by Bryce Tedeschi

In an age where customers always have the last word, it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of what people are saying about you online. Reviews influence buying decisions (90% of customers say buying decisions are influenced by online reviews. – Dimensional Research) and can affect your websites rankings and reach.

Today, online reviews are essential for any small business, having a real impact on success and profitability.

Why are reviews important? 

In the time before online, word of mouth was king and business reputation was dependent upon this verbal communication. Fast forward to the 21st century where word of mouth has evolved into online reviews. Why are reviews so important to your business?

  • In a recent study, 88% of consumers trust online reviews, so it’s important to make sure you’re controlling the conversation. Having positive reviews is extremely powerful to potential buyers in today’s market place.
  • Not only do customers trust online reviews, but reviews have a very real impact on their buying decision.
  • All reviews are good! Bad reviews aren’t necessarily bad. This may be contrary to traditional thought, but having some bad reviews can give a “human” aspect to your business. Obviously we won’t solicit negative reviews and we want to have many more positive reviews than negative, but negative reviews can give validity to positive reviews. Every business has unhappy customers and having some negative reviews can show that you didn’t pay for the positive ones.
  • Search engines use online reviews quality, quantity and diversity as a ranking signal in the organic search position a business’s website. Essentially, more positive, higher quality reviews over a broad spectrum of platforms will help improve your search rankings.

Unfortunately, people are more likely to leave a review after a bad experience than a good one. Of course it’s easy to tell your customers you’re the best and you deserve their business. But what are others saying about you? Their opinion is worth its weight in gold.

How do I get reviews?

Keep it simple

If you provide quality service, then getting positive reviews should not be too difficult. Reviews are often an accurate depiction of a businesses public image, and if your business has 2.7 stars; well, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

  • Provide excellent customer service: The easiest way to control the conversation online is to control customer service offline. Do right by the customer, and don’t be afraid to go above and beyond for someone, because remember, the internet is a small place. This sounds great in concept but to achieve this – try implementing a weekly training with your employees. Doing so will prepare them for situations they will encounter on the job, teaching them how to best serve and interact with your valued customers.
  • If you want positive reviews, ask! Don’t be afraid to ask a customer to leave you a review. Sure, it might feel awkward at first, but people will respond. Communicate at point of sale, advertise it on your website, send follow up emails; careful not to annoy the customer, but these are all effective ways to drive reviews to your Google+ page.
  • Provide review links in your email signature: When it comes to soliciting reviews it is important to make it easy for people. If you correspond with customers via email make sure you have links to your Google +, Yelp, Facebook, and other accounts review account When you do this you are making it easy for a customer to leave you a quick review.

Warning! Be careful when it comes to offering rewards for reviews. Search engines and review sites want honest reviews from real patrons. Incentivizing reviews can get you in trouble. And most review sites will filter those out. For instance, if you haven’t had a review in 7 months and then all of a sudden you get a slew of 5-star reviews one day, Google might suspend your G+ profile!

Where should I drive my reviews?

There are many review sites available. One particularly stands out in regards to search engine optimization. Driving reviews to your Google+ page can help increase your organic search visibility. Although Google doesn’t confirm speculation, experts show correlation between Google+ pages with reviews and sites that tend to outrank others.

Other than Google + there are a litany of other review sites that are frequented by consumers on a daily basis. Some are broad review sites like Yelp and Facebook, while others are industry or activity specific like Urbanspoon and Trip Advisor. Having a presence on these is critical from a marketing and a search engine optimization point of view.

Review your online strategy.

Driving positive reviews is a low budget, high impact way to create a higher ROI from your online marketing efforts. When people engage online, they’re more likely to spend offline. Keep an ear to the ground and make sure you’re driving these reviews, because remember, the internet is a small place, and word can spread like fire.

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