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This article is part of the Monitoring And Improving Customer Reviews section of our definitive guide dedicated to reputation management. 

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Guest Post
Author Jaren Nichols Author profile Jaren Nichols is Chief Operating Officer at ZipBooks, a cloud-based alternative to Quickbooks 2019. Jaren was previously a Product Manager at Google and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. 

We live in a digital world.  What was once good old fashioned word of mouth marketing is now the online review.  It becomes critical, then, for the small business owner to prioritize their online review profile and keep their overall rating high.

We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of “How-Tos” that will help you take your online review profile to the next level:

1. Ask!

If you want something, you have to be willing to ask for it.  Start with the people who are already using your service or product and in a neutral way, ask “How was your experience?”, then make it easy for them to leave a review.

Encourage those you trust to be your first reviewers, but don’t ask them to say something they don’t believe.  Ask them to provide detailed, honest feedback and set a positive trend on your review site so the angry customer doesn’t set the tone for you.

2. Follow the Rules

Each of the third party review sites has its own set of rules.  For example, Yelp frowns upon specifically asking your customers for reviews, while Google is totally fine with it.

There are also rules set by the Federal Trade Commission.  An obvious rule for testimonials is that you cannot offer a financial incentive in exchange for positive feedback. In other words, don’t try to buy Yelp reviews or any other type.  This will only end up hurting you in the long run.

The gold standard is that reviews are authentic, helpful and truthful.  So try to find ways to encourage real feedback, not manufacture them.

3. Monitor Reviews

(Hint: You can use software for this)

66% of consumers said that the overall rating is the most important item on a review page.  The most important thing you can do for your overall rating is to keep your eye on it!  This may sound frustrating as you’ll have to watch your overall rating sink down on occasion, but just admitting you have a problem is the first step in fixing it.

Additionally, there are many online softwares that have started including growth management tools–social media management sites, marketing agencies and virtual bookkeeping sites–to name a few.  These services make it easy to invite your users to review your product and many of them offer review tracking as well.

4. Set a Google Alert

A simple way to monitor online feedback is to set a Google Alert for your business and/or product names.  Doing this will allow you to be notified every time another website or review site mentions you.  You’ll never be the last one to find out about an angry customer or to hear praise.

5. Keep your review profile current

First, make sure you have a review profile!  Have you logged onto the different review sites and set one up?  If not, go do that.

Once setup is complete, make sure your profile is polished and accurate.  Use a current, high-quality photo and a clean, uniform logo.  You should also ensure that hours of operation, product descriptions and location addresses are up-to-date.  You’re unlikely to get a positive review if your customer can’t find your location.

6. Be present on all review sites (Here’s a list!)

Maintain an active presence on all review sites.  This will remind the consumer that you are human and are invested in the success of your company.  59% of consumers said that the recency of reviews is important to them, so make it easy for reviewers to visit often and find you on the review sites that they frequent.

There are a lot of review sites out there–Google, Facebook, Yelp, Angie’s List–so don’t leave anything out!

7.  There’s Only One Chance to Make a Good First Impression

If you are a website-based service, make sure that your first impression is a good one.  Not only should your review profile be clean and modern, but your website should make the user want to stay.  Include a friendly automated chat window to up your customer service as well.

8. Always Mobile-Friendly

Along the same lines as a user-friendly website, make sure your website is mobile-friendly.  If you are asking for reviews through email, make sure your links transfer well on a mobile platform.  No one wants to leave a review if the process becomes too complicated, too convoluted or too long.

9. Include a Review Page and Badge on Your Website

Including a “Review” or “Testimonial” tab on your own webpage shows your consumer that you are not trying to hide what people are saying about you.  You can prove that you value honest feedback and that you are willing to make changes when necessary.

Also, if you include a review page on your own website, it is more likely that it will pop up first on google when consumers search for your reviews.

10. Make it Easy

There are many ways to streamline the process for your reviewer: include a direct link in an email, create a one-sheet on how and where to leave feedback, set up a review station (or tablet) in store.  Make it easy for your customer to leave a review, so the process doesn’t leave them more frustrated with your service.

11. Add a Button to your Email Signature

This is a really easy way to encourage online reviews without specifically having to ask.  Many businesses are now adding a button to their email signature next to their twitter birds and contact info.  This “one-click” review method is not in-your-face or intrusive.  Every time your customer gets an email from you, they have an opportunity to leave a review.

