Online reviews influence perceptions of your business and whether a prospect may click-through to your website or call. They influence sales opportunities and whether or not someone will try your brand for the first time. They also influence your Google rankings. And they influence whether or not you will get recommended to others. The list goes on.
The bottom line is: Brands rely on building trust. Having a number of real, positive reviews about your company online can improve your business performance.
If you don’t know a lot about procuring online reviews, here are 5 tips every small business owner needs to know:
1. Reviews need to be REAL: Any website reviews put up on the internet need to be actual reviews written by real customers or people who have interacted with your brand. Putting up fake reviews will likely result in a penalty by Google.
Eventually, they will catch up with you. Sites like Yelp also have their own filters and are pretty sophisticated in terms of flagging potential review spam. Make sure you do not try to manipulate the search engines.
2. Reviews must be put up by actual customers, from their own offices or homes. Search engines know where reviews are uploaded from the IP address. If they see 10 reviews going up in a month from the same IP address, that does not look “natural.”
While you could be a business with a kiosk in-store, legitimately asking real customers to put up reviews on the spot, it will also look like an SEO company or reputation management company put up multiple reviews from one location. You must have REAL reviews and you must have customers put them up on their own.
3. You can build your own Reviews or Testimonials webpage. You may have received email thank you, letters or other testimonials from customers that you would like to share. Or, you may have seen reviews on the web and have decided that centralizing them is a good idea. Well, you do not only have to rely on Review sites to build your online reputation.
Have your SEO company optimize your Reviews web page (or create one) for searches on your [brand name + reviews]. Customers researching your reviews will find testimonials that you choose to share. This is a good strategy to ensure you are putting your best foot forward and it is completely ethical and “white hat.”
4. You can use Video for reviews. Get video testimonials from customers or clients. Upload and optimize them on YouTube (or Vimeo, or any other video site), put them on your site, and share on social media. The videos can then be found in Google’s index when people search your brand name and “reviews.”
Video is a great way to show real people supporting your business. Videos perform very well in the search engines, so they are also good for your SEO.
5. Make putting up reviews easy for your customers. You can put links to your local listings on your site (use icons, text links, Yelp), and ask people to visit those listings to place reviews. On your Testimonials webpage or in your footer are two common locations.
It’s okay to ask for reviews. It is okay to share where you would like them and even how customers can legitimately put them online themselves. It is not okay to offer payment or reward for putting up reviews.
These are just 5 best practices for getting real online reviews. Start with these and continue to build your online reputation. Also, remember to not manipulate search results in a way that will harm your website down the road. There are no short cuts! Besides, most of the time, people can tell if a review is not authentic.