How Online Reviews Can Make or Break Your Business

By Kellen Kautzman

As a business owner, there are thousands of time-consuming marketing tactics that you can employ to create awareness and build exposure for your business. One of the simplest, easiest and most obvious ways to increase online traffic that can convert leads to sales, is to encourage and ask your clients and customers for online reviews. If a business has 143 positive Google reviews and the nearest competitor has three, who would you choose? Consumers are wired to assume the crowd is making the right choice. When people read reviews, they get interested in the products or services you offer because of how many others have had a positive experience and recommend.

Google Reviews

Reviews are an easy way to increase business and right now we live in a golden age of Google reviews. The best part about Google Reviews is that they are exceptionally simple to earn. Currently, it’s as easy as asking someone with a Google account to write your business a review and eureka, you’ve got one. If they need help, with their permission you can navigate to the page on their phone where the person can write the Google review.

Yelp Reviews

Yelp, on the other hand, is a strict platform on the web in terms of reviews. Yelp is like a bouncer in front of an exclusive club – only pretty girls and famous guys get in. Yelp will only allow a review if it passes their strict metrics, which include how long the reviewer has had a Yelp account, the number of reviews they’ve written and the quality of the review. Yelp even goes so far as to tell businesses to not ask for reviews. Yelp’s recommendation software is designed to highlight reviews from people inspired to share their experiences with the community. Most businesses only target happy customers when asking for reviews, which leads to biased ratings. The recommendation software actively tries to identify and not recommend reviews prompted or encouraged by the business. If someone has a Yelp account and they are willing to write a review for your business or one you represent, you should definitely ask for their review.

What Makes a Good Review?

“We’ve been visiting XYZ restaurant for a couple of years now and we always ask for the same waiter, Sean. He’s memorized our order by this point and even knows that we want one Korean street taco, even though they usually come in threes. The all you can eat option is our favorite and the salmon nigiri is out of this world. If you are planning on eating here on Friday, make sure to make a reservation ahead of time. They book up fast. In all likelihood, we’ll be eating here a few years from now.”

Include a picture of Sean the waiter, check-in and you are on your way to a solid review that doesn’t get stuck in the review filter. I’ve seen Yelp profiles with more than 200 photos and 300 reviews. Couple that with the authority of the site and you have a winning formula. The downside for Yelp is that at any moment, Google can update the algorithm and your rank will change. To successfully utilize reviews, people have to work within the parameters set by Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Yelp, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and the countless other social media sites.

What Reviews Mean for your Business

The first reviews will be the hardest, but know that once you’ve established a rhythm, momentum will pick up. Having more reviews than your competitors will instill within potential customers and give clients the sense that people trust you, you are the best choice and that they are smarter if they choose you. That mentality is deeply ingrained in our psyches. What the majority of people choose attracts our attention. Having more reviews than your competitors is wonderful advertising.

There are companies that will integrate into your website the option for potential and current customers to leave a review. BirdEye is an example. Beyond this, earning reviews remains a personal endeavor for most small businesses. The business owner or salesperson simply exchanges their relationship capital for a review. According to Google, here are the ways they would prefer you to get your reviews:

Remind your customers to leave reviews. Let them know that it’s quick and easy to leave business reviews on mobile devices or desktop computers. Reply to reviews to build your customer’s trust. Your customers will notice that your business values their input, and possibly leave more reviews in the future. You can also create and share a link that customers can click to leave a review. Learn how to read and reply to reviews. Verify your business so your information is eligible to appear on Maps, Search, and other Google services. Only verified businesses can respond to reviews.

Replying to reviews is an underutilized strategy for many business owners and entrepreneurs. Don’t just respond to only bad reviews. Responding to good reviews is equally as important. Remember that every word written that relates to your business is being measured by Google’s artificial intelligence algorithm RankBrain. When you respond to a review, you are showing potential customers that you care enough to communicate with them. You also give Google the evidence it requires to rank you well in their search rankings. The impact of Google reviews is undeniable. We’ve seen meteoric jumps in rankings in Google Maps based on reviews alone.

Ask yourself today: what strategies can I implement to double my current reviews online? Where do I fall when measured against my competitors in this arena? Who could I ask for a review today?

Kellen Kautzman is the founder and operator of Send It Rising Internet Marketing, a Las Vegas-based internet marketing agency. Kautzman is a well-regarded expert on growing small business with digital marketing and SEO, and an accomplished public speaker. Portions of this story were excerpted from Kellen’s book, “Everybody’s Doing It – Advertising Redefined by SEO Expert Kellen Kautzman”, which initially launched as the #1 New Release on Amazon.com in the SEO category.

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