This business reviews reference guide explains the value of online reviews for your business, where reviews exist, how to get customers to leave reviews, how to respond to positive and negative reviews, and other valuable tips to consider for your SEO and digital marketing strategy

In today’s digital age, competition is fierce. Nearly every business claims to be the best – best products and services, best customer service, best value, etc. While the virtual world offers a great opportunity for showcasing your business, it has left consumers a bit lost. They have more options, and businesses can easily deceit consumers, with false claims and pictures, or simply claiming to be better than they are. So, how do people decide which company they want to do business with? 

As it turns out, consumers are going back to their old ways of doing business. Before the Internet, people would rely on recommendations and word-of-mouth when seeking out a business. Those businesses that didn’t have people talking about them would get lucky based off of random selection due to geographical location. In our digital world, consumers have gone back to relying on recommendations, but on an even bigger scale. Now, instead of just asking friends and family, they trust the words of complete strangers to determine their choices. 

Consumers confide in customer reviews, because they trust the opinion of other individuals and their experiences over what a business has to say. In fact, it has been demonstrated that 78% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. 

Below you will learn the basics of feedback and reviews, including what they are, where to find them, why they matter, how to acquire them, and how to deal with them once they are online. 

Understanding the importance of online reviewing 

Online reviews are very important, as they are key to your online reputation, so they should without question be integrated into your digital marketing strategy. 

What is a review and where do they exist online? 

Your customers leave reviews for you online in a multitude of places. Their reviews consist of feedback, stories about their experience, areas for improvement, and a recommendation for other consumers out there (or, if the review is negative, a lack thereof). Almost everyone is familiar with reviews and consulting them for certain sectors such as hotels, restaurants, and other “experiences”, but in reality these have become critical in every sector. 

When it comes to determining where to leave a review or get a review, this really depends on the particular business. Arguably, the most important review platform is Google. Not only is this the most accessible and viewable, as most people are using Google to discover your business in the first place, but your rating matters the most here since Google will use it heavily in determining your rankings. 

Copy your Google My Business review link 

In the dashboard of your GMB look for this section, copy the special link to send to happy customers, add to the bottom of your invoices or add to social media.

Get link for Google reviews

Google is king but other platforms can be very important as well. These include Facebook, Yelp, and other directories or specialty websites for your sector or geographic area (think Tripadvisor, Yelp, Clutch, Upcity, and more). 

The true value of a review

What is the value of a review? Some would say priceless. The reality is that reviews are extremely important to potential consumers – 78% of them state that they trust online reviews as much as the personal recommendation of someone in their close circle. Consumers trust reviews even more than what you, as a business has to say. Of course you claim that you are the best, but with all of the lies and scams in this world that means nothing. However, if a non-interested individual says that your business is the best, then that is more believable. No matter how good your SEO and marketing efforts are, if you don’t have good reviews, your business is going to be seriously hurt. Having said that, reviews are a true investment. According to one source, it takes 40 5-star reviews to recover from 1 1-star review. Another important statistic to keep in mind is that 90% of customers who are dissatisfied with your business will not be doing business with you again. 

Long story short: give your reviews importance. Take pride in your good reviews, and understand that it is necessary to deal with the negative ones (more on this below). Ask for reviews (also below), and consider your reputation when dealing with an unhappy customer face to face – it might be worth giving your client a $200 refund on the spot, a voucher, or even re-doing a service or exchanging a product to avoid an upset customer damaging your reputation through word-of-mouth or a negative review. In this case, avoiding a negative review is worth $200 or that new service. 

Acquiring online reviews

In many cases, people do not think to leave reviews. The exception is of course when they are unhappy. It is very common for an unsatisfied customer to get their anger out by posting a negative review, but happy customers will not often feel an urge to post online. That is why, you can have 100 happy customers and get maybe one single review, but the moment there is an unhappy customer, their experience is likely to go online. 

How to get your customers to leave reviews

Now that you are conscious of the importance of getting reviews and just how much a few stars and nice words can help your rankings, it is time to think about how to improve this part of your digital marketing action plan. If you hadn’t considered reviews prior, you might look at yourself online to realize that you already have quite a few reviews. Whether you already have many good reviews or not, it is always a good idea to continue getting more. On average, review readers will read 3-6 reviews about a company before taking any decisions, and this number keeps going up every year. 

The good news is that it isn’t so hard to get customers to leave you a review! Many times, all you need to do is ask. Studies find that 70% of customers will leave a review if asked. When you approach a client, it is good to ask them for the review by reminding them of something that differentiates your business or what makes you the best. Since over half of consumers look at two or more review sites before taking a decision, you might want to do some analysis on your different online presences and ask them to review you on a specific site or even provide them with a link. 

If you want to take things even further, you can incentivize a review. You can offer a freebie or discount in exchange for a review. For example, an auto mechanic can offer a free oil change in exchange for a Google review. SEO consultant Bruce Jones believes so highly in the value of a review that he wrote an article to teach clients about it, called “I’ll work for free for Google reviews and why you should too,” where in exchange for a Google review, he offers an hour of free work analyzing your website. 

