an average of 77% compared to those with little to no reviews. Notice a pattern?

A greater number of online reviews improves search results ranking, which, in turn, can lead to a higher CTR. And as those businesses continued to receive reviews on an ongoing basis, they were able to maintain a sustained higher ranking in search results. The trend is clear: customer reviews can lead to an increase in organic traffic — something that no business ever wants to turn down!

There are Diminishing Returns on Reviews

If your business has no reviews at the moment, your first few customer reviews online will make the biggest impact. However, once the reviews start rolling in en masse, the impact of those reviews from an SEO standpoint starts to level out. This isn’t to say that you should aim for five reviews and then stop there. Not in the slightest. Potential customers will still want to peruse through your business’s ratings and reviews to see whether or not your products and services are a good fit for them. You just won’t see the same kind of spikes in search result rankings or CTR as you had when the first few reviews rolled in.

Quality Reviews Still Matter

Having 100+ four- or five-star ratings can go a long way in (objectively) making a potential customer confident in doing business with you. But the quality of the customer reviews attached to those ratings will work a lot harder for your business in the long-run. As reviews have become a mainstay in today’s digital marketing ecosystem, people have become a lot savvier at identifying anything that seems even remotely inauthentic or outright fake.

Doesn’t matter if your business has a lot of online reviews — if they are fake or purchased, your business will lose credibility almost instantly. Encouraging customers to leave honest feedback is something even large companies are doing. Even if the feedback is of the constructive sort, you’ll soon see just how important quality customer reviews can be for growing your business.

How do i get online reviews for my small business?

Now it’s time to ask yourself how your business is doing. If your business has few or no reviews, then you have the most to gain from getting your customer review strategy in full swing. Word-of-mouth praise has always been key to the success of any local business.

Potential customers value and trust the endorsement of other people who came before them – and oftentimes use that feedback to decide whether or not that business is the right fit for them.

What once was simply asking friends, family, and acquaintances to share their firsthand experience with brands and businesses has transformed into customers online reviews. And it’s become quite the game-changer for many local businesses. A great experience can encourage a customer, within minutes of leaving your store, to hop on their smartphone and leave a glowing review.Those reviews have an impact on just about every customer who crosses your online path.

As online customer reviews are becoming increasingly embedded into the fabric of today’s digital world, beyond online review sites alone, local businesses know that, in order to succeed, they need to hop on the customer review bandwagon. However, getting those first few reviews is the hardest part – and knowing that no reviews can be just as damaging as a single bad review, simply sitting back and hoping those reviews will roll in won’t yield any results. Business owners need to be proactive and encourage happy customers to share their experience.

Just Ask

Alright, this may seem obvious, but it’s actually really easy to train your staff to invite happy customers to leave online reviews at the end of any transaction. The trick here is to be as genuine and natural as possible, otherwise, it may come across as overly scripted or insincere. If you can sense a customer had a positive experience, say something like: “Thank you for coming, we were glad to help you today. If you are happy with our service, I hope you’ll tell others by leaving a review online.” It’s a simple ask that can drive quick results.

Strengthen Your Online Presence

All of that effort asking for a review becomes a waste if the customer cannot find where to leave feedback. Be sure to create a business profile on every relevant online reviews site – including social media channels, like Facebook – and make it super easy to leave a review directly on your own business website. Wherever your business has a presence online, be sure your information is consistent and accurate. Basic information like contact details (telephone, email), location, business hours, primary products and services, and link to your website is absolutely critical. Next, add several photos to help customers know they are leaving a review for the right place. Nothing helps jog the memory like a great photo.

Add Badges

The simplest way to get customers to leave online reviews is to make it easy for them to do so. Making them jump through hoops (aka, click through more than one link) is a deterrent that will never work in your favor. Add badges from online review sites to a prominent location on every page of your business website, like the header or footer. When customers click on these badges, they’ll be taken directly to your business profile page where they can leave a review with very little hassle.

Hang a Sign

Marketing your business is all about creating triggers that consumers can respond to. A physical sign in your store window or in a high-traffic area in your store – like point-of-sale (POS) – is a good way to remind customers that they can leave online reviews. You can even up the ante by offering a discount or some other kind of promotion as an incentive for doing so. Subtle reminders like this can go a long way in getting a customer to act.

Make It Part of Your Communications

Once a customer has made a purchase and has opted-in to your email list, never miss an opportunity to remind them to leave an online review. Whether it’s an email newsletter (complete with your online review site badges) or a direct mail piece, inviting customers to leave a review should be a part of your ongoing marketing strategy. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts and asks to get some people to take action. It’s important to make sure you’ve got your bases covered. Slow and steady wins the race.As you can see, it’s not nearly as difficult to get customer’s online reviews as it might seem. You just have to stay on top of it.

