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Attracting Online Reviews for Your Small Business

Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.
If your business depends on local or regional customers, cultivating and responding to online reviews can be an effective way to expand your company’s reach and target market. Attracting Online Reviews for Your Small Business

Because more customers rely on reviews as they search for service providers, restaurants and other businesses near them, investing time in asking for reviews help you promote your business and reach a motivated audience cost-effectively.

Estimates vary about the percentages of consumers who examine online reviews as they search for products and services they are interested in or need. But if you set the specifics aside, it’s easy to understand that most consumers depend on what others have to say and that online reviews are worth pursuing.

The Benefits of Reviews

Favorable online reviews can have direct and indirect benefits for your business. The most important benefit is that reviews in which people say favorable things about what you do can inspire interested consumers to visit your business or website to learn more.

Indirectly, having favorable reviews is an important factor in how your company ranks in search engine results. Once you receive more than five reviews on your Google Business Profile, for instance, Google displays an average of your review score as part of your listing. Perhaps more importantly, they’ll display businesses with more favorable averages over those with a lower average.

In addition, responding quickly to unfavorable comments demonstrates to the displeased customer – and other customers who see the review – that you’re responsive to complaints and want to fix any less-than-ideal experiences a customer may have. A negative review can also provide important feedback about areas your company needs to improve.

If you do receive a negative review, it’s important to thank the customer for their feedback and extend an invitation for them to contact your business to resolve the situation. Most customers will overlook one or two bad reviews if you respond appropriately, and how you respond to the review is probably more important than the content of the review itself.

Asking for Reviews

Given the importance of online reviews and promoting your business, it’s a good idea to cultivate a habit of asking for them. Probably the most effective way to start is by sending emails to customers who’ve just done business with you to make sure they are satisfied. If so, you can send or place a follow-up email or phone call asking them to consider posting a review.

While not every customer will be interested in leaving a review, asking for them systematically will increase the overall number of reviews your company receives.

You can also include messages inviting customers to leave a review in your email signature, your company website and your social media profiles.

Practices to Avoid

And just as there are acceptable ways to ask for online reviews, there are a number of unscrupulous practices that business owners should avoid to prevent their reviews from being ignored or discredited by the search engines.

For example, you shouldn’t:

  • Offer an incentive or payment for a favorable review
  • Ask employees or family members to review your company
  • Pay another company to leave multiple favorable reviews for your business
  • Post a review on behalf of a customer
  • Review your own company

Any of these practices will violate the terms of service of a reputable review site and can negate the value of your legitimate favorable reviews.

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