Business Owner’s Guide to Online Reviews

How to Collect Online Reviews and Leverage Them to Fuel Business Growth

Online reviews are critical assessments of businesses or products that typically include a rating on a scale of 1 to 5 and a text or video evaluation of the quality, features, or experience. Legitimate online reviews are honest assessments made by real customers, posted to websites with an inventory of businesses or products. Online reviews help other prospective customers understand what to expect and decide whether or not they should make a purchase.

Business Owner's Guide to Online Reviews

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Contents

Introduction: Why Online Reviews Are Important
Do online reviews really make a difference to your business? Evidence says yes, and here’s why.

Step 1: Auditing Your Online Reviews
Where should you have online reviews? How do you know? Let’s take a closer look Google, Facebook, Yelp, and review sites specific to your industry.

Step 2: Responding to Online Reviews
What can you do about negative reviews? Or reviews that are fake or inappropriate? Here are some of the best responses.

Step 3: Requesting Online Reviews
Positive online reviews are powerful. See how you can complete your successful review management process by automating review requests.

Your Turn: Getting Started With Online Reviews
Here are the next steps to take to put what you’ve learned into action and start collecting quality, persuasive online reviews.

A Simple Guide to Online Reviews

Audit, Respond, Request


Why Online Reviews Matter

Online reviews have become a primary source of information for many consumers. Before making a purchase, visiting a store, or scheduling a consultation, buyers want to know what to expect, and whether or not your business can meet their needs. Luckily, for customers—and unluckily, for some businesses—online reviews provide this information in an instant. But what do your online reviews tell them?


How This Guide Can Help

If your online reviews aren’t positive, you don’t have any, or you aren’t sure if your online reviews are enough, our guide to online reviews can help. In this guide, we’ll explain how to get more online reviews using a simple 3-step process: audit, respond, request.

By following this step-by-step guide, you will learn how to implement this online review framework:

Audit

Where do you have online reviews currently, and where do you need them?

Respond

Make a plant for monitoring and responding to negative, fraudulent, or inappropriate reviews.

Request

Boost your online reputation and save time by automating your review requests.

Introduction

Why Online Reviews Are Important

Online reviews are important to your business for several reasons. Reviews play a vital role in purchasing decisions for most customers, they show your business’s reputation, help to build trust, and can put you ahead of the competition. With the right amount of online reviews, and the right overall quality, you can turn the impact of online reviews into ROI.

Customers Look at Online Reviews Before Buying

Online reviews are more important to some businesses than others, but all rely on online reviews to some extent. Online reviews tend to affect B2C businesses the most, however this includes a wide range of businesses from hotels to retailers to dentists to electricians and many more. Regardless of your industry, your customers are investigating your business using online reviews.

86% of consumers read reviews before visiting a business.

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The top three search results have an average of 47 reviews on Google.

Online Reviews Impact Search Result Position

Online reviews posted to Google have been shown to impact a business’s search position. As Google seeks to give searchers the best possible answer to their question, whether that inquiry is, “Where should I go for dinner?” or “Where is the best dentist near me?,” the search engine looks for the highest-quality results. Customer reviews play an important role in this decision. Businesses with more reviews and higher quality reviews tend to appear higher in Google’s search results. And higher results get more clicks, which ultimately means more visits and more sales.

Negative Reviews Can Turn Customers Away

Positive reviews are not the only consideration when it comes to managing your online reviews. For many, managing negative reviews is a top priority as well. Negative reviews make some customers think twice about buying from you, especially if the negative review is recent and thorough. While it is difficult to remove negative reviews, you can respond to them—and even convince your customer to change their review—or reduce their impact by adding more positive reviews.

Negative reviews stop 40% of consumers wanting to use a business

Step 1

Auditing Your Online Reviews

Where Should You Have Online Reviews?

There are many different review sites, including some that host reviews about businesses of all kinds, and others aimed towards specific industries. Some review sites specialize only in reviews, while others host reviews as a part of other services they provide.

