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You probably know you need to grow and manage online reviews already. If you don’t, you will the first time someone leaves you a bad review. And don’t be naive enough to believe you’ll never get one. You will no matter how good your product or service is.

Bottom line is reviews are important for building your search rankings so you show up in the results. And they are also important because your ideal client is looking at them during their decision-making process. Many times before people even start their search process they just ask their friends for recommendations.

So not only are reviews important, I really cannot think of anything MORE important. This should be something every business just automatically does. Like filing your taxes. Hope you do that too…

If you’re not sure where to start or have tried it but your customers are just not leaving them, here’s a method that will help. This is a tried and true method for generating regular online reviews.

1: Identify the important review sites for your business

Is Yelp important for you? If you’re a restaurant, absolutely. If you’re a home improvement contractor, it may still be important. But Home Advisor may be more important.

One way to figure this out is to Google what you do and see what review sites show up. Google yourself and see if you have any reviews already.

Ask your customers how they find you. If they keep telling you about a certain review site, this may be one you should grow your presence on.

2: Create a review capture funnel

This is like a sales funnel. This is a process of asking for reviews, sending people to the right place to leave them and following up to make sure they take action.

This means writing out a sequence of emails, letters, print ads or whatever makes sense for your business. For you, it may be having a device like an iPad that can serve as a kiosk on your counter where they leave a review at the point of purchase.

3: Ask for a rating before you ask for a review

The best system will ask them to rate their experience and give a little feedback. If you receive a rating of 1 out of 10 with some really negative feedback, the last thing you want to do is direct them to leave a review on Google. In this case, you would want to turn the 1 into a 10 by resolving the issue privately.

4: Monitor online reviews

If you have a negative review that you’re not aware of, it could be killing your business. A negative review seems to always show up well.

There are software tools that can do this for you which I will share at the end of this article. But the free way is to just make sure to look. Google yourself weekly. Dig into all of your review sites weekly as well.

You can also setup Google Alerts for your business name and your website. Any time Google indexes something with these alerts, you get an email. This isn’t going to work 100% of the time but will help.

5: Respond to negative reviews

You absolutely have to respond to them. How you respond to negative reviews is more important than getting one.

If you implement this process here, you will get negative feedback sent to you privately which is how you should really want that to happen. You need to get back to these and resolve. But also do the same for any that get left online. This means you cannot forget about #4.

6: Invite happy customer to easily leave reviews online

This is part of #2. After someone has had a good experience, the next step in the funnel is to invite them to leave reviews online.

Make it super easy for them to take action. The easier you make it, the more success you will have.

Give them links to go to a choice of several of your important review sites. Don’t just ask them to go leave it on Google. You want to spread the love around so it’s important to make it easy for them to leave reviews in a few places.

7: Do it slowly

You should not just email your entire list at once. This is a signal to Google that you’re trying to get reviews. It sounds strange, but Google wants this to look like your clients are doing it on their own accord. If you look like you’ve automated this, you risk harming your search rankings.

The best way is to send a few email requests per day. Drip them out over time. If your sequence is strong, meaning you send follow up emails and make it simple, you will get regular reviews.

8: Keep doing it forever

You can’t stop doing this. You’re not going to get everyone to take action so you need to do this regularly.

Over time, you will have regular and organic review growth. This shows Google you’re important. More importantly, it’s important social proof that helps you convert prospects to clients.

Let’s face it, if you have 120 reviews and your competitors only have two or three, who do you think people will take more seriously? Social proof matters!

9: Allow people to leave reviews on your website

You may think you should just send links to the online review sites, but that’s actually not ideal. When I send my first email to request a review, they either leave feedback right in the email or they do it on my website.

If you visit my website you will see there’s a page dedicated to reviews. Right on top of the page is a button to leave feedback. This puts people into my review capture funnel.

It also minimizes the bad reviews making their way online. Without this, people who may want to complain are more likely to just go leave a review on Yelp.

10: Have reviews on your website

As mentioned in #9, I have a review page. I feed all of my reviews and the star rankings right into that page automatically. It pulls the 1st party reviews (those reviews left on my website) and 3rd party reviews (those reviews left on sites like Google and Yelp).

Ideally, the best thing you can do is make sure when people see star ratings in the search results, your own website is in the list. If you can keep people off Yelp or the other sites and reading reviews on your own website, you have much greater control over what they see.

This and #9 usually requires special software or a web designers help (or both) to make this happen. Especially to get the actual stars to show up in a way that Google understands it’s a review. But it is well worth doing.