Get More Value Out of Your Online Reviews
If you’re wondering whether reviews really matter for your small business, the answer is an emphatic yes – especially if your business is new and you’re just starting to build a customer base.
According to Think with Google, more than half of Millennial shoppers “ignore brands that don’t show up in their searches or have poor reviews.” Among consumers of all ages, more than a quarter look for reviews when researching local businesses. Reviews can even affect whether your business performs well in search results.
The question is: How can you make the most of your reviews, so customers find and choose your business?
You need to know where to find your reviews, where to use them, and how to present them effectively.
Find Your Online Reviews
Reviews are everywhere now, but where your customers leave reviews depends on the type of business you run. The big, general review sites include Yelp, Google, Facebook, YouTube, and the Better Business Bureau. If you run a restaurant, tourist attraction, or lodging, your customers may leave reviews on TripAdvisor and Zomato. Does your business serve homeowners in any way? If so, check your mentions on NextDoor.
If you provide professional services, you can request recommendations from clients on LinkedIn. Is your business big enough to start hiring or bring on more employees? Glassdoor is an employee review site that can help savvy businesses recruit and retain talent. Finally, don’t overlook thank-you notes and testimonials via email, Twitter, and even old-fashioned postal mail. Keep copies in a “reviews” file so you can find them easily when you’re ready to share them.
Embed Customer Reviews on your Website
Prospective customers expect to see reviews for your business before they take it seriously, so make sure you’ve got your bases covered. Besides managing your business profiles on review sites like Yelp and maintaining a Facebook business page that includes reviews, you can embed some third-party site reviews on your own website. Yelp allows this, and TripAdvisor offers a selection of widgets you can use to include reviews, awards, and other information on your site. You can also find information online for embedding Facebook and Google reviews on your website.
Beyond reviews on third-party platforms, you can ask reviewers and satisfied customers for permission to turn their feedback into testimonials that include their name and a small photo. Testimonials are useful on your website in general, and reviews of specific products can make compelling testimonials for product promotions and on your site’s product pages. You can also share individual testimonials over social media and in printed sales material for conferences and other events.
Unless you’re strictly a solopreneur, it can pay to mine your LinkedIn recommendations and good employee reviews in Glassdoor for your website’s “About Us” and “Jobs” pages, as well as during any social media campaigns you do to recruit new hires. Prospective employees, just like prospective customers, seek out reviews before they respond to job postings. In a market that’s closing in on full employment, reviews can make or break your hiring efforts.
Only Reuse Your Best Online Reviews
Not all reviews are equally effective, even if they’re all glowing recommendations. Here are a few pointers to get the most from your reviews, for whatever channel you’re using to share them on.
1. Keep customer reviews short
Most of us have a bad case of tl;dr these days. Estimates of how long the typical site visitor will stay on a page range from seven to 59 seconds, which means you must put the most important elements of the review up front – and cut the rest. (Just make sure you don’t change the meaning of the review as you edit, and include a note that it’s edited for length.) Later, you can turn super-long but well-written reviews into case studies – a separate type of social-proof marketing.
2. Choose reviews that are specific
A brief review must also be specific to convince prospects to try your business. “Snappy’s lawn service is always on time and puts my garden gnomes back in place after mowing” is more insightful than “Snappy’s guys are awesome!” If you have a lot of vague but positive reviews, you can respond to the reviewers, thank them for their input, and ask if there was something in particular that stood out about their experience.
3. Use relevant reviews
If you’re focused on a particular product line or service, focus on those reviews. It’s tempting, when you’re starting up, to include any good review you get. But if your reviews are for services you no longer offer or product lines that are only a small part of your business, your customers won’t be convinced and may be confused.
4. Put names and faces to reviews
If consumers are interested in reviews, it’s only to the extent that they believe those reviews came from real people. If you’re embedding reviews from Yelp or another platform, the reviewers’ information is included in the widget. If you’re using individual reviews on your site, social media, or product pages, be sure to ask for permission to use the reviewer’s name, photo, and location or industry. Not sure how to format your testimonials for your website and social media? Search for testimonial examples on Pinterest and prepare to be inspired.
All of this – managing business profiles, embedding reviews, requesting and formatting testimonials, and choosing the right reviews to display for each situation – can be a lot of work, but it’s worth the effort. Invest the time in leveraging this digital word-of-mouth and more customers will find (and choose) your business.
The other payoff to review management is more personal. When you have lots of good reviews to sort through, you’ll feel great about the work you’re doing and the kind of customers your business attracts. That validation of your efforts may not be money in the bank, but it’s worth its weight in gold.
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.