The evolution of online review sites over the past few years has been a boon to both small businesses and consumers. As a small business, review sites give you a greater online presence. Sites like Yelp, Google, Yahoo! Local, Angie’s List and a myriad of others give a small business the opportunity to shine online. For consumers, review sites give them the opportunity to research and gain insight on a product or business – whether it be a restaurant, dry cleaner, or salon – before they even step foot inside the door.

Why are review sites are so important to small businesses?

Not surprisingly, online review sites and their impact on consumer decision making continues to rise at an exponential rate. Here are a few recent stats from various consumer surveys:

  • 90% of consumers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.
  • 85% of consumers use online reviews to find local businesses.
  • Restaurants are, by far, more likely to be reviewed online. However, doctors/dentists, hotels/bed & breakfasts and salons are also up there for most reviewed business types.
  • 73% of consumers say that positive customer reviews make them trust a business more.

Source: 2013 BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey and 2013 Dimensional Research survey.

Your potential customers are forming an opinion of your business before they ever even enter your store, restaurant, or visit your website. Knowing how to handle the feedback you receive on review sites is also crucial to managing your online reputation. Here are some dos and don’ts you should abide by when it comes to review sites:

The Dos: 

  • Do, first and foremost, review your reviews, and often. See what people are saying about your products or services. Do it on a consistent basis so you can respond (when needed) in a timely manner.
  • Do actively participate with reviewers. Whether you receive positive, middle of the road, or negative reviews, when appropriate, reach out to those reviewers. Depending upon the review, you can do so by responding publicly on the site if available, send a private message or even pick up the phone.
  • Do solicit reviews wisely and carefully. Consumers are more likely trust a review of your business based on a significant number of reviews. The more, the better. If you don’t have many reviews on more popular review sites, you can simply ask customers to do so. However, several review sites warn caution with this tactic. Don’t be overly aggressive, don’t ask for 5 stars, and do not penalize people for negative reviews! Something as simple as, “Thanks have a great day. If you get a chance, I’d love to have you share your thoughts about my store on Yelp,” should suffice.

 The Don’ts:

  • Don’t freak out because you get a negative review. You can’t control what someone will write about you online. You can only control your own customer service that you provide. Typically, consumers who use review sites will read an average of 6 or more reviews before making up their mind. One bad apple may not spoil the barrel in this instance.
  • Don’t respond to a negative review when you’re angry. The last thing you’ll want to do when you read a negative review is respond back immediately to that reviewer in a defensive (or even offensive) way. Read the review, step away. When you have some perspective, do respond in a respectful tone. Users of review sites will appreciate the fact that you are reading reviews and are engaged in your business. It shows you care about what people are writing about you.
  • Don’t write reviews about yourself. It’s tempting, but don’t do it. Writing “fake” reviews and submitting them yourself is really disingenuous to the spirit of review sites an most sites can detect this faux reviews and will take them down.
  • Don’t offer bribes for good reviewsDon’t offer discounts, incentives or freebies to solicit 5 star reviews. Instead, show your customers you’re really interested in what they have to say. Identify which review sites have the most impact on your business and display those review sites’ logos in your shop or on your website. This will encourage users to leave reviews, and on the flip side, look you up as well.

Hope these tips help you in managing your online reputation on review sites. Have any other ideas that may help? Leave them in the comments below.

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© 2014, Kathy McGovern. All rights reserved.

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