How Review Sites Can Drive More Local Customers to Your Business
Do you know what your reputation is online? Is it full of glowing reviews from happy customers singing the praises of your business? Or are there a lot of negative reviews where unsatisfied customers vent about your business?
No matter if you are online or not, you need to be aware of what people say about your business. Over 80% of customers read reviews before choosing which local business to contact, and that number jumps to 95% for people under the age of 34. Even more important, over 50% of consumers will only use a business if it has over 4 stars from a review site.
You not only want to monitor your reviews, they also act as great feedback for your business. If you are getting several negative reviews from different people, then there is likely some disconnect between your services and customer satisfaction that will have to be changed.
There’s an old adage that while a happy customer will tell 10 people about your business, an unhappy customer will tell 100. This is unfortunately magnified online, where the entire community (actually, the entire world) can see any review from your customers, good or bad.
Keeping track of reviews and responding to all of them – positive and negative – is known as reputation management, and the difference between a good and bad reputation can mean the difference between enthusiastic new customers confident in what you offer and you closing your doors due to lack of new sales and customers, who steer clear of you on purpose.
What are Review Sites?
Now that you know that review sites are vitally important to the success (or failure) of your business, where can they be found?
Not too long ago, there was only ONE business that mattered when it came to reviews: The Better Business Bureau. That venerable institution wasn’t so much as a place to find reviews as a place to make sure there were no bad reviews!
Since the Internet has become the primary communication tool in people’s lives, dozens, hundreds, even thousands of review sites have cropped up online. Juggling between all of them is impossible. Fortunately, there are only a handful that really matter. Some are strong nationwide and even worldwide, while others are more important based on where you live. Here are some of the main ones:
Yelp is the king of review sites, and has been for over a decade. Almost 150 million people visit Yelp every month. The website has reviews for every possible business niche, from restaurants to massage therapists to lawyers to phone repair shops. If there is any place where you will likely find reviews for a business, it will be here.
In fact, most (if not all) review sites will have some sort of way for a business to claim and control their listing, so it’s just a matter of writing your own list and going out and signing up and claiming them.
Once you claim and verify yourself as the owner of the business, you can respond to any reviews on your listing.
Google My Business
Google itself has a built-in review site for their local listings, which is tied to Google Maps. When you do any search, Google will first determine whether it’s a general search or a search with local intent.
If it’s local, they will present the searcher with Google Maps and a list of local businesses, with ratings, above any regular, “organic” search:
This special screen is known as the Local Pack, and usually features the map and 3 businesses in close proximity to the search or the searcher’s intent.
To respond to reviews, sign up for Google My Business, claim your business, and fill is as much detailed information as possible about your business. Doing so will help you with accuracy and optimization in Google search.
Once your business is verified (usually through a PIN code mailed to your business address), you can respond to reviews through your account.
Every business should have a Facebook Page as well. While there likely won’t be “official” reviews about your business on Facebook without you knowing it (as the verified business needs to set up their business page before reviews can be published), you should have a Facebook presence for the obvious reason that nearly everybody is on Facebook!
When you set up your own business page, you can promote it to others and encourage reviews. When people search for businesses on Facebook, your business will more likely be showcased if your friends have mentioned you and tagged your page.
Your page rating (out of 5) is calculated by reviews around Facebook, reviews published on your page by others, Likes and recommendations.
Facebook is one of the few websites where a business owner can actually HIDE reviews and recommendations (good and bad).
Yup, Yellowpages still exists, only now in online form. Similar to Yelp, customers can write reviews for businesses, and businesses themselves can claim or create their listing.
Not as popular as Yelp, it still has a huge treasure-trove of business information, reviews and 50 million users. To claim your business, go straight to the business URL to find your listing, not from the homepage.
Better Business Bureau
To keep itself relevant, the BBB quickly organized itself into a premier consumer review site, with the ability to still file complaints (and businesses to resolve complaints).
You don’t have to be accredited to be in the BBB directory, and can still claim your business, as well as respond to complaints or reviews.
Other important sources for reviews:
Here’s also a sampling of important review sites based on business niche:
Health Care Professionals
Don’t forget your own hometown or area, which may have its own popular ratings website or source!
How to Start your Review Strategy?
To find out which review sites are most important for your business, it is necessary to find out where most of your existing customers come from. How do new customers find you? They rarely (if ever) just show up out of the blue asking for your services (unless you are a restaurant, and even then, many would have checked reviews first to see if your food is good.)
While some may find you through that tiny ad you put in the local community newspaper, the vast majority will have found you through an online search or review site … often through reading a review after an online search!
Step 1: Claim Your Business Listings
The first thing to do is do a search for your business name in Google. You may be surprised to already find mentions of your business in Yelp or other review sites.
List in a spreadsheet all the websites that mention your business. Then claim and verify them as your own, and clean the listings up. Often the address or phone number may be wrong or missing. Add extra information necessary, especially for Google My Business.
Step 2: Search for Other Popular Sites
In the future, some of your customers may have their own preferred review site. Do a search and list a dozen or so other websites where you will list or claim your business. Think of your business niche and the specialty review sites in your niche. Are their any popular local websites where you can add your business?
You can also do a search for your competitors and see if they are listed in review sites. Chances are that as you grow, you will appear there as well.
Step 3: Monitor and Respond to All Reviews
Now that you know where most of your potential and current customers spend their time online, monitor and respond to new reviews, even if it’s just a “Thank you!”
If you feel overwhelmed by all the review sites you have to monitor, just focus on the largest 3 in your business. Use the 80/20 rule … 80% of your business will come from 20% of your sites. Google My Business, Facebook and Yelp should be the big ones, though don’t discount a niche player if they play a large factor in traffic to your business.