While online reviews are important for all types of companies, they can make it or break it for small local businesses. Numerous positive reviews can influence new clients to try out your services. No reviews, or even worse, bad reviews, can hugely impact your sales in a negative way. So how do you get online reviews? And if you have a poor review, how do you get rid of it? Here’s how to ensure your company is one of those businesses whose online reviews have a positive impact.

Ask for Online Reviews Regularly

There is no magic formula when it comes to getting online reviews. The truth is, you just have to ask your customers regularly in a way that makes sense for your business and industry. To be more specific, you need to take into consideration what your product or service is, how people normally buy it, what your target market is, and how you typically communicate with your customers. Let’s look at an example.

Imagine you are the local dentist and you have clients who come to you only once for emergencies and others who have been with you for years. While their age varies drastically, the commonality is that everyone comes to on-location to your office for dental work. With all your clients, you send emailed reminders of upcoming appointments. In this case, a dual approach might be best. First, on the client’s way out the door, you include a small postcard in their bag of dental supplies (something many dentists give out during appointments).  A few days later, after the appointment, you send an emailed review request.

Both mediums contain the same content: the links to your online review profiles. You want to make it as easy as possible for your clients to review you. If you just tell them: “Go to Yelp”, they may or may not be able to find you. The more steps there are to a process, the more likely someone is to abandon it. Therefore, try and remove any steps or obstacles you can.

The dual-approach described above serves a few purposes:

  1. The small postcard in the goodie bag has a good chance of being seen, given that the client will rummage through it at home to use the toothbrush, floss, or whatever else you have given them. While some will just toss it away immediately, others will take the time to review you.
  2. The printed request also caters to the less tech-savvy person, who might not rely on email as much.
  3. The emailed follow-up reminds those who wanted to review you but didn’t get a chance yet. 
  4. Also, the email catches your client when they are at their computer, a perfect time for them to write an online review.

If you follow this approach with everyone who walked through your door, then over time you will build up a solid number of online reviews.

How To Approach Bad Online Reviews

You have one angry client (justified or non-justified), and they have decided to write a scathing online review. Because you have very few reviews, this one review stands out and you are hearing that it drives potential business away. Sound familiar? It is a story I hear time and time again. So what do you do?

The answer is not to ask that the review be removed. It doesn’t hurt to try and do this, but the likelihood that a bad review is taken down by the review site is slim. Therefore, a better approach is to 1) respond to the reviewer (either privately or publicly) and ask how you can resolve the situation. Most reasonable people will either modify their review or erase it if you have made a concerted effort. 2) You should bury the bad review in good reviews. When a business has 50 online reviews, 48 of which are positive, the negative reviews become less important. On the other hand, a company that has 3 total reviews, 2 of which are negative, is going to have a hard time offsetting this bad online PR.

If you are already following the advice given in the first section, ie: requesting reviews regularly, there will be less damage control required when you do get a bad review.

Yelp Explained… 

The trick to Yelp, one of the more popular online review sites, is understanding how it works:

The Filter

In order to maintain an unbiased selection of reviews for your profile, Yelp will often “filter out” reviews. What does this mean? You can have 20 reviews and Yelp will filter out 5, meaning they no longer count as a part of your star rating. You can access these reviews, but Yelp makes it difficult by requiring users to scroll down to the bottom of the page, click “See Filtered Reviews”, and then enter a CAPTCHA code. The reality is most users will not go to all this trouble and just look to your non-filtered reviews to get an opinion about your company. So how do you ensure that your customers’ positive reviews aren’t filtered out?

  1. Request regular reviews. (I can’t emphasize enough how important this is!) If you have had 0 reviews for 3 months and all of a sudden you influx Yelp with 30 reviews in 10 days, they are going to think something’s up. This will likely result in filtered reviews.
  2. Get reviews by regular Yelp users. Yelp places more value on reviews by people who regularly rate companies on their site. Someone who has reviewed your business and your business only is more likely to be filtered on Yelp.

Many local companies feel that Yelp is a necessary evil. However, if you follow the advice above, the sales impact you will feel from all your positive reviews will convert you into a Yelp lover.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Google Reviews

Google is a valuable online review site that many businesses, besides restaurants, underestimate. Google places a lot of importance on their reviews and gives them preferential visibility in search engine results. If you have particularly bad Yelp reviews and cannot seem to straighten them out, focusing on building up your Google reviews is a great way to push down Yelp in the search engine rankings.

The only downside to Google Reviews? In order to write a review, you must have a Google+ account. When someone who is not on Google+ tries to review your company, they will we prompted to create an account, which will often cause them to abandon the process. Therefore if you know a client is on Google+, send them an online review request with a link to your company profile. They will be more likely to complete the process than someone who is not on Google+.

Online Reviews: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Online reviews can be your company’s best friend or their worst enemy. By taking a more proactive approach and requesting reviews regularly, there will be no need to panic when you do get a negative review. Plus, once you get in the habit of requesting reviews, you will see it is not as time-consuming nor as difficult as you expected.

When online reviews show your company in a good light, they will become a free source of new business. And who doesn’t like that kind of marketing?