Responding to reviews is critical 

Besides getting reviews for your business, there is another important step to improve your online reputation marketing efforts: simply responding to your reviews. This is one of the most underutilized strategies around, yet it is arguably one of the easiest to execute. It takes hardly an time and is effortless! The value here is for the customer, the potential customer (review reader), and your own brand image. 

How to respond to a negative review

No matter how hard you try to do good business and please your customers, negative reviews will happen, and that is okay. While reviews are extremely important and it is crucial to get as many positive reviews as possible, negative feedback is not so bad if it is handled properly. Essentially, you need to make sure that you proactively seek out positive feedback, so that when a negative review is published, it is not so damaging. Then, when the negative remarks come to light, it is always a good idea to respond. Your response should be well thought out, respectful, and authentic. Be sure not to respond out of anger or in defense of your business, but rather take the time for a well-constructed response that can act as damage control, uphold your reputation, and give you SEO and marketing opportunities at the same time. 

Don’t make excuses; instead take responsibility. 

Always acknowledge the issue, even if you don’t think the customer is right or agree with what they said. Start out with something like ‘Thank you for providing your feedback and letting us know about the issue”. This is the first step to finding a solution and shows that you take responsibility for your mistakes. 

Issue an apology, even if the reviewer was wrong. 

Providing an apology can work wonders. Even if you don’t agree with the customer, take the high road and say you are sorry. Be sincere and to the point. Again, this will appease the customer and demonstrate your integrity and level of service to those who are reading the exchange. You can say something like “We apologize that our service did not satisfy your expectations. We pride ourselves on our high standards and we are truly sorry to hear that your experience did not exceed our usual quality of business. Your happiness is our priority”. 

Provide an explanation

Sometimes, an apology alone is enough to address someone’s critique. Other times, you might need to explain that there was a misunderstanding or give more insight onto why this problem happened in the first place. This could look like: “We apologize for the miscommunication that took place during your appointment. We experienced some serious technical issues with our system, which cause delays over the course of the day that you came into our office”. Providing explanations can be tricky, so keep 3 things in mind: 

Compensate appropriately 

If a reviewer has taken the time and energy to write bad things about you, this shows that the experience had an emotional impact on them. It either cost them time, money, or happiness, or a combination of the three. There is nothing worse than having a business react like what happened to them is no big deal, so invest as much care into the matter as they did. Oftentimes, it is well worth trying to incentivize or compensate them, especially as this pulls them into use your business once again. In an ideal world, your incentive can draw them to your business once more, and they will leave you a new review or modify their old one based on a positive experience, which will change their opinion of you. An apology does go far, but a 20% off credit or an add-on for their next purchase goes further. What is important here is to try to compensate towards a future purchase and avoid at all costs refunding what already happened, as this will not get them to come back. Compensate correctly and you might end up with a lifetime customer out of what would have been a one-time customer.

 Invite for further discussion

 In your response, give an opportunity for further communication, for example “Please reach out to me via phone or email so that we can resolve this issue at your convenience.” Provide contact details including name, title, and the way to reach you. Ensure that the client feels their complaint was heard and try to continue the conversation so that it can end on a more positive note. Do not ask the person to remove the review. 

Why you need to respond to all reviews – not just negative ones 

Show that you appreciate all customers, not just the ones who complain. 

A common mistake that businesses make in online reputation management is only responding to negative reviews. As a business, you are rewarding negative comments with time and energy, and drawing attention with your response. This indicates that you care only about your reputation, rather that truly caring about the client’s experiences or appreciating all of the other customers who took the time to share a positive review of your business. 

Use the opportunity to re-enforce relationship with existing customers.

By responding to a review, you are responding to an actual customer! Your client typically receives a notification that you have responded to their review, so this is a great chance to show gratitude, reach out if you haven’t heard from them in a while, and show you are eager for their business in the future. 

There is a major SEO opportunity in responding to feedback. 

Ok, so seeing as this guide is being created by a one on one SEO training company, of course reviews also have something to do with search engine optimization. Not responding to each and every customer review is ultimately a missed opportunity for you to boost your SEO. Since search engines are constantly crawling the Internet for new information, adding more words and content about your business through review responses means more content about your business. It also helps if you can add keywords and location words (ex: “best lawn maintenance service” or “New York City”) within your response; once or twice is ideal so that you keep your response sounding natural.  

Prove your business is honest, transparent, and communicative. 

Responding to feedback is a chance to prove the values and attitude of your business. Most people realize that you cannot please everyone, and it is inevitable that you will get a review at some point. It is important that, in the face of a negative review, you take responsibility for your wrongdoings, giving thoughtful apologies and showing what you will do to improve going forward. It is also admirable to show that you are trying to rectify the situation by giving the reviewer the possibility to contact you directly and speak further. Prospective customers will see these responses and gain trust, something that can outweigh the negative feedback that was left in the first place. 

Gain new customers who value reviews, too. 

As you get more reviews, prospective customers will find it easier to trust you. Going forward, it will be easier to get customer reviews, because you are getting customers who value reading reviews and based their choice in company on your reviews in the first place. 

Online reviews are a big part of your business reputation and ranking, contact me to learn more about leveraging them to your advantage and make your business even more successful.