12. Encourage detailed reviews

62% of consumers say that the amount of detail included in reviews is important to them.  So try to encourage customers to be specific and use proper names when they can.  The more information readers get about your business, the less is left to doubt.

13. Ask the Right People (In Person when you can)

63%  of consumers said that the ratio of positive to negative reviews is important when viewing a review profile. So, where possible, try to encourage the satisfied customer to review your business online.  Pick a good time to ask, while they are still getting value out of your product or service and do this in person if you can.

14. Respond to Negative Reviews

Time to address the elephant in the room: what to do with scathing reviews?  You can’t please everyone (and you really shouldn’t try to), but you can spin the negative to a positive.

Your best options is to take the time to respond to your negative reviews. 78% of online reviewers actually trusted a business more when they saw them respond to online reviews.  Prioritize which comments need immediate feedback and resolve the issue as quickly as you can (ideally before you post your response).

Always be professional and never blame the customer.   Be apologetic and offer reparation when possible.  If you can do it right, it’s actually better to respond to complaints on your public review profile than in a private email.

15. And While You’re at it, Why Not Respond to Positive Reviews?

If you’re already monitoring and responding to negative reviews, why not take 15 seconds to say “Thanks!” to your positive reviewer?  This will show customers that you’re not only putting out fires but being attentive to those who are loyal to you as well.

16. Share Top Reviews & Testimonials

When you do get glowing reviews, share them!  Post them on your website, in Facebook ads, in product descriptions–and give credit to your fans.  People love to see their name in lights, even if it’s only the light of their smartphone screen

17. Take Customer Feedback to Heart

We know.  It hurts to read those negative reviews and it’s very easy to become defensive.  Take a minute to cool off if you need to, and then, look for trends in the data.
If there is a complaint that keeps popping up, step back and try to identify the root of the problem.  Then, go to work and try to fix it.  This will save you the stress of more negative reviews in the future and will also help your business be more effective.

18. Who Doesn’t Love Free Stuff?

Giveaways and freebies create a positive buzz around your brand and attract customers that may have passed you up.  More importantly, offering freebies can encourage feedback.  With zero consumer cost upfront, it’s not as annoying to ask the customer for something in return.

19. Coupons and Discounts

If you’re not willing or unable to go with the free option, extended discounts or trial periods are a good option as well.  While incentives are a great way to get feedback, remember that you can not offer financial compensation in exchange for positive reviews.

20. More reviews = More Social Proof

55% of people said that the number of reviews a business has is an important factor to them.  The more reviews you have the more you are building social proof and legitimizing your business.

As you’re gaining reviews, keep in mind, you’re not just trying to meet a quota.  You want to build a brand reputation that is worthwhile and you can get the most reviews by providing high-quality service.

21. Review other Businesses

A simple tip, but a good one for small business owners: If you have a positive experience with another start-up, why not help them out by posting a review?  Give a little, get a little.

22. Use Automated Emails

Save yourself a little time by sending automated emails.  Try to make them personal when you can and avoid spammy email campaigns.  Where possible, refer to a specific customer experience or product purchase.

If a customer does take the time to respond to an email request for feedback, make sure that they know their time is valued.  Use an autoresponder to say thank you or offer a special discount code.

23. Be Engaged in Social Media

By nature, social media is more, well, social.  Shares, like, and comments are an organic way of collecting customer feedback.  You can ask for and receive feedback in a casual setting and encourage followers to share their opinions on online review sites.

24. Partner with Influencers

The large reach and loyal following of Social Media Influencers is a great way to build an authentic marking and feedback opportunity.  Partner with someone who fits your brand and the offer exclusive discount codes for their followers.

These followers will value the product or service more since they received a personal invite from a “friend” to use it.  These influencers and followers can easily transfer to positive reviewers.

25. Be the Best

The most effective way to inspire good reviews is to offer the best product or service available.  Make customer service a top priority and use all forms of feedback to inform growth.  If you are passionate about your product, consumers will be passionate too.

This article is part of the Monitoring And Improving Customer Reviews section of our definitive guide dedicated to reputation management. 

You may enjoy other articles from this section:

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