Trying to gather reviews on every applicable website at once probably isn’t feasible. So how do you, as a business owner, decide which review sites to prioritize? The first step to gather more online reviews is to assess your current online reputation.

Where do you currently have positive reviews? How about negative reviews? Where are your competitors? Where are your customers? This information can show you which online review sites have the greatest ROI for your business.

General Review Sites

A number of online review sites show customer reviews for nearly any business. The three most widely-used are Google, Facebook, and Yelp. You might not have time to monitor and manage online reviews on all of these sites, but it’s a good idea to do at least the following for each:

Claim your listing

People are likely talking about your business on these sites already, even if you’ve never interacted with the platform. Be proactive and claim your listing. This is easy to do on most platforms, and the added benefits of review notifications and listing customization make it well worth the time you’ll spend on setup.

Prioritize platforms

Which of these sites are most important for your business? Think about whether people searching for your type of business are most likely to go to Google or social networks. If you are spending a lot of money on Facebook ads, consider prioritizing the platform for collecting reviews as well. Once you choose one or two online review platforms to prioritize, and measure your ROI and adjust as needed.

Check on reviews

You don’t have to look at these sites every day, but set aside time on a regular basis to check in, respond to reviews where necessary, and see if your listing on a particular website needs some extra attention. You can organize alerts from any site to get an email when a customer leaves a review. Organize a separate folder for these emails, then you can easily manage them at any time.

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Google receives over 63,000 searches per second.

Google

Since Google is also the number one search engine, this is a natural choice for reviews as well. Google is also programmed to recognize local queries and phases like “near me,” which makes it a good option for brick-and-mortar businesses depending primarily on local business. As previously mentioned, the number and quality of Google reviews also play a role in how your business appears in results.

For these reasons, Google reviews are very important, and most businesses prioritize these. While customers are most likely searching for you on Google, you can make sure by looking at your search volume. Use Google’s Keyword Planner tool and see the search volume of your business or product name. If your business has a common name, use the locations section to limit the results to your local area. Also, see if you already have reviews, and how many reviews your competitors have.

Facebook

There are 2.38 billion active Facebook users, and Facebook estimates that one in three take advantage of recommendations and reviews on the site. Facebook changed the previous star-rating review system, which was similar to Google’s, to a “recommendation” system in 2018. This makes more sense with Facebook’s connection-oriented platform, and makes the reviews more shareable.

If you actively use Facebook as a marketing tool, this might be next or even the first platform on your list. Your Facebook ads, boosted posts, and organic shares will all perform better if you have positive reviews or recommendations from customers. If you do not actively use Facebook, you might forgo this platform for Google, Yelp, or a niche review site.

2 out of 3 Facebook users visit the page of a local business at least once a week.

A 1 star increase on Yelp correlates with a 5 to 9% increase in business revenue.

Yelp

According to ReviewTrackers, about 45% of consumers say they check Yelp before visiting a business. Yelp includes a wide array of businesses, and some industries have more reviews than others. According to Yelp, restaurants, shopping, and home and local services are the three top industries reviewed on the site. If you’re in one of these industries or you notice your competitors are prominent on Yelp, this might take priority over Facebook.

Niche Review Sites

There are over 300 niche review sites for specific industries, and more appearing all the time. Generally, purchases with higher stakes, higher price tags and more consideration have more niche review sites. There are several online review sites specifically for medical services, cars, contractors, and legal services. Since consumers tend to do more research before making decisions on these things, they’re more likely to look at several information sources, which creates demand for additional sites. If you are in an industry with long decision-making and consideration buying stages, take a look at relevant niche online review websites. You may find that one or more of these deserves more of your attention than the general review sites listed above.

