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By Darren DeYoung
Think about the last time you purchased a product or hired a company to do a job for you. How did you determine what product to buy or what company to hire? You probably turned to Google to complete some quick research, right?
Thanks to search engines and social media, it takes very little effort for the modern-day consumer to research products and services. While 57% of US shoppers consider online reviews to be helpful when making decisions, how can a small business ensure their online reviews are “positive?” As a small business owner, how can you keep tabs on what people are saying? How can you monitor these important conversations about your brand?
Through a reputation management service.
Reputation management services are focused on influencing and improving the public’s perception of your brand. It involves monitoring conversations about your brand, responding to questions or comments, and addressing feedback, especially feedback that might damage your reputation.
Small business owners may wonder why reviews are important. Well, if your customer is looking for a service with the intent to make a purchase, the odds of landing that customer will increase if you show up as a leader in online customer reviews.
Not only does this help build your online reputation, but it also plays a role in SEO by increasing your Google rank. Positive reviews help customers find you and trust your brand. The more mentions and third-party approvals you have, the more credibility you have in the eyes of search engines.
The best way to get online reviews is by offering an exceptional product or service. Although this seems like a no-brainer, when a customer loves your product or service, they are more likely to leave a positive review.
But how do you encourage customers to leave an online review?
It starts with making it easy for your customers to know how and where they can leave a review.
Linking to a review page on your website, email signature, or social media is a great way to help your customers find a place to leave a review. This way, you can control where they are sent. If you’ve determined that Google reviews are most helpful for your business, send your customers to Google. But if Yelp reviews are where your prospective customers view your brand, send them to Yelp.
For brick and mortar businesses, in-store signage can be the trigger needed to remind someone to leave a review. Many platforms (e.g. Google, Yelp, Trip Advisor, etc.) provide window clings to businesses. But, it is not that hard to create your own signage whether that is displayed in the window or near a cash register. A small, subtle reminder can go a long way and be just what a customer needs to pull out their phone and share positivity about your business.
If you collect customer email addresses, a post-purchase email encouraging a customer to leave a review is huge. Not only can they read the email on their own time, but a link is provided that leaves them one tap or click away from leaving a review.
If done right, a cordial follow-up email(s) can be sent if the customer doesn’t leave a review after the first email. There are many software options that can automate this process to make it efficient and timely.
Reputation Management Services for small businesses vary from full-service options to software specific to business needs.Additional Reputation Management Services
Whether you admit to it or not, the last time you searched online for a restaurant, subconsciously, you likely ruled out the places with low ratings or negative reviews. In the same manner, are potential customers skipping your business when doing their online research? Negative reviews can be devastating to a business. No matter how hard you try to please your customers, it is inevitable that somebody, at some point, will have a subpar experience. But that’s okay! Because you can take a negative, and turn it into a positive. Many people argue that a few reviews that are three stars or below can add authenticity to your business.
After reading a negative review, you may be upset -- especially if it is inaccurate or taken out of context. But the customer holds the power and it is never good to respond in anger. Calmly assess the situation and consider your response. You wouldn’t berate an upset customer in person so don’t do it online -- no matter how satisfying it may feel. Remember, your response will be read by potential customers.
Although it is good to keep a level head, timing is key when responding to negative reviews. You don’t want to have negative reviews sitting out there without a response. By responding (in a professional manner, of course), you are showing potential customers that you care and listen to customer complaints.
If possible, customize each review response. Make it personal and communicate actions that have been taken to fix the problem. By addressing the issue, you can potentially appease the unsatisfied customer.
If you can resolve this issue, be sure to ask if they’d be open to changing their original review. A person updating a review to show that you provide great customer service speaks volumes about your business and can help your ratings.
When customers leave reviews that are false, or not about your business, there are options to have them removed. Each platform (Google, Yelp, Facebook, Angi, etc.) has a different process for removing these comments. Review the content guidelines and flag them for removal. Reviews that include threats, harassment, and inappropriate content are always candidates for removal.
Whether you decide to hire a business to handle your online reputation management, invest in a DIY software program, or monitor your online presence on your own, you should be practicing some form of brand reputation management. People will talk about your company online and if you aren’t part of that conversation, someone else is.
Your online reviews are an invaluable tool for growing your business and increasing revenue. Understanding how to manage online reviews, both positive and negative, can keep your rating high. Your reputation is all that you have, so protecting it is worth the investment.
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