Tips for Earning More Local Business Reviews
- A recent survey found that 25% of consumers only leave reviews if their experience was really good, and another 33% only leave reviews if an experience was really good or really bad. In other words, extremely positive and extremely negative experiences appear to drive most reviews. Taking this into account, the in-store experience you provide customers is the most significant factor in the number (and sentiment) of the reviews you will receive, so it pays to deliver the best customer experience possible. The empathy and generosity of your customer service policies, the fine detail and regularity of your staff training, your quality control measures, and the culture of your business are all vitally important to earning a competitive volume of positive reviews. Delighting customers and exceeding their expectations is the foundation for any strategy for earning positive reviews.
- Businesses with brick-and-mortar locations can make use of in-store signage to encourage reviews.Consider banners, business cards, brochures, receipts, window clings, menus, and flyers as vehicles for communicating both your desire for in-person feedback and your appreciation for online feedback. In-store apps, beacons, QR codes, and interactive media displays can also convey this message, and can point customers either to a page on the company website to leave an on-site review, or to a list of review profile links which allows them to choose their favorite platform to write their review (on their own device, of course!).
- Collecting email addresses at the time of service is a powerful practice for both brick-and-mortar and service area businesses. When a customer is willing to share an email, follow up within a few days to ask them to write a review about their experience. Give them a choice of platforms so that they can pick their favorite.
- Train staff to verbally mention how much a review would be appreciated, especially when a customer seems happy. This works better in some businesses than others. It may be off-putting to customers standing in a line to hear every clerk at the counter reel off the same “rate my service” message ad infinitum. But, in a different situation, a friendly staff member can be empowered to use their discretion to say, “It would be so helpful if you’d consider leaving a review about our business — we’re trying to get the word out to our neighbors.” Where rapport exists, an ask for a review can feel natural instead of forced. Remember that staff includes both in-store service providers and online and phone support.
- Bearing in mind that not every customer is a tech whiz, consider sharing a nice and simple review handoutat the time of service, like this one you can generate for free, courtesy Phil Rozek of Local Visibility System and Darren Shaw of Whitespark. Making it simple for a customer to find a way to leave a review is bound to earn you more reviews than expecting your customers to figure out the best way to review your business on their own.
- On your website’s own reviews or testimonials page, showcase links to your third-party review profiles, or create a separate page on your website just for that purpose. This helps by offering alternative favorite places to leave a review that may feel easier for the customer and by encouraging customers to join the party when they see how many other people have reviewed your business. Here’s a great list of review badges and widgets for your website.
- Use social media to ask specific questions about a particular facet of your business, directing followers to respond by leaving a review on their choice of 2-3 platforms. For example, a restaurant might ask if there was an older menu item that was removed that customers really miss. The business owner could ask customers to mention that in their review as a “vote” for bringing it back. Or, for another example, a luxury hotel might take the same approach, asking customers to mention what the best view is from the establishment and why they like it. A plumber might ask customers to leave a review telling others what the worst mess their team got them out of was (a plugged sink on Christmas Eve, etc.). This approach allows customers who have stories they’d be willing to share in the form or a review to speak up, if it’s suggested to them.
- Respond to as many reviews as you possibly can. Numerous review platforms permit you, as the business owner, to respond to reviews. Your first duty is to respond well to negative reviews, but dedicate any time you can set aside to respond personally to the positive reviews, as well. Many reviewers feel that if they take the time to leave a good review of a business, it’s only common courtesy to receive a “thank you” from the company. Avoid the very impersonal and robotic-feeling strategy of using the same verbiage for all owner responses. Your message of gratitude can be brief in length, but it should be uniquely worded. Seeing that a business responds to the majority of its feedback, both positive and negative, signals to new customers that the company genuinely cares about consumer sentiment. It provides an added incentive for these new customers to take a moment to share their own experience.
- Sometimes using humor can create local (or international!) buzz, which prompts consumers to jump on the bandwagon and also leave a review for the business getting all the attention. While this wouldn’t be a typical strategy for every business, oddball campaigns do have their place in business settings where you’re willing and able to take unconventional steps towards internet fame.
- Be sure you are tracking the outcomes of specific review acquisition strategies. You may discover that there are days of the week or even times of the day when you see a better response to email, social media, or other forms of “asks.” Focus on the times when your customers seem most willing to leave a review, and find ways to prompt them to do so when they’re in the right frame of mind.
- When possible, patronize the business of any local competitor who is getting more reviews than yours on important platforms and see what insights you can glean into how they are handling review acquisition.Go ahead — give them your personal email and see how actively and aggressively they seek out a review from you. This tip is an easy one to try out in some industries (e.g.: retail, hospitality) but may not be possible in others (e.g.: insurance, real estate, medical). This may feel sneaky, but it’s just another form of competitive research.
- Audit your website to see just how easy you are really making it for your average customer to leave a review. Is the page dedicated to this purpose in your top level navigation menu? Have you provided links and instructions? Have you provided multiple options for review platforms so that the customer can choose the one on which they already have a profile? Look for missed opportunities to ask for a review and make sure it’s as easy as possible for the customer to leave one.
- Don’t overlook formal and professional reviews. While these don’t impact your business in precisely the same way as consumer reviews, they certainly form part of your online reputation. If your business can earn a good review from a local or industry blog or a professional review entity, it can drive new leads your way, which can, in turn, lead to new customer reviews.
- Remember that even when you’ve earned a healthy number of reviews on a given platform, your work there isn’t done. Freshness of review content matters very much to some industries. For example: would you feel confident about eating in a restaurant that earned its last Yelp review 3 years ago? Probably not — you might even think it had closed since then! What you are aiming for is an ongoing trickle of reviews across your key platforms that never, in effect, ends. Keep in mind that a higher review count does not automatically equate to higher rankings. While some reviews do appear to impact some search engine rankings, it is the sentiment of those reviews that often has the most power to drive conversions (e.g.: actions, traffic, sales, etc.). Aim for earning fresh, positive reviews left on an ongoing basis on your targeted review platforms.
- In a tough market? Going professional may be the best solution. Consider a paid review management service like GetFiveStars or Grade.us. Quality services offer guideline-compliant methodologies for gathering consumer sentiment and funnelling customers through a more sophisticated review process that aims to catch and resolve negative feedback while pushing positive feedback forward onto the web.
- And, if all else fails after a reasonable period of testing various review acquisition techniques, sit down with Phil Rozek’s 60+ Questions to Troubleshoot and Fix Your Local Reviews Strategy. It may well help you identify weaknesses you’ve overlooked and point to actionable solutions to get those reviews trickling back in again at a healthy rate.
You’ve Got Time to Try New Things
Unlike certain aspects of Local Search Marketing, which you have to get perfect immediately, review management can be taken at a more leisurely pace. Yes, local business reviews influence rankings, and yes, they absolutely influence conversions, but given that you’re going to be seeking reviews over a period of months and years, time is on your side. It’s a smart practice to make a good effort at implementing a particular review acquisition technique for a set period of time and to record the results to see what that strategy yields. If it’s successful, that strategy is a keeper for your tool kit. If not, move onto a new idea and see how it works.
With any luck, over time you’ll find a combination of 3–5 strategies that work really well and help you move towards your long-term goal of building a diversified, positive reputation that continues to earn you positive reviews at a moderate, ongoing rate on the platforms that matter most.