Yelp logoI know a lot of consumers that spend a lot of time researching a purchase they want to make or a service they want to utilize. I’m one of those research consumers myself. I will spend hours researching a product; it’s part of the shopping experience for me and I enjoy it. I like to know I’m choosing the right product or service from the right business or provider. Where do I and many others go to find out about businesses and what they offer? Review sites. Online reviews are an important aspect of running a business online. Good reviews can help your business get more user engagement and more sales.

Don’t Take My Word for It…

I’m just one guy writing online, not the voice of consumers around the country. But there are numbers behind my claims of how important reviews are to your business. Michael Fertik at recently wrote a well-researched post about how influential online reviews are for a business. One stat which popped out for me is the fact that “89% of consumers viewed online sources of product and service reviews as trustworthy – and another 80% have changed their minds about a purchase based solely on the negative reviews they read.”

Additionally, 85% of those same consumers who were surveyed for that information stated they would be more inclined to make a purchase “if they could find additional recommendations online.” So, reviews are definitely influential and important to have for your business.

When it comes to competing against other brands, Roger Dooley at Forbes writes that “consumer reviews influenced 65% … of purchasers to pick a brand they weren’t originally considering.” That means when it comes to beating the competition or even a more successful brand, having good reviews should be key to your strategy.

Getting and Managing Reviews

Getting more positive reviews for your business means engaging those customers “who are enthusiastic about your brand, product or service (AKA your authentic Brand Advocates)” as Cara Fuggetta writes on Venture Beat. Engage your fans and supporters on all of the popular social media sites and make it as easy as possible for them to rate your business or write reviews. Give them the direct link to your business and be sure to feature any personal reviews they write for blogs or other sources on your site or social media.

Another way to build your reputation through reviews or indirectly is to share the experiences of pleased customers on social media and on your business’ website. Consumers like to see that a business connects with its customers and goes out of their way to recognize them. Be sure to encourage and ask anyone who enjoys your services or product to add a review to services like Yelp that you are a member of. Then, be sure to monitor the review sites that you have a presence on, since you have to keep an eye out for negative reviews – unfortunately not everyone is perfect.

Negative Reviews? Don’t Ignore Them

Outside of the obviously fake bad reviews, a business can’t just flag any review that is negative of their product or service. But there is one step you can take to mitigate the damages from negative reviews and actually improve your business’ reputation. Tyson Downs at the SEOBullDog advises that you should respond to the review “both in public and in private.”

If you publicly address the review in a mature, solution-based manner, customers see this. As Tyson says, “take the higher road [and] you will gain more respect from your current and potential clients.” A response shows you care and it can often negate the damage that negative review could have caused in the viewer’s mind. Public responses have made me feel that way as a consumer and like many others, I immediately feel better about a business when I see that they care enough to address customer concerns, even online.

What About Yelp?

When it comes to Yelp, I recently had a pleasant experience with a local internet and cable company. Their reviews weren’t exactly stellar on Yelp, and I was concerned I was making a mistake switching. I’m sure many other customers felt the same way I did.

But I decided to go with them and I was overwhelmingly impressed with the customer service and speed of the internet service they offered. I asked plenty of questions, even mentioned the Yelp reviews to the customer rep, who seemed uninterested in the reviews and only wanted to tell me about their commitment to customer service.

The only mistake this company made was not actively asking their customers to post Yelp reviews. I almost didn’t go with the company because of their old and outdated reviews on Yelp, but they were the only reviews on there. Just a simple step like asking customers who appear pleased and happy with your service or product to review you on Yelp can go a long way for bringing more customers in.

Of course, to take advantage of Yelp, you need to make sure you’re doing it the right way. Aj Kumar at Entrepreneur has a great post about getting ranked on Yelp. His five steps are as follows: Fill out your profile completely, ask for reviews, try to prevent good reviews from being filtered out, respond to reviews, and to try running a Yelp Deal. If you need some more in-depth explanation on that, be sure to check out his post linked above.

What is your business doing to encourage reviews? Have you experienced a boost, or a decline, based on an online review?