Local Reviews are Beneficial to Small Businesses

Use Local Reviews to Your Advantage

Local Reviews are Beneficial to Small BusinessesAs an avid online and mobile user, I always check out a restaurant’s website and reviews before visiting. It’s rare that I don’t check out the menu and the rating on Yelp, or visit the website. I never used to care about what others said and was a big believer in “experiencing it for myself,” but now that I have a child it has become more important for me to know what to expect in terms of service, accommodations and quality of food – even if it is from strangers. Apparently I’m not alone. According to a recent report, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This is up from 79% in 2013. So now you’re probably wondering, as a local business owner, why should I care about reviews? Here are some important reasons why you should.

Reviews can help people find your business online

Reviews are an integral part of Local SEO, but they are also vital for local clickthroughs. So if you have a website, make sure to create a reviews page (e.g. domain.com/reviews) and from that page link people to the sites you’d like them to post a review on. This is one of the pages that will show up organically in local searches by potential customers. In addition, you can place that URL on a postcard or handout and give it to the customer at the end of their service or meal to serve as a reminder for when they get home. It is a good practice to train your staff to ask for reviews after servicing customers. The key to generating reviews is to make it as easy as possible for your customers to leave one.

Influence Customer Perception

84 percent of Americans say consumer reviews influence their purchase decisions. Reviews can be a powerful tool if monitored and used correctly. By allowing your customers to leave a review you do open your business up to scrutiny but also very positive feedback that can be used to gain credibility. Reviews also allow your customers to gain insight into who you are and the type of business you’re running (i.e. customer centric, professionalism). But if you do get a bad review, make sure to respond to it and show that you are willing to resolve any issues, whether by offering a customer a coupon for a discount on a future purchase or apologizing for any inconvenience. Bottom line, you want to show that you care about your customers and the reputation of your business.

Generate Content to Promote Your Business

Share positive reviews on social media or other promotional channels. This will showcase your work/service and help you to generate potential leads. Let the reviewer create your promotional content. This is one less piece advertising copy that you have to create! Positive reviews can also help you solidify your position as an industry leader. Also share internally to increase employee morale or to call attention to a particularly good employee. Just make sure that review you’re using is legitimate.

Iliana Angel, Marketing ManagerIliana Angel is the Marketing Manager at PowerSites®, an all inclusive website-hosting, creation, and marketing solution that helps local businesses establish their brand, drive leads, and track success. PowerSites® is a leading resource in print, online and mobile for hyperlocal advertising, and brand management with our Local Business Listings.

Foursquare and Yelp: The New SEO

Foursquare and Yelp: The New SEOSEO used to mean “keywords” and, well, that was about it. Eventually Google started to use more sophisticated formulas and algorithms to turn out results, and SEO started to depend more on a science of striking the right balance of keywords and phrases. Now, SEO is a much more intensive and all encompassing part of your marketing strategy. It’s simply not enough to have the right keywords anymore, now you need to have the right keywords in the right place, you need to improve your rank on sites like Yelp and Foursquare and get good reviews on Google Places. Keywords simply aren’t enough anymore.

If you have a small business, here are a few marketing tips to getting what you need out of sites like Foursquare and Yelp:

  • Engage With Your Reviewers

    The more you engage with your reviewers, the better you’re going to do on these sites because people like to know for certain that their voices are being heard by the people who need to hear them. Thank the positive reviewers and ask for an opportunity to make it up to the people who had a bad experience. Customer engagement does not occur in a void.

  • Link But Don’t Pressure

    Letting your customers know that you have a listing on Yelp and on Foursquare is a great idea. Begging them for a review at every opportunity is not only obnoxious, it’s discouraged. Take the time to link to these sites in your signature, mention your Yelp presence in your newsletter, but don’t beg your customers for reviews or they’ll think of it as an unwanted obligation.

  • Develop a Multimedia Presence

    Including multimedia in your corporate profile on these sites is a good way to kick start engagement by simply adding a little more color and life. In fact, you may simply consider this to be a part of completing your profile, making it feel more robust and substantial. People don’t always want to contribute a review if it’s going to be the sole piece of real content on the site, so building a real presence on these sites means that your customers don’t have to do that for you.

The more you use Foursquare and Yelp, the higher your SEO ranking is going to climb when it comes to Google results for your niche. SEOis about more than just using the right search terms in your content now. Today, search engine optimization means creating the kind of results that people actually want to find, not just the results that Google will give them. This means making use of sites like Foursquare and Yelp to get the word out about your business.

This is the trick to marketing in the new decade: your customer base is your new marketing team. It’s your job to give them a message that they can run with and a product or service that they can get behind.

The Secret to Yelp: Engagement, not Review Solicitation

There’s not much that a small business can do to annoy you like begging you for a review. This is why Yelp actually discourages review solicitation: it bugs people and may even lead to negative reviews.

You don’t want to put that pressure on your customers, not only because Yelp discourages it, but because it doesn’t really work. Rather than begging for reviews, what you want to do is create engagement, you want to let your customers know about your Yelp presence so that they have an opportunity to engage with you, to be heard and to participate.

Don't solicit yelp reviews, encourage engagement instead.When you solicit a review as if your customers owe it to you, you turn an opportunity to engage into an unwanted obligation. Here are a few marketing tips for getting Yelp reviews through engagement rather than solicitation:

Put the Aim on Engagement Itself

The reviews are a bonus. The engagement itself is what you’re really after. A customer who is engaged is more likely to recommend you to a friend, more likely to come again, and yes, more likely to give you a positive review on Yelp and similar sites and resources.

Follow Up

Depending on the size of your small business, you might not be able to do this with every single customer, but taking the initiative to make a follow up contact yourself can make a tremendous difference in engagement. Assuming that you bought a power drill from one store and a band saw from another to work on your garage, and you find yourself needing a new hammer a week later, would you be more likely to buy from the people who sent an email along to ask how your new powertool was working, or the people that didn’t? Waiting for the customer to take the first step to engagement doesn’t always work. Don’t pester your customers, but let them know that they’re appreciated and they may take the next step in engagement.

Link to Yelp, but Unobtrusively

The Best Yelp Reviews are not SolicitedA hundred requests for a Yelp review in your newsletter isn’t an unobtrusive link. Unobtrusive means “check us out on Yelp!” in your signature on message boards and in emails. It means a link on your homepage to your Yelp profile. There are plenty of ways to let people know about your presence on Yelp without shouting it in people’s faces. A good strategy is to link to your positive reviews through your Facebook and Twitter feeds so that your followers can check it out and see if they have anything to add.

Address the Negative Reviews

Arguing with negative reviews is bad publicity. Making up for whatever led to that bad review isn’t. Make use of negative reviews as an opportunity to get some good publicity by replacing a faulty product or adjusting your service based on the feedback you’re getting. A negative review can be a bigger boon than a positive review as it can help you to improve, and to publicly announce that you’re making things better. If you’re still fearful you won’t know how to address a negative review, check out our post on How to Deal With Bad Yelp Reviews to help you through the process.

In short: Let people know that you’re on Yelp, just don’t beat them over the head with it.