The Importance of Online Reviews for your Local Business

The Importance of Online Reviews for your Local Business

As a small business owner do you wonder why you don’t rank better on Google searches? Or show up on the Google map? There could be a lot of reasons, but one reason might be that you don’t have many (or any) online reviews.

Not only do reviews help you with your Google rankings, but they provide potential customers with the social proof they look for when making decisions.

Think about your own behavior

When you’re looking for a product or service, how much do reviews influence your buying decisions? Do you read five star reviews and one star reviews on Amazon before clicking “Add to cart?” Do you search for things like “Best plumbers in Seattle” or “Home printer reviews” to help you make a decision? Most people do. So, most people will do the same before choosing you.

Whether they found you online or were referred to you by someone, people will want to know if you have a good reputation before spending their money. It’s called social proof. It’s like how nobody wants to eat in an empty restaurant.

So, how do you go about getting online reviews?

First you need to consider where you want your customers to post reviews for your business. Google My Business would be one. Yelp might be another. You should also consider social media platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn. Other places depend on your industry, so a good way of figuring where you should get reviews is to just start searching.

Google Search Bar

Search for reviews for your particular service or product

For example if you’re a landscape architect, type in “Seattle Landscape Architects Reviews” and you’ll see that Google returns:

  1. First some sites that have paid advertising…
  2. Then a Google map with local landscape architects listed.
  3. Then a few articles from Yelp, like “The 10 Best Landscape Architects in Seattle, WA”
  4. Then an article on “Best 25 Landscape Architects and Designers in Seattle Metro Area”
  5. An article on “The 10 Best Landscape Architects and Designers in Seattle, WA”
  6. And a link to  “3 Best Landscape Architects – Seattle, WA”

This tells me that you should consider getting reviews on Google (Google My Business), Yelp, Houzz, Porch, and Home Advisor. (Of course your results will be specific to your industry.)

Sign up for review platforms

After you’ve figured out where to get reviews, the next thing to do is set up an account on these sites and add your business information: address, phone number, hours of operation etc. Each site is different, but you can usually add a description of your business as well as some photos. It’s very important that you make sure that your information is accurate and consistent on all platforms.

Start asking for reviews

Starry Eyed About ReviewsSo you’ve got all of your accounts set up and you’re ready for some reviews! Now what? Reviews aren’t going to happen auto-magically, so you need to be proactive. You need to start asking for them. And while that might make you uncomfortable, you’d be surprised at how willing people are to help you out, especially after a great experience.

Make it part of your business process

The best time to ask for a review is as soon as you’ve completed the job, while your client is still thinking about you. Otherwise they will move on with their busy lives and it will never cross their minds again. Here’s when you might ask for a review and/or a referral:

  • When you send out an invoice, close with a thank you and a review request.
  • When you receive payment send a “payment received” notice that includes a thank you and a review and referral request.
  • If you don’t send invoices, you could send a follow up thank you note that asks for a review.
  • Celebrate a milestone at six months or a year, or send an email that says “just checking in to see how you’re enjoying your new ____ ” and ask for a review too.

Here’s an example of what you might say:

I have received your final payment and I wanted to say thank you so much for choosing to work with me. I’d be very grateful if you could take a moment to review your experience. You can do so here: Google BusinessFacebook, or LinkedIn. And if you know anyone that could benefit from my services, please send them my way. Thank you!

Make it easy for your customer

Don’t make your customer have to figure out how to leave a review. Make it easy for them by including a link to the review site, like in the example above. Here’s a short video that shows you how to create an email with links to Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

IMPORTANT: Don’t include a link for Yelp! Yelp has an automatic filtering system that may block your review because it came from an email with your business domain name on it. Instead, say something like“Please visit, search for our business, and leave us a review.”

Don’t be afraid of negative reviews

don't freak outA lot of my clients have said that they don’t want to be on Yelp because they’re afraid they’ll get bad reviews that damage their reputation. And I get that. Plus Yelp is just one more thing on your list that you’ll need to deal with. But how many times have you searched for something, like a restaurant or a plumber, and the first thing that came up was a link to Yelp? Why is everyone else on Yelp? Because, like it or not, people use it.

Yes, there are trolls out there, and people who only review their worst experiences. However, the majority of online reviews are positive ones, and if you make asking for reviews part of your business processes, you are very likely going to get some very good reviews.

If you do get a bad review, DON’T FREAK OUT

Do this instead:

  1. Take in a deep breath and tell yourself, “This a learning experience, and an opportunity to improve my business.” And exhale. Here’s the thing about bad reviews…
    • They’re normal. You see them all the time. Bad reviews happen to good businesses.
    • They show you’re a real business with real reviews. If you have nothing but perfect 5 star reviews all the time, people might be suspicious of their authenticity.
    • The reviewer might have had a bad day and for some reason their expectations just didn’t match up with their experience.
    • The information provided by the reviewer may give someone else a clearer picture of what you’re offering. No product or service is meant for everyone. You want to serve your target audience.
  2. Respond quickly, professionally, and publicly. Apologize for the bad experience or problem and explain that this is uncommon. Offer to handle the matter off-line and provide your contact information.
  3. Follow up with your resolution. Once you’ve resolved the problem, post a public comment on how the matter was resolved.

IMPORTANT:  If you get a review that is obviously fake, misleading, or defamatory report it and get it removed.

Be brave

It took me a while to get the courage to ask for my first online review. I’m not sure why I was so nervous to click the ‘send’ button on that email, but within minutes my client had posted the nicest most perfect review on Google. It made me so happy, and it took away my fear. And now I ask for them regularly. So go on. Start getting reviews!

Good luck! And please contact me if you need help.

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