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How to Encourage Online Reviews for Your Business

Last updated 4 years ago

There have been some interesting stats put out lately talking about how important it is to have positive reviews online.  A couple are:

Almost 7 in 10 consumers said (car) dealership reviews affected their purchase decision (eMarketer)

99% of online consumers trust recommendations from people they know; 70% trust unknown users, 27% trust experts, 14% trust advertising, 8% trust celebrities (Search Engine People)

If you are a business owner, it begs the question, “okay, I get it, online reviews are important, but how do I get them?”

It’s easier than you think, and I have outlined some suggestions below.  But, you need to play by “the rules.”  Reviews are not meant to be solicited, but earned.  However, who in their busy life really has time to go out of their way to write a review about your business online?  That’s why it’s important to take control of the process and make it easy for them.

Before I get into some suggestions, I want to stress the “science” behind the importance of online reviews for businesses.  This is a whole different post in itself, but in a nutshell, Google is changing the rules of the game (as they do about 500 – 600 times a year) that is making traditional on-site SEO (search engine optimization) more and more obsolete.  It is what’s happening off of your site (like blogging, social media and reviews) that is  becoming the key to unlocking the “above the fold” door in search discovery. 

Forbes (and many others) had a lot to say about the subject, and you can read more about that here.  Just know, traditional SEO is on the decline and in today’s world, Google (and the other search engines), are going to reward the “local authorities” in each industry- those who push out quality content relative to their industry (blogging), get others involved in a conversation (social media) and get people to give their opinion about their business (reviews).  Bottom line:  you need to be your own digital PR firm, or if you don’t have time for that, hire one.  Get the idea?

Good!  Now, let’s get back to obtaining those reviews.  Here are my suggestions.

Don't Be Shy...Be Direct: 

Ask your top 20 - 30 customers (especially those that you know are technologically savvy)..just call them directly and thank them for their business and that you (or whoever calls) would appreciate if they could take out a few minutes of their time to write a review of their experience with your business. Don't coach them on what to say, as you want a genuine and honest review (they will be positive if they are satisfied).  "For taking the time to speak with us right now (not for writing the review) we would like to offer <<whatever you deem appropriate>> as a THANK YOU! 

Get their email address (if you don't have a current one) and then send them a short email with the direct link to your Google+ Local page (or Trip Advisor if you are in hospitality).  When you send the link, shorten it using the Google URL Shortener, so that it doesn’t look something like this- https://plus.google.com/117684568935251932153/about (Google does not offer Vanity urls…yet, but you can create one here).

Then briefly explain in the email that if they do not already have one, they will need to create a gmail account to sign in and review the business (you may lose some at this point, but if they have thoroughly been satisfied with their experience and are not technologically disadvantaged, then they will go ahead and do this).  Google also makes it really easy to sign up.  Most people already do have gmail accounts (unless they have been living under a boulder).  Perhaps it may take 10 prospects to get five, but I think the direct approach is going to give you the best and quickest results.

If you have an email database, you can do a quick sort by those you already have a gmail account, and this becomes your "hot list."

Newsletters:

Include a link to review your pages on each enewsletter you put out.  If they have signed up for it, then they are already a warm customer and may be inclined to write one.

Facebook:

Send out a post and ask for a review.  

This will really be an easy push, since anyone interacting on Facebook will be 

used to leaving comments.  Plus, you can direct them to it easily by adding a link on your Timeline.  You could even have a competition between your employees to whoever gets the most interactions on Facebook and reviews on Google will get a catered lunch or half day off, or whatever.

Emails:

Like the enewsletters, any emails that go out, just get in the habit of including a call-to-action in the email to click on a link to leave a review.

Customer Surveys:

Same idea as the emails.

These are just five suggestions, and there are many more to discover.  My challenge to you- get 5 reviews by the end of the month.  Stay on a steady plan and stick to an active blogging and social media post calendar (again, another blog topic on its own), then you will start seeing your business towards the top of pile over time.

Are you being found online?   Do you know how you are stacking up against your competition?  Call for a complimentary web audit for your business:  (941) 735-3600.

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