Reviews are the social proof that can help keep your business afloat. Nothing is better advertising than having someone else recommend your product or service. Word of mouth advertising has always been the most valuable and now it is easier than ever for people to recommend businesses online.

No matter what kind of business you run, there is always a need for reviews. The more you have that are positive, the better your ranking will be in the search results. In fact, having plenty of great feedback and recommendations can actually increase your chances of getting into the local pack or carousel. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to get them.

The Benefits of Online Reviews

Did you know that around 80% of consumers check reviews on products and services before they buy? Out of these:

  • 86% of buying decisions are affected by negative reviews
  • 90% of buying decisions are affected by positive reviews

What other people think of your business will have a big impact on your future customers. If you are looking for a good restaurant and find mostly bad reviews, chances are you will look for a different place to eat. It’s human nature to pay attention to what other people say about something.

Obviously, good reviews are something that every business needs, but how do you ensure the reviews you get are positive?

How to Encourage Customers to Leave a Review

In many cases, customers won’t leave a review on their own unless they are very upset or extremely pleased with their experience. The best way to ensure positive reviews is to provide excellent customer service. If you get a negative review, make sure to address the problem to ensure the problem doesn’t occur again.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a review. This is the best way to remind customers to share their feedback.

  • Ask for feedback during a phone call or email. When someone calls or writes to let you know that they enjoy a product or service, ask them to copy that to a review site.
  • Add a feedback button to your site. Encourage customers to let the world know how they feel about you.
  • Provide in-store customers with an URL. Giving customers instructions for creating a review on Google+ or Yelp, along with the URL for the page, can help increase the amount of feedback left.
  • Ask for multiple reviews. If someone has been nice enough to leave feedback on your website or a social media page, why not ask if they would mind leaving a review on another important site or two. Repeat customers are more likely to oblige.
  • Show examples. Placing testimonials on your website can help encourage other people to do the same. You can even mention the feedback site where each review has been published.
  • Send an email. You should have at least an email address for every customer that has bought from you, so use it to ask them what they thought of the company. You can suggest review sites in the email, as well.
  • Of course, the best way to get people to leave feedback and recommend you to their friends is to simply provide incredible service that they can’t help but talk about. Every company will garner at least one bad review, but if the overall gist is positive, it won’t affect your ratings.

Top Review Sites

While there are hundreds, if not thousands of sites where customers can write about their opinions of businesses, some are more valuable than others. The websites covered here are some that you will find most useful in your local SEO efforts.

It’s best to watch for new reviews and to quickly address any negative reviews. You can often turn a bad review into a good one by acting quickly and working to resolve the issue.

Yelp

One-third of Americans use Yelp to either post reviews or check business information. The site is essential for businesses that want to take advantage of top reviews. Yelp is also featured quite often in Google’s local search results, so you really need to make sure you are listed.

Yelp Reviews

It’s worth noting that Yelp discourages companies blatantly asking for reviews. You can mention that your business is on Yelp, but don’t link to it or ask people to go and leave a review. That doesn’t mean you can’t encourage reviews, though. You can also:

  1. Display positive Yelp reviews prominently in your business
  2. Add a Yelp QR code in the store
  3. Mention on social media that you are on Yelp and invite people to check your page out
  4. Include links to Yelp in your email newsletters
  5. Add a Yelp badge to your website

As one of the most popular review sites online, Yelp is a site that businesses will find themselves on, whether or not they are active on the site. People can add your business even if you aren’t on the site. Make sure you know what is going on by claiming your listing and staying on top of the reviews.

Google+

Every local business should have a Google Places page. This allows you to add another citation to your business, as well as giving people a chance to leave their feedback. Since Google+ reviews are often featured in local knowledge panels and pack/carousel results, it should be considered mandatory for companies to have a page setup.

Google Reviews

Let people know that they can interact with you on the business page and make a point of being somewhat active there. It will draw more customers and this will generate more reviews.

Niche-specific review sites

Depending on your business category, you can also find review sites that are designed specifically for your niche. There are review websites for nearly every niche and these can be quite useful when you want to stand out in your industry.

A few examples of industry-specific review sites include:

Of course, there are thousands more review sites that are niche-specific. Some are even location-specific, so you can make very good use of them.

