5 Tips To Get More Online Customer Reviews

Google’s acquisition of Zagat last week and Yelp’s excellent snarky response has brought customer reviews to the forefront of the news again, so it’s a good time to start thinking about how garnering more online reviews fits into your business.

In my experience, when it comes to reviews there are four types of businesses:

  • Businesses that get most of their business from referrals, don’t get any online reviews and could care less about them (perhaps the biggest chunk of businesses).
  • Businesses that get most of their business from referrals, get online reviews and think that nobody reads them or cares.
  • Businesses that think reviews are hugely important and work hard to get a lot of them.
  • Businesses that think reviews are hugely important and work hard to get them, but don’t get many, if any.

What the types that rely heavily on referrals and ignore reviews don’t realize is that some time in the next year or two someone is going to write something about them online and there’s a good chance it’s going to be negative.

If it gets around, which it usually does thanks to Google, their referrals are at risk of drying up. If the first thing that shows up in Google for your brand is a negative, you are potentially screwed.

For those that work hard at getting a lot of reviews, I would wager that most of them are leaving a lot of opportunity on the table.

While positive reviews are great, the real power is in the reviewer. A customer willing to spend the time to review you is a brand ambassador. Instead of just asking them for reviews, you should be thinking about how you can harness your relationship with these valuable people to help spread the word, both online and off.

Those that try but can’t seem to get traction with reviews should consider the following on how to build review generation into their business processes.

There are basically four ways to get an online customer review:

  1. Via phone
  2. Via email
  3. Via a Website
  4. Via transcription from a hand-written review

Which method is right for you depends on how you conduct your business.

Do you collect customer email addresses? Most of the businesses I work with know they should but rarely do, or rarely do it with any rigor.

Do you have more than 50% of your customers’ up-to-date email addresses? If so, then you can use email solicitations where you can ask them to provide a review via email or you can direct them to a website where they can leave a review.

If email doesn’t work for you, then you’ll need to consider how you typically interact with your customers. If most of your business is done in person then give them a comment card. If it’s over the phone, you may have to do it via mail. Try stapling a comment card with return postage to your invoice.

When figuring out your review acquisition strategy, take a good look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself what your staff can realistically do every day.

Some tips for asking customer reviews:

  1. Don’t offer incentives. A percentage of your customers will do it for free. If you offer to pay your top brand ambassadors, it’s possible they will get turned off, which could hurt your business by dampening the enthusiasm of these mavens.
  2. Make it easy for customers. Don’t send them a link to review you on Google unless they have a Gmail address.
  3. Don’t ask people for Yelp reviews. This almost always backfires. You may get a few positive reviews in the short term, but if your customers are not active Yelpers, Yelp’s SPAM filters will eventually toast their reviews. You’ll end up with no reviews and potentially some angry customers who wonder why their work of review art disappeared.
  4. Do it promptly. Don’t wait. People are most likely to give you feedback right away.  The longer you go from the time of service to the time of request, the likelihood of getting reviews drops precipitously. According to Ted Paff, CEO of CustomerLobby, a review service, “Comment card reviews solicited at the time of service can see completion rates of 80-90%” vs. much lower rates for other forms of review solicitation.
  5. If you have the customer’s email address, follow up your initial request three days later with a reminder email containing links of where to for review submissions. Reminder emails can account for a huge percentage of review conversions.

Bonus Tip: (always underpromise and over deliver :))I have often heard that business owners can feel embarrassed when asking customers for reviews. If that sounds like you, my advice is to be totally candid with your customers.

Tell them that you are working on improving your business and some blogger guy told you that asking for reviews was a good way to do this. I have found that this kind of candor makes the asker feel less bad about asking for reviews which improves the chances of actually getting them.

And if you still can’t figure out the review thing there are several companies out there that would be glad to help you including, but not limited to:

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

Related Topics: Channel: Local | Local Search Column

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About The Author: is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, a local search engine optimization consulting company specializing in yellow pages seo and local directory search—the blog is pretty fabulous too.

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  • http://twylah.com/experienceads Evan W.

    REALLY nice article!

  • http://www.localseoguide.com Andrew Shotland

    Thanks Evan. I have added some extra tips that did not make it into the article here http://www.localseoguide.com/10-tips-to-get-more-customer-reviews-sel/

  • http://nicoo.fr Nicolas Machard

    Hi, Great post, thanks,
    just one thing, google is using reviews from major Review actors like Yelp, in order to display your sites’ ratings. So collecting reviews on your own is ok for CRM, SEO, but not enough for having stars rati,gs display on Google search pages… Any insights or feedback re. my remark ?
    Thanks,
    NIcolas

  • http://www.localseoguide.com Andrew Shotland

    Nicholas,

    It’s definitely a good idea to get reviews on sites where your potential customers are, regardless of how they influence Google’s display.

  • http://www.loudervoice.com/ conoro

    Great piece Andrew, it’s exactly what we tell our customers in LouderVoice. One quick note: Whilst we are based in Ireland we actually serve customers in the US, Canada, UK and Ireland. We have also just launched Spanish and Russian language solutions. The first Spanish and Mexican customer sites are launching shortly. French localisation is coming next week too.

    Regarding the question from Nicolas, star ratings appear in Google Search [a] if your reviews are marked up with Rich Snippets, [b] you have informed Google of this and [c] if Google has approved you. That last bit can take many months as it appears to be a manual approval. We have a solution which provides Rich-Snippets reviews for our clients,

  • KatMatfield

    Really good article: I especially agree about avoiding incentives. Here at Reevoo (European-based reviews & social commerce company) we’ve collected a few million reviews in the past 5 years just by asking nicely.

    I think timing the review request is a bit more complex than simply going for ASAP, though. It really varies depending on what your business is. If you’re selling products that the consumer will take home and use, we’ve found its best to wait 4-6 weeks so the reviews you get are full of detail. But for an experience like a holiday or a haircut, less than a week works better. Balance is everything: ask too late and response rates drop off a cliff; ask too early and the resulting reviews will just say “good so far” or similar.

    Another point is to make sure the reviews you have on your own site actually drive traffic. A lot of the review solutions out there use technologies that inadvertantly hide reviews from search engines, so deliver no SEO benefit. This is something we’ve worked hard to avoid, and I’ve written a quick blogpost on how to work out if search engines can see your reviews (for the SEO newbies!): http://b2b.reevoo.com/blog/2011/06/can-search-engines-see-your-social-commerce-content

  • Augustin

    Really good stuff, Andrew. I’d add that sometimes reviews will address customer service, especially if something was wrong with the product. That’s worth keeping in mind–that negative product reviews can still have a positive or neutral effect, and that companies might want to integrate customer service opinions into their strategies if they aren’t already.

  • http://www.chatmeter.com C.M.

    Andrew, this is a great article. Reviews are becoming more popular because they give consumers a voice that other people will listen to. This is powerful for companies because if they pay attention to their online reputation, they could stay a head in their industry. How ever if they do not listen to these reviews, the negative ones could haunt them.

 

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