Kind of like the old adage about pizza, online reviews are good…even when they’re bad. So, stop worrying about what people might say and start thinking of them as free advertising. Review sites give potential customers a wealth of information about your products or services—without you having to spend a dime to get the word out. Plus, statistically speaking, consumers prefer to frequent businesses that have been reviewed, regardless of whether those reviews are positive or negative.
In order to make the process a little less painful, I’ve compiled a simple TO DO list that will help you become your own “online reputation management” expert in a matter of minutes. So, just bite the bullet already and…
…follow these five easy steps. If you’d like, you can also download a printable version of the checklist, which has satisfying check-off-as-you-go boxes for those all of you overachiever types (like me).
1. Add yourself to the top four review sites right now and/or set up a business owner’s account and “claim” your listing.
- Yelp (direct link to create your free business account)
- Citysearch / InsiderPages (direct link to create a new business account)
- ServiceMagic (direct link to create a Pro account)
- Angie’s List (direct link to create a free business account)
2. Fill the whole darn profile out.
- Cover the basics—website, address, phone number, and directions—and double check to make sure there aren’t any typos!
- Give detailed information about your company’s specialties, hours, parking, etc.
- Add photos and videos of your products or facilities.
- Consider posting a special offer or discount code.
3. Get some glowing reviews up there.
- Send your best customers a friendly email requesting a review, and make things easy for them by including a link to your specific listing. (Caveat: Don’t offer customers a discount or freebie in exchange for a positive review. It will backfire.)
- Encourage anyone who’s had a particularly good experience to post a positive review about your business.
- Put up a sign at your checkout or a button on your webpage reminding new customers to review you.
4. Start participating in the conversation by responding to some of your reviews.
- Reply to praise with a simple, thoughtful message that will strengthen the bond with your existing customers, and also be sure to include key words and marketing messages for potential customers, such as, “Thank you, Mrs. Smith, for raving about our luxurious pedicures. Next time you come in, be sure to try our champagne service!”
- Respond to negative reviews by acknowledging how the customer felt (whether justified or not) and apologizing. Then, explain why it happened, describe what you’ve done to solve the problem, and invite the customer back. “Wow, Jen B., it’s awful to have to use a dirty bathroom. I’m very sorry you had that experience. Unfortunately, we had previously under-scheduled cleaning shifts. Since then, we’ve re-painted the walls, resurfaced the floors, and implemented a system wherein the restrooms get fully cleaned and re-stocked every half hour. We look forward to serving you again soon…and showing off our beautiful bathroom.”
5. Have a negative review removed if it is fraudulent or severely inappropriate.
- Each site has its own way of dealing with removal requests. Follow the FAQs to find out how it’s done or contact the site owner directly and request that they investigate the comment and remove it from their system.
- Be sure to let them know if you suspect that the review was posted by a competitor, a former employee, a spammer, an ex-girlfriend, or someone else with an axe to grind.
Although they may seem unmanageable at first, you really do have power over your reviews—both good and bad. You may not be able to control what people say about you, but you can absolutely control how you respond!