When marketing your local business, reviews are everything. Think about it. The last time you were looking for a plumber, mechanic, or pool service, what is one of the first things you looked for? Their reviews on Google. How about when you were on vacation last summer and were looking for a restaurant? Yelp came to the rescue. When you are in need of a local business you want one that is recommended; if not by your friends, then by strangers.
"Welcome to a new era of marketing and service in which your brand is defined by those who experience it." – Brian Solis
The 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey conducted by Bright Local revealed some interesting data on the importance of reviews by consumers. According to the survey:
Not only are reviews important in marketing your business, they play a strategic part in local SEO. Google business reviews are an important ranking signal for local businesses. They indicate to searchers (and therefore the search engine) that your business is trustworthy.
It’s important to note that many directories get their reviews from Yelp and City Search. Yelp feeds information to Apple Maps, Bing Places, and MapQuest, among others. Citi Search pushes reviews to nearly a dozen smaller directories as you’ll see below. This is a common practice. Knowing this allows you to focus on a few main review sites which feed into smaller directories.
Much has been written about Yelp’s controversial practices and how the platform leaves business owners dazed and confused. However, the review and advertising site is an undeniable force in driving website and foot traffic to small businesses. Your Yelp reviews show up in organic search. You can’t ignore it, so learn to use it to your advantage.
Your business may be listed on Yelp without your knowledge. If it is listed, you can claim it. If it’s not already listed, you can request to add your business to Yelp. If you’re not sure whether or not your business is listed, I encourage you to check. Once you claim your business or have it listed, there are several advantages to maintaining your Yelp business account. It gives you the ability to:
It’s important to understand how Yelp works. Yelp is like an online bulletin board of business reviews and ratings. This user-generated content cannot be controlled by the business owner. Yelp members use the site to review businesses, find local events, and search for discounts. It is more of a social network than directory. Members can follow other members and feel like they are part of their local community by leaving reviews and leading their friends to great businesses (or warning them about bad experiences).
Yelp uses a filter which shows “recommended” ratings prominently while “not recommended” ratings get buried. Not recommended means the rating is of low quality, low reliability and has been rated by someone who is not very active on the site. Unfortunately, high ratings may be buried in the “not recommended” filter (and thankfully low ratings may end up there as well). The best way to get the good ratings to surface is to encourage the customers who gave you a high rating to be active on the site and to follow them and recommend their rating.
Yelp users value great customer service, friendly staff, a fair return policy, and cleanliness. These are all characteristics of a successful local business. Uphold these values in your business, and you should have no problem gaining 4- and 5-star ratings on Yelp.
Google is the review site of choice among users, with “63.6% of consumers reporting that they are likely to check online reviews on Google before visiting a business.” (Review Trackers)
Setting up your business on Google My Business will allow you to acquire Google reviews. It’s integrated into Google Plus and allows you to manage all of your business listing information, such as Maps and Search, on one platform. Google has instructions for claiming your business listing.
When customers search for local businesses, the “local pack” appears in the search results. The local pack includes the name, address, phone number and reviews of several businesses. Reviews help your business appear in the local pack. And businesses with reviews have higher visibility in the search results and thus more opportunities for clicks to their website.
Reviews from third-party sites feed into your Knowledge Card, which is another search engine results page feature. So, Google isn’t the only review site you want to focus on. This snapshot of your business is one of your best pieces of internet real estate.
YP.com and City Search are partners, and part of the CityGrid network. Customers can write reviews on Yellow Pages natively or on City Search and they will also appear on Yellow Pages. In fact, the reviews on City Search feed into about a dozen other review sites, such as Kudzu, Merchant Circle, Judy’s List and Open List. Reviews on Yellow Pages (yp.com) feed into Yellow Bot, Open List and City.com. So, it’s a sure bet that effort spent establishing good reviews on Yellow Pages and City Search will maximize your results.
City Search pulls data from Express Update. To list your business on City Search, go to Express Update and search for your business. If it’s not listed, you can claim your business and enter your information. It’s free and easy, but it may take a month or two before your business appears on the directory.
While Yahoo only gets about 4% of the search market share, it’s still worth claiming your business listing so you can manage the information the search engine is publishing about your business. You will need to claim your business listing on Yext to manage your Yahoo Local account. If you’re not sure whether or not your business is listed on Yahoo, simply do a search for it. If it is, you’ll see this (see example below). You can click the link that says Verify your listing which will take you to Yext. Note that Yahoo pulls in reviews from Yelp.
