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Improve Your Business’ Online Reviews

Trevor Johnson explains how to get good online reviews for your business Improve Your Business’ Online Reviews

Just how important is what people are saying online about your business? The short answer is that, according to statistical researcher BrightLocal, 84 per cent of potential customers now trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Manchester marketing consultant Neil Willis says: “With over 70 per cent of online customers relying on those reviews to make buying decisions, the ability to generate positive feedback on products and services has never been more vital.

“There’s no shortage of evidence to show that poor reviews can snowball to the point where they can actually put you out of business. On the positive side, every happy online reviewer tells at least nine people that they’re pleased with what they’ve bought. And this can snowball, too.”

How do you get good online reviews?

Remember, you mustn’t offer any sort of incentive for online reviews. It’s unethical and against many review websites’ terms of service. Make sure you check the terms and guidelines of any sites you use.

How do rating and review sites work?

Each site has its own way of filtering and ranking reviews, web marketing specialist Paul Maxwell says.

For instance, Yelp uses an algorithm to recommend reviews it thinks will be the most helpful, based on quality, reliability and the reviewer’s activity on the site.

Other sites base reviews on star ratings. The owner of one company says getting a four-star rating as opposed to a five: “Can hurt more than not writing a review at all.”

Chris Loomis, boss of a sightseeing tour company, remembers: “One fourstar review drove my ranking down from fourth to seventh. In a competitive market like ours, that was a harsh penalty. Luckily, we’ve since put things right and we’re now fourth out of over 400 companies.”

How can you encourage good customer reviews?

Former London School of Economics business analyst Geoff Church says: “It’s a good idea to start with the best clients in your existing customer base. The best reviews come from customers who are getting the most value out of your product.

“The ideal review doesn’t just praise a product, but makes it clear who it’s right for. The best time to ask for a review is when the value you’ve delivered to a customer is fresh in their mind.

“Don’t leave it more than three days and never ask for a good review, just an honest opinion, and ‘invite’ rather than ‘ask’.”

One way to get reviews is with a short email or through your business’ social media networks.

Geoff says a typical email request could read: ‘So glad you feel you’re getting value from our product. Would you consider posting a review online? A sentence or two would be hugely appreciated and would help us get more valuable customers like you.’

Studies have shown that email response rates can jump by almost 20 per cent between 1-3pm and that 33 per cent more people write responses on Mondays than on Fridays.

Make sure your emailed review requests are mobile friendly - over 50 per cent of positive results now come from mobiles.

“Emails are effective, but even better is to make the request in person,” Geoff adds. “It has been found that this can result in seven to eight times more reviews than asking via email.

“Keep the tone warm and lighthearted and use the opportunity to build a stronger relationship with customers. Let them know how much you appreciate them taking the time to give you feedback.”

Allowing reviews to be posted

If you want to generate online reviews, it goes without saying that there needs to be a place for customers to post them. For instance, if you want positive reviews on Yelp, you need to make sure you’ve set up a profile.

This is especially important on a site like Yelp because ‘claiming’ your business will allow online reviews to be shown on search engines. And even if you don’t always need a profile to collect online reviews, you will need one to respond to negative feedback.

Once you’ve identified where you want your reviews to be left, make sure you collect a link to that location, so reducing the amount of effort a customer needs to make to post their feedback.

Neil says that in cases where customers are particularly pleased with a product or service, they might be persuaded to take part in a case study.

He explains: “In some circumstances, a case study can be more powerful than a simple online review.

“It can show prospective customers that your goods or services can work for people like them. They can identify common problems, while pictures and videos in the study show that it’s based on real people.”

What’s the secret of getting good online reviews? It’s simple, according to Chris: “Don’t just say you provide a good service, actually do it.”

Bad reviews

Not all feedback will be positive and complimentary - you can’t please everyone - and bad reviews can drive down your listing on consumer sites, making it harder to find.

Manchester marketing consultant Neil Willis says: “You can’t stop someone slagging you off and most sites, like Facebook, won’t let you delete bad reviews.”

But there are ways of minimising the damage caused by negative feedback. For instance:

Respond promptly to show you care and value the customer’s opinion. There have been many cases of this being enough for the customer to give you a second chance.

Deal with the problem offline by email, letter or phone. Yelp gives business owners the chance to do this by email. If the matter is sorted, you can leave a brief comment in the public timeline.

Be polite and courteous. Offering a refund or explaining the situation in more detail is often enough to do the trick.

Look for the positive in a negative comment. Most people giving negative reviews aren’t being personally hostile, but merely want to express an opinion that could reveal an area of your business which could benefit from improvement. Read more like this

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