The numbers are compelling.
Depending on which study you read (and there are literally dozens), anywhere from 51 percent to 90 percent of consumers read and trust online reviews.
Even if we take the smallest number, that's still over half of consumers paying attention to online reviews.
That makes good reviews critical for any kind of business where people look for and read online reviews of products or services.
The most important thing to remember is that you can have an impact on reviews affecting your business -- it's not out of your hands. Here are ten tactics to increase the number of positive reviews of your business:
- Monitor reviews. The first step to getting more positive reviews is to know where reviews of your business are likely to appear. Google, Bing, Facebook, Foursquare, Yelp, Better Business Bureau and Yellow Pages are some of the better known review places. But depending on your industry, those may not be your most important places. Product reviews appear on ecommerce platforms like Amazon, reviews of home services may appear on sites like Home Advisor, and so on. Monitor for new reviews at least once a week to assess your progress and deal with negative reviews.
- Complete your online profiles, accurately. Take time to add your hours of operation, product details, locations and other information. If the site offers categories, make sure you choose the proper ones to be associated with. The more complete your online business listings, product descriptions on ecommerce platforms, and local profiles, the more it appears you actively care about your business. Also, correct any inaccurate information. If your profile says you are open to 6:00 p.m., but you close at 5:00 pm, what kind of review can you expect from someone who made a trip only to find your place was closed?
- Include great photographs - Photographs make your profiles stand out in local search results and on review websites. Be sure that your photographs are high quality. The clearer and better the image looks, the more professional and impressive the business will appear to those searching online.
- Show customer reviews are important to you. Simply having a system that alerts customers their opinion matters to your business goes a long way toward getting more positive reviews. Develop a system of follow-up email or verbal communications. A business or product with a higher number of reviews tends to get more attention on review sites. Also, the more positive reviews you have to offset a negative review or two, the higher your overall rating will be.
- Remind happy customers verbally of review sites. When someone is at the cash register, ask how the meal or experience was. If positive, remind them to visit review sites. Keep in mind that it is against the guidelines of some review sites to actually ask a customer to leave a review for your business. However, even in those situations it is generally acceptable to remind customers to “check out” your business on a certain site, such as Yelp. Be very familiar with allowable practices on relevant review sites before you phrase your request.
- Use software to seek out feedback and encourage testimonials. There are review software services that can be programmed to send post-sale emails to customers asking what they thought of your product or service. If the experience is positive, then you can send a follow-up communication making it easy for the customer to click a button and share that positive experience on a review site (done in such a way as to not violate terms of service of review sites).
- Do NOT incentivize reviews from customers. It sounds tempting. You think, ‘why don't I just offer freebies or discounts to get customers to leave reviews'? Well, for one thing, this violates the terms of service of many review sites. It may also violate FTC rules and state deceptive trade practice regulations. Your customer might have been willing to leave a positive review anyway, but by giving an incentive you just made the review invalid or a liability. Don't do it. See more on rules.
- Don't set up a review station on premises. Do not set up a tablet or laptop and ask customers to review your business. This crosses the line of the rules of service on some review sites. For example, Google's policy states: “If you're a business owner, don't set up review stations or kiosks at your place of business just to ask for reviews written at your place of business.” Besides, all reviews will come from a single IP address and may be flagged by the review site as fake reviews, and do more harm than good for your reputation.
- Respond to negative reviews. Don't leave negative feedback unanswered. Respond the right way. Acknowledge if you made a mistake and offer to make things right or explain what you will do differently going forward. This type of response shows you care. Remember, other prospective customers can see your response so handling criticism gracefully is important. Don't become defensive or engage in a nasty public fight–it usually makes matters worse.
- Respond to positive comments -- Respond to positive feedback, too. This is one way to turn happy customers into enthusiastic advocates who spread positive a word of mouth. For instance, if someone says something nice on Twitter about your business, tweet back a simple thank you. Some companies go so far as to respond on social media with short personal video to show their gratitude. If you got one of those as a customer, wouldn't that endear you even more? And possibly get you to share the nice thank-you to your followers and friends?
Finally, remember that the ultimate tool to get positive reviews is to deliver great products and/or services to customers.