Online Reviews: A Guide for Local Business Owners

Online Business Reviews | 5 Min Read
by Joanne Wayne
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Nowadays, the online presence of a company is vital for local business owners. The statistics show that 90% of customers look through reviews of the company before visiting it, and most of the customers trust online reviews just as much as they trust personal recommendations.

Online reviews are an effective way to attract new clients and keep hold of your loyal customers. There are a bunch of review websites, where your customers can leave positive or negative feedback which you can monitor. Feedback in the form of the reviews is important for your business and can improve your SEO, or worsen it depending on the review.

Impact of Positive Reviews on Your Business

Positive online reviews stir up the interest of customers. Customers will preferably spend time and money in the business they are confident in, and getting positive feedback from your loyal customers is the first step to building long-lasting relationships based on trust.

Positive reviews can influence your search engine results page (or SERP) and put you in the top results. For example, if you are looking for a dentist in Texas, the first results will be the ones that have a minimum rating of 4.8 stars.
Positive reviews influence your SEO and put you into top
Positive reviews influence your SERP and push you to top
At this point, you might start thinking: "Why don't I simply buy online reviews?" Get rid of this idea and let us tell you why.

Why You Should Never Buy Online Reviews

Multiple online ads promise reviews from active profiles in relevant locations. Prices start from $30 for 10 reviews, making the deal seem cost-effective. False reviews might attract new consumers who may leave genuine reviews, but on the other hand, if the fake reviews are tracked and identified, you may lose your existing loyal consumers – and with the new algorithms this is very likely to happen.

Example: Yelp and Google have a clear ban policy for marketing campaigns based on buying reviews. They can ban accounts with suspicious activity, which makes purchasing reviews extremely risky and potentially harmful for the business' reputation. And, the icing on the cake is that buying reviews breaks Federal Trade Commission Rules too.
Close more deals with quick and easy customer interaction!

Impact of Negative Reviews on Your Business

Negative reviews hurt. But don't fall into despair if you are being criticized. Pay attention and look through the comments and suggestