Your Milkshake Brings All the Reviews to Your Yard

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By Chelsea Terris

Your business is doing great. You have clean listings across the web and customer calls are pouring in. Now all you need is a little user participation to beef up your online presence; namely, stellar user reviews.

How do you get customers and clients to review your services on sites like Yelp, Google+, Insiderpages, and Citysearch?

IT’S ALL ABOUT YOUR REPUTATION

Before you get excited and start directing your clients to your listings,  first consider how Google looks at reviews.

Google sees reviews as a way to gauge your reputation. When was the last time you went to restaurant that Yelp said was sub-par? You want current and former clients to share their positive experience of your services in a place where potential clients can see them. In turn, Google will rank these reviews through search, putting your business closer to the top as positive reviews pour in.

If you are a small business and looking to boost local interest, obtaining reviews is even more important. Google looks at the following when ranking your reviews:

  • Ratings: Because Google is good at counting, it notices things like ratings, so your goal is to achieve reviews with lots of stars and/ or positive numbers.
  • Detail: The more descriptive a user is in her review, the more natural keywords arise for Google to identify with your business.

REPUTATION WHERE?

Depending on your industry, you will want to request reviews on differing sites.

Run a restaurant or bar? Yelp and Citysearch are great places for people to find you and gab about your foodie delights and superb service. Home contractor? Your best bets are sites like Insiderpages and Angie’s List, both of which specialize in home servicing companies. Angie’s List even goes the extra mile and awards business profiles with excellent customer reviews. Mentions like the Super Service Award are based on customer response and can attract even more attention from users who now know to trust your business. Finally, don’t forget  the social sharing powerhouse, Google +. Getting reviews on your Google + page should be near the top of your review priority list.

GO GET EM’

By now, we’re betting you’re hungry for reviews.

There are a few ways to obtain reviews, and they all begin with positive client interactions. Therefore, the #1 way to obtain reviews is to work everyday to improve your customer service and end product. Offering stellar services can only bring positive outcomes.

Confident in your product and services? Great! The next steps may include one or all of these:

  • Send an email: Strike while the iron is hot! Contact your most recent clients by email and request reviews. Make it easy by including links to specific sites where they can find you and offer up their comments. However, be careful to avoid the F word (filter- see next header). Only email customers immediately after business transactions. Do not message everyone you’ve ever worked with NOW because you suddenly caught the review bug.
  • Ask during positive follow-up calls: If you are on the phone with a client who just benefited from your services, take a moment to request a review. With your business fresh in his mind, your client will be more likely to leave both a positive and detailed account.
  • Send a survey: Timing is key here. Prepare a survey and send soon after service completion. Be sure to let customers know it’s on the way and request their participation in advance. Your sincere request both notifies them not to automatically disregard your email as spam and to spend a moment truly considering their experience with you.
  • Include a prompt in your newsletter: If you use email marketing, why not include a prompt in your newsletter requesting reviews? Your newsletter gives them the added value of free content, so their response is likely to be positive.

FILTER? BUT I BARELY EVEN KNOW HER!

That’s right, Google’s all up in your reviews, and anything that looks contrived, including tons of reviews out of nowhere, will trigger them to wipe your whole listing slate clean, the good and the bad.

So how do you get reviews without looking like you’re trying to get them? And what if a bunch of customers just suddenly LOVE your business and want to say so? Best practice is to diversify both when and from where your reviews arrive. Reviews that show up from the same IP address are suspect; it looks to Google like a handful of sneaky people got together and schemed up a review flash mob. Instant shutdown.

Instead, be natural but focused. Build requests for reviews into interactions with clients so that they arrive one by one, not in chunks. Whether entered on a mobile device or from home, diverse locations also help legitimize reviews in Google’s eyes.

And don’t have your employees write business reviews for you, posing as customers. Google will catch you. Embarrassing.

Want more info? Check out Google’s review guidelines.

NellieHOW TO COPE WITH NEGATIVE NELLIES

When positive, online reviews can give your business the boost it needs and lead scores of customers your way. Negative reviews, however, happen to even the best businesses and must be dealt with appropriately.

With both positive and negative reviews, timely response is the best medicine. While positive reviews can warrant a quick and gracious thank you, negative reviews require a bit more thought and planning.

  • First, take a breath. One negative review out of many positive ones is just part of the numbers game and happens to most businesses now and again. Check your personal feelings at the door and take professional steps to make it right.
  • If you think the review is false: Use your judgement. If the review seems like a crazy rant intended to undermine your company, amass evidence that supports your claim to the contrary and submit to the site administrators. Sites like Insiderpages will often remove negative reviews if presented with enough contradictory proof.
  • Write an objective and gracious response: Even in the worst of circumstances, be nice! What would you as a potential customer like to see a business write in response to a negative review? Most likely, you would admire and trust genuine efforts to communicate. Use your real name and sincere language to inquire as to the best way to reach the reviewer and discuss options. Also, be gracious. This review, as well as your response, may be posted for a long time, so make sure your answer shows your willingness to provide excellent customer service.
  • Make promises you can keep: Whether the author responds on the review site or you get in contact via email, be sure to offer realistic solutions that you can make good on. Promising the world and then not coming through will only add weight to a negative review, and may prompt more.
  • Never throw an employee under the bus: If the comment attacks a particular employee, remember that your workers are a reflection of your business. Acknowledge fault if need be, but focus on what has changed to ensure that the issue does not repeat itself.
  • Supercharge your sincerity: An unhappy customer may update their negative review to a more positive one if treated well. Accept the situation as a learning experience and offer your best to the reviewer, be it a refund, coupon, or just a heartfelt apology and promise to do better.
  • Stay Social: Reviews on listings are just one of the many ways that customers respond to your services. Keep watch over your Twitter and Facebook feeds for people with complaints. Often, a negative review on a listing can be avoided if the issue is dealt with on Social. Consider how the business cited here turned that customer’s tweeted frown upside down.
  • Have at least 3 other people review it: Let’s be honest. You probably did take that negative review personally, and it may show in your language. Having others review your response to a negative comment will ensure that your target audience, which is everyone that will ever read that review and your thoughtful answer, sees you as an attentive and accommodating business owner, not a defense crank.

Reviews are an excellent, organic way to attract business and high Google rankings. By asking  clients to review you and making it easy for them to do so in a natural manner, you ensure that positive accounts of your business will spread like wildfire, placing you higher in search results and magnetizing new customers.

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