While you are reading this, someone is talking about your business.
Someone is sitting down right now to tell their friend, co-worker, or family about their recent purchase, how your product works, or what they think of your service.
Of course, this is nothing new.
For generations, word of mouth has been one of the most reliable ways to build a business, but now the game has changed. In an online world, word of mouth translates into online reviews, and instead of talking to a mother or brother, your customers can now tell the entire world what they think, and everyone is listening.
Whether you like it or not, people will leave feedback online regarding your business.
The good news is we’ve created this step-by-step guide to help you take control of your online reputation with a proactive approach that will push your company straight to the top.
So remember: You’re not alone.
Here at One Thing Marketing we work with businesses every day who are asking the same questions as you. Keep reading to find out all the answers to your online reputation management quandaries.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Why Online Reviews Are Important
Real World Question: “Why do I need to worry about reviews if I have enough business already?”
The Short Answer: Because it makes getting future business easier.
Every year, BrightLocal conducts a local consumer review study. The extensive research looks at how and why consumers use online reviews. The purpose is to help companies fine tune their marketing and see how their customers make key purchasing decisions.
Since 2010, BrightLocal has surveyed over 1000 respondents in the United States to analyze the impact of online local business reviews and the results are astounding.
Whether they need a plumber, contractor, lawn care, or babysitter, Google is often the first stop for most consumers looking for a local business.
Within minutes, they have a name, address, phone number and service information. Best of all, they have word of mouth references from the most recent customers.
More people than ever before are reading online reviews on a regular basis. In fact, over 90 percent of consumers read online reviews when choosing a local business.
These local business reviews make a difference, and influence customers’ decisions. They may be the single most important part of an online search because nearly everybody reads them, and over half admit that reviews make the difference between using or avoiding a particular business.
For business owners, this means that keeping current customers happy is an integral part of gaining new customers.
The research clearly shows that online reviews can make or break your business. In order to boost profitability, your online reviews need to be plentiful, positive, and recent.
If that’s not reason enough, let’s look at a new feature Google is testing. Google is always tweaking their search engine to ensure the results their users see are as relevant as possible.
You may notice when you search for a local business (in certain industries) that a new filter appears in the “maps” results. This filter gives you the option to sort businesses based on their reviews.
For example, when we search for “roofers near me” from Louisville, KY we get:
Google has spoken:
They know what their searchers want, and searchers want to easily see reviews for local businesses. So Google makes it as easy as possible. That means if your business has bad reviews or even no reviews, you get pushed to the bottom.
Every SEO professional knows the importance of good reviews, the difference it can make in being found online, and in consumers choosing you over your competitors.
Keep reading to see some of the results found in the 2016 BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey.
CHAPTER 2: WHAT THE RESEARCH SAYS
Real World Question: “Is there proof that reviews even make a difference?”
The Short Answer: Tons of it!
We mentioned earlier that BrightLocal is the leader in consumer review research. Here are some more of the results from the 2016 Consumer Review Survey and some things to look out for.
KEEP REVIEWS PLENTIFUL: BUT HOW MANY IS ENOUGH?
There is safety in numbers when it comes to online local business reviews.
Consumers see a review and make a judgment about you almost instantly. More than half of consumers make a decision based on reading 1-6 reviews, some may read 7 or 8 reviews, but 9 out of 10 people will not read more than 10 reviews before making a decision.
If your most recent reviews are negative, most customers won’t even keep reading long enough to see anything else. This makes it crucial to keep reviews regular, current, and positive.
KEEP REVIEWS POSITIVE: THE STAR SYSTEM
The star rating system has become a universal symbol of trust in the online world. More than 3 stars, you’re probably OK, less than 3 and you’re sunk.
This is because the quick rating system immediately tells consumers whether they can trust you or not, whether other customers are satisfied and what your history has been.
A rating of three stars is good, not great. But a perfect rating is not always necessary.
Most respondents understand that a perfect five-star record is probably unrealistic because oftentimes those who have a poor experience are more likely to write a review.
The research shows only 8 percent of consumers demand a five-star performance, which means the vast majority of consumers feel comfortable choosing a business that has between three and four stars.
KEEP REVIEWS RECENT: OLD NEWS IS OLD NEWS
Not only do you need at least 7-8 positive reviews at the top of your list, those reviews need to be written recently.
