How to Manage Online Reviews for Small Businesses

yelp-bandage-4

Interesting facts

  • Online reviews have a significant impact on a restaurant's bottom line, and Google is particularly crucial, drawing 73% of all online feedback.
  • Restaurants with low ratings or few reviews may struggle to get noticed on Google, making positive reviews essential for their visibility.
  • The most popular review platforms, in order, are Google, Yelp, Facebook and Trip Advisor.
  • An additional one-star improvement in online reviews can lead to a 9% increase in business.
  • Google Reviews often have higher visibility than Yelp Reviews due to their placement in search results, making them more influential.

If you are in business, chances are one of your main sources of business is from your review and star-rating websites.

By this point, you’ve surely put the time and effort into making your profile stand out from the rest of the crowd. But the work doesn’t end there. You must continue to manage your business reviews to make sure qualified (real) customers are leaving reviews, the positive reviews outnumber the negative ones, and that any issues are being addressed so that lower star ratings don't appear as often. 

An easy way to do this is to put a review management plan into action. You can use tools to do this yourself or have an agency do it for you

Sections

The importance of online reviews

There’s no way around it – reviews are important. In fact, in the case of Yelp, they’re so important that every additional one-star Yelp rating causes an increase in the business’s revenue by as high as 9 percent.

Every additional one-star Yelp rating causes an increase in the business’s revenue by as high as 9 percent.

 

Your Yelp page is one of the first places a potential customer will go to research your company. If what they see on your page is good, they'll probably buy from you. However, negative reviews can wreck your reputation online and cause you to lose business.

While most business owners are concerned with Yelp, there is another review platform that is often far more visible - Google Reviews. That's because Google Reviews often show up at the top of a page, or in the upper right corner. Yelp tends to rank lower (Yelp is not a Google product). Because of this, Google Reviews are often more visible than Yelp Reviews - meaning more people see Google Reviews in search results. They can also show up in your Google My Business listing. 

Reviews are an essential part of your presence online. Positive reviews help customers find you and trust your brand, and negative ones can lead to customers staying away. 

This blog includes tips for managing positive reviews, dealing with negative reviews, and what not to do regarding online reviews.

What is review management?

Review management is a component of reputation management that improves online ratings and reviews. Since online reviews directly impact your overall reputation and sales, it is a critical component of your reputation management strategy. 

Free reputation management consultation

Review management includes activities like: 

  • Monitoring online platforms: Regularly check popular review sites, social media platforms, and industry-specific forums to keep track of customer feedback.
  • Responding promptly: Craft timely and professional responses to both positive and negative reviews to show that you value customer opinions.
  • Addressing concerns: Address any negative feedback with empathy and a solution-oriented approach, demonstrating your commitment to customer satisfaction.
  • Showcasing positivity: Highlight and engage with positive reviews to build customer loyalty and attract potential customers to your business.
  • Utilizing feedback: Analyze feedback trends to identify areas of improvement in your products, services, or customer experience.
  • Monitoring competitors: Keep an eye on how your competitors are managing reviews and use insights to refine your own strategies.
  • Tracking progress: Measure the impact of review management efforts using key metrics like review ratings, response times, and overall sentiment.
  • Managing crisis situations: Handle any PR crises arising from negative reviews by addressing them calmly, professionally, and promptly.

How to encourage positive reviews

The best way to encourage positive reviews starts by offering an exceptional product or service. That seems like a no-brainer. You want your customers to leave positive reviews because they love your products and services, not simply because you asked.

However, there is no reason why you shouldn’t make it easy for your customers to know how and where they can leave a review.

Link to your reviews pages

You can encourage people to review your review page by linking to your page on your website, email signature, or social media. This is an easy way to help your customers find a place to leave reviews. 

You can change the link, too. For example, if one month you're focusing on getting more and better Yelp reviews, and the next month you are focusing on Clutch.co reviews (or something else), you can change your email links to try to drive more prospective reviewers to the platform that will serve your brand best. 

Which review platform is best? The answer is usually:

  1. It shows up high in search results.
  2. It could use a higher star rating.

In other words, if Yelp is on page three of your brand's search results, but Google Reviews is on page one and only has an average of 3 stars, then focus on Google Reviews. Later, if Yelp rises and is in need of better reviews, you can change your focus. 

Window clings

For Yelp, remind people that you’re on Yelp right when they enter your store with some signage. The "People Love Us on Yelp" window clings are sent out twice a year to businesses that qualify for this program. Yelp doesn’t issue (or re-issue) these window clings upon request, but you can request a “Find us on Yelp” sticker to encourage more reviews and be well on your way to qualifying for the “People Love Us on Yelp” cling. 

Google Reviews and other platforms don't always have window clings; some, like TripAdvisor, do. 

Share positive reviews on social media

When you receive a new review that is well-written and shares quality information about your business, share it on your Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook feeds. This can encourage others to write similar reviews or, at the very least, show how much your customers value your business and encourage new customers to give it a try. 

Respond to positive reviews

Although it may not be possible to respond to every positive review, it is a good idea to occasionally reply to positive reviews to thank the reviewer for their business. This is your chance to connect with the people reading your reviews, so avoid copying/pasting replies. Canned responses can have the opposite effect, so try to keep them short, sweet, and genuine.

How to respond to negative reviews

Responding to positive reviews is fun. Negative ones may not be as fun, but they're a good way to show you care and maybe even turn the issue around.

No matter how hard you try to please your customers, it is inevitable that somebody, at some point, will have a less-than-ideal experience. That's okay! In fact, some even argue that having a few reviews that are three stars or below can help to add authenticity to your page. It is, of course, ideal to keep these negative reviews to a minimum, but it’s extremely important to have a solid game plan in place for when they do happen. 