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There are over 300 different review sites active now

The most niche review sites can be found in the following industries:

  • Medical care
  • Nursing
  • Pet care
  • Restaurants
  • Travel and hospitality
  • Wedding services
  • Car dealerships
  • Dentists
  • Home services and contractors
  • Legal services
  • Mechanics

Step 2

Responding to Online Reviews

What to Do About Negative Online Reviews

Sooner or later, one of your customers will be unhappy and they’ll leave a bad review. While it’s difficult to actually remove a review from any site, it is possible to stop it from damaging your business. Sometimes, the customer has a legitimate complaint. In this case, it’s a good opportunity to improve your business. If you’ve addressed the problem, the customer can even change their review.  In other cases, the negative review is not made by a real customer, or the customer does not have a legitimate complaint. There are other ways to address these negative reviews.

95% of negative reviewers said they would return to the business of their complaint was resolved.

Address the Complaint

Responding to negative reviews is the best option business owners have for managing criticism. Your review response should acknowledge legitimate complaints, address relevant concerns, and state the facts. Avoid making excuses, as this won’t look good to other potential customers. If you made a mistake, admit it and make it right. Then, if your customer is satisfied after you solved the problem, ask if they would be willing to change the review.

With a response, you have a chance to do the following:

  • Give your side. This is not necessarily for the reviewer, but for everyone else reading the review. Defend yourself when necessary with a calm and unemotional response.
  • Change their mind. If you take care of the problem, the reviewer can actually change their review on many sites.
  • Show your patience. When a reviewer is unnecessarily cruel or upset, a patient and considerate response will make you look especially good.
  • Find your audience. Your business might not be for everyone, and this negative review isn’t necessarily bad. Thank the customer, and clarify what experience you’re providing. This will help you to attract the right customers and avoid the wrong ones.

Report Fake Reviews

If a review was not made by a real customer, or you feel it should be taken down for another reason, it is best to report or flag the review in addition to responding. Again, this is not for the reviewer, but for the other real customers who should know the review is not legitimate. State why you think the review is fraudulent or otherwise inappropriate, and refute unwarranted criticism calmly. If the review is especially problematic, appeal to the site’s management or community in addition to flagging the review.

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89% of customers read a business’s responses to reviews at least sometimes.

These situations are not common, but can happen.
Here’s what you can do:

  • Fraud: If anyone other than a real customer makes a review, it is fraudulent. Report or flag this and respond. Since this is difficult to prove, these are not often removed. However, other potential customers will see that the review is not trustworthy.
  • Extortion: If the reviewer is attempting to extort money or gifts through a bad review, report this activity and show any other messages you’ve received from them. The reviewer may be removed from the site if enough complaints are made.
  • Payment: If you suspect a reviewer was paid to make negative reviews about your business, report this and respond. This is also difficult to prove, but it is good to show that the review is not trustworthy.
  • Abuse: If the reviewer has made inappropriate or abusive statements in the review, report it. Depending on the content of the review, it may be best not to respond, or to simply state that you have reported the review as inappropriate. These generally have the best chance of being removed by the website.

On average, consumers read about 10 reviews.

Add More Positive Reviews

One of the best ways to put out a fire is to smother it. In the case of negative online reviews, this means covering it up with additional positive reviews. Make a concentrated effort to get more honest, positive reviews. Remember that this isn’t to deceive your customers or cover up a problem. If there’s a problem, fix it, then ask your happy customers to show their support. Keep reading to see how.

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Step 3

Requesting Online Reviews

How to Get More Online Reviews

Customers leave negative reviews because they’re trying to solve a problem—they’re frustrated or they’re concerned about other consumers. But when a customer has a good experience, they need some motivation to leave a review. This is why you have to ask. When you ask for a review from happy customers, they’re motivated to help another person, and introduce your business to other consumers who might benefit.

There are many ways to ask for reviews. Here just a few, as well as tips to manage your online review process quickly and effectively.

70% of consumers asked to leave a review did.