According to BrightLocal, 73 percent of consumers aren’t interested in local business reviews that are older than 3 months, and 22 percent will only consider those written in the last 2 weeks. That means that 95 percent of consumers are not interested in the reviews posted more than 90 days ago.
Consumers understand that businesses change quickly, especially those companies with high turnover like restaurants. They aren’t going to rely on the recommendation of someone who was a customer last year who had a bad experience with the staff.
They want to know what people think today, yesterday, and last weekend. But at the very least within the last month.
Family businesses or industries with less turnover may be OK with older reviews, as long as they are consistently positive, but people don’t trust the past as much as they trust the here and now.
But there is good news:
If you had a scathing review last summer, or a tirade of dissatisfied customers six months ago, it is less likely anyone will give them credence as time passes. This gives you the opportunity to change your online reputation quickly.
Old news fades fast, but if you don’t have positive reviews to replace it, they will be forced into reading reviews that are both outdated and negative. This means you have to work even harder to keep positive online reviews flowing like a steady stream of cheerleaders.
KEEP REVIEWS TRUSTWORTHY: AVOID SPAMMING
The benefit of using word of mouth advertising is that it includes an element of trust. When someone tells you about their great new skin care product or amazing mechanic, you’re likely to rely on them as a friend, colleague, or family member and trust their opinions.
Online reviews are posted by anyone, anywhere, but have been proven to maintain that same quality of trust and reliability.
An online post can create insta-friends out of nearly anyone on the globe. As a result, 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
Maintaining authentic reviews is the most important factor for consumers because it preserves the integrity of both the reviewer and the company being discussed.
A reliable online review is often even more powerful than word of mouth advertising, if reviews seem too salesy, too good to be true, or fake, it can sway the customer to avoid the company completely.
Now you know why you need local business reviews and the proof behind it. Time to answer your next inevitable question: How to get them?
Chapter 3: How to Get (More) Reviews
Real Word Question: “Alright, I believe you. So how do I start getting reviews?”
The Short Answer: Ask!
How can you get authentic, positive, and reliable reviews for your small business on a weekly basis?
Just ask. Really – that’s it.
Research shows 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review if they are asked to.
This means if you ask at least 10 customers each week to leave a review for your business, you’ll likely end up with about 7 new reviews every week, providing a steady stream of relevant, recent, (and hopefully positive) reviews to drive future business.
Asking twice is usually the best way to get a response. You can request in person and then follow that up with an email requesting a review. If you get positive feedback in person or via email, reply with an email request including a link where they can post the feedback on review sites like Yelp, Facebook, Google.
Research shows most consumers are happy to help a growing business, especially if they have had a positive experience.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
Consumers aren’t going to go out of their way to create a new account, click through several pages or fill out an extensive form just to leave feedback.
Make it easy!
Your online reputation depends on online reviews, so provide simple ways for anyone to leave you the feedback you’re looking for on multiple sites.
One of the best ways we make getting local business reviews easy for our clients is to use a Review Funnel.
From this page, the consumer is provided only two options: thumbs up or thumbs down.
Thumbs up goes to a list of websites where your customers can leave a review. Thumbs down goes directly to a form that forwards to your company email so they can detail their experience directly with you, and not the world.
This gives you immediate notification of negative feedback so you make amends while keeping it offline. Then if you solve their issue and turn them into a happy customer you can request feedback again, aiming for a glowing review.
You can provide a feedback link on your website, in an email, or on your invoices asking for feedback from each customer.
The best part is the link we create to your funnel is easy to share using the techniques below.
But before you read those remember;
KEEP REVIEWS REAL
Asking for (and receiving) reviews is important, but managing this process is critical. Too many reviews all at once can look suspicious, too few looks unreliable.
Authenticity is essential, and cannot be achieved through incentives or bribing consumers for reviews. Reviews are only valuable when they are honest.
Offering incentives for reviews is often considered unethical and may be illegal in some states.
How to Ask For Feedback
Ask for reviews when customers are happiest and quickly explain how simple and beneficial it is for your business. Ask as if you were asking for a favor that only takes a moment of their time.
A simple way we help our clients make asking for reviews easier is by providing branded business cards that include their feedback link. We also provide postcards to mail, follow up email templates and posters to display at their business, that request an online review with a simple link to visit.
