How to Manage Online Reviews for Small Businesses

6 minute read

How to Manage Online Reviews for Small Businesses

Every additional 1-star improvement can increase business 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 out number 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

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. 

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

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 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 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. 

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 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.

Responding 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. 

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 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. 


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 method 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.