Expert Internet Marketing Advice for Small Businesses
The benefits of receiving online feedback are undeniable. Theyll:
Theyre not always the easiest things in the world to get, but theyre worth the perseverance.
Consumer reviews are trusted 12 times as much as manufacturers own reviews, according to a survey by video review site EXPO.
Our interest in reading reviews is increasing too. In 2010 58% of consumers read between 2-10 reviews: by 2012 this number had increased to 65%.
David Mihm, whos a local search expert, estimates that reviews make up 25% of Googles ranking factors, and he believes that you need at least 10 Google+ and 10 others to get you started. Research from another experienced local search consultant, Phil Rozek back in 2011 showed that 26 is a good number, and to get ranked higher in the SERPs (search engine ranking pages), youll need around one and a half times your local competitors reviews to rank higher than them (on average).
This article looks into why people leave reviews and how to get them. Read on
Pic credit http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news
Altruism or perhaps even enlightened self-interest. Reasons customers might want to leave a good review are:
Therefore, ask for their help and appeal to their altruistic side. Tell them you value their feedback (because you do) and its important to you and your customers (because it is). And remember to say thanks!
Expectation of a reward
Be careful: some sites (Yelp and Google in particular) dont take kindly to providing incentives customers to give them a review as they will tend to be positive reviews. However, running a competition (see below) can increase the number of reviews you receive, and you could offer a discount on a future purchase or a heads-up on a sale in return for a review, if done carefully by email.
Never, ever solicit positive reviews, however, as it only makes you look untrustworthy and it will quite possibly get you into trouble with Google, review sites, or even cause yourself a PR headache if someone talks about your actions online.
Some people like the idea of being able to influence future improvements to a product or service. Just look at the success of Quirky.comВ be sure to prove to customers that their views will be taken on board by listening to them and importantly, engaging with them. Include these people in focus groups and use their testimonials as part of the marketing for your new product.
You will inevitably have the odd dissatisfied customer, so youll need to give them an outlet for their unhappiness to prevent it getting to review stage, if at all possible. An email address, for example, or a phone number so that they can get in touch with you directly rather than make their grumbles public. Making it a rule to contact unhappy customers may even result in a negative review being amended, as well as possible future sales.
Bear in mind that a 2011 survey by Cone found that 80% of correspondents declined to buy a product after they had read a negative review of it. Cheeringly, the same survey found that 87% of correspondents bought a product because they had read positive reviews.
It therefore makes sense to minimise the number of negative reviews by providing excellent customer service, great products and a great after-sales service, plus dealing with customer complaints before theyre forced to make it public, if at all possible. And lots of positive reviews will outweigh the importance of negative ones, which leads us on to
For those who have cringed at the thought of having their restaurant or hotel pulled apart on TripAdvisor, there is hope: a huge number, 90 million reviews from 65 review sites, were analysed by ReviewPro to discover the percentage of reviews that were grumbles, glowing, or just meh. The results are interesting and show that people dont turn to a review site simply to communicate their dissatisfaction:
В Positive - 60%,В Neutral - 28%,В Negative - 12%
ReviewPro said:В The need to monitor the social web for damaging content remains, but ReviewPros research proves most people go online to share positive experiences.
As we become web savvy, (61% of surfers in Europe and the Americas are now accessing the web many times a day) when we see a company with hundreds of 100% perfectly positive reviews well inevitably be suspicious.
Weve all seen reviews that we take with a pinch of salt and Its been predicted that by 2016 10-15% of all online reviews will be fake: the algorithms used by the like of Yelp and Google are going to struggle to keep up but they do stop many of them.
So, to attract real reviews that people and algorithms are going to approve of, concentrate on improving your services to attract positive real ones, rather than clearing out the bad ones or faking them altogether even if you know others are doing it.
Responding gives you the opportunity to thank positive reviewers, be seen to care about what your customers are saying about you, and it shows that youre willing to listen to and try to deal with customers issues.
Take a deep breath and reply diplomatically (unlike this Arizona bakery), even if you think the review is unfair: it may well reap rewards and other people will be encourage to review you positively as well.
Contact your loyal customers to thank them for their reviews. Paying attention to your faithful taskforce will mean that theyll be better inclined to review other products for you. Try offering a reviewer of the month prize draw and you might encourage them to review you on further sites or give you more product reviews.
A study by Harvard Business School found that a 1 star increase on Yelp leads toВ a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue. This benefits independent, local businesses more than it does chains who already have an established reputation.