How to Ask for Online Reviews

How you ask for online reviews will partially depend on what type of business you have. Obviously, if you run an online business, your communication will also be online. If you have a brick-and-mortar business, you might try a combination of real-world and online methods. Consider how you best communicate with your customers, and what you’re looking for. Are you looking for case studies and testimonials to display on your own website? Do you want to get Google or Facebook reviews? This will impact how you go about getting more online reviews.

Ideas for requesting online reviews:

Email

With an email request you can give customers the link to your own review collection method, or use a link to another page, like your Google listing, Facebook page, or Yelp page. This is a fast and easy way to request reviews from a long list of customers.

In person

If you regularly meet with clients or you chat with your customers in your store, ask them to submit a review. You might also use a business card as a reminder.

End of a project

If you’ve concluded business with your customer and everything has gone well, this is a great time to ask for a review. Once again, consider using a business card with a link, so your customer doesn’t forget and knows where to go.

Bottom of receipt

Including a link at the bottom of receipts gives customers a fast and easy way to submit their feedback. Make sure customers can submit feedback on a mobile device, since they’re probably on-the-go.

Event

If you’re introducing a new product or opening a new location, this is a good chance to get your first reviews. Ask your first happy customers to submit their thoughts.

Kiosk

You can lock an iPad or similar device to one app and collect reviews from that device straight in the store.

What You’ll Need

There are many ways that you can get more online reviews, but an organized plan and automated technology will reduce the time and energy it takes to manage them. Taking some time to set up your strategy initially will save you time in the long run.

Here’s are some things to consider:

  • Strategy: Before you get started, make a plan. This way, you will know how much time and energy you can commit to this effort, and what makes sense for your expected return.
  • Email automation: if you are asking for online reviews via email, an email automation strategy will save you time. Use a service like Constant Contact or MailChimp to create and send emails fast.
  • Review collection: If you collect your own reviews—and add the right permissions statement—you can use them in your other marketing elements, like social media or brochures. Or, if you want to improve your reviews on other sites, provide clear instructions explaining how to submit a review to the platform.
  • Promotion: If your customers don’t know you’re looking for reviews, they’re less likely to give them. Have a system for promoting your review collection page or review requests on another site. Consider using more than one method, such as social media, email, in-store signage, and more.
  • Display: If you’re collecting your own reviews, make sure you have a way to prominently display them.

Know the Rules

Before requesting online reviews, especially for third-party websites, make sure you have a good understanding of the rules. This includes the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC)  rules on legal reviews (for U.S. residents) as well as the terms of service agreements on other websites.

Generally, third-party sites take stricter stances on illicit review practices than the FTC. A practice that’s legal according to FTC regulations might still be against a website’s rules. The website may remove you from the site if you break their rules, or may even take legal action if the issue is significant. Amazon sued over 1,000 fraudulent reviewers and businesses in 2015. Yelp also took action. Before asking customers to submit reviews to an online review site, read the website’s terms of service agreements carefully.

Here are a few things to look out for:

Review solicitation

Though it is rare, some website forbid asking for reviews all together.

Review copying

In most cases, reviews on third-party websites are owned by the site and the reviewer. This means duplicating the text can be considered copyright infringement.

Material relationships

The reviewer cannot be influenced by a current or prior relationship with you, such as employee-employer.

Fake reviews

Fake reviews—reviews that do not express the real experience of an actual customer—are never allowed and a strictly forbidden under FTC regulations.

Paid or incentivized reviews

Paying, providing discounts, or even free merchandise is not allowed by most websites, even if the review is still honest.

Review gating

Asking some customers for reviews, but not others, is not allowed by some websites. All customers should have equal access to reviews in this case.

Your Turn

Getting Started with Online Reviews

Now that you know the impact that reviews have on your business, what to do about negative reviews, and how to collect more, you’re ready to get started. Start with a plan—decide which sites you want to prioritize, how much time you can commit, and how you’ll gather more reviews.

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