Creating an Online Review Strategy for Your Business

Online Review Strategy Tips You Should Know

Outside of a great website and SEO strategy, growing online reviews is one of the most important things a local business can do to help strengthen sales. 9 out of 10 consumers read reviews for local businesses before making a purchase. Next to listings management, your online reviews are the second biggest factor for better SERP (search engine result page) rankings, and maybe the biggest factor in SERP clicks. 

“But I hate Yelp.”

We hear this from businesses all the time. Here’s the reality: You hate Yelp because you don’t have a good strategy for managing Yelp. But if you’re not proactive about reviews, and your competitors are, you’re going to lose business. Period.

Business owners need to recognize that reviews are important for consumers. Consumers have a lot of choices, and there are a lot of bad businesses out there. Reviews help them weed through the noise to find the best local businesses to work with. If you run a great business, then you should want to be that choice. The information below should help you create a better approach to review sites. 

The Most Important Review Sites for Local Businesses 

  1. Yelp 
  2. Google (Google My Business)
  3. Facebook
  4. BBB (you have to pay to have a page here)
  5. Plus many other industry-specific sites

Your Guide to Yelp

Understand that some review sites, most notably Yelp, do not allow businesses to solicit reviews. They believe reviews should happen organically. Yelp’s official policy on this is as follows: 

Businesses should not ask for or solicit reviews on Yelp, as it leads to deceptively biased content. This includes asking friends, family, or customers to write reviews; offering incentives or freebies in exchange for reviews; or working with companies that send review solicitation emails.

Yelp actually created a recommendation software platform designed to catch businesses not adhering to their rules. That software looks for things like:

  • Reviews that come from the same IP address.
  • Reviews generated from the same link (i.e. when you send an email campaign with a direct link to your Yelp page).
  • When an unusual pattern of reviews occurs – like when too many reviews come in a short period of time because you sent an email asking all your customers to leave a review. If your business receives say one or two reviews a month at random times, and then all of a sudden gets 10 reviews in one day, that will certainly trigger the review software to move some or all of these new reviews to “not recommended,” which purposely hides them from users’ view. The worst case we ever saw of this was a friend who owned a group health insurance business, and who asked all 1,400 of her past clients to review her under her new business name. She had 3 reviews prior to sending an email blast to all her old clients. In 3 days she got 79 reviews. Within 1-2 days, Yelp removed every single review except for 2 of them. The value that she lost here is immeasurable, and she never got the reviews back.
  • Reviews from a 3rd party software link like Birdeye.com or Reputation.com.
  • Yelp also relies on its users to report businesses asking or paying for reviews.

Yelp Do’s and Don’ts

To be safe, never ever do these things as you try to grow your reviews on Yelp:

  • DO NOT ask customers you don’t trust for reviews
  • DO NOT offer incentives or discounts for reviews
  • DO NOT use 3rd party software that pushes customers into writing reviews on Yelp for your business
  • DO NOT send a mass email campaign to all of your customers at one time, asking them for reviews 

Here are some great systems to get more reviews on Yelp

  1. Check-In Offer – if your business can have a check-in offer, definitely use this powerful tool, and it’s free to use
    1. Yelp uses GPS tracking with check-ins, so they know the customer was at your business
    2. Yelp will actually send a reminder to the customer, asking if they want to write your business a review. So Yelp does the work for you
    3. Experiment with different check in offers to see what your customers want and like
  2. If you have a retail business, promote with the “Find Us on Yelp” sticker. You can order these from Yelp, and showcase it at your business. 
  3. “People Love Us On Yelp” – If your business receives this award from Yelp, be sure to put it out so customers can see it
    1. Yelp sends these out once a year to businesses that are doing really well on Yelp
  4. Yelp icon and link on your website and email signature
  5. Highlight reviews on social media
    1. Screenshot the review and post it on your social media. When other customers see how much you appreciate a great 5 star review, then they are more inclined to write one themselves.
  6. Teach your customer/clients how important Yelp is to your business
    1. Asking “How you did you find us?” is a great way to see if they came from Yelp. Iif they did, you can always say something about how much your reputation on Yelp helps your business. Plant a seed that the reviews are crucial to your business. You didn’t ask them for a review, but you let them know how important they are to your business. This helps them understand what Yelp means to you and gives them a nudge to write you a review without you having to ask them!
    2. Yelp scans your reviews to look for keywords – so if you’re looking to bolster your business for certain services, having your customers leave you reviews that include those service keywords are important for your SEO on Yelp and can help drive up. In addition, having customers review your business by comparing how your services/products are superior to your competitor by name, you can also be found by your competitor’s business name on Yelp.

Other Review Websites

Question: Should Yelp be the only site I should focus on?

Answer: Absolutely not. 

Other websites like Facebook and Google get a lot more traffic than Yelp, so it’s important for you to have a good presence of reviews on those platforms too. Yelp is simply a review-only platform, so consumers that go there are are really doing their research prior to making a purchase decision. 

Local businesses really need to have a well-rounded strategy for getting reviews in a variety of places online. And understand that 3 out of 5 consumers will only purchase from a business with 4 stars (out of 5) or higher. That means you need great reviews on all the review sites.

Be Proactive About Reviews

Need help putting a custom review strategy in place for your business? All of this can be overwhelming for some owners to think about, even if you recognize the value of an online review strategy. 

WISE Digital Partners is here to help. Check out our reputation management services to see some of the ways we can help your business, or reach out to us directly and let us know your story. Whether you’re trying to grow positive reviews or outweigh negative ones, we assist businesses nationwide with reviews and digital strategy as a whole.

Written By

Patrick Dillon

Patrick is the Principal/Owner of WISE Digital Partners, a digital marketing agency based in San Diego, CA.

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