Gaining exposure in a competitive local market is a challenging task. A large part of raising your local profile and getting noticed by local customers (and Google Maps) is to have reviews on sites like Yelp, Google+ and Foursquare. An estimated 85% of people look at online reviews to determine whether a local business is a good business. Having more reviews on a site like Google+ will help twofold. Allegedly, having around 26 reviews could get you in the 7-pack (the short list of Google Local SERP results). More importantly, having more reviews gives customers more information to make a decision whether or not to use your business.
Okay, so we know getting reviews is important. The problem is getting people to review your business will be an ongoing struggle. The best way to get customers to review your business is to have a strategy in place and execute it consistently and indefinitely.
Pick Your Poison
Take some time to decide what websites you want to focus your review-getting efforts. There are literally hundreds of different directory and review sites, both general and specific to industries. Below is a list of some of the more important ones.
With over 103 millions users posting thousand-word diatribes daily, Yelp is a heavyweight when it comes to online reviews. It’s been found that a one-star rating increase on Yelp leads to a 5 – 9% increase in revenue. While it is incredibly important to get customers to review your business on Yelp it should be noted that they have an aggressive review filter, and are also outspoken against any sort of solicitation for customers for positive reviews. Some business owners have gained attention comparing Yelp to the mafia because good reviews were allegedly taken down after they refused to buy advertising from Yelp sales staff, but these claims haven’t been fully substantiated.
The most obvious benefit of getting customers to review your business on Google is that the reviews appear directly in the search results. This enables users to see how much people like or dislike your business simply by glancing at search results. Another benefit of getting Google+ reviews is they will potentially help you rank higher, and take up more real estate in search results.
While Yelpers tend to leave 2 or 3 paragraph rants as reviews, Foursquare has focused on one to two sentence ‘tips’. The rate at which people leave ‘tips’ on Foursqaure has surpassed that of reviews on Yelp. Its user base is mobile-centric, and likely to leave tips while still at your business. Also, Bing displays reviews from Foursquare in its social results, as seen below.
Below is an example of what Yahoo! reviews look like. They are incredibly similar to Google reviews in appearance, but probably a little less important. While it would be strange to have a Yahoo! centered strategy, they shouldn’t be ruled out. Less people use Yahoo! than Google, but millions of people still use the site everyday. However, it’s uncertain how many of those millions are leaving reviews.
Industry Specific Sites
Whether it’s sites like Angie’s List for roofers and mechanics or Avvo for finding an attorney, it is a good idea to have a presence on a industry specific site that correlates with your business’s given industry. Do some research and find out if there are any industry-specific sites where it would make sense for you to focus getting reviews.
Passive Review Building Tactics
Naturally, restaurants are going to get more reviews than a dentist’s office. When you go to a restaurant you are eating the product. You can taste it, and it’s really obvious whether you like it or not. Of course, atmosphere and service weigh into the quality of a restaurant, but nothing is as tangible as tasting something. Conversely, when you get your teeth cleaned, it’s hard to know what to compare it to.
You non-restaurants out there are going to have to work just a little bit harder to get your reviews. Here are some ideas that could help.
- One of the simplest steps you can take to prime customers for writing a review is to place a Yelp or “Check in Here on Foursquare” sticker on the door of your business. People notice them. When I see a Yelp sticker on a door frame I think the business must be confident of their product or service if they are actively seeking a review. Also, if your customer is going to be bored in a waiting room and on their phone, it is good to have that sticker there, quietly reminding them to leave a review.
- The door sticker is the classic, passive review-building tactic. But, if you really want to do something that catches your customers’ attention then there are a few, slightly bolder alternatives that can separate you from the herd.
- Ask for customers to share their experience on your receipts. Something simple will suffice. “Do you like our tacos? Let people know on Google+.” The best time to nudge customers to leave reviews is when their experience with your business is fresh in their mind. Not by sending them an email days or weeks later asking them to review your business.
- Put a QR code linking to Yelp on your invoices/receipts/business cards. If you want people to review your business, make it easy for them. Create a QR code that links to your business on Yelp or wherever you want them to leave reviews. If you want to get reviews in more than one place, and you should, change where the QR code leads to weekly. For example, Google+ for one week, followed by Yelp, followed by Foursquare. You get the idea. The great thing about running a QR code campaign is the ability to track and see how successful it is. You can even run A/B testing on what phrase works best to get customers to scan the QR code.
- Post a link on your website. You can place a badge directly on your site that links to your business on Yelp, making it easy for customers to leave a review. Another option is a service like Grade.us. You can pick which websites you would like to get reviews, and they will generate a landing page with a URL of grade.us/yourbusinessname. This option would make sense if you want to get reviews in more than one place. Hint, you should. Hint, hint, narrow it down to just a few places.
- Customize some swag. Exhibit A: Newegg packaging above. I also thought up a couple other similar ideas. Do you sell baskets of fries? Could the paper beneath the fries say something clever, such as “Like our fries? Tell it to the internet.”? Are you a dentist that gives away free toothbrushes? What if those toothbrushes said, “Share your experience on Yelp!”? Okay, so I covered 1% of all businesses with those examples, but you get the idea.
Sit down for an hour with some of your smarter employees and see what ideas you can come up with. Remember, Yelp and Google+ do not want you to incentivize.
Active Review Building Tactics
Okay, so you’ve got your “Review us on X” sign on the door and a link on your website, now what? There are a few other tactics you should adopt to level-up your review building strategy.
- Leverage your social followers. You’ve been putting in a lot of work creating an online identity for your brand on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere (haven’t you?). Now is a good time to ask your ‘friends’ to share their experience with your business on the review site of your choice. Note: Yelp does not want you to actively solicit reviews. This strategy might not yield that many reviews, but that is a good thing. You don’t want 30 reviews at once. You want to get one or two at a time, a few times a month, slowly building to a larger number by the end of the year.
- Respond to reviews. If you see someone mention in a review that they are a longtime customer, thank them for their continued business. If someone has a complaint, apologize in a public way, acknowledging responsibility and offer them an incentive to return. Most people are pleasantly surprised when a business reaches out to recognize their feedback left in a review. It shows that you care. It’s very important that people perceive you as a caring business owner.. And please, do not call people out for leaving a poorly written, exaggerated negative review. There is probably not a scenario where you end up looking like the good guy.
- Email. If you already maintain a list of customer emails, use it. Send out a quick message asking them to review your business. The more personal and timely the better.
- Someone just complimented your business in person. OMG, congratulations! Now thank them. Tell them to share by leaving a review somewhere. Try it. You might be surprised how often it will work. Of course, it will be harder to A/B test.
Focus on the Customer
As important as it is to have a strategy in place to get more reviews, it will be for nothing if it’s not built on top of great customer service. I waited tables in college and know that some customers can be trying. I’m putting that mildly. Some customers are terrible. I mean, terrible people are probably terrible customers. Even a serial killer needs to get their carpets cleaned. Amiright? However, the onus is on you to create a positive environment for your customers. Treat your customers like you would treat your family and they might recommend your business to their family.