Mike Blumenthal has put together a nice post outlining a framework for local businesses to consider in encouraging their customers to write an online review. Unless you are restaurant, coffee shop or a point of interest, customers leaving online reviews is not yet common practice for most businesses.
Yet, in our experience in working with small businesses to implement local search engine optimization strategies, online reviews are incredibly important from a marketing perspective as well as building an online brand that is going to last on the web forever.
We are really glad Mike is putting together a series on this topic because we also believe this is an extremely important area that most local businesses need to start focusing on as part of their online marketing stategy. As business owners we all know that you can do everything “right” and still have an unhappy customer for various reasons. And sooner or later someone is going to leave your business a bad review. So why wait until that happens?
I’m currently working with an optometrist who has had a successful practice for over 15 years. In regards to online reviews his business has a total of 3 online reviews, all of them are on Yelp and 2 out of the 3 are bad. If you are in a business where it is not common practice for customers to leave an online review why wait until someone leaves you one? Why not encourage all of your customers to leave an online review, especially the customers who love what you do? That will probably be a more realistic representation of your business and customer sentiment.
As Mike has outlined in his framework I think the top 3 points to highlight are:
- Ethical, and
- Integrated Process
To start building online customer reviews you definitely need to make it as easy as possible for the customer. As well intended as most of your customers are going to be in leaving an online review, the fact is most will not, so you need to make this as a part of your process in doing business and be committed to the process for the long run.
Ethical is pretty self explanatory, I don’t think you ever want to be questioned in gaming the system or lose trust in your customers.
As a business owner I would love to have reviews from different customers on multiple directories. From an online review perspective that would be nirvana. In our experience if we are asking our customers if they would be open to writing an online review we have found it more effective to ask to write a review on 1 of 2 directories versus asking to write a review on 1 of 10 directories. It might sound counterintuitive, but according to a lot of the leading experts on “choice” like Sheena Iyengar, giving less choice is actually better than more.
Check out Mike’s post: Principles for a Review Plan: Considerations in encouraging customer reviews
Randy Hew is publisher myReviewsPage and business partner Expand2web, a Local SEO consulting firm. Randy also implements all local SEO strategies for his wife’s business, North Valley Optometry.