No matter what industry you are in, there is probably a review site designed specifically for it. For more popular industries, such as dentists or restaurants, there are usually multiple sites.

Do a little research to find out where your competitors are getting feedback and make sure you suggest to your customers that they leave feedback on these sites, as well. Some review sites are fairly obscure and no one really pays much attention, so focus your efforts on the most popular ones.

Blog reviews

Another option for reviews is through blogs. When a blogger reviews your company, you gain additional publicity. While many people will write about your products or services without prompting, you may also send a sample in exchange for a review.

It can be very time consuming to find bloggers, contact them and send out samples, then follow up. Chances are, you have minimal time for this. If that’s the case, you may want to set up an account on one of the following sites:

Each of these sites allows companies to post what they are offering for free. Bloggers can apply to receive a free sample of your product in exchange for an honest review.

You will need to be ready ahead of time with the products you want to give to the bloggers. Once you have selected the best bloggers for the job, you will need to ship out the products. Keep track of everyone you send something to. You will probably need to follow up on at least a couple.

It’s possible to avoid some issues by making sure you set a posting deadline for the review. Discuss this with the bloggers and if the review is not up by the review date, gently remind them via email that there is no hitting.

Some blogs are more popular than others and these are the ones you really want to get noticed on. They will have more traffic than the smaller sites and a single recommendation from a major blogger can result in thousands of sales.

In addition to the other benefits of being mentioned on a blog, you’ll also gain a backlink, which can really work in your favor. Search engines like high-quality backlinks and recommendations.

Avoid These Review Mistakes

The last thing you want to do is lose out on the benefits of a great testimonial. For that reason, you should be careful to avoid some very common mistakes that businesses make.

Buying reviews. If you have to pay for it, the review could be discounted and you may even be penalized. It can be tough to get those first reviews and you may be tempted to pay someone to add a review or two, but it’s not worth the risk. Just don’t do it.

Linking to a review site. This is a somewhat controversial technique. Most SEO experts agree that you should avoid placing a direct link to a review website on your own site or in an email or newsletter. The clickthrough can look suspicious as if you are trying to game the system.

Setting up a review station. Having a review station with an Internet-enabled tablet or computer in your store may seem like a great idea. However, the review will come from the same IP address as your business, which can cause issues. It’s usually best to just let customers know where they can leave a review. Give them a slip of paper or a card with the URLs and information on it if need be.

Creating a fake review. Like buying opinions, fake reviewing can have nasty consequences and should never be done. In many cases, it isn’t difficult to trace the review back to you, which may result in your site being penalized.

Ignoring negative feedback. You may not enjoy reading someone’s bad feedback, but it can help your business improve. You can implement suggested changes and respond to customers who didn’t enjoy their purchasing experience. In fact, responding to bad reviews can help keep them at bay. Some people will even delete their own reviews when they see the owner of the business is answering.

Deleting negative reviews. It can be tempting to get rid of all evidence of negative opinions about your business, but this is usually counterproductive. Instead of helping, it will hinder your progress. Anyone who has left a negative review will know that you’ve removed it and most will become quite vocal about it.

Handling Negative Reviews

While we’ve touched briefly on how you shouldn’t ignore a negative review, you can actually learn quite a bit from a bad one. Great businesses don’t discount the bad reviews but use them to improve the quality of service.

The first step is to decide whether the review is actually helpful or not. Does it mention a specific issue or does it merely say that the business is terrible? Non-specific reviews can be discarded, but those that outline the exact problem they have with your company or products can be used for improvement.

  1. Examine the review carefully.
  2. Does it mention an issue with the business, customer service or product?
  3. Is the problem something you can remedy? If so, is it worth it to get better publicity?
  4. Is the issue a recurring one, indicating an ongoing problem with your business?

Some reviews may refer to a one-time problem, but if you notice several reviewers having similar experiences, it’s time to take a closer look at how you do business. You may need to find a better way of doing things.

Once you have a solution, respond to the article and let them know what is going on. Don’t expect to change their minds. If someone is dead set against your business, you won’t be able to change their minds, but answering their concerns publicly can help other users decide for themselves.

Stay calm and do not respond the review in anger. While it’s never fun to receive bad feedback, you can turn it into something positive.
Remember that reviews will be posted whether or not you are paying attention. By watching for feedback, you can use it to create a better business and to interact with customers in a positive way.