Why is it important to generate positive online reviews? For one thing, in survey after survey, more than half of people asked said they are more likely to use a local business after reading positive customer reviews. For another, having lots of really good reviews, especially on sites like Google+ Local, can actually increase search ranking by as much as 10 percent or even more, according to Search Engine Land.
Unfortunately, it’s easier to get negative reviews than positive ones. Disgruntled customers are more likely to go online and broadcast their dissatisfaction while happy customers usually keep their opinions to themselves. So what’s a business owner to do? Although paying for good reviews is a strict no-no, it’s not against the rules to remind customers to post reviews and even make it easier for them to do so.
Establish Review Site Profiles
Review sites are like free web pages, and all you have to do is claim them. If you’ve been in business for a while you probably already have a listing on Yelp, Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and many other local listing sites. If not, it’s easy enough to create one. Google+ is the biggie because it influences Google local searches, so be sure to optimize it with as much information about your company as possible. Create or claim listings on any other sites which may be relevant, such as Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, CitySearch and LinkedIn. Also create a Local Business page on Facebook and check the box in the business address section to enable star ratings.
Get the Ball Rolling
Customers are often shy about being the first one to post, so get the ball rolling by getting someone to post a review on each of your sites. Resist the temptation to create a fake account and post your own reviews; there are too many ways to get caught and the penalties are severe. It’s much better to find a customer or customers who are avid reviewers (and therefore have established accounts) and ask them to start you off. You can also use a friend or neighbor, but make sure it’s someone that lives in the same area.
Post Notices in your Store
Post a sign by the checkout telling your customers that you greatly value their opinion and would appreciate feedback about their experience on any of your review sites, especially Google+ Local, Yelp and Facebook. If you offer computer access, say for catalog look-up, consider making your Google+ page the home page so that customers can log in and leave a review right from the store.
Add Links to Your Emails
Make it easy for customers to leave reviews by adding links to your emails, especially follow-up emails after a sale or service. This is especially effective because the customer is already online and can use the link to go right from your email to the review site. Be sure to emphasize how much you value their opinion and would appreciate a review on your Google+ page.
Respond to Reviews
If you get a negative review, respond immediately and try to salvage the situation. Resist the temptation to get into an argument. Remember, the customer is always right. If you believe the review is fraudulent, however, it’s okay to post a note saying that this person has never been a customer and leave it at that.
Don’t just respond to negative reviews, however. Be sure to thank your customers who leave positive reviews. It shows that you appreciate people leaving reviews and will encourage others to do so. It just takes a little time, and if they can take the time to write the review you should certainly take the time to leave a friendly reply.
However you go about getting them, positive reviews are basically online referrals, and can only help your business. Remember, it’s a slow, continuous process. It’s much better to have positive reviews trickle in over time than getting whole bunch overnight — which will likely trigger a review filter, followed by a long period of inactivity which will cause the site to lose relevance and therefore, ranking.