With these tools you can request reviews in a number of ways:
- Have installation teams, sales reps, and anyone who speaks to customers, hand out feedback cards.
- Post the display at your Point of Sale with a slot for cards that customer can take with them.
- Mail out follow-up postcards thanking customers for their business and asking for a review.
- Or if digital is more your style, send a professional looking, yet personal follow-up email.
Every local business needs to have an online strategy that is designed to build a positive reputation one step at a time. Through a positive online presence that includes a consistent stream of intentional and authentic feedback you can steadily build your business’s online reputation.
Chapter 4: How Many Reviews Do I Need?
Real World Question: “OK, but how many reviews do I need? I don’t have that much time”
The Short Answer: As many as it takes.
I know, kind of a lame response.
The business of online reviews is not a one-and-done deal. If you get 25 reviews in a week and then you get nothing new for months, it appears to be unauthentic and spammy.
If you get too many reviews, they might get easily filtered, or deleted from the review site. If you have too few, you appear illegitimate and new customers may be wary.
Consistency is the key to maintaining a positive online reputation. Generally, one review per week is a good goal to start with. That gives you four reviews every month, and assuming they are positive, it provides a strong foundation for regular, current, and up-to-date feedback from your customers.
It also gives you a regular reading of how the customers are responding to company changes. If you have consistent positive local business reviews and then they take a negative turn after a new employee, product line, or process change, you will be able to see the impact that it’s having on your customers.
Chapter 5: Where to Get Local Business Reviews
Real World Question: “But there’s so many review sites. Which ones are worth bothering with?”
The Short Answer: Sites that match your business niche.
Too many business owners rely on just one place for customer reviews. The most popular are Google, Yelp, or on the company website itself. The truth is, you should be consistently building local business reviews on a mix of review sites that best fit your business niche.
Reviews have been proven to increase your visibility on the web, especially on Google which drives the vast majority of internet traffic.
Recently, they revealed their new Knowledge Panel, which shows reviews from around the web on their summary page. This means you need more reviews from more than one site.
In a recent study, Google found that having reviews shown alongside a listing increased driving direction requests by an average of 144% and website visits by a whopping 360%. If you want your Google results to really shine, you clearly need local business reviews from several sites on the web.
In addition to Google, we recommend review sites such as:
- Better Business Bureau
- Angie’s List
- Yellow Pages
For businesses in the home service industry there are also sites like Thumbtack, Home Advisor, and Houzz, as well as other industry-specific sites like TripAdvisor where having up to date business information and reviews, can be beneficial.
When setting up your review funnel you can choose which sites you want to feature. It’s good to give customers a few options because not everyone wants to make a new profile to leave a review, so they will likely choose the site they already have an account.
Using Your Testimonial Page
Reviews and testimonials have historically been treated as completely different things. A review is an honest, unbiased opinion on a third-party website.
A testimonial is a sentiment gathered and moderated by the company directly for marketing purposes. Today, these two have combined forces to create a hybrid that blur the lines between testimonials and reviews.
Managing your testimonial page is different than managing online reviews on a third-party website. The testimonial page on your company website can be very influential in driving new business.
Make it easy for customers to leave you a review either via a form on your site or on third-party sites by offering a “feedback” button that links directly to the page.
Make your page more authentic by adding images, full names, company names, and dates to every review. Offer links for customers to read reviews on other websites as well to provide a well-rounded and honest image of your company to potential customers.
Reputation management is something every business should invest their time in. You do great work and your customers know it, so ask them to share it!
SPREAD THE WORD
Shout it from the rooftops, write it on a skyline, spread the word any way you can. It’s time to share, tag, post, tweet, and hashtag your way to success.
Re-post reviews on social media with screenshots and images to make it easy for others to see and amplify the good news. Share success stories and positive messages across any and all platforms as often as possible. It’s all about spreading the word far and wide to reach as many potential customers as you can with the click of a mouse.
Chapter 6: Monitoring Your Online Reputation
Real World Question: “Well I started asking for reviews, now how do I know when I get them?”
The Short Answer: There’s an app for that (or website in this case).
So, you’ve asked your customers for reviews.
