Website reviews can be either a blessing or a curse to businesses. Used correctly, they can be your biggest asset and a HUGE plus to your Local and Organic SEO ranking. In this quick guide, we dive a little deeper into why reviews are necessary in order to compete in your industry, where you should be acquiring reviews, and how you should be asking for them. We hope you can use these tips to help improve your online presence and get better reviews for your business.

Why Get Online Reviews?

For many businesses, you’re getting reviews whether you want to or not. If your business information is posted anywhere online, it is likely that people can leave a review. Monitoring these reviews and promoting them can help tremendously with your online reputation and customer service management. Aside from this, online reviews play a key role in both your Organic SEO and your Local SEO.

How Reviews Help Your Technical SEO

Technical SEO includes the nitty-gritty of both on-page and off-page SEO. On-page SEO is anything that occurs within your site such as writing metadata, title tags, or keyword optimization. Off-page SEO is anything that occurs outside of your website such as social referrals, business listings, backlinks from other websites, and reviews. SEO is an ongoing process with a lot of moving pieces. Positive reviews have consistently been a top-ranked SEO factor for both Local & Organic SEO rankings. From an analytical perspective, a business that displays positive reviews is significantly more likely to be visited which increases your “Click-Through-Rate” in search results. Click-through-rate is the ratio between how often your website is seen vs. how often it is clicked on in a search result. A higher click-through-rate shows Google that your website offers appeal to potential searchers. Likewise, if a customer has read positive reviews about your business, they enter into your website with a positive attitude and a higher likelihood of visiting several pages. This reduces your bounce rate. Your website acquires a high bounce rate when a visitor enters your website, visits only one page, then leaves. Google values websites that show engagement from your customer. This includes higher Read Times and lower Bounce Rates. You want people to visit your site, visit several pages, and read more content. According to research from Bright Local,

“Research shows¬†that 91 percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. And they make that decision quickly: 68 percent form an opinion after¬†reading between one and six online reviews.”

Including reviews on your website can increase the likelihood of someone reviewing your content for longer and forming a better impression of your business. It’s a simple, valuable asset to include that can improve your technical SEO considerably.

How Reviews Help Your Marketing

Aside from the technical side, reviews also help with overall marketing and customer relations. Monitoring your online listings for positive and negative reviews can improve your overall service and show that you genuinely care about the feedback from your customers. Never miss an opportunity to show potential customers the value of your product or service. Even negative reviews can be used to your advantage when done correctly. I go into more depth about how to do this at the bottom of this article.

Where to Get Online Reviews

Before you can direct your customers to leave the review, you need to decide the best location to send them. Where to get reviews largely depends on your industry. For example, e-commerce websites can prompt a review for the product either during or after the purchase. These reviews provide a lot of value to the customer before their purchase and can be the one factor that pushes them to buy. For most other businesses, general review sites such as Yelp, Yellow Pages, and Google My Business are excellent places to get started. For some specific industries, there are niche citation sites that provide additional value to their client base.

Review websites (Citations)

Review websites are often called “citations.” Citation sites can be very simple, free, and easy-to-use. They typically require that the business “claim” or “verify” their listing either via a phone confirmation to the business number or by mailing a verification postcard to the business address. Once verified, you will have access to edit your listing as well as respond to reviews. The top review websites or citations

You can also submit your business to an aggregator. Aggregators will submit your business information to multiple listings. Aggregators can sometimes cost money but can save you a lot of time overall. A few examples of aggregators include:

Niche Citation Sites

There are some review websites that cater to a specific industry. These can be particularly valuable since they lend a stronger reputation to your business. A few examples include:

How to Get Online Reviews

Now that you have a grasp on the value of gathering reviews, it’s time to ask for them. There are a handful of methods for acquiring reviews. We’ve outlined a few of them below.

Just Ask

The simplest way to get online reviews is to ask for them. Depending on your industry, you more than likely interact with your customer on some sort of personal level. For service industry businesses such as contractors, auto shops, massage clinics, health clinics, clothing boutiques, dental offices, you have staff that can prompt the customer to leave a review after a good interaction. Train your staff to request reviews and provide either a quick QR code to easily pull up the review site or to tell them the best places to leave the review.

QR Codes

QR codes are free and easy to generate. They are a simple block code you can print on marketing materials. When a customer views the code with their Smartphone camera, it will automatically prompt them to open up the website hidden within the code.

Email links

If you send out invoices to your clients, it is helpful to add a handful of review links to the footer of your email. Similarly, you can add a “Leave Us a Review” link to the bottom of all email correspondence. Any way you can make leaving a review for your business as easy as possible will increase the likelihood of someone leaving you a review online.

Automated Emails

Many businesses benefit from email marketing with Newsletter programs such as Mailchimp. For loyal customers, it can be helpful to send out a “Leave Us a Review” email. Keep it simple, non-invasive, and clear. Don’t do this too frequently for your mail list as it could have the opposite effect. This is not an unusual approach for product-based industries such as e-commerce websites or online fitness programs. This can be an effective method for industries that never physically interact with their customers.

A Word on Negative Reviews

Google tends to be closed-lipped about what factors actually influence SEO. However, they cite replying to reviews as an important factor in how they view the success of your Google listing. While no one wants to give negative reviews the time of day (especially if they appear fraudulent), it is valuable both to Google and to potential customers to see a response either way. Whenever answering a negative review, there are a few tips to ensuring that the response adds value to your business:

  1. Take a breath. Don’t immediately reply to a negative review since you may not approach a particularly scathing review with a clear head.
  2. Don’t wait too long to reply. Don’t ignore a negative review. Google pays attention to your responses and so do potential customers. Respond promptly (within a few days).
  3. Read the review carefully and take note of their particular complaint. Is there any legitimacy to their complaint? If the review is real and the client has an actual reason to be upset then you have a few options:
    • Always thank the client for their review, if it is legitimate.
    • Request to speak with them to resolve the issue, provide your direct phone number or email and sign as a representative in management.
    • If the issue was a known problem, inform them that you are actively working to improve the situation or that it has since been improved.
    • Reinforce your company’s values throughout the reply. For example, “At [company], providing superior customer service is one of our highest priorities. We appreciate your feedback and have used it to further improve our service. We apologize for any inconvenience and hope to see you again soon.”
  4. If the review appears fraudulent, use one of the following methods:
    • Explain that you have no record of the customer visiting your location or purchasing your product/service.
    • Ask if they intended to leave the review for another company.
    • Tell them that you value feedback from all customers but you need more information to verify where, when, or how they used your product or service.
    • Flag the review as either spam or fake with your citation site.
  5. Always be polite, no matter the status of the review.
  6. Never reveal personal or private information regarding their visit or purchase.
  7. Always provide a way for them to reach out via either phone or email to resolve the issue.
  8. Never incentivize anyone to remove a review through discounts or payment.