As a digital marketing agency in Charleston, SC, we get asked whether online reviews are important to their business. We’ve noticed that many businesses are reluctant to manage customer reviews on business review sites because they don’t want to end up receiving negative online business reviews. We’ve also noticed that some businesses simply have unmanaged online reviews across multiple business review websites. The business isn’t responding to any reviews and is signaling that the business doesn’t care enough about its customers.
Unfortunately, any business that ignores online reviews is missing out and hurting their business through inaction because online reputation drives conversion. That’s why, in this article, we’ll explain why online reviews are VERY important, how to easily get more positive online reviews for your business and the best and easiest way to manage your online reviews.
Why Are Online Reviews Important to Your Business?
In case you haven’t already noticed, we’re living in the age of the “empowered consumer.” In this age, a single positive review can reach more people than a national TV ad campaign. Likewise, a bad review can spread faster and more broadly and can devastate your company’s sales. Each year, more and more websites allow consumers to leave an online review. For example, consumers can leave reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, Trip Advisor, BBB, Yellowpages, Angie’s List, Lawyers.com, and many more sites. With so many review sites out on the internet and so much potential for reviews to impact your business both positively or negatively, it is critical that businesses pay attention to what consumers are saying about them online.
Before we dive into statistics about the importance of online reviews, think about how often you personally check out reviews for business, products and services, movies, and more. Personally, here are the things that I check out (and I’ll be you do too):
- Movie Reviews – I check Rotten Tomatoes before I go to see a movie. Most of the time, if a movie has bad reviews, I’ll pass on going to the theater and wait for the movie to come out as a rental.
- Product Reviews – Before I buy anything online such as products from Amazon, I will read all of the reviews. If the reviews are positive, I’ll add to my cart. However, I will not buy a product that has poor reviews.
- Service Reviews – In the past year, I’ve made improvements to my home including some remodeling and roof repair. Before I called any of the home services companies I used, I checked out their reviews online. If the company had no reviews, I went on to the next. If they had poor reviews, I went on to the next on my list until I finally called those who had positive customer reviews.
As it turns out, I am not alone in using online business reviews to help me decide what to buy or who to hire. According to industry statistics, a whopping 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. Moreover, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
How Much Can a Bad Review Hurt My Business?
The short answer is “a lot.” Granted, it is challenging to calculate an actual value for the cost of a bad online reputation. However, it is estimated that the overall annual cost of unhappy customers is more than $540 billion.
Here is a specific example of how United Airlines lost BIG due to the bad reputation it received starting with a single customer incident. After United damaged a guitar and refused to pay for it, the guitar’s owner wrote a song about his experience. After more than 15 million online views, United’s stock fell by 10% in the weeks following the video’s release resulting in the loss of about $180 million. Ouch!
Here’s another brief example. One of our clients, who owns several retail stores, received a customer complaint on Facebook that a salesperson had racially profiled the customer. The business’s initial response on Facebook was defensive and inadequate. Afterwards, the customer’s mother started leaving online negative reviews on many sites and sharing the incident on social media. Here’s the kicker – the offended mother was a national celebrity. As a result of the mother’s online complaints, the business received over 600 negative reviews on Facebook, over 1,000 negative mentions on Twitter, and several hundred negative reviews on Yelp. To make matters worse, the situation was covered by local news stations, then by many online news reports, and finally by CNN. In other words, this local business’s reputation was being trashed nationally! Fortunately for our customer, we were able to come up with a solution for the business to respond to the news media, to remove the negative reviews, and to make genuine amends for the mother and her daughter.
Now that I’ve emphasized the need for every business to pay attention to their online reputation and the need for ongoing online reputation management, let’s take a deeper dive into how to accomplish these goals without spending hours searching the web for your reviews, responding to them, or trying to entice your customers to leave you positive reviews online. First, I will layout how to manage your business’s online reviews for free. Then, I’ll lay out a much more efficient and effective paid solution.
