Best Practices for Small Businesses to Get Better Online Reviews

Eric Welke Best Practices, Online Reviews, Small Business Leave a Comment

A potential customer is looking for a place to purchase lumber and a hungry family is looking for a new restaurant to try, and they are all looking at online reviews. When opening an online site or app that lists all local businesses, customers want to find a place with mostly positive reviews and a decent number of ratings.

Clients and customers want confidence in your business when they first walk through your doors and online reviews help boost that confidence. Whatever your small business, you want to keep focus on ensuring your customers are happy and therefore, more willing to leave you positive reviews online.

It is well known that these reviews are read by the public and can bring you more business. Unfortunately, it is a bad experience that often prompts a consumer to actually leave a review. Hopefully, it is a fluke for someone to have a poor experience when they walk in your doors.

Because these reviews can bring down what should be a stellar online reputation, placing a focus on getting and keeping positive online reviews should be your next (and continuous) goal. When it comes to getting and keeping more business in your doors, you need to remember the power of the Internet. With the Internet at everyone’s fingertips 24/7 these days, anything can be said and anyone reading it can believe it.

Understanding the importance of getting better online reviews is vital for you to succeed in this area. The general public want to spend their money wisely so they often to turn to review sites for assistance and suggestions from strangers for the best place to go with their cash.

If you aren’t yet convinced of the importance of online reviews, take a look at the numbers:

In a recent survey, two-thirds of consumers reported reading online reviews. And 88% of the consumers reported they not only take the reviews seriously, but also will listen to them and make their decision on your business based upon what others say and how they rate you online.

In a Harvard study, they found that a one star improvement on Yelp increased business 5-9% for restaurants. Cornell University even discovered that with each point increase in hotel reviews, these hotels were able to increase prices up to 11.2% and keep a happy cliental.

Review sites and mobile apps are syncing

When customers are looking for a place to spend their money, you obviously want their business, which means you need to be mindful of your online reviews. When searching for a particular local service on Google, reviews on maps will show up first in a search, generally followed by review sites like Yelp or Citysearch all before an actual website for a competitors or your business.

The majority of people will not scroll down too far to look for a website, but rather begin their search right there with the maps and reviews. Review sites to mobile map apps are also becoming syndicated. Yelp is one of the most popular review websites and attracts millions of visitors a year.

Apple maps, the iPhone integrated GPS system, has joined forces with Yelp to pull up their reviews when an Apple map user is searching for a particular business category in their area. With the merging of websites and Apps, the effect of online reviews is multiplied.


Improving your online review standing

To help boost your online reviews, there are several practices in which you can and should partake.

Never pay

First of all, never pay for fake reviews! There are several reasons for this. First, it is unethical and illegal. Imagine what would happen to your reputation and numbers if your reviews were found to be a fraud?

With all the new investigations and crackdowns, it is simply not worth the risk. There have been lawsuits with Yelp and the NY attorney general against businesses and fake reviews, forcing many to pay thousands of dollars.

Good businesses understand that real reviews by actual customers are the ones that count. Without these reviews, businesses cannot identify places of success and places that could use some work to make themselves a better business and bring in a happier cliental basis.  All types of businesses have gotten caught doing this.  Whether you are a dentist, restaurant, or any other type of business, there are always better options.

Along with paying for fake reviews, never use incentives or anything that could be seen as a bribe for reviews. The reasons for this are similar to the ones above. While actual cash may not flow from hand to pocket, the cash value does. If you offer coupons, free products or services, or discounts, you are simply bribing for a review and you are breaking the FTC’s and Google’s legal policies.

Don’t be afraid to ask

While you should never pay or use incentives for reviews, it is still ok to ask your customers for reviews. Businesses with repeat customers and businesses that have been in existence for several years are doing something right. Let the world know this by asking for reviews from your customers. New businesses will want to grow in the media world as well.

When you ask for a review, many people will understand the importance of you growing your online reputation. A simple way for customers to review your site is for you to have a link on your online social media sites and actual website to the site you wish to be reviewed on. Please remember to ask kindly and to not be pushy.

Gaining feedback through the Net Promoters Score will help you better assess your customers. By simply asking your customers how likely they are to recommend your business to others on a scale from 1-10, you can better understand how others view your business and divide your customers into 3 categories.

