When a brand wants to improve its online reviews and ratings, the right strategy will make all the difference. Some strategies are slow, others faster. Some work, others get you banned.
Online reviews are an excellent resource for consumers and businesses as they go about their buying decisions. Word of mouth has always been a key player in whether people opt for one product over another, and the wealth of online reviews and rating systems available today are simply the cyber versions of this phenomenon.
In a study conducted by BrightLocal, 77% of online consumers read online reviews and 71% of consumers rely on them as the "most useful" source of information. However, online review management is still a challenge for many businesses (and consumers), with only 7% of businesses looking back on their reviews and creating strategies to improve positive scores and 19% of consumers saying they have been negatively influenced by a bad review.
This article serves as a primer to online review management strategy so that you can start taking control of your online reviews today.
Online review management strategies
Because online reviewing is so prevalent, it's normal to be concerned about what people might be saying about you - and whether it's tarnishing your name. For starters, not all review sites are created equal. Most consumers are savvy enough to put more stock in a review from a trusted site like Yelp than, say, if there were a site called TheseBusinessesSuck.com.
Many who seek strategies for online review management do so because they're hoping to delete or mitigate negative reviews. So, what can you expect when you work with someone to help manage your business' online reviews? A comprehensive strategy will include at least some of the following:
- Encouraging positive reviews on popular sites like City Search, Yelp, Angie's List, Google Reviews, Facebook, and Merchant Circle through focused customer outreach, but without bribery.
- Removing negative reviews when possible (if they violate terms of service or promote legitimate falsehoods, are the most common acceptable grounds for removal. If the reviews are negative and truthful, your strategy will need to be more proactive).
- Inclusion of Yelp and other review site badges and signage on websites, storefronts, direct advertising, or email newsletters to encourage satisfied customers to promote you through word-of-mouth online.
- Have a protocol in place for monitoring and responding to online reviews.
With all of this in place, you'll have to keep in mind that people can still be fickle. Reviews like "It's a great beach, just too sandy" or "haunted" can drag down reviews for no apparently good reason.
To fight bad reviews by customers and competitors, business owners must be proactive. Here are a couple of ways that a company like Reputation X can help you develop and implement a review management strategy.
Intercepting the customer
Businesses that intervene during and just after the end of the sales cycle to request feedback tend to have better star ratings. Why? Because they catch people before they get to the review sites with an up or down vote as to whether the experience was positive.
Asking whether a customer had a good experience can be automated using certain review management tools. The premise is simple: if the customer had a good experience, direct them to make a comment on a specific review site. If the customer reports having a bad experience, address it immediately.
Removing reviews that violate TOS
When reviewers violate a site's Terms of Service (TOS) the content can often be removed. Yelp will remove reviews that meet the below requirements:
- Conflicts of interest
- Violations of privacy
- Intellectual property issues
Should you pay for fake reviews?
No. Here's why.
While it may be tempting to pay people to post positive reviews for your businesses, this type of online review fraud can severely damage your reputation in the market. These practices are estimated to have cost e-commerce businesses billions of dollars in recent years.
There is a simple way to avoid these issues: ask for reviews yourself. Instead of waiting for customers to post reviews about your product or service on your own website, you can go out and encourage them to do so on other sites.
Review management as one piece of the pie
If you want to drive your business's positive image for the long haul, you'll need to do more than monitor online reviews. As important as a sturdy review management strategy is, it's only one piece of the larger pie that represents your digital image. Learn more about online reputation management by visiting our blog, or contact us today for a free consultation.
Review management strategies FAQs
How can I improve online reviews?
A comprehensive strategy will include at least some of the following. Encouraging positive reviews on popular sites through focused customer outreach, but without bribery. Removing negative reviews when possible. Inclusion of Yelp and other review site badges and signage on websites, storefronts, within direct advertising, or email newsletters to encourage satisfied customers to promote you through word-of-mouth online. Have a protocol in place for monitoring and responding to online reviews.
Why are fake reviews a problem?
Fake reviews are a problem because they don't work in the long run. You may see short-term results if you buy fake reviews, but eventually consumers will notice if your products don't live up to your sterling reviews. Then you'll get an influx of negative reviews that you will then have to clean up.
What do I do if I receive 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.
You can download our free reputation management strategy guide here.
About the author
Kent Campbell is the chief strategist for Reputation X, an award-winning online reputation management agency. He has over 15 years of experience with SEO, Wikipedia editing, review management, and online reputation strategy. Kent has helped celebrities, leaders, executives, and marketing professionals improve the way they are seen online. Kent writes about reputation, SEO, Wikipedia, and PR-related topics, and is an expert witness for reputation-related legal matters.