Why should small businesses try to get reviews?
Chances are you’ve heard someone, or read something somewhere that said reviews are super important to both the position of your small or medium-sized business (SMB), on a search engine results page (SERP) as well as the engagement you receive from those results. Let’s learn about why, and better yet how your SMB can garner more reviews and present itself as the go-to resource for customers that are seeking services your SMB might offer.
Online reviews are an important asset to the digital presence of any kind of SMB, be it local or national. Research within the review industry has shown that nearly 97% of consumers say they read online reviews about local businesses. Moreover, reviews regularly show up in local search results and about 90% of consumers have said positive reviews influence their purchase decisions.2
Many business owners worry about negative reviews that they can or do receive. Research from Yelp shows that people tend to leave good or great reviews more often than bad reviews. In fact about 80% of all Yelp reviews are 3 stars or higher.
The benefits of a good review profile cannot be understated. Reviews can come from a wide array of sources and be able to track those reviews, as well as encourage that people are leaving them, is hugely important. This document will act as a reference for how to activate, encourage, and reply to reviews. If you have any further questions on the importance of a review campaign, or the implementation of such a campaign, that aren’t answered in this document, feel free to reach out to me via email: genarofoster at Gmail dot com.
TL;DR | Pro-tips | Quick-hits
- NEVER offer discounts or deals for completing reviews. Not only is it bad practice, but sometimes egregious offers are considered illegal per the FCC.
- Never directly ask for Yelp reviews. It goes against Yelp best practices. However, feel free to prompt people to “check us out on Yelp” and include a link to your yelp page when sending emails. Consider also using a yelp badge on your website to further encourage people to engage on the platform.
- Reply to all reviews when possible. This shows to search engines, as well as potential consumers that you are engaged with your clients, even in bad reviews. In fact, bad reviews are great chances to show how you support clients who have had a bad experience and will give other consumers a good sense of trust for your business and ethics.
- Do not answer reviews with your heart, always use the best judgment, and don’t get involved in back and forth arguments. Offer the best solutions you can, but stay away from being negative.
- If a review is egregious or appears to be some kind of internet trolling effort, work with the platform to have the review removed. Do not, however, try to get all negative reviews removed. Use removal requests at a minimum.
- Try to vary where you are receiving reviews from, and do not blast everyone with requests all at once. You want to appear to have a natural flow of reviews, and not gain hundreds all at once and then get nothing for months. Stretch your efforts out over time. Part of the “signal” that reviews carry is recency, keep that in mind as you form your email lists.
- Craft an email that explains what you are asking clients to do. Use a good call to action, or make an emotional appeal. When we engage clients in this kind of effort, often it allows them to feel involved, and will give them a sense of pride! This allows them to act as brand advocates, which can amplify your efforts.
- Make the email as specific as possible. If you are emailing existing customers vs potential customers, you would want the content to be very different. Keep this in mind when crafting emails.
How do reviews impact your business?
- Search result pages, especially those with a local focus often include online ratings and reviews.
- Reviews will help to create a buzz about your business, and increase the effects of online “word of mouth.”
- Building credibility and gaining positive reviews will help to offset negative reviews you may receive.
- Reviews, when read objectively, can provide great insights on how to improve your services as well as provide great keywords that you otherwise would have to data mine to find.
What are Some Review Sources?
Reviews are generated by literally hundreds of websites. The following websites are where we will look to amplify your presence.
Google Maps (this applies most Google entities, however)
Reviews for Google will be processed via your Google My Business page, and for the foreseeable future that is where they will live (Google changes quickly and sometimes erratically…while Google reviews live at GMB now, I can’t promise they always will). The link you will want to give clients can be found on desktop easily by following these steps.
(This section has been updated due to the ridiculous ease of use of Whitespark’s Google Review Link Generator).
No more step by step here. Simply go to the link above, and follow the on-screen instructions. Blammo. Done. With analytics access I might add, all for free.
Facebook reviews can be a little bit of a bear, namely because of the way Facebook handles page types. The first step to getting reviews in Facebook is setting your business page up to receive those reviews. Let’s walk through the steps on how to do that. (Note, these instructions are for business pages marked as “local business”). The benefit of being able to both receive and show a star rating on Facebook is a quick step up on the competition that may not have taken the steps to do so.
- Click the “about” link located just below your pages cover photo.
- Select “page info” from the left column.
- Click to edit the address section, add your address if needed, or just save it if it is already correct. Either way, remember to save.
- Click to edit the address section again. Below the map, click the box next to “Show map, check-ins and star ratings on the page.”
- Click save changes, and you should be good to go!
- No special place to send people here, just point them in the direction of your business page
Is Yelp a Good place for SMB’s to Get Reviews?
Yelp is and likely will be for quite some time, a great place to get reviews. Yelp shows up in specific queries in Google, and Yelp is the knowledge base for all of Bing and Yahoo local searches. Without considering Google, which as we know is a monster for the Search Engine Market share, Bing & Yahoo take up 34 percent of the market.4 Don’t miss out on this opportunity! Small businesses are generally listed as Yelp entities, even though we associate Yelp with travel and food, there are lots of business types that Yelp serves.
Yelp makes it really simple to claim and take control of or optimize a business page that you already control. Let’s walk through optimizing your Yelp information, and how to nudge people toward your Yelp page.
Complete all of the information fields.
Make it a priority to add as much information about your business as you can! If you want to add more information than is provided in initial fields, click “Edit Business Info” in the bottom left-hand corner.
Photos are vital to getting and keeping people engaged, no matter where on the web they discover your content. Studies have shown that content with relevant image assets get 94% more views than content without!
Use the right keywords
Do not keyword stuff, as always use keywords naturally and write the content for the user, not the search engine.
Use reviews from other platforms to “data mine” for keywords. What words are other people using consistently about your business that you hadn’t thought of? Apply those words to your copy naturally.
Reply to Reviews
As with all review platforms, being engaged and communicative with folks who have left reviews is best practice. Yelp is no different, and there isn’t anything specific that should be done differently
Ensure that your map location is accurate.
Sometimes Yelp, Google, or Facebook may have your business located in the wrong spot. Use the tools provided to fix the location.
Use Bitly again to create a URL, and use that to distribute via emails.
Remember to use language like “Have you seen our Yelp page?” or “Please visit us on Yelp.” These sorts of prompts are better served on informational emails vs a random email requesting a Yelp visit. Yelp may view something like that as directly asking for a review, which we know is a no-no.
If your map pin is wrong, fix it.
Pay attention to where the business shows up on the Yelp map (and on all other maps). If the location is off, fix it. Sometimes they ARE wrong, so you want to keep an eye on it.
As with any digital channel, work is never truly done. Track and segment your campaigns, and look for opportunities to optimize or improve your requests with different approaches or copy. If you notice you are getting a lot of bad reviews, then it’s important to take a solid honest look internally and identify problems that may exist, and then take action to address those problems. If you are getting a lot of awesome reviews, then hat-tip to your business model, great job! With any of these platforms or others that exist on the web, remember that ongoing engagement is the best practice and the one that will yield the most results, even if you can’t directly see them.