But wait, there’s more! Getting local business reviews is just the first step. You need to know when your reviews come in and what they say.
Monitoring what’s said about your company is one of the best customer service methods today. It shows customers that you notice, you’re watching, and you care.
Several websites are available to monitor your online reviews for a fee, and even email you when you have a new review available to read. These are just some of the paid options:
For a free entry level option, you can also use http://www.freereviewmonitoring.com to track your local business reviews, get instant updates, and respond quickly to both positive and negative feedback.
Chapter 7: How to Respond to Reviews
Real World Question: “Great, I’m getting reviews! Guess my work is done?”
The Short Answer: Far from it.
Now that you have the reviews you need to show the customers who left them, and potential customers that you do, in fact, read them and respond.
Most businesses smile at the good reviews and act on the bad ones, when in fact, every review should elicit action, spur a conversation, and make a connection with your customers.
Good reviews need as much attention as bad ones, even just a “thank you” to acknowledge their feedback and to reaffirm to your audience that you are listening to every customer.
Here are some basic tips on how to handle all those new reviews you’re getting with the appropriate responses. But if you want to become a true master at how to handle responding to reviews check out this amazing article written by Miriam Ellis at Moz. Here, she explains in detail the ins and outs of how to handle the 5 most common types of local business reviews you will get, with real world examples.
How to Respond to POSITIVE Feedback
Responding to positive feedback is the fun part. You can connect with your customers, thank them for their input, and show them that you care.
Positive feedback can often give you insight into what is really important to customers. Responding to positive feedback consistently shows your audience that you are an active participant behind the screen, not just an empty website void of human interaction.
Thank them for their review and try to personalize the message as much as possible. If you recall working with them, make sure to mention something that shows that.
How to Respond to NEGATIVE Feedback
Every business is bound to get a few negative reviews every once in awhile. Not everyone is going to be happy, and sometimes unhappy customers are more likely to write a review than the satisfied one.
Mistakes happen, and things don’t always work as you planned. It’s bound to happen sometime, but every negative review gives you a chance to make it right, find out what happened, and move forward.
According to the National Association of Retail Marketing Services, “If a business resolves its issue quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy customers will return to your business.”
How you handle a negative review gives you a chance to win back one customer and, in the process, gain new customers as well. Here are a few tips to handling negative reviews.
1. Don’t feel the need to respond right away, develop an action plan and then respond professionally but don’t wait more than 24 hours.
2. Own the mistake, don’t place blame on another employee, vendor, or department.
3. Come up with a solution before you approach the customer so you are ready to fix what went wrong and leave the customer whole. Offer an alternative solution they can’t refuse.
4. Make the experience memorable and easy. Don’t ask them to jump through several more hoops to resolve their issue, like email us to help us solve your issue. Roll out the red carpet and handle it.
5. Make the message personal. Don’t just drop in a standard “We’re sorry you had a bad experience” message on all reviews. Customers notice this, and it makes you appear like you don’t really care.
6. Follow Up. When it’s all over, ask again for their feedback. Ask if they would be willing to post a positive review or update existing ones based on how the situation was resolved.
If you have more than three bad reviews online, it is enough to deter the majority of future customers. It is essential to address and resolve as many bad reviews as possible.
Chapter 8: HOW CAN OTM HELP
Real World Question: “Ugh, this is too much work. Is there a way to make it easier?”
The Short Answer: Yes!
At One Thing Marketing, we understand not only how important it is to get reviews for your business, but how much work it can be. Many of our clients get a great start on asking for reviews, but then other priorities come up and they fall by the wayside.
OTM can help your business continue to get reviews on a consistent basis with our Local Likeability services. Whether you want someone to set everything up to get you started, or just to keep monitoring and responding to reviews on your business’s behalf, we can custom craft a service that fits your needs.
Over 90 percent of consumers look online for a local business or service. Your online reviews create a digital imprint of your company that is shown to the world.
The majority of customers are going to read online reviews and use that feedback to determine whether or not to choose your business. For better or worse, customers want to be heard, and they will share their experiences with anyone who will listen.
Make sure you are the ear that catches their feedback first and the mouthpiece that responds. As you work to increase your online reviews and customer satisfaction ratings, you will notice an increase in conversion rates and an improved Google ranking in search results giving your business more positive exposure than you thought possible.