Committing to a professional, ongoing reputation management strategy is imperative, and not only because online reviews are great for business. Online reviews are also among the most valuable, and underappreciated, of all SEO-ranking factors. The quantity and quality of genuine reviews are not only a major local SEO ranking factor, but they also help close the online sales loop. First they find you. Then they recognize that you are better than the next best person. Then they buy from you.
So how do you ensure that you get great reviews?
Here are 5 tips to bolster your strategy:
1. People prefer to review people.
When was the last time you read a review about the outstanding way in which a toilet was unclogged? My guess is never. But you may have come across a review of an outstanding plumber who is clean, friendly, punctual, and prices fairly. That’s because, when it comes to reviews, it’s all about the people. People are motivated to review exceptional experiences (whether positive or negative), and experiences are created by people. That’s why it’s so important to go beyond just getting the job done and providing the best service possible.
Even if you’re selling a product rather than a service, people matter. Put customer service first and try to build a relationship with your customers. Include a personal note with the item or send a follow-up email. If the customer reaches out with a problem, apologize and fix it immediately. Let them know how much you value their business. It’s the extra touches that make buyers see the people behind the product and want to leave a great review.
2. Even with reviews, content is king.
It should go without saying that posting fake reviews for your business is never a good idea. It’s easy to distinguish the fake from the authentic, and if you get caught, it can irreparably undermine your reputation. But thin reviews — i.e., “they did a great job!” — don’t inspire much confidence either.
Detailed reviews containing keywords are far more valuable than generic ones. They read well and give you additional ranking credit for the content of the review. To get those, try asking your clients to leave a “testimonial” and to specifically mention the product or service they purchased or used. Ideally, they’ll also describe their experience and why it was so great.
3. Getting reviews takes tenacity and perseverance.
When you ask customers directly, they’ll usually agree to write a review (as long as they had a good experience). But how often do they actually do it? You need to develop an online reputation management strategy and do a few things you can do to help give them that extra nudge.
First, make it as easy as possible for them. Develop a routine with simple instructions. Print out a basic feedback form on a business card, for example. Have a system for following up — either through a thank you email or a phone call — to try to capture every review you can. And set up an online review funnel that make the process super easy. Don’t be afraid to offer an incentive for leaving feedback, just don’t make leaving a review a requirement for claiming a bonus offer. And make sure to thank people for their reviews, so they are more likely to leave one again.
4. You’ve got to give to get.
When you’re first starting to build your online review profile, leave reviews for companies in your existing partner and referral network. Not only will helping these companies ultimately serve your best interests, but they are likely to return the favor. Sometimes giving a review first is all it takes to get the ball rolling. Social networking sites like LinkedIn and Google are amazing at generating reciprocal reviews for your company.
But eventually, you want to focus your efforts on gathering reviews on a platform you can control. This is important because other sites can filter reviews based on the author’s activity or can even shut down. So set up a mini-website or a web page to collect reviews in one place.
5. Capture and repair negative reviews.
Here’s another way in which review funnels are great: they help you intercept, respond, and try to repair a bad review. Not all complaints will be solvable, but if you try hard enough, you can turn many of those lemons into lemonade.
People underrate review response, but the data shows that it has a strong impact on turning negative reviews into positive ones for your company. It’s also worth pointing out that reputation management isn’t just important in terms of local SEO rankings and lead generation; it’s a critical opportunity to provide genuine customer service and show just how great a business you are.
Remember that, at the end of the day, reviews hook the customer, but it’s your website and process that reel them in. If a client sees great reviews but then finds a weak web presence, you will lose leads. And if you have holes in your inbound marketing process, you’ll lose sales. But combine an effective website and a strong inbound marketing plan with great SEO rankings and online reviews and you’re bound to surpass your yearly business objectives.