Keep a level head 

It’s understandable that you may be upset after reading a negative review, particularly if it is inaccurate or taken out of context. However, it is never a good idea to respond in anger. Remember that your response will be read by potential customers, so this is your chance to recompense. It’s best to simply apologize for the issue, which shows that you take concerns seriously, and offer a solution to the problem.

Reply in a timely manner

Timing is key when responding to negative reviews. You don’t want to have negative reviews sitting out in the ether without your response. Always reply with a personal note – nobody wants to receive a canned response, especially when they’re already dissatisfied. Make sure to address the situation, apologize, and assure you that it won’t happen again. 

Respond privately

If the negative review in question refers to a specific incident or is something that you feel is a valid concern that should be addressed, feel free to respond privately. This gives you the opportunity to resolve the issue and mend the relationship with your customer. If you are able to make amends with the customer, you can even ask them to update their review to reflect the current situation. It’s a lot easier to do this once you have resolved the problem over the phone, asked them if they are satisfied, and then asked them if they wouldn’t mind updating the Yelp review.

Flag reviews that violate content guidelines

Sometimes, people will leave reviews that are just plain false or not about your business. For example, Yelp will remove these comments, thus saving your star rating to some degree. Check content guidelines to see if the review violates any of the terms of service, and flag it if it does. Reviews that include threats, harassment, or other inappropriate content warrant removal. 

report-review 

How to deal with fake reviews

If dealing with legitimately negative reviews is no fun, imagine how frustrating it is to deal with fake reviews. If you are currently dealing with fake reviews, you're not alone. Fake reviews are a growing problem for local businesses. Yelp routinely removes fake reviews or reviews that violate its policy and has removed 8% of reviews since its inception. 

When it comes to leaving fake reviews, there are a few "usual suspects:"

  • Business owners who write negative reviews about the competition to make themselves look better and/or write fake positive reviews about their own businesses.
  • Ex-employees who write negative reviews as retaliation.
  • Current employees, friends, or family members are coerced into writing positive reviews.
  • Customers who write negative reviews in an attempt to obtain a refund, discount, or freebies.
  • Review mills hired by business owners to create large volumes of fake positive or negative reviews.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of fake negative reviews, there are a few things you can do to get in front of the problem: 

  • Diligently monitor your review sites to maintain a pulse on how your business is represented online.
  • Flag any suspicious reviews for removal.
  • Encourage legitimate positive reviews. Remind customers of your online profiles and how to leave a review.
  • Respond to negative reviews.

What not to do

Now that we’ve gone over some best practices for managing reviews, let’s take a look at what not to do. Review platforms warn against doing any of the following things in an effort to flood your page with positive reviews (those below are mostly from Yelp). 

  • Don’t post reviews of your business or of competitors.
  • Don’t offer freebies, discounts, or payment in exchange for reviews.
  • Don’t work with companies or 3rd-party vendors offering to “fix your reviews.”
  • Don’t ask anyone to write reviews of your business, including friends, family, and customers.
  • Don’t pressure (or pay, or sue) people into altering or removing critical reviews.

As mentioned earlier, the best thing to do is to provide exceptional products and services that leave your customers wanting to leave a positive review. If you resort to any of the above methods to gain more positive reviews, the review platform can take action.

Conclusion

Your business’s review pages can be an invaluable tool for promoting your business and effectively increasing revenue. By understanding how to manage both positive and negative reviews, you can keep your star rating high. If you are feeling overwhelmed or need help managing your reviews, contact us.

Managing Online Reviews FAQs

Why are online reviews important?

Online reviews are important because they give people an idea of the quality of service or products that you provide. Prospective customers, employees, and business partners all use online reviews to judge your company.

How can I encourage positive online reviews?

The best way to encourage positive reviews starts by offering an exceptional product or service. You want your customers to leave positive reviews because they love your products and services, not simply because you asked. Beyond that, here are a few ways to encourage your customers to actually leave online reviews. Link to your review pages on your website, email signature, or social media. Use window clings at your store. Share positive reviews on social media. Respond to positive reviews.

Which review platform should I be most concerned about?

The best review platform for your business will vary based on a number of factors. Generally, it is best to focus your efforts on the platform that shows up highest in your search results.

How do I respond to negative reviews?

Remain calm when replying to negative reviews. What you say in your response has the ability to change the person's mind about your business. Always address their concern and work to resolve the issue, which may mean taking the conversation to email or private messages.

What are some things I should avoid when managing online reviews?

Don’t post reviews of your business or of competitors. Don’t offer freebies, discounts, or payment in exchange for reviews. Don’t work with companies or 3rd-party vendors offering to fix your reviews. Don’t ask anyone to write reviews of your business, including friends, family, and customers. Don’t pressure (or pay, or sue) people into altering or removing critical reviews.

 

About the author

Brianne Schaer is a Writer and Editor for Reputation X, an award-winning online reputation management services agency based in California. Brianne has more than seven years of experience creating powerful stories, how-to documentation, SEO articles, and Wikipedia content for brands and individuals. When she’s not battling AI content bots, she is cruising around town in her Karmann Ghia. You can see more of her articles here and here.

-


Free reputation consultation

call 1.800.889.4812

Call

1.800.889.4812
Talk with an expert
schedule a meeting

Set a Meeting

Schedule a Zoom meeting with an expert

Discuss your options with an expert. Get answers to questions about the best way to proceed, timeline, pricing, and much more.