  • The Promoters: These customers score a 9-10. They are the most loyal to your business, will be repeat customers, and refer others to you.
  • The Passives: These customers score a 7-8. They are satisfied with their experience with your business, but they do not have the enthusiasm of the promoters and are vulnerable by competitor’s offering.
  • The Detractors: These customers score a 0-6. They are not satisfied with your business and they can hurt your brand, reputation, and obstruct growth through negative word-of-mouth advertising.

The detractors can damage your image the most, so reaching out to them may help you in the long run. If you come across a customer who is unsatisfied, talk to them. Find out what the issue(s) was and how they would like to see it resolved.

Apologize and get as much information from them as you can. Remember, the customer is always right. Accommodate to them how you see fit. Customers will remember when they were not happy but the business owner wanted to resolve the issue as best as he or she could. Totally resolving the issue may not be possible in all cases, but you won’t know until you try.

If you can turn an unpleased customer into a promoter, you will hopefully bring in more business. Not all detractors can or are willing to turn into a passive or promoter type customer. Because of this, you should focus on promoter customers. The more promoter customers you bring through the door, the better business will be for you.

They can be used as a grassroots marketing strategy as they spread the word of your business and recommend it to others in the community. Remember to encourage them to leave a review on a review site. Because passive customers can easily walk out your door and into a competitor’s, make a strategy for turning them into promoters.

Turning passives into promoters is the most challenging area. They are not passionate about your business whereas the detractors and the promoters already have some kind of passion towards you. It is very possible to turn negative passion into positive passion and skipping the passive stage all together.

There may not be many things you can do to turn passives into promoters, but there is a technique you can try. Talk to them. Find out what they are looking for in your business and ask if there are any improvements they would like to see. They may just have a great idea to turn other passive customers into promoters as well.

Make your business known

Make your business known online. Some customers may not realize you have a website, Facebook page, or twitter account. If you have a building or space customers may come into, put up a simple sign that says ‘Like us on Facebook’ or ‘check out our Twitter account’.

When people look at these sites, be sure to have a link for them to click on to allow them to easily review your business.

Focus on your review sites

One practice to follow in getting better reviews online is to limit your review sites. Don’t spread reviews across too many sites at once.

You need to build a foundation on the most important 2-3 review sites for your business industry. Wait until this foundation is solid before focusing on another batch of review sites. It will become too challenging trying to do all the sites at once, but by focusing on 2-3, you can build trust with your current cliental and potential customers.

If you are unsure which sites to start with, consider Yelp, Google, Facebook, or Twitter as these are the most popular review sites by the average consumer. Set up a business account on the site so you can access your page and edit the information (hours, location, logo, etc.). This will also help you comment on reviews customers leave. Remember the more review sites you are on, the more you have to manage.

When a review is left on a review site, pay attention to it. This includes the reviews that may already be there. When a review is negative, comment on it or reach out to the customer. Do what you can to turn an unhappy customer into a happy one. Those reading the reviews will see you commented on it and realize you care about your customers and desire to have strong customer service.


The posting customer may even change their mind about your business and leave a more positive review. When you know what people are saying about your business, you have a better idea of what you did right and what needs improvement.

Take these seriously and be open to change to keep the customer happy. Remember, it is a numbers game in a sense. As you receive reviews, you gain popularity. However, with the more reviews you get, the higher the chance the reviews won’t all be positive. It is nearly impossible to please everyone.

Don’t let this scare you away from focusing on the importance of reviews as the more reviews you get in, the more positive ones you will get too. If you get 8 positive reviews and 2 negative, that is better than 1 positive as the majority show you are a great business. Just remember the more reviews you have, the more people will pay attention to your business.

Some final tips to make note of

  • Reviews do not usually go live right away. If a customer tells you they wrote a review and you want to read it, don’t be surprised you can’t see it immediately.
  • There are some review sites, especially Yelp, that heavily filter reviews. They do this to try and ensure the reviews are not fake. Even a legitimate review left for your business, may be filtered out and not show up. This is one of the major reasons getting reviews is a number games. You want to get as many as possible to make up for those that are filtered out.
  • Don’t expect instant results when building better online reviews. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
  • Take the feedback seriously, don’t just ignore the bad, but take note of both the good and bad to better know how to improve your business and know where to keep shining.

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