Ultimate Guide to Online Reviews for Your Small Business
Online reviews help your business build trust and credibility, which are critical factors in the customer decision-making process. Online reviews also help drive traffic to your website or retail store, which is key for any successful business. What other people have to say about your business carries more weight than what you have to say about your business, even if they are complete strangers. Customer reviews can make or break a product, especially for small business brand or product that’s new on the market. A difference of one star—or even a half-star—can be all it takes for a shopper to look for another option.
A happy customer can sell your product or service much better than you can. Reviews influence everything we buy. I always look for reviews when buying items online. With customer reviews being essential to business success these days, it’s important to put a process in place to request reviews after a sale automatically. Asking for reviews can feel awkward or self-serving but know that people love to share their opinions; they just don’t always know the best way to do that, which is why you need to tell them about how you’d like them to give you feedback. No matter how you generate sales, you need to engage customers directly and ask customers for reviews.
How online reviews work
Customers are given general guidelines for reviews and asked to allocate a star rating for the product or service reviewed. Review sites then use an algorithm to filter out any reviews that they suspect are false or automatically generated. The remaining reviews are then posted on a page.
When more than one review has been posted, the sites average the star ratings to give a business or product an overall rating. Reviews generally appear in date order but can be searched by star rating and are sometimes re-ordered at the discretion of the site. Reviewers who post a lot of reviews generally get a higher status, and their reviews are given more prominence.
There is legitimate fear that employees from rival firms will pose as legitimate customers and post negative reviews about a company’s products or services. Some review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, have had these kinds of allegations for years. You need to ask for reviews, but don’t promise an incentive in exchange for doing so. If your business is discovered using this kind of tactic you can get banned from a review site, or the marketplace or worse.
Advantages of getting customer reviews
Each review posted online is a customer testimonial which is a form of free advertising for your business. The more your name and product are exposed to readers online, the more your brand awareness increases. Online reviews can provide the kind of mass exposure that you might never be able to afford through traditional marketing channels.
Boost search engine results
Reviews can also drive internet search engine results. Search engines take into account how many times your business name is mentioned in reviews. So, it’s a numbers game. The more reviews the better. If you’re mentioned a lot of times, you’re likely to appear higher in the search results.
People trust peer recommendations
Online shoppers trust peer recommendations more than they trust what you say about your product or service on your website. And consumers are most likely to trust recommendations from people they know, but online review sites are seen to be credible. Every online review that recommends your business is a powerful endorsement of your brand.
Honest feedback is a gift
Some online reviews that you perceive as negative could actually suggest improvements related to your business or staff. Use this feedback to improve your business operations. Perhaps your staff need some additional customer service training. A negative review can also be an opportunity to resolve a customer’s problem. You should always respond and if you’re able to resolve the issue, invite your customer to correct the record on the review site. Sometimes customers have good suggestions about better ways to do things. Consider the honest feedback a gift.
Build a relationship with your customers
Interacting with online reviews gives you the chance to develop a relationship with your customers. You should always respond publicly to all of your reviews good or bad. You want to demonstrate that you’re interested in what your customers have to say. Many customers enjoy knowing the person behind the business is actually listening and may become more loyal advocate of your brand as a result of getting a personal response to a review.
Beware of firms who claim they can get you positive reviews
If a company says they can generate 5-star reviews to boost your business, don’t be tempted to try this. There are no shortcuts in getting reviews quality reviews. In 2020, Amazon stopped more than 200 million suspected fake reviews before they were ever seen by a customer. In addition to stopping these reviews, Amazon shut down review submissions from the accounts contributing to the fake reviews and the dishonest seller accounts trying to artificially benefit from this abuse.
And now, companies doing this work could be shut down for good. Last week, Amazon filed lawsuits against AppSally and Rebatest, two major fake reviews brokers who are behind misleading shoppers by incentivizing people to post fake reviews. According to published reports, they’ve also done this on eBay, Walmart, and Etsy. These brokers deceive shoppers and create unfair advantages that harm all businesses. These fake reviews brokers are large. They claim to have more than 900,000 members. Amazon has blocked all reviews that could be tied to these brokers.
Amazon is relentless in their pursuit to keep reviews authentic and honest. They devote significant resources to preventing fake or incentivized reviews from appearing in their store. They continually invest in sophisticated machine learning technology and has a team of expert investigators to proactively prevent fake reviews from ever being seen online.
Bottomline, it’s just not worth it to try to game the system.
How to ask customers for reviews (the right way)
There are so many ways to ask customers for reviews and you should incorporate a few ways into your marketing and customer follow-up efforts.
- In person—If you get the opportunity to engage personally with a customer always close your encounter by asking for a review and teach your staff to always ask for reviews.
- Over the phone—If you get the opportunity to speak with a customer directly always ask for a review
- SMS text—Send a quick text, first thanking them for their business, asking for a customer service survey or a link to leave a review
- Use email—As a routine practice you should send a follow-up email within 48-hours to thank your customers for doing business with you and be sure to include a link and invite them to give you a review or email you directly with their feedback.
- Use social media—Ask customers for reviews in your social media feeds, you can also do a DM campaign to specific customers to ask for a recommendation, if you have this kind of customer contact information.
- On all receipts and invoices—Include a link or URL to provide a review on all receipts and invoices. You want to reinforce your ask and make it as easy as possible for a customer to give you a review.
When you get a great review, you need to share it. Feature reviews on your website, on landing pages or as a social media post. If you are lucky enough to get a video testimonial, with your customer’s permission, use it in a social media ad. One happy customer review can garner lots of new business. And don’t stick with just one method of asking customers for reviews. In fact, you should have a few strategies running at once to ensure a steady stream of feedback is coming in about your business. Use the suggestions to always work on improving your customer experience.
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