Word-of-mouth is the most effective form of advertising for any business. Search engines and directories are the most important piece of a word-of-mouth advertising strategy and the most critical referral source for any business. It’s not enough to think of sites like Google, Yelp, Yahoo, and Facebook only in terms of SEO and visibility. Rather, your listings and customer reviews on these sites allow your target to get answers to their questions about your brand and learn more about what it’s like to do business with you.
It should, therefore, be a priority to increase the number and rating of positive reviews for your business on Google and other sites. The three most common mistakes that small business owners make when it comes to their online ratings are:
- INCONSISTENCY: in too many small businesses, there are only two times when there’s a focus on getting customer reviews–in response to negative feedback, or during some sort of contest or campaign when it’s front-of-mind for the team. Instead, businesses must relentlessly pursue customer reviews in a consistent and systematic manner.
- BAD FORM: when businesses focus on workarounds, shortcuts, or incentives in order to gain customer reviews, they not only turn off their customers, they also increase the likelihood that the reviews will be flagged or removed by the sites. Yelp, for example, has a policy that explicitly prohibits merchants from asking for reviews at all, and its algorithm targets reviews they believe have been solicited. Amazon, meanwhile, is a little more lenient, but still prohibits “any attempt to influence or manipulate reviews.”
- LACK OF ENGAGEMENT: for all of the benefits that modern technology provides to today’s small business owner, our customers can increasingly feel disconnected. Businesses need to go the extra mile to make their customers feel connected and appreciated, yet many fail to follow up or respond to reviews or feedback which can send a negative signal to customers.
Here is a simple four-step approach to increasing positive reviews on Google and other critical sites by making it easy for customers to review your business, establishing a process for collecting reviews, and using technology to engage with them:
MAKE IT EASY: The first step to getting more reviews is making sure that it’s simple for customers to leave them. Therefore, you must make sure that you have easy-to-find pages on Google, Facebook, and other review platforms that are important to your business. If a customer can’t find your brand profile, they won’t leave a review. Start with making sure that you have easily accessible pages on Google My Business and Facebook Business since those two are the most broadly applicable across many types of goods and services. Start with those two for now and later, you’ll focus your energies on the other platforms that are most relevant to you and your customers. Restaurants, bars, and venues, for example, will want to keep a good Yelp rating. Professional service providers like attorneys, interior designers, and healthcare providers may have industry-specific directories as well. Once you have established your listing, get a shortlink to your page to save steps in the process for the customer.
ESTABLISH A PROCESS: Next, establish a workflow so that your team consistently asks for reviews while adhering to industry best practices. Avoid incentivizing reviews, even if there’s no requirement that the review should be positive. Some customers may take it upon themselves to mention a specific employee by name, which is fine, but employees shouldn’t ask for the customer to include their name in the review. Having employees specifically credited in a positive review raises the question of whether or not the review was incentivized. It also creates some degree of brand confusion and might paint a picture that the service customers should expect is dependent on the person that they deal with at the business.
Our agency recently worked with an ecommerce business to connect their people and systems to their marketing and improving their positive reviews. You can read more about how we did it and download customizable templates here.
ENGAGE WITH THE REVIEWS: Customers care about being responded to and heard. Once you have a process for consistently obtaining reviews, you must reply to them in a timely fashion. When customers see that you are responsive to feedback, it will encourage them to leave a review themselves that is lengthier and will help answer questions for future customers. Thankfully, there are software programs that help make responses and other reputation management tasks easier to manage. We’ve had experience with several, our favorites being Podium, Weave, and Birdeye. While all of them are effective, our hands-down favorite is Birdeye (here’s our affiliate link: http://brdeye.co/mQf3j02). We like its seamless integration with YEXT, a program that we’ve seen consistently perform well for local SEO, simple reporting dashboard, the highly-customizable nature of its automations, and the fact that it costs considerably less than our second choice, Podium. Birdeye will not only help you engage with reviews, but it will also help you diversify the sites where you send customers to submit them.
PROVIDE REVIEW-WORTHY SERVICE: The most important priority in improving your positive reviews, of course, comes from a focus on your customer experiences that make them feel motivated to help spread the word about your brand and tell your story in the marketplace.
Need help with developing and implementing a marketing strategy that grows your business and makes your life easier? Synaptic offers marketing, advertising, and branding solutions for small- to mid-sized businesses all over North America. Not yet ready to engage with an agency but tired of making-it-up-as-you-go? Join the Marketing Idea Exchange, a growing community of like-minded business leaders who cut through the noise and find marketing that simply works.