If you have a Facebook business page, reviews are undoubtedly one of the features you either love or hate. (I say hate because I’ve heard many stories of businesses getting a “1” review – either accidentally or on purpose. Either way, it’s unsettling when that happens and difficult to correct.)
According to the Bright Local survey mentioned above, Facebook and Yelp are local consumers’ most trusted review sites. In 2017, these sites had about 85 million and 40 million site visitors per month, respectively. If you haven’t established a presence on Facebook, you are missing out. Forget about trying to build your following there for a second. Just consider the fact that customers may enter your business name in a Google search. If you have a Facebook page it will likely appear in the search results and they’ll see something like this:
When they land on your Facebook page, they will it use to find your contact info, click to your website, and read your reviews. Having an optimized Facebook profile is a must. Make sure you’re asking your customers to leave reviews on your Facebook page so your rating is visible on the search engine results page.
The Better Business Bureau has been a respected source of information on businesses’ ethics and credibility for more than a century. Today, their website BBB.org is trusted by consumers in making buying decisions. A business must have been in business a minimum of 12 months to be listed on BBB.org.
There are two types of listings:
To register your business with the BBB, find your local chapter. On your local chapter’s page in the list of Programs and Services, you’ll see links to Register Your Business or Apply for BBB Accreditation.
Once you are listed, customers can search the BBB site for your business and review it. Customer reviews do not impact the BBB rating. However, they are helpful in establishing trust and confidence in a business. The BBB tries to be a platform for fairness and honesty between consumers and businesses. They give the business the opportunity to respond to reviews before they are published on their site. See this statement from their website:
Q: How are BBB customer reviews different than other review sites?
A: BBB has been a trusted resource for consumers for more than 100 years. No anonymous or third-party reviews are accepted on BBB.org; reviewers must verify their email addresses. Also, businesses are notified they have a BBB customer review and have an opportunity to respond before it is posted publicly. Businesses may also claim that the reviewer did not have an interaction with their business. In this case, BBB requests substantiation of their marketplace interaction with the business.
Angie’s List and Thumbtack are more match-making sites for customers and service professionals than they are business directories. However, reviews are an important part of their service. A customer answers a series of questions, and then receives a list of service providers and their reviews.
The reviews on Angie’s List are verified; only real customers can leave reviews. Angie’s List offers a free membership. However, you can pay to advertise and appear higher in the directory search listings. To advertise a business must have good reviews.
Thumbtack supports service providers by coaching them on how to get reviews. They provide a link that you can send out to customers to encourage them to leave reviews. They even offer examples of emails you can send to customers to ask for reviews. They also provide a widget to display your reviews on your website. Thumbtack is not free – you pay for credits that you use when you send quotes to customers.
Now that you know where your customers should leave reviews, you’re probably wondering how to get them to leave reviews. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the review site's terms of service. Yelp, for example, advises against asking for reviews and suggests that providing a high-quality, memorable experience is the best way to encourage reviews.
If the review site allows you to ask for reviews, then ask. It’s as simple as that. When you have a conversation with a customer, and they tell you how much they enjoyed your restaurant or what beautiful flowers they received, ask them if they wouldn’t mind leaving a review. Then point them in the direction they need to go to do that.
Make it easy for customers to leave reviews by including a link in your email signature, in your newsletter, and on your receipts. In the age of mobile, ask customers to sign up for text alerts and then send them a prompt to leave a review. Be sure to wait an appropriate amount of time, but not too long. Give them an opportunity to enjoy the product or service and then ask for the review.
To ask for a Google review, you will need to provide the link to the review form by doing the following:
Once you’ve established your presence on local review sites, be sure to add their widgets and badges to your website so your visitors can see at a glance that you have been rated and have reviews on those sites. You can also use a service like Bright Local or Yext to manage and monitor your presence on review sites.
You’ve read the stats. Consumers read reviews before making a purchase. If your business is not listed on a review site but your competitor is, and they have good reviews, guess who’s going to get the call.
Make an effort to optimize your business directory listings so that customers can find you on the review sites. That’s the most time-consuming part. Then monitor your reviews periodically and respond to them. Customers like to see that you are responsive and engaged. It helps them know and trust you before the sale.
If you are a small business owner struggling to make an impact online, contact us. We’re helping local business owners just like you use directories and local review sites to increase sales. We can help you, too.
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