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In such a competitive online market, it can be tough for businesses to differentiate themselves; however, in today’s increasingly digital landscape, standing out from the crowd is more important than ever to earn new business.
Although the debate about which SEO strategies most effectively help businesses continues, ratings and reviews have repeatedly proven to be a vital social signal that both search engines and users rely on to gauge the value of a business. A recent survey confirmed that reviews account for over 15% of Google’s local ranking factors, which means getting customers to leave positive ratings and reviews is essential to bolstering your business’ digital presence.
Regardless of your industry, niche, or business model, reviews provide immense value; not only do they build trust for your business within the online community, they signal to SERPs that your business is legitimate and providing great service. Getting more reviews from customers may seem difficult at first glance, but we’ve compiled a few creative ways to help you get more reviews more quickly.
1. Mention Reviews at the Conclusion of Service
Asking a customer/client to leave a review while they’re still actively engaging with your business is a great way to get out in front of the review process. For brick and mortar businesses, this may mean asking clients to leave a review at the conclusion of their appointment or as they’re exiting your place of business.
For online businesses, this means requesting reviews at the conclusion of service or in a confirmation email at the backend of a contract. Proactive outreach is key because it’s a more active approach toward gaining reviews, rather than waiting for a customer to leave one by chance.
A doctor with a private practice sets up a system in which their office’s front-desk assistants ask patients to leave a review of their experience as they’re exiting. Patients feel minimal pressure to leave a review and write them in the parking lot or at their destination.
PRO TIP: Setting up a system where administrative aids, hostesses, and other client-facing employees solicit reviews at the conclusion of an appointment or upon a client’s exit can be an effective, less invasive strategy for getting more reviews, but make sure you’re not violating any guidelines! Yelp in particular has strict rules against having customers fill out reviews in store, for example.
2. Offer Incentives for Reviews
Some customers may not be as inclined to leave reviews at the conclusion of business without a little motivation, or they may simply forget. Positive reinforcement is one of the most effective forms of operant conditioning, so what better way to encourage patients to leave reviews than by offering them an incentive?
Enacting a “points” or “rewards” program can help motivate visitors to leave a review; when customers visit your business for the first time, offer them an additional benefit, discounted product, or another form of reward in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
An auto repair and detail shop owner creates a rewards program that gives customers points toward their next oil change in exchange for an honest review of their service. They can then ask their customer care assistants to promote the program during customer checkout.
PRO TIP: This does not mean businesses can or should be offering free products or services in exchange for solely positive reviews. Collecting fake reviews and review scheming are considered black hat SEO practices by Google, which can cause businesses to have their site penalized or removed from SERPs completely. Potential customers are entitled to an honest critique of any business they’re patronizing, so always request factual, transparent reviews from patients.
3. Ask for Reviews via Email
If your business currently relies on email marketing strategies such as newsletters to engage with and retain clients, you have another great opportunity to get more reviews. Crafting an email that includes a gentle nudge to leave a review is a subtle gesture with high ROI. Add a button or static text linking to your business’ Google or Facebook reviews pages to give them more visibility. The next time a customer opens their monthly newsletter, they’ll see an enticing call to action directing them to elaborate on their experience with your business.
An e-commerce business selling women’s apparel and accessories sends a monthly newsletter to customers, promoting new products and deals. Instead of creating an entirely new email, the business owner adds a short CTA and clickable button to the bottom of the template, linking to the business’ Google reviews or Facebook reviews page.
PRO TIP: Consider adding a short survey to the email, as well. This way, you’re able to get constructive, actionable feedback that will help them provide better customer experiences and in turn generate even more positive reviews.
4. Respond to and Resolve Negative Reviews
Maintaining a strong online presence isn’t just about getting as many positive reviews as possible; it also means minimizing negative reviews and staying on top of the things people are saying about your business. Google rewards businesses that respond promptly to reviews and handle issues customers may have had with their service.
This doesn’t mean that marketers should directly ask customers to remove their negative reviews; politely and professionally address the review online, and then move the conversation offline to settle the dispute. Next, apologize for any issues that the customer may have had, and make an effort to restore their trust in the business. If they feel like you’ve worked hard enough to handle the issue, the customer may change the initial review or remove it completely.
A customer recently booked a charter bus for an upcoming family reunion, but the bus they received had a broken A/C unit, causing much discomfort. They leave a 1-star review, claiming that “service is terrible and the company is misleading”. The company’s marketing director politely responds to the review, asking what went wrong and for the customer’s order number. Once this information is obtained, the customer service department calls the customer personally and offers a partial refund of the booking fee as an apology. Satisfied, the customer goes back to the review page and chooses to update the review, changing the rating.
PRO TIP: Never get into an online debate/argument with a customer. The conversation is on a public forum, so other potential customers will be able to see the way you’re communicating with them. Keep the response short and sweet, thank them for their feedback, and try to settle the issue personally.
5. Provide Stellar Service
This may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s only because it is.
No matter who the customer is or, if they have a spectacular experience at your place of business they are more likely to leave a positive review about it. Hiring a friendly, accommodating staff, creating an inviting, comfortable, environment, and providing fast, efficient service are just a few of the things you can do to improve a customer’s experience; however, what matters most is that people feel good when entering and leaving your business and that the business provides results clients are happy with.
A family of six decides to try a new restaurant in their neighborhood for Dad’s birthday dinner. As soon as they walk in, they’re greeted by a kind hostess who quickly escorts them to their table. They immediately receive water and have their drink orders taken. Once their orders are placed, their server continuously asks them if their satisfied with their food and if they need anything else. After their server finds out it’s Dad’s birthday, she organizes a surprise happy birthday song and brings him a complementary slice of cake. Impressed, Mom writes a glowing 5-star review of the restaurant.
PRO TIP: Customer surveys are especially useful when trying to figure out how to provide better customer experiences. Surveys provide a forum for business owners to ask what clients enjoy most about their business, as well as things that they could improve to make customers happier.
No matter what industry your business may fall under, its need for glowing online reviews remains the same. Search engines and customers look to social signals more and more each day to measure the value of businesses, so it’s recommended that reputation management becomes a larger component of your overall digital marketing strategy.