Online review platforms are the new Yellow Pages. Not many people check the phone book anymore for the closest restaurant, store or service. Instead, they are reaching for the little computer in their pocket and taking their search to the internet, which means they will see the reviews that show up with your business.
According to Bright Local, 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. If that's the case, don't you want to make sure you are getting the best reviews to drive in more business?
How to garner positive reviews
Do your job right.
The No. 1 way to bring in positive reviews is to offer great customer service. Make sure your office staff, employees and yourself are all well-versed in how to treat customers right, because if you don't, you can be sure that someone will post about it.
The only problem with happy customers is that they don't generally think to leave a review for good service. People are typically more vocal when they are upset. It's good to give those happy customers a little push in the right direction.
Ask for reviews.
If you have a customer who is appreciative of the service you provided and keeps giving you vocal compliments, ask them if they would mind leaving you a review on Google, Yelp or your Facebook page.
They'll say, "Of course!" Many will likely forget by the time they get back in their car, but some of them will do it. Simply asking is a good place to start, but, often, people need reminders.
Use a review management tool.
Plenty of tools exist now that allow you to send out review invitations via text or email to customers. Grade.us, TrustPilot and ReviewTrackers are a few that offer this service. Besides requesting reviews, some services track all of your reviews across multiple platforms in one convenient place.
Which online review platforms should you use?
The top dog of the online review world is Google. Most people start their search on Google, and browse through the businesses and reviews that they find.
To make sure you show up on Google, you need to create a Google My Business listing (if you don't already have one). Go to business.google.com to get started. Learn why every small business needs to use Google My Business, and start optimizing your listing to show up well. Getting reviews on your Google listing will increase your business's visibility and help convert leads into customers.
Other platforms that are always good to show up on, if only for review purposes, are Facebook, Bing and Yelp. There are even industry-specific platforms that you may want to look into, like HealthGrades for doctors or Houzz for home builders.
You'll want most of your reviews to go to your Google listing, but make sure that you get a few reviews on each of these other platforms as well.
How many reviews do you need?
Looking at your competitors' listings is a good place to start to determine how many reviews you should aim for, but there really isn't a set number. The most important thing is to bring in a steady stream of reviews. Start by trying to get at least one or two a month, and then maybe one or two a week if you have a lot of customers coming and going each day.
A word of caution though: Do not incentivize reviews, and don't get too many reviews at once.
It is against Google's (and most other platforms') guidelines to offer a reward for leaving a review. This skews the reviews you get and leads to distrust, not to mention that your reviews could be deleted if the online platform caught wind of it.
Getting too many reviews at once (e.g., if all of them come from your IP address or location) can send up red flags, too. It looks unnatural, and it could result in losing your hard-earned reviews. A review management service can be a good way to help this problem, because many allow you to automate the review invitation to send a certain number out each day. This spreads out the reviews to make it look more natural, because they are!
Do your research, find out which platforms are relevant to your business, and even if you're already there, follow the above tips to keep a steady stream of reviews coming in so they are always fresh for potential customers.