4 Go-Tos To Make Online Reviews Work For Your Business

By now, everyone knows that online reviews can have a tremendous impact on consumers’ purchasing decisions. Ultimately, a single review — positive or negative — can tip the scale in favor of one company over another. No doubt, the power of reviews on Google+, Yelp, Angie’s List and other local search directories continues to mount.

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Review prominence in search results is also rising, as they often appear for a business just below their company website and make up the majority of the corresponding top 10 search results.

Major search and review sites weight online reviews very highly, and the online “word-of-mouth” credibility they offer local businesses is huge. Reviews are gold citations for local marketers, and without them, many businesses risk not being found in local search results.

However, it hasn’t been easy for local businesses to generate reviews, particularly outside of the hospitality industry. Demonstrating the challenge, Saurage Research found that while 84 percent of Americans say consumer reviews influence their purchase decisions, only 28 percent have written reviews — often when they’ve had a negative experience rather than a positive one. Not to mention that, in order to mitigate fake reviews, many legitimate reviews are getting stuck in review site filters. (We’ve all heard about Yelp’s overactive review filter.)

Reviews are critical to online visibility and in getting leads to convert. Surprisingly, a brand or business can win the overall online visibility game — appearing high in search results — but then lose prospect interest or a customer lead because they either have negative reviews circulating the web or, worse, no reviews at all.

With all of these challenges, how can local marketers reap the benefits of online reviews for the best local search visibility?

1. Examine Current Review & Online Reputation

Local businesses should first evaluate their visibility across major review sites and directories, e.g., Angie’s List, Google+, Yelp, YP.com, and any relevant vertical-specific review sites. If a business doesn’t have a presence on these sites, they should create or update their listing or business profile to improve SEO.

Once a profile is created, businesses receive notifications when new reviews are posted. Monitoring existing reviews and customer feedback is also a good way to see how staff is doing across many or a few business locations.

2. Address All Feedback

It might seem natural to address only negative reviews, but business owners should respond to all reviews and ratings whether positive or negative. This makes an excellent impact on all future prospects reading reviews.

Furthermore, negative reviews have the potential to stay online for years, so it is important to deal with any issues quickly and provide resolution for the customer. As long as the majority of reviews aren’t negative, people will value the business’ professional approach and responsiveness.

3. Build Review Generation Into Workflows

Asking for online reviews shouldn’t be overwhelming, and local businesses need to make it easy for their team to encourage loyal customers to provide reviews. Placing a Yelp sticker on the business’ door, offering customers a printed card with instructions on how to leave a review, or even just making a verbal request, are all perfectly legitimate ways to encourage customers to leave feedback. Customer reviews are some of the most compelling marketing content available to businesses and have the greatest potential to influence new customers.

If a simple process is set up for employees to request a quick review — it might even be valuable to offer employees incentives for gaining reviews — the collection and promotion of reviews can be easier. For certain service-based businesses, e.g., home improvement contractors, asking for a testimonial via a video or taking a photo with a customer and the completed job quickly shows the inherent stamp of approval and is easily shared across social media channels.

4. Amplify Good Reviews

When a local business generates good reviews, it should always use those testimonials to their advantage by posting them on their website and/or Facebook page, including them within a company newsletter and sharing them with employees, since good reviews serve as a good team morale booster. Businesses need to circulate these reviews as wide as possible since they demonstrate their quality or leadership role within their industry.

Review filters are a double-edged sword for local businesses. On one hand, they can be very helpful for weeding out negative reviews written by a competitor or an unjustified, unruly customer. They can also prevent good reviews written by real people from making it online.

To prevent this from happening, local businesses should “follow” Yelp reviewers who have posted positive, filtered reviews in order to boost their credibility. Yelp reviewers can often help push their reviews through the filter if they complete their profile information by adding a picture, connecting their profile to their Facebook page or providing reviews on a frequent basis.

Good, bad or ugly — what has your online review experience been?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Foursquare | Google: +1 | How To: Links | Local Search Column | Search Engines: Maps & Local Search Engines | Social Media Marketing | Top News | Yelp


About The Author: is the Founder and CEO of Surefire Social, a provider of local digital marketing services and technology. With a coaching-centric approach, Surefire Social raises businesses' local search presence through hyper-local search, display, social and mobile strategies.

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  • http://wtff.com/ JustConsumer

    For businesses :

    Don’t publish fake positive reviews all around.
    Any review page has the comments area. If your business is not as good as described, then sooner or later comments area will uncover the reality.
    Remember, that when you create fake positive review, you also create the place where opinions of your customers will be collected for years.

  • http://jameshalloran.net/ James R. Halloran

    Good thoughts on this, Chris. But the problem with such third-party review sites is they tend to extort business owners for ad money in order to release some of those “suspicious” good reviews from its spam filter.

    A better alternative would be to suggest your clients to write a review on your Facebook and G+ page. Social media is still a strong contender in combating negative reviews on sites like Yelp.

