The Importance of Online Reviews
I’ve said on numerous occasions that reviews are the most important aspect of online marketing, especially for small, local businesses. These days, when people want to buy things the first thing they do is start looking for reviews. Google reviews are the first thing that pop up on Google searches. When people search out a business – plumbers, for example – they don’t just search out “plumbers,” or even “plumbers near me.” They search out “Best plumber near me.” Google uses user-reviews to determine “best” and brings up search results accordingly. If you aren’t getting good reviews, then your local business will swiftly sink to the second and third page results where they’ll never get seen.
How do you get reviews? The solution is simple: the best way to get reviews is to ask for them. Most people swiftly forget about a business they’ve gone to until they need its services again, so a little reminder helps. A lot of people are afraid to ask for reviews. There are three main reasons why.
1. They Take It Personally
Businesses that really rely on reviews are small, local businesses with one or two locations. They tend to be run by families, or individuals rather than giant corporations. While local businesses have a lot of unique personality that can make them appealing, it does mean the business will have some personal foibles.
Some local businesses are run by people who put a lot of work into what they do. While this is usually what makes their businesses worth going to, that investment makes it personal to the owner. A lot of small business owners are afraid to ask for reviews simply because they take negative reviews personally. A negative review isn’t just a negative review, it’s a personal attack on that individual.
Tip: Don’t take it personally, you can’t please everyone and truthfully online searchers don’t expect a perfect 5 star average.
2. They Worry It Will Hurt Their Rating
This fear is more understandable. Many people worry that if they get negative reviews it will hurt their business. While too many negative reviews can damage your business’s reputation and search rankings, no reviews hurt it even worse. If your business has no reviews, Google will rank you the lowest and place you last in the search results. This will forever prevent growth.
The truth is, negative reviews shouldn’t be a worry if your business provides good service. If you’re doing a good job, people will like your service and when they review it, they will give you a good review. You should be more worried about making sure your business is doing its best, rather than worrying about what your customers will think.
Furthermore, customers are savvy. If there’s one thing that raises eyebrows more than a lack of reviews, it’s 100% positive reviews. No matter how good you are, you’re always going to get a bad review. Someone having a bad day will decide to leave a bad review out of spite. Maybe they’ll buy a product and then decide it’s not what they wanted and leave a negative review despite none of that being your fault. It’s also inevitable that you’re going to make a mistake in your human imperfection and that might earn you a bad review.
Tip: Potential customers know this and expect to see some negative reviews. If you have a rare or occasional bad review, but the majority are positive potential customers will look at the bad ones with more skeptical eyes.
Bad reviews are also an opportunity to show off your business. If you go out of your way to respond well to a bad review, it can even turn a bitter customer into a loyal customer and increase sales from potential customers.
3. They Fear It Will Go Viral
This is the worst-case scenario for reviews. A quick Google search will turn up plenty of examples of other times when negative reviews went viral, it is very rare but it does happen.
While this is devastating for your business in the short run, there are two things to keep in mind. First, most of the time, negative viral reviews are temporary. The internet loves to make a big deal out of whatever gets its attention, but said attention is flighty. Something else will soon take your place as the new viral outrage sensation.
Secondly, negative reviews don’t just go viral on their own. The one thing that all negative viral reviews have in common is an inappropriate response from the business. All of those businesses ended up drawing more attention to the negative review by their attempts to suppress or counteract it – this is what we call the Streisand Effect.
In one case the owner didn’t honor a gift certificate because it was issued almost 2 years prior. . . but it didn’t have an expiration date. A simple apology up front and a minor loss to the business would’ve prevented the whole situation. Instead, when the customer left a negative review, the owner of the business responded in a direct and hostile manner. The long thread of negativity was a magnet for people who thrive on drama and within a few days, the event was being posted all over social media and message boards.
Remember that bad reviews are unlikely to go viral unless you do something to make it happen. In many cases there are legal actions you can take to help as long as you’ve done your best to be ethical.
Tip: Don’t respond to negativity with more negativity. Keep calm and try to solve problems when they arise. Do not attempt to suppress negative feedback, as people are quick to screenshot everything. If people see you removing negative reviews, they’ll be quick to post deleted content on social media, causing things to go out of control quickly.
How Do I Ask For Reviews?
This is the million dollar question. How do I ask customers for review? Well, there are a few simple things to try.
1. Ask Directly
Yeah, sometimes it’s as simple as that. These days, hotels will hand out business cards directing visitors to where they can review their hotel. You can do the same. It doesn’t need to be a business card. It could be a note on the receipt, or it could be an insert in the packaging of your goods.
If your business is one that sees you dealing directly with customers, then you can ask them face to face. Asking directly can be the most effective way to get reviews. If it’s a regular customer, asking them to make a review will make them feel an obligation to respond. If they really appreciate your services, they’ll be more than happy to help you out.
Be careful, though; you should never incentivize employees to get reviews. In the past, some businesses have offered bonuses to their employees for positive reviews. This has always backfired. More often than not, employees will make fake accounts to post positive reviews, which is fraudulent and could get you banned from Google, or even charged with a crime.
2. Use Automated Follow Up
Sometimes, even people who like your services will forget to leave a review. It’s perfectly normal because of how busy our schedules get. That’s why a little reminder is always appreciated. We use automation programs that ask your customers via e-mail or SMS text, and then give gentle reminders if they forget to leave a review. You’ll need the customer’s permission to email or text them. Make sure you explain it to the customer when you get their e-mail address so that they can be expecting it.
You might worry that this reminder will annoy your customers, but that’s not the case at all. We’ve found that proper use of automation can double or even quadruple the number of reviews you get.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
If you’re a local business, you need those reviews. Reviews are the most important factor for determining how you get ranked in search results. If you have no reviews, it’s worse than having negative ones. If you want to get reviews, you’re going to have to ask for them. You need to learn how to do that. It will take a bit of experimentation to find out what the best way is for your business. Once you do, you’ll find your business will grow much faster than before.
Don’t worry about negative reviews. If you focus on giving great customer service, and look on every negative review as an opportunity to improve your business, then you’ll never have any reason to worry.
You don’t have to do it on your own, though. Here at Atlas, we make it our business to help you in all aspects of online marketing and that includes reviews. We have the tools and experience to help you get reviews from your best customers. If you want some help, or just want a chance to learn more, feel free to get in touch with us. We’ll give you a free consultation and help you set up the best marketing strategy for your business. Call us to day and see how we can help.