Boost your Online Presence through Customer Reviews

In my last column, I discussed how to boost your business’s on-line presence through on-line directories.  I suggested that one of the simplest, yet most important, things you can do to enhance your online visibility is make sure your business name, address and other contact information is placed on the web in as many places as possible.

Another aspect of online directories is reviews. You’ve likely searched a local restaurant and seen reviews from sites like Google, Facebook and Yelp pop up in the results.  If your business has an online presence, there’s a good chance that customers will review your business as well.

Positive reviews are ideal, of course. The more positive customer reviews a business receives online, the more likely it is to rank highly on Google and other search engines. Reviews are a good way to boost your search engine optimization. When discussing this topic with clients, I often ask them if they have checked to see how you show up online.  This can be done quite easily.  One of SCORE’s content partners offers a free service to businesses.  Deluxe Corporation provides a free scan of more than 40 online directories, social networks and search sites to ensure your business and contact info are listed correctly in each.

The Deluxe Corporation free scan will check the following:

  • where your business is listed (what on-line directories)
  • if your business name is spelled correctly and
  • if your phone number and address are listed accurately

I suggest that you scan your listings now and get instant results on over 40 online directories, social networks and search sites.  Use this link to access this scan.  They will also use their network of directories, social networks and search sites to look for better opportunities for you to market your business and offer you some suggestions if you wish. Your results will show a chart summary of where you currently show up and what is missing in each.  Good information!!!!

Let's focus on how to get and manage online reviews.  Here are some suggestions.

  1. Ask for reviews. Once a sale or transaction is complete, it doesn’t hurt to ask customers to go online and post a review. This lets customers know that you take your reviews and customer service seriously, and that you’re committed to constantly improving. If you have your customers’ email addresses, consider emailing them a link to your business on Google, Yelp or another listing provider and asking them to submit a quick review.
  2. Remember, however, that it’s against review sites’ policies, and in some cases even illegal, to offer rewards or incentives for customers to post online reviews. That applies even if there is no requirement that those paid-for reviews are positive.
  3. Quickly respond to negative reviews. Receiving a bad review online can feel like a punch to the stomach, but it’s bound to happen. After all, it’s almost impossible to completely please every customer every time. If you do receive a negative review, immediately respond to it in a positive way, such as offering to do whatever you can to resolve the customer’s issue. This can help you retain that customer, and it also shows others you’re more than willing to address any concerns that may arise.
  4. Avoid fake reviews. It may be tempting to pad your stats by asking friends or family members to post positive reviews, but don’t succumb to this temptation. The whole point of reviews is to build your business’s credibility, and if word gets out that you’ve planted fake reviews, your credibility will take a major hit.
  5. Deliver quality service. At the end of the day, you and your business are in complete control of how you interact with customers. If you make a point to deliver quality products and excellent customer service, the positive reviews will flow naturally. Sure, you may come across a grouchy customer or two. But generally speaking, if you make it a point to deliver quality, that effort will be reflected in the reviews you receive.
  6. Encourage check-ins.  While offering incentives for reviews is a no-no, you often can offer rewards or discounts to customers to check in on sites such as Yelp, Foursquare or Facebook when they visit your business in person. When these customers check in to your business on these types of social media sites, your business will gain exposure among their friends and followers.
  7. Knowing your business will be reviewed online can be a bit scary, but don’t let fear get the best of you. Always remember that if you consistently deliver the high quality you know your business can offer, the majority of your reviews will be positive. That will then help your business rank higher on search engines, leading to even more business.

About the Author(s)

Dean Swanson

Dean is a Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE Chapter Chair, District Director, and Regional Vice President for the North West Region, and has developed and managed many businesses. The Rochester Post Bulletin publishes his weekly article on a topic geared toward the small business community. The articles here are printed in their entirety.

Certified SCORE Mentor for the Southeast Minnesota Chapter

Key Topics

Acquire Customer Reviews