12 minute read
How to Manage Online Reviews for Small Businesses
Updated on May 4, 2022 by Brianne Schaer
Every additional 1-star improvement can increase business by 9%. Think about that.
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.
- The importance of online reviews
- How to encourage positive reviews
- How to respond to negative reviews
- How to deal with fake reviews
- What not to do
- Managing online reviews FAQs
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 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. But 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.
How to encourage positive reviews
The best way to encourage positive reviews starts with offering an exceptional product or service. That seems like a no-brainer. You want your customers to want 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:
- It shows up high in search results.
- It could use a higher star-rating.
In other words, if Yelp is on page three of your brands' 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.
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 qualify 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 copy/pasting replies. Canned responses can have the opposite effect, so try to keep it 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 3 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 is going to 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 that it won’t happen again.
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 ask 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 at all. For example, Yelp will remove these types of comments, thus saving your star rating to some degree. Check content guidelines to see if the review in question violates any of the terms of service, and flag it if it does. Reviews that include threats, harassment, or other inappropriate content warrant removal.
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 business.
- Ex-employees who write negative reviews as retaliation.
- Current employees, friends, or family members who 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 for gaining more positive reviews, the review platform can take action.
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 with 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 reviews 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.