Cultivate Your Garden of Good Online Reviews

Earning five star reviews and positive online feedback is the kind of effective marketing that can really nurture your business. Why? Because almost everybody reads them. BrightLocal’s 2015 Local Consumer Study showed that 92% of consumers tend to consult online reviews when researching a local business. So what others say about your small business can critically affect your ability to attract new customers.

Those reviews also influence your Google search engine rankings. A similar study by reported that the quality and frequency of online reviews account for over 8% of your company’s local search engine ranking—more than Facebook likes and Twitter followers. Taken together, these stats suggest that positive online reviews, and developing marketing strategies to leverage them, are key to your profitability. Unfortunately, good reviews don’t grow on trees. You need to plant a few virtual seeds in order for them to grow.

Five ways to grow online reviews.

The first step to setting up your good review garden is developing marketing strategies that include actionable items. Meaning you need to ask for reviews and respond to online feedback. But, and this is a big but, a lot of sites have rules regarding how you can solicit reviews. Here’s how you can successfully encourage consumers to give you five stars without incurring the wrath of the review gods.

1.   Check-in, please.

A surprisingly high number of folks like to “check-in” when they arrive at a restaurant, shop or event. This is an especially effective marketing tool for avoiding Yelp’s spam filters that weed out review requests and seemingly fake reviews. So in addition to asking consumers who frequent your place to write a review, encourage them to check-in on their Yelp app. Yelp will then take on the task of asking those that checked-in to write a review for you.

If you’re one of those business owners who feels uncomfortable requesting reviews, then this strategy is particularly good for you. Yelp does all the work and you get the stars—and those stars have been proven to raise revenue. A study by UC Berkeley looking at reservation rates among independent restaurants in San Francisco showed that reservations grew by 19% with just an extra half star increase on Yelp. If you want a simple “how to expand your business strategy”, getting active on Yelp by responding to feedback (both the good and the bad) can do wonders.

2.   Claim your Google My Business listing.

First it was Google+ Local. Then it was Google Places. Now the 100lb gorilla of the internet has evolved its tools for small businesses into Google My Business. This change is an effort to streamline the management of your company’s Google presence and make it easier for you to improve your business. There’s no charge to claim your Google My Business page, but if you don’t use it, leaving it out there could cost you profits. According to Google, the benefits you’ll reap include:

  • Putting your business front and center on searches
  • Displaying company location and hours right in the search
  • Including pictures and a virtual tour
  • Showing off your company reputation with those stars you’ve earned
  • Ability to respond to reviews and track what consumers say about you online
  • See how many clicks and calls your business is getting

No effective marketing strategy should be without a Google My Business plan. Not only will this drive more traffic to your website, but you’ll be able to instantly gauge how consumers feel about your company.

3.   Don’t be shy about asking.

Those loyal customers you’ve spent years doing business with are happy to tout your services. They are probably doing so already. So why not formalize the review process by including a post-purchase eblast campaign when developing your marketing strategies? These eblasts can include a personalized thank you for your customer’s business as well as a link to leave a Google review.

Similarly, many review sites offer widgets you can place on your own site to facilitate reviews. The trick to those beaucoup 5 stars is to make writing a review on a business as easy as possible. You also want to let your customers know that their feedback is much appreciated. Take a second to respond to the review online. That kind of engagement with your customers can really improve your SEO reputation management.

4.   Incentivize. Incentive. Incentive.

When it comes to effective marketing, a review rewards program should also be on the top of your strategy list. Many companies offer extra loyalty points or small discounts in exchange for a customer business review. There is nothing wrong with thanking customers for taking the time to write about your company online.

5.   Don’t forget the little guys.

While Google and Yelp are the biggest go-tos for searches and ratings, other search engines and review sites are worth pursuing. Yahoo! still gets 10% of searches, and it costs nothing to set your business up on Yahoo! Local Listings. It’s similar to Google My Business and helps your website rankings. Foursquare, Trustpilot and MerchantCircle are all worthy of consideration as well. After all, a good review anywhere is likely to help grow your business. Some of these review sites also make it very easy to share your reviews on social media—which you should do. If a customer says something nice, spread the word.

SEO reputation management can get a little overwhelming for busy small businesses. That’s where ACS Creative comes in. We’ve got these strategies and many more ready to serve your company. Contact us to learn more about boosting your online reviews.