203.414.5509 cindy@cindycavoto.com

Your business is your livelihood. More than that, it’s something you’re passionate about and have worked incredibly hard to create. Seeing a review online that paints your brand in a less-than-flattering light can feel like a punch in the stomach. But, try as you might, it’s impossible to please everyone all of the time. The good news is, there is a way you can leverage online reviews – even the negative ones – to the benefit of your business. Here’s how.

Why Online Reviews Matter

The truth is, no matter how nice your website, logo and brand messaging appear, most customers today base their purchasing decisions on the experiences others have had when doing business with you. In fact, at last check, a full 90% of consumers say they read online reviews before visiting a local business. And 84% say they trust those reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation from a friend or family member. In short, online reviews offer a level of social proof that no other form of marketing ever could.

Beyond their influence on your prospects, online reviews also play an important role in local search engine optimization (SEO). A decent amount of authentic customer reviews can help improve where your business ranks in the search results, which means greater exposure and an increased likelihood of generating more leads.

Lastly, reading honest reviews from your customers can provide invaluable insight into the quality of your product or service. You can then use this feedback to make improvements and tailor your offering so that it’s more in line with your audience’s needs and preferences. In other words, online reviews provide accountability and help you strive toward excellence.

With the importance of online reviews in mind, let’s take a look at a few tips for how you can generate more of them and turn negative comments into a positive thing for your business.

Claim Your Business Listings

The first step in taking charge of your online reputation is making sure your business is present on all the local networking and review sites as well as any relevant online directories. You can do this by claiming your business listing on such popular sites as Google My Business, Yelp, Foursquare, etc. You can’t control the reviews people leave there, but you can make certain that your profile is up to date and accurate. And since these sites tend to rank well, having updated listings can also help with SEO.

Incentivize interactions (not actual reviews).

Offering something in return for your customers leaving positive reviews for your business can come across as inauthentic. In fact, some of the popular review sites will actually penalize you if they believe you’re using unethical means to generate reviews. Instead, tailor incentives toward just online interactions. For instance, you might offer a discount for customers who “check in” to your business on social networks. It’s also ok to ask your happy customers if they’d consider sharing their positive experience. The key here is the relationships you’re building as opposed to some type of trade off.

Always respond.

Last, but certainly not least, you should make a point to always respond to customer reviews. Thank those who take the time to say something positive and address those who bring to light negative situations. By responding to negative reviews in a way that is professional, positive and offers a solution, you’ll demonstrate to future prospects that you’re listening, you care and you’re willing to do whatever it takes to right a wrong. As such, you might just win over some new business in the process.

In conclusion, your online reputation matters big time. By being proactive and managing the online reviews your customers leave, you can help influence prospects to buy from you, gain more traction in the search engines and position your business in a much better light down the road.

If you have questions about this or any other aspect of business management, we’re always just a quick phone call away: 203.683.5911.