  • http://www.buzzmaven.com/ Scott Clark

    Very good! I am challenged to help franchises deploy standard methods for amplifying reviews and this is yet more good info. The happy customer card is a great idea that works well if used consistently. It works less well if it’s handed to a customer with a bunch of other documents (receipt, invoice, etc.) It should be presented alone, with explanation and heartfelt thanks, and even an offer to help leave the review itself (but not influence it.) This guide from BuzzMaven has been improved over the years to reflect what works for rate us cards and their associated landing pages… http://www.buzzmaven.com/2010/02/getting-customer-reviews-online.html

  • http://localsearchforum.catalystemarketing.com/ Linda Buquet

    Thanks Chris, you make some Good points/

    One word of warning though re point #4 “Amplify”. Don’t copy your Google reviews and post them anywhere. It’s believed this can trip a filter and cause Google to delete or not show those reviews if they are duplicated.

  • http://wtff.com/ JustConsumer

    The value of the reviews posted on Facebook or G+ company’s page is much lower. It’s like testimonials posted on the company’s website. I doubt anyone takes them seriously.
    As I can see big brands never post reviews on their social pages, but provide links to the reviews published on other sites.

    Also there is no reason to blame “third-party review sites”, since this is very dependable. In many cases “review” is a pure advertising. Ads cost money. Not to mention, that there is certain regulation saying, that advertising in form of review should be clearly marked as advertising.

    Furthermore, many filters on review sites were created because of the link builders questionable activity. Marketers of all types also did a lot of damaging to the review industry. Just to mention Squidoo, where most of the articles published are pure advertorials. I personally know the case, when consumer took review, posted on Squidoo as real life experience by other consumer and got health damages.

    So, its not so straightforward, like greedy publishers want money.

    I’d blame more SEOs and Marketers, trying to cheat and publish advertorials pretending they are real consumers.

  • Marcus Blatch

    A good way to avoid tripping this filter is to turn positive reviews in to nice pictures that can be safely posted ;-)

  • Predict-It

    Using the various review sites credibility with the search engines to raise your
    visibility makes sense. You can easily see how and why a business well rated would be given preference in the SERPs. Really though ranking high for certain search terms is only part of the battle.

    The point that “a single review — positive or negative — can tip the scale in favor of one company over another” keeps plenty of business owners up at night. The same applies for businesses that fall into the middle range where say they have several good reviews offset by several on the other end of the spectrum. Referencing studies posted on Yelps official blog , “An extra half-star rating causes restaurants to sell out 19 percentage points more frequently “

    It won’t surprise people who know me that I think the rating systems of these sites are out dated. I think an important discussion is almost always overlooked when talking about review sites. When looking at almost any business you’ll find there are people who both like and dislike them. When I read the reviews I find myself asking, which category would I fit in, or whose opinion should I trust? It’s obvious to
    me that much of the time its not that a business is either bad or good but rather it was a bad or good fit for the person who rated it. I don’t want to point to any specific examples on any of the review sites so take for example a movie some of my girlfriends asked me to go watch with them several years ago, “Marley
    and Me”. It was touted as the “Feel good movie of the season”. My girlfriends
    loved it, I left early crying my eyes out and I guess obviously to this day am
    disturbed by it. I could go on about how the variances between each of our
    tastes, preferences and lifestyles impact our take on how satisfied we’ll be
    with a business and admit I’ve never left a restaurant crying because of a poor
    recommendation but you get the point. The person providing the opinion is just
    as important as the opinion itself.

    My take on it is that if you are attracting the right customers you’ll have more people in the door who appreciate your offering and many less who are likely to complain online or anywhere else for that matter. This may be wishful thinking on my part but I’m hopeful the rating sites will evolve into more of a peer-to-peer personalization system and become more effective tools for businesses, searchers, and the agencies working to help them. IMHO – Ensuring better matches of recommendations between searchers and businesses will be good
    for everyone.

  • Review Monitoring

    Yes, yes and yes. Chris, I would the only issue is that SMBs are too busy taking care of their operations that they don’t have the time or the knowledge to implement these strategies.

    Also, according to the URL, it looks like the 5th Go To is missing ;) If I may:

    5. Constantly monitor online reviews about your business – http://freereviewmonitoring.com can help (shameless plug).

  • http://www.949local.com/ Jim Froling

    Getting reviews, good or bad, is tough for many small businesses. And when they get a unfavorable review…OMG, the sky is falling!

    I advise clients to embrace the bad review. ALWAYS reply. Be HUMBLE. Be CONTRITE. Direct the reply to the nasty reviewer but remember, you aren’t writing to them as much as the next person that will read the review and reply.

    If that reply comes off with humility and sincerity, most consumers will be understanding and appreciative of the business owner’s positive position. Thus, a negative (review) turns into a positive (impression).

  • Chip Shop Boys

    Have just taken on a client and as part of the initial review we noticed a negative review in Yelp with one star was the third results for a brand name search. They contacted a number of their happy clients and asked them to provide positive reviews. The page has now been re cached and they have a four star rating and the SERPS description is now very positive. All simple stuff they just needed pointing in the right direction.


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