How to Monitor Your Business’s Online Reviews for Free
For those of you do-it-yourselfers, there are a number of free, easy-to-use tools for you to monitor your business’s online reputation. Here a few examples:
- Google Alerts – Google Alerts lets you to easily monitor the web for new content. Simply sign into your Google account, visit https://www.google.com/alerts, and add keywords and phrases that interest you, such as the name of your law firm. Then, Google Alerts will send you an email notifying you of new content on the internet that matches your terms. You can also customize the frequency of these alerts such as daily or weekly.
- Perch – Perch is an app for iPhones and Android and a web-based app that monitors activity on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Yelp. When someone leaves your firm a review on Facebook or Yelp, you’ll get a notification on your phone.
- Yelp Biz – This app, for iPhone and Android, allows you to monitor your firm’s listings, receive notifications of reviews, respond to reviews, and report inappropriate reviews (discussed below).
- Google My Business – Among other things, this app for iPhone and Android allows you monitor and respond to reviews left by Google users.
- Facebook – Like the other apps I described, the Facebook app will notify you whenever someone leaves your firm a review and allows you to respond.
- Twitter Dashboard – Released in June 2016, this app has features similar to the Twitter app but also allows you to monitor mentions of your brand.
Although these apps will help you monitor what consumers are saying about you online, using several apps is cumbersome because you have to check multiple apps, etc. to aggregate all of your online reviews. Also, when you get reviews, you have to log into different websites to respond to these reviews. Consequently, many businesses simply don’t have the time to keep up, and reviews are ignored.
How to Get Online Reviews for Free
If you are looking for a free way to increase the online reviews for your business, then use email to ask your customers to leave reviews on sites such as Yelp, Google, and Facebook. Here is an example:
Would you recommend us to your friends and family? If so, please visit the following sites to leave a review or comment:
Go to: INSERT YOUR GOOGLE BUSINESS PAGE URL HERE
Login and click on the “Write a review” link.
Go to: INSERT YOUR FACEBOOK BUSINESS PAGE URL HERE
1 Please “Like” our Page.
2 Go to “Reviews” on the left side of our Page’s Timeline
3 Click the “Write Review” button
4 Click the gray stars to choose a rating and write an optional review
5 Click “Public” or “Friends” to select your audience
6 Click Post
Go to: INSERT YOUR YELP BUSINESS PAGE URL HERE
Click on the “Write a review” link.
There are several downsides to asking for reviews via email:
- First, many people don’t regularly check their emails and, in many cases, ignore incoming emails.
- Second, sending individual emails is time-consuming.
- Third, even if you generate an email blast to your customer list, it would take time and effort to figure out who responded and who didn’t.
- Lastly, when you send out emails, you run the risk of inviting a negative public review. So, many businesses are highly selective about which customers they target. Consequently, by ignoring customers who may have had a bad experience, these customers are more likely to leave you negative reviews online.
The BEST Way to Manage Your Business’s Online Reviews
To simplify the process of getting positive reviews and managing all online reviews, my company offers an affordable, easy-to-use, and automated platform that addresses everything your business needs to manage your reputation online. Here’s how:
1. Automatic New Review Collection
Our system lets your business gather new reviews from your customers via automated SMS and MMS alerts sent to their mobile devices and directs them to crucial sites to post on such as Google and Facebook. We customize all text messages and emails to fit your brand.
2. Custom Review Website
We set up a customized business micro-site displaying all of your best reviews with information about your business — optimized for search engines and indexed by Google.
3. Review Monitoring
We collect your reviews from all the top sites like Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Citysearch — so you can easily monitor what your customers are saying about you in real-time. Additionally, you can respond to all reviews by logging into an online dashboard that we set up for you.
4. Review Distribution
Our system automatically publishes the reviews of your choice on any site you manage — your website, blog, and social pages like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
5. Reputation Control
Using our system, you can respond to and manage any negative reviews and keep negative reviews private and confidential.