As most business owners know, reviews are an important part of any online marketing effort and essential to optimizing their Google My Business listing. Many consumers rely on reviews when making decisions, so having honest, positive reviews can lead to more business and sales.
It might feel like reviews are out of your control, but there are several ways you can get more of your happy customers to leave you the great reviews you deserve. Here are four tips to get you started.
Create or claim your business profile pages
One of the most overlooked steps in garnering better reviews is creating or claiming your business on websites where customers can leave reviews. Places like Google, Yelp, Foursquare, and Facebook all have options where you can claim your business page. Once you’ve established that you own your business with those sites, you’ll be able to create a clean, professional looking page that has all the information customers might need. Where possible, this should include pictures, a description, operating hours, address, phone number, and a link to your website.
If you haven’t done this before, this can be time-consuming, especially since you’ll want to make sure you keep your information current on all of the different review sites. But if your business page looks incomplete or customers can’t find it easily, they are more likely to give up without writing anything. Having an attractive, accurate business page can help you get more reviews.
Ask for reviews the right way
Asking for reviews can be a great way to boost the number of positive reviews you get, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Try to ask customers to leave a review when you can be reasonably sure they’ve had a good experience with your product or company.
If you have a business that deals with customers directly, it can be helpful to ask customers in person. The people best suited to this are often those who are already working with customers. They know when someone seems happy, and they can ask them to leave a review by including a reminder on a receipt or invoice or handing them a card or note.
If you’re mostly an online operation, email can be a good option. To ensure you are giving the best customer service possible, it’s often a good idea to send out a preliminary email asking if customers had any trouble with their order or their product. This will give you an opportunity to address any concerns (which is a great business practice all by itself). If customers don’t respond, or if they respond that their experience was positive, that can be a good time to follow up and ask for a review. If possible, include direct links to the pages where you would like them to leave reviews. Removing any extra step can be helpful in getting customers to review your business.
Choose your words carefully
When asking for reviews, the words you use can make a big difference. You’re asking customers for a favor; they aren’t getting anything in return for the time and effort it takes to formulate and write a review. Be honest about that.
Here’s a format that works for most businesses: Briefly explain that reviews are helpful for your business and that their reviews can help other customers decide if your business is right for them. Many people like to be helpful to those around them even more than they want to be helpful to your business. Then ask them to leave a review.
And make sure to mind your manners. Say please and thank you. If you have the ability, it can be helpful to experiment with various phrases to find what works best for your industry and your customers.
Don’t Get Greedy
With the emphasis that some customers place on reviews, it can be tempting to be more aggressive about getting positive reviews. But most sites are cracking down on these practices, meaning that you’re more and more likely to have reviews deleted, be kicked off a site for violating their review guidelines, or in extreme cases, getting sued by a large company like Amazon. You’ll need to review the guidelines of the various sites your business is on, but there are a few general rules to follow.
First, never pay for reviews. It’s unethical. And when customers find out, they won’t trust your business.
Second, we don’t recommend offering incentives for reviews. If you do, you’re going to need read the review guidelines on various sites very carefully. Some sites technically allow it as long as the reviewer mentions that fact that they were given a product or service at a reduced rate in their review, but other sites (like Yelp) are far less forgiving. Amazon used to allow this practice, but last year, they banned incentivized reviews except through their company program.
As a way around this, some companies go the route of offering an incentive that doesn’t actually benefit the reviewer—like tipping an employee that was particularly helpful or donating to a charity based on the number of reviews left in a given year. As with other incentives, you’ll need to review guidelines of various websites your business is on to make sure this is allowed.
Finally, in all of your review gathering efforts, it’s important to remember to pace yourself. Getting a lot of reviews all at once might feel helpful, but it looks suspicious to visitors, and the boost you get will wear off quickly. Whatever you do, make it part of a long-term review strategy, not a one time push.
Customer reviews can feel completely out of your control but are things you can do. By offering a quality product, setting up your business pages, thoughtfully asking for reviews, and having patience, you can improve your online reviews.