Local SEO: Reviews and Recommendations

RecomendationsOkay, now we’re making progress! You’ve registered with the “Local” search engines, created numerous (are you sick of them yet?) citations verifying your business name, address and phone number, and are ready to celebrate the day that you’ll finally appear at the top of the “local” search engine results page!

Not so fast my friend. You still have work to do.

The search engines may now grudgingly accept the existence of your business and the reality of your location, but unless you are in a small market or an industry that is not very competitive, they may not ready to recommend it to their customers – the searchers – quite yet.

The final, and most influential factor in “Local” SEO, is customer “reviews and recommendations”.

“Reviews and Recommendations” are important for 2 reasons:

  1. Search Engines: the number and quality of reviews that your business receives will have a direct impact on its “local” search engine rankings. The search engines use the numerical reviews (the stars) rather than the individual comments to judge customer satisfaction.
  2. Consumers: research has shown that peer reviews of products and services garner more trust from potential consumers than do advertisements.
  • 70% of consumers consult local reviews when deciding which local business to use
  • over 50% of consumers trust the online reviews of strangers as much as personal recommendations

Encouraging “Reviews and Recommendations”

Both the search engines and potential customers value “reviews and recommendations” because the business owner has little or no direct control over them- making it more likely to be an unbiased opinion – especially if there are a lot of reviews.

1. Ask! Let your customers know that you value their opinion and encourage them to leave a review:

  • Mention it to them when they check out.
  • Include a reminder on your website.
  • Include a request with your invoice.
  • Put up a sign in your store.
  • Promote it in your Newsletter.
  • Send an email request one week after purchase.

2. Make it as easy as possible for them to leave a recommendation:

  • Be specific about what site(s) they should leave a review on.
  • Provide an email or hard copy set of instructions explaining how to set up an account and leave a recommendation.
  • People often don’t know what to say, so you can provide “sample” recommendations for them to use to get started.
  • Provide live links or buttons to the review sites from your website and newsletters.
  • Have a computer or iPad available at the store so that you can help them set up an account and they can provide a review right from there.

Dealing with Negative Reviews

The scary part of opening your business up to reviews is the possibility of getting a negative review and having it impact your business. Realistically, if you’re in business long enough, and dealing with people, someone, somewhere is going to be unsatisfied with your product or service.

The reality is that those individuals – the ones that seem to be more inclined to write a review anyway – can already leave their comments with the search engines and review sites. However, by claiming your business listing on those sites, you can have a little more control in projecting a more balanced and fair impression of your business.

What to do if you have a Negative Review

  1. If it is an obvious fabrication by a competitor, former employee, or someone else with a grudge, you can submit it to the search engines and request that it be removed.
  2. If the complaint is legitimate, first take care of the problem that created it. Then, although I have seen different recommendations on this point, I suggest that you address the bad review with a “reply” – apologize, explain the steps that you have taken to correct it, and try to satisfy your customers (just as you would if they complained to you in your brick and mortar store or office. If you don’t feel that it is a reasonable or justifiable complaint, and you are unable to satisfy the reviewer, do not get into a public argument, or start making excuses. Express your disappointment in not being able to satisfy them and move on.
  3. Bury their bad review with positive reviews. An occasional bad review, although disappointing, will really only be impactful if it is alone, or is representative of the other reviews. If you have many positive, glowing reviews, the bad ones have little power, and in fact, lend credibility to the reviews that you have acquired.

Thanks for reading. Your comments and questions are welcomed and appreciated.

What other strategies have you used or thought of to encourage reviews, or work through negative reviews?

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