In light of the most recent Google algorithm update, collecting reviews from your clients has become more important than ever. Google is giving special attention to businesses in local markets. You will start to see services such as Yelp, the Yellow Pages, and other directories show up more often in search results. As such, making sure that you are represented correctly on those top directories, that your listings are being optimized, and that you are collecting reviews, are going to be a major part of your SEO going forward into the latter half of this year.

General Advice:

Reviews online, creating 5-star ratings, are a recognizable symbol of quality. Optimizing for these directories to show up where folks are searching can develop leads without anyone ever seeing your website. Here are a few ideas we’d like to share about them:

Unless asked, people only write reviews when they are upset or VERY happy. Offer the best service you can, make sure your employees are doing the same, and hopefully no one will have a reason to write you a bad review.

Bad experiences are part of business. We are not perfect and readers understand this too. Take any past complaints into consideration. Learn from your mistakes and respond to folks publicly. Most review services allow you to post a rebuttal.

Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews. Let them know that you pay special attention to your customer’s feedback.

Always respond to bad reviews. Be apologetic, solution-oriented, and not defensive.

If you get a review that is less than perfect, don’t sweat it. It makes the overall list of reviews look credible.

Make it easy. There are feedback buttons to place in emails or on your website that will direct people to the right place. Either that or you can send them a direct link to your listing.

Logistics:

There are a few things to keep in mind when working with these review sites:

Review syndication is frowned upon. Do not take the same review and try to re-publish it to multiple directories.

Some review sites have filters that are meant to block fake reviews. Unfortunately, sometimes a legitimate review from a happy customer may get stuck in that filter. There is nothing you can do about it. Do not ask the customer to write a new one. Do not request to have it made public. The directories will simply ignore you. If you see a positive review that was written on yelp that got stuck in the filter, encourage the client to fill out their profile, check-in at more places and write reviews for other businesses more frequently. It may make the review public at a later time.

Around 80% of Americans say that their purchase decisions are based on reviews from others but fewer than 30% have actually written a review themselves.

The difference between having reviews and not having reviews can be the difference between getting leads and not getting leads. This is especially true in competitive industries.

If your competitors have reviews and you do not, you are sending business to them.

Reviews can help your business show up in search results.
Reviews can make your business stand out in search results.
Google likes to show local businesses with a good reputation

Ways to ask for Reviews:

There is a right way and a wrong way to ask for reviews. Here are a few guidelines we like to recommend:

If you are writing a thank you, or a follow up email, place the link directly to your listing in the email and ask them politely to provide their feedback.

Throttle the requests, meaning if you have asked three customers to write you a review, don’t ask for any more. You need to see if they are going to do it. You don’t want to request five people to write a review on Google and then three end-up doing it. They will not all stick and Google will become suspicious.

Review stickiness (the likelihood of a review showing up publicly) is in direct relation to how many live reviews you currently have.

You need to start off slowly. Then as you gain momentum, you can start asking for more and more reviews.

Amount of reviews: A good rule of thumb is 20% more positive reviews than your competitors.

Don’t always ask for 5 stars. It won’t look natural. We recommend a 5 to 1 ratio of 5 star and 4 star reviews. Sometimes we like to write 3-star reviews but mention in the review itself why we are rating it 3 stars. We usually come up with a silly reason making the reviewer look like an unreasonable customer. It brings balance to the appearance.

Some folks need advice on what to write. It’s a good idea to give them some pointers of what they should write about (speed of service, courteous personnel, quality of product, etc).

Yelp and Google have stickers that you can place on the window of your business announcing that you are on those listings.

Use small incentives such as Starbucks gift cards or a discount on services or products. You can email Starbucks gift cards. We also like a service called twosmiles.com, which provides gift cards to national retailers like Best Buy, Home Depot and many restaurant chains.

Things you can say: “Your opinion matters to us and to other customers. We would really appreciate it if you would take the time to review your experience with us.” or “Do you read online reviews? We do, and so do our potential customers. We’d love it if you would share your experience with us.”

We’ve also seen people create cards to give out that have the Yelp and Google logos on them asking to write reviews. It can be effective but since it is not online it’s hit or miss.

The Power of Positive Reviews:

Perception is reality, especially in sales. Getting reviews online is already a sales strategy before someone even gets to your websites. Take a look at the Google search engine results page below for “Orlando web marketing”. We are listed at the top, but more importantly, notice how the 5-star rating sticks out in comparison to all the other companies shown.

review_stars-gtc2

Not all Directories are Created Equal

Some directories have more value than others. We want you to focus on the ones that already have name recognition and are associated with quality. Below is a list of core directories we recommend you to being a part of. These directories are listed in order of importance.
Yelp – We put Yelp as #1 because it ranks well with Google, shows 5-star ratings in search results and “Yelpers” are extremely engaged in review writing. The problem with Yelp is that not that many people use it. The ones who do use it are very committed.
Google- This one is self-explainable.
YP.com – There is no review filter on this site so you can send anyone to your YellowPages listing.
Manta – We like Manta because it is very easy to write a review. You don’t need an account and posting a review is a Piece of Cake.
Industry specific directories that rank well for your keywords. We would provide those to you.
The best way to find out where you should list your business is to see which directories show up when you search for your service with the City or area that you are in. So, for example, if I wanted to know where I should be listing and collecting reviews for a local plumber I would search for “Orlando Plumber”. I see that there is a “pack” of local listings showing up from Google +, and then the next results that are not business websites are yellowpages.com, angieslist.com, and yelp. I would then make sure that the business is listed with each one of those and I would check to see if any reviews had been written. Focus your review collection on the sites that your future customers are already seeing in search results.

Getting Started:
Getting started is always the hardest part. Here is how we recommend you do it.
Ask your clients if they are on Yelp or have a Gmail account. If they have an active Yelp account, always ask them for a Yelp review. If they have an active Gmail account, ask them for a Google review.
Start a simple spreadsheet of all of your customers. Create a column next to their name for each directory you want to have reviews on. Yelp needs to be at the forefront here.
Create a repeating calendar event once a week to remind you to ask for reviews.
Have a boiler-plated email ready to go and ask your clients to write a review for you. The email should be personally addressed & have links to the review directories you would like chosen from. We also recommend you include an incentive for folks to do it. You are asking them for their time to help you. It’s only fair to give something in return.
On your spreadsheet, tally the amount of reviews you have received and your average star rating
Stay consistent.

Looking for Us to Handle Your Review Accumulation?

We are contemplating of starting a service that works with your clients and asks them for reviews. If you are potentially interested in this, please email [email protected] and simply write the word “review” into the email subject line. We will then let you know more specifics as the program takes shape.

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