One of the biggest challenges that my clients face today is getting more online reviews. Being that reviews are important for SEO, it’s also one of my biggest challenges as well. With so many review sites it can be an overwhelming task just trying to figure out where to put your focus.
Ways to Get More Reviews
There are tons of creative and unconventional ways to go about getting online reviews, but before branching out to those, start with these few tips that have been the most effective for me:
- Provide 5-Star Service
- Review Postcards
- Take Advantage of Yelp Check-Ins & Offers
- Offer Employee Incentives
- Follow Review Site Guidelines
Provide 5-Star Service
This seems like a no-brainer, but I regularly interact with business-owners who want to have hundreds of glowing, five-star reviews, yet they don’t offer the quality of service that deserves that type of response.
Unless you’re a restaurant critic or avid Yelper, you can probably count the numbers of reviews you’ve left on your hands (and maybe toes). And I can speculate that the majority are either terrible (1-star) or glowing (4-to-5-star). The normal consumer only leaves a review after one of two situations:
- They’ve had a bad experience.
- Their service was so good that they wanted to help out the business (or other consumers) by leaving a great review.
Now think of the times you’ve left a 5-star review for a business. What happened that compelled you to go leave that review? Did an employee of your favorite restaurant remember you when you came in and greet you by name? Did you accidentally make a dentist appointment for the wrong day and the dental office went above and beyond to accommodate you? These are the things you need to be keeping in mind for your own business.
Create a landing page on your website. Place links to your company’s profiles on the review websites that you’d like to have more reviews on.
Then, design nice postcard or business card with the URL of that page for them to visit. Hand this out to (happy) customers. This makes it easy for customers to choose the site that’s easiest for them to leave a review on instead of telling them leave a review on Google+, which they might not be familiar with.
Take Advantage of Yelp Check-Ins & Offers
Here’s a neat little loophole: while you can’t offer an incentive for users to leave a review, Yelp (and FourSquare) allow you to offer an incentive for “Checking-in” to a company. This will only work for brick & mortar locations, but is incredibly useful for getting Yelp reviews with some authenticity to them.
The Yelp mobile app allows customers to “Check-in” to a business when they’re nearby. Once a user checks-in to your business, they’re taken right to your Yelp page which has the “Leave a Review” button right in front of them. Checking-in also adds some validity to the review since you have to be near the location to do it.
The catch is that you need to make it worth their while. Would you spend the time to download an app and sign-up for an account just to get 5% off? I can guarantee that you’d be a lot more obliged if you were getting 25% off, or a free appetizer, product or service.
Each favorable review has the possibility of improving your rankings on search engines and review sites which will bring in new customers. You should consider your check-in as something that will have an ROI for you, so you should be comfortable offering something worth at least $15-25+.
Once you have your special setup, make sure your advertise it at your business with a sign or postcard / business card.
Offer Employee Incentives
Offer an incentive to your employees for earning positive reviews. Award a prize or cash bonus for those who have received the most reviews the previous month. This spreads some of the workload to the rest of your team.
Instruct your staff to remind customers when they’re leaving that it would be really helpful if the customer would leave a review and mention the employee’s name. Combine this with the review postcard method and this can be really effective if used correctly.
You’ll need to make sure that your employees are also following the review sites’ guidelines by not offering customers incentives or creating reviews themselves.
Follow Review Site Guidelines
The best way to get more reviews is to make sure you’re able to keep the ones you’re already getting. Make sure you’re familiar with the guidelines for the review sites that you’re focusing on. You don’t want to jeopardize ALL of your reviews by breaking some rules. Here are the most common no-no’s:
- Don’t offer incentives to leave a review. Most review sites forbid offering anything in return for a customer leaving a review.
- Don’t leave reviews on behalf of your customers. Just because John Smith filled out a 5-star comment card, doesn’t mean you can transfer over his review to Yelp for him.
- Don’t set up a “review kiosk” at your business. That includes having a tablet or computer setup on-site to make it easy for customers to leave a review. The review sites can detect this and penalize you.
What Review Sites are the Most Important?
A lot of business owners get tunnel-vision when it comes to review sites. The ones who are obsessed with their Google rankings and have local businesses might put 100% of their efforts in to getting Google+ reviews. Others might look at Yelp and think that‘s the most important because, well, it’s Yelp. And to tell you the truth, there’s some validity to both of those thoughts.
Google+ reviews are an extremely important (but not the ONLY) factor in ranking on Google Local. By itself, Yelp is a huge source of referrals for local businesses, and on top of that, Bing Local uses Yelp reviews as their primary rating scale.
- Yelp had an average of approximately 142 million monthly unique visitors in Q1 2015.
- Yelpers have written over 77 million local reviews.
This is where most business owners (and a lot of SEO companies) make a mistake. While you aren’t doing any harm by focusing on these two sites, you are missing out on potential opportunities to get reviews and capture better rankings, and in effect, more business.
For one, Google analyzes reviews from many third-party review sites other than just Google+. They can factor in and create an aggregate review score which in turn can affect local and organic search rankings.
Secondly, people use various methods when looking for businesses online. Some might go directly to their favorite review site. Others might search Google for review sites and then go from there. Not everyone goes to Google and types in “doctors in Los Angeles”. A good way to see what some of the top review sites are for your industry are to search for “[industry / position] reviews”.
How to Address Fake Reviews
A big part of getting more reviews than your competition is making sure you’re not working against a competitor that has fake reviews. Now that you know more about getting online reviews for yourself, let’s take a look at how to deal with fake reviews in this follow-up article.