As mentioned previously, Yelp dont take kindly to soliciting for reviews (controversially, with or without incentives). They figure your reviews are going to be unfairly skewed to the positive because youll only tend to ask happy customers to review you. But you can ask customers to check out your business on Yelp, and make your page as attractive and informative as possible. The website even provides buttons to move them in the right direction, like this:
(youll find more at http://www.flickr.com/photos/yelp/sets/72157623054478330/detail/)
NB Bear in mind that Yelp isnt just for restaurants: 75% of the companies registered are anything but.
Foursquare and Facebook
Check-ins via smartphones are valuable in verifying that a review is real. When someone has written a good review about a business and subsequently checks in a few times, you know its going to be a point of view worth listening to because theyre putting their money where their mouth is. So have a presence on Foursquare, Facebook and Yelp at the very least.
But how to get visitors to check in? Here are a few tips:
Users cant leave reviews on Google+ anonymously: they have to specifically have a Google+ account. This adds an element of trustworthiness to the reviews but isnt a quick and easy way for non-Google+ account holders to leave a review.
Unfortunately, these reviews are worth getting as you saw at the beginning of this article, so find out how visitors found you, and if it was on Google+ Local, ask them nicely.
Pic credit (http://www.pickcute.com/view/1659)
Youll need your prospective reviewers email addresses if you want to ask for their reviews by email.
Its not terribly easy for bricks and mortar shops to get customers addresses in the first place, but there are ways and means:
If you have a website (and you should)
Once you have these valuable addresses, dont abuse them. Send your customers a simple email a day or two after their product is due to arrive (youll need to be sure of your delivery dates as you dont want to send it before the product gets there); or one or two days after youve provided a service for them.
Heres an email for hotel owners could send. Note its written in the first person:
Dear (First name)
Thanks for choosing the (Hotel name) for your recent stay in (city).
Id love to know how you enjoyed your stay with us, and Im sure your friends and other readers would too.
When you have a spare moment, would you please share your experience online on your favourite travel review website?
It was a pleasure to have you as our guest. I hope to see you again soon.
Personal email address:
See what others have said about our hotel on TripAdvisor:
(TripAdvisor hotel link)
Give your customers a choice of sites to leave their reviews on. But keep in mind that too much choice is a bad thing and will more than likely overwhelm your customer. Try to give them a option of just two or three places to leave reviews.
Heres a sample email that Ive taken from http://blumenthals.com/blog/2012/09/24/asking-for-reviews-post-apocalypse/ and rewritten slightly so that it can be used by business to consumer companies:
Hello (First name)
First, many thanks for (buying our product/visiting our restaurant/etc): I hope you enjoyed your (product/meal).
Can you please spare a few minutes to give us an honest review online?
Here are a few choices: please leave a review on whichever is most convenient and easy for you:
1. If you have a Google Plus account go to https://plus.google.com/local and search for our company name. Once youve found us, you can leave a review by clicking on the pencil icon.
2. Log into Qype with your Twitter of Facebook login: please visit us here (Companys Qype URL)
3. If you have a Yahoo email address go to (Companys Yahoo Local URL) and click on the Write a Review button.
I really appreciate your time.
In the meantime, read what others have said about us on Yelp (Your Yelp URL)
Personal email address:
See what others have said about our company on Yelp:
(Companys Yelp Link)
Also feature those review site links on your website.
I had a phone call recently from a plumbing company Id used a couple of days previously. They were following up to check that everything had gone well, and they asked me if I wouldnt mind leaving a review for them online?
I happily did so because theyd done a great job and I had been more than pleased with their service. In fact the phone call might well have been more effective than an email because I receive so many of the little critters they tend to get lost.
Make that call and you may well be rewarded with a loyal customer (Ive used them again since partly because of the good job they did and partly because of the follow-up).
Dont have a mass mailing. If you manage to gain 500 reviews in a week, the review sites and search engines will be suspicious and you could find that all your reviews are wiped by Google, as reported in this Moz article. Yelp is another site where reviews tend to disappear.
Simply by making your companys presence known youll attract reviews, so have a presence on social media and you have a chance of getting some. 40% of personal travelers and 46% of business travelers leave reviews on social media sites, according to Google Insights.
Young people are especially good at leaving feedback online and over half of millennials (Generation Y) actually trust the opinions of strangers over those of their friends and family, so it makes sense to engage this section of population (not to the detriment of your older customers, of course).
Hopefully weve given some ideas on how to encourage online feedback for your business. At times it might seem a hopeless task, but trust us, its worth it.