A business’s online reputation doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a lot of work, on your part, to ensure that both your existing and potential customers – and beyond – know what your business is all about,

How to manage negative reviews like a Pro?

Every business owner loves receiving great online reviews. Oftentimes, it can inspire you to cheer at the top of your lungs, dance through the streets, and throw a party all at the same time. The opposite occurrence, however, often packs a devastating punch. How dare someone criticize the business — your proverbial “baby” — that you’ve put so much of your time, talent, and energy into building! Unfortunately, negative online reviews don’t magically disappear over time. In fact, research proves they can have a major impact on your business.

How negative online reviews affect your business?

The Observer research foundation, for instance, conducted a survey in which 88 percent of respondents cited online customer service reviews as influencing their buying decisions. Another study from Google Consumer Surveys revealed that even one negative business review could dissuade 22 percent of the respondents from purchasing a specific product or service. For multiple negative reviews, the potential loss of customers reaches a whopping 70 percent.

Let’s say you wake up one morning to a negative review. There are a few steps you can take to soften the blow. Whatever you do, we recommend you take action immediately in order to help bounce back from the potential fallout that a bad business review could have among other potential (or current) customers.

Provide an Empathetic Reply

People like to know their opinions are valued. While your natural tendency is likely to defend your business against blistering complaints, getting into an online argument with a customer — one who was upset enough to post a negative review in the first place — will only make matters worse. A better approach is to start by apologizing for not meeting the customer’s expectations, whether or not you feel the complaint is justified. Doing this acknowledges that you’ve received the customer’s feedback, validating his or her concerns. This will likely help dissipate negative sentiments and allow you to open up a dialogue around how you care, first and foremost, about customer satisfaction.

Be Receptive to the Feedback

By listening to the feedback nestled in a negative online review, you have the opportunity to learn something new. You likely don’t believe your prices are too high, your products are below par, or your employees are unhelpful. However, if the same complaints keep surfacing, it’s time to face some cold, hard truths about your business and make adjustments accordingly.

If online reviews call out employees for being “rude,” “abrasive,” or “apathetic,” take a good look at who you have working on your front lines. Do your employees have the right personality for customer service? Have you provided adequate training? Taking steps to ensure employees respond warmly to customers and satisfy their needs will go a long way toward nipping negative reviews in the bud.

Ask for a Second Chance

If the negative review online reveals a legitimate complaint, ask the customer politely for an opportunity to do better. Demonstrate your sincerity to make the situation right by offering something of value — like a free meal or coupon for discounted products or services. Make sure you use this second chance to show the customer that the negative experience he or she had was a true exception to the norm. Turning online complaints into opportunities to win back customers can help your business in a big way.

The New York Times recently reported about a California restaurateur whose online reviews consistently revealed complaints about high prices and small portions. By changing pricing structure, increasing portions, and sending out emails to customers asking them to give the restaurant another try, the owner turned those negative reviews around and built a more successful business in the process.

Track Your Online Reviews

It’s impossible to react to a review you don’t know about. Be sure to visit online review sites regularly to track customer comments. Knowing about a bad review as soon as it is posted will enable you to respond quickly and appropriately. To keep up-to-date on what customers are saying about your business, sign up for Google Alerts and consider using a review monitoring service (Hint: Hint: Viralify Reputation Management)

Encourage Good Reviews

If you feel that a negative review was an isolated incident, you should have no trouble soliciting good reviews highlighting the true quality of your business. When customers compliment your service, products, or employees, use this as an opportunity to ask them to post a positive review about their experience.

Let Time Heal Online Wounds

A negative review may sting at first, but it will become less painful over time. According to a 2015 survey, 44 percent of consumers indicated that online reviews less than a month old are the most relevant. Within two or three months, nearly 70 percent of consumers found online reviews to be irrelevant. So, as you work hard to increase the number of positive reviews, know that time is your best friend in overcoming whatever impact a negative review may have had on your business.

As you can see, it’s not nearly as difficult to get online customer reviews as it might seem. You just have to stay on top of it. And in spite of all your efforts to get a handful of positive reviews, there’s always a chance that someone who had a less-than-stellar experience might leave a negative review. No worries, Viralify’s reputation management plan can help you bounce back from negative reviews as well. Any opportunity to turn a frown upside down should be seen as a win-win for any local business.