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Managing Online Reviews — Your Top Questions Answered

By Tina Kendall on July 9, 2018 in Digital Marketing

Customer reviews have always been a straightforward resource for building and reinforcing the credibility and reputation of a business — that much hasn’t changed. What has evolved is that traditionally consumers have relied on word of mouth. But more and more people are turning online to select products or service providers, ultimately relying on online reviews and recommendations to help make their decisions.

Online customer reviews are incredibly important for local businesses because they are a major deciding factor when customers are choosing which companies to do business with. According to a 2017 survey by BrightLocal:

  • 85 percent of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
  • 73 percent of consumers said that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
  • 68 percent of consumers said that positive reviews made them more likely to use a business

Most businesses recognize the tremendous impact reviews, both positive and negative, can have on their business but struggle to understand how reviews are connected to their larger online reputation (Reviews can impact my visibility in search engines?), how to navigate the changing review landscape (Can I incentivize positive reviews?), and how to effectively and efficiently manage their online reviews (Wait, I have reviews outside of Google?).

Fear not! We’ve taken the time to answer the top questions we’ve received from our clients regarding online reviews and reputation management. Equipped with this information, you should be ready to tackle your online reviews head on. And, if you’re still overwhelmed by the end, get in touch with us. We can further discuss how we can help you take control of your business reputation by monitoring what your customers are saying about your brand online, provide consultation on how to best respond to reviews, and help you put strategies in place to direct more positive, online reviews.

How can I get visibility to all the reviews that are out there for my company?

A quick Google search of “reviews for [insert business name]” might give you a quick snapshot of some of your existing online reviews from various review sites, but this will not be a comprehensive list or go back very far in time. Plus, managing your online reputation is something that you need to do proactively (everyday), not reactively (when you find a bad review). Your best bet is to invest in a review management tool, and there are many out there.

A good tool will help you actively monitor reviews being posted online and manage your business reputation by:

  • Offering a simple dashboard to evaluate all reviews (past, present, and future, not just within the last few months) across locations (if you have more than one) and review sites, especially those that are specific to your industry
  • Alerting you to new reviews as they happen to ensure prompt response
  • Allowing you direct access to all review sites for convenient responses and, in some cases, the ability to respond directly from the review platform
  • Providing advanced reporting analytics so you can analyze how your reputation is changing over time

While there are definitely more capabilities of a good review management tool than what is listed above, the main idea is that a tool will help you easily scour the web to locate all reviews happening online and respond in a timely fashion. While you could manually do this, it would likely take all day (or more) and would not be as accurate as an automated tool.

How many reviews should I be shooting for per month or per year?

Not only does a high amount of reviews create trust with users by enhancing the perceptions of first impressions, but search engines like Google take into account the total amount of reviews for a business when determining local ranking and relevance to users.

We’ve heard a rolling 30 per month. We’ve also heard 100 per year. You will likely get a different number depending on who you ask, but a good way to identify how many reviews you should shoot for is to look at the number of reviews your closest competitor has. Aim to meet or exceed that number so your competition doesn’t have any advantage over you.

It’s important to note that quantity over quality isn’t always best. If your competitor has 30 reviews but half of them are negative, resulting in a 3.00-star rating, you are still more likely to capture more traffic to your site with only 10 reviews at an average star rating of 4.90.

Ultimately, we recommend you focus more on capturing a steady stream of positive reviews each month than shooting for a specific quantity. Why?

  • For users, the time since a review has been left impacts the significance of that review. They consider the most recent reviews much more than those left six years ago.
  • Search engines look at it similarly — he more recent it is, the more relevant it is. The best way to navigate this is to ensure that there is a steady stream of reviews every few months. Clumping reviews may look suspicious if there are many in a short time span and then none after that.

Which review sites should I focus on?

While having a lot of reviews is the goal, it is also important to diversify the number of sources reviews are coming from. Doing so will indicate that your business is relevant across a wide landscape and will be more trusted than if all reviews were from a single source. In addition, Google pulls in reviews from other review sites to display on its Google My Business listing, and these vary from industry to industry and change over time. So the more review sources available, the better position your business is in when these shifts happen.

Certain review sites lead the way in regards to their influence — Google being the leader, which is likely why businesses put all of their focus on monitoring or capturing reviews on Google and nowhere else. However, there are other review sites you should also focus on including, Facebook, Foursquare, Yellowpages, Indeed, and Glassdoor. You should also consider review sites that are specific to your industry:

  • Home Services: HomeStars, Houzz, Homeadvisor
  • Food & Dining: Opentable, Zomato, Restaurant.com
  • Health & Medicine: Healthgrades, ZocDoc, Dr.Score, RateMD
  • Real Estate: Realtor.com, Redfin, Zillow

With so many review sites out there, securing a review management tool is becoming a better idea every minute.

How can I improve my overall review rating?

The short answer:

Capture more positive online reviews.

The long answer:

By monitoring reviews on an ongoing basis, many of our clients are able to identify key areas of focus for operational improvement based on the highlights or pain points presented in review comments. Having insight into what customers like, don’t like, or even hate over time, can help you improve your product or service offering, ultimately increasing review ratings in the long-term.

Despite improvements to product or service offerings, in most cases, reviews don’t happen without some strategies and tactics in place to prompt customers to leave them. This leads us to our next question...

How can I prompt more positive reviews?

With reviews having such a considerable impact on businesses, it is necessary to incorporate a review prompting strategy in your marketing efforts. Customers are likely happiest after they have just made a purchase or have had a positive experience with your service offering. It is during this time that you should ask them to review your business.

We recommend following up with customers via a personalized email, requesting their feedback on their recent visit or purchase. From this email, you can direct customers to a review funnel page that is designed to direct the user to leave feedback. Developing a survey review funnel page allows you to:

  • Generate reviews with proactive review outreach from happy customers
  • Generate reviews on specific review pages, such as Google or Facebook
  • Take control of negative customer feedback before an official review and rating are given

What is a review funnel page? How does it work?

A review funnel page allows a business to amplify positive experiences online or rectify negative experiences before the customer leaves a review on a third-party site. We can set the rating criteria to identify positive “brand advocates” (someone who rates a business four or five stars) before they are prompted to review you online. Brand advocates can then be directed to leave reviews on the review sites we’d like to focus on soliciting additional reviews from, like Google or Facebook.

Brand detractors (someone who rates a business three stars or less) can be funneled internally for additional follow-up instead of directed to leave an online review. Feedback can be sent to someone that is authorized to speak on the behalf of your business to respond, effectively resolving negative experiences before they turn into negative online reviews.

Can I buy reviews and/or incentivize people to give me reviews?

We do not recommend this. The top review sites actively prohibit this practice and businesses that participate in this type of promotion may find themselves faced with complaints from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), as this can count as false or misleading advertising.

Why does Yelp not promote review solicitation?

Each review site has its own policies around reviews but Yelp’s policy is probably the most stringent as it relates to soliciting reviews. In their eyes, their goal is to capture and maintain as much consumer trust as possible, which means not featuring reviews that have been influenced by a business in any way. Other sites don’t specifically call out review solicitation, which leads us to believe that asking customers for reviews isn’t necessarily bad, as long as you do so in a way that encourages an honest review and doesn’t incentivize people (through a discount, freebie, or other incentive) into providing only positive reviews.

Should I only respond to negative reviews?

Responding to positive online reviews is just as important as responding to the negative reviews. It’s always nice to thank the customers that have left you positive feedback. There are other benefits to responding to positive reviews:

  • It amplifies the positive review for others to see (hello, free advertising?!) and encourages engagement.
  • It shows potential customers that you are human and that you care about your customer base.
  • Search engines see listings with higher engagement as more credible.

I received a bad review. Can I get it removed from the review site?

Most review sites have policies in place that prohibit reviews that feature spam or fake content, are off-topic, or include content that is restricted, illegal, sexually explicit, or offensive. If you think your review may fall into this situation, you can flag reviews  with the review site and have them removed.

However, if your review is a legitimate customer complaint or concern, you will likely not be able to get it removed. Review sites, afterall, want honest and transparent customer feedback — that’s what keeps consumers coming back to their site. And censoring customer feedback, even feedback that you know to be false, is a slippery slope. Don’t lose hope though, all is not lost!

We recommend you do one or both of the following:

  1. Respond promptly to the negative review. How you respond to negative reviews can be just as important as positive reviews. While it's unfortunate when a customer decides to leave you a negative review, your potential customers are going to read these. And it's important that they understand the level of customer service that you provide and that you're willing to reach out and reconcile negative experiences. In addition, random trolls will know they can't just post bad reviews without follow-up.
  2. Generate more positive reviews. These additional good reviews will eventually push the negative review down and out of view.

If you’re able to reconcile the customer’s complaint or concern, ask them to update their review. The worst that will happen is that they’ll say no, but most are happy to update their comments to reflect their full customer experience.

How do reviews influence search visibility?

Ultimately, search engines care about reviews because the user cares about reviews. Period. Review signals rank in the top five factors that influence your local organic search rankings. This primarily comes into play for your local pack listing, which is especially important if you have a brick and mortar location. The local pack consists of three local businesses listed on a map at the top of a search results page.

pack listing

This is a hypercompetitive space simply by the limited amount of businesses that are visible. Because of this, the smallest differences can make or break a site’s ability to be one of the three spots. Reviews in this sense can make all the difference.

This doesn’t mean that if you simply have more reviews you will rank better than a site with less. Reviews are one of many aspects used to determine rankings, but when most things are equal between competitors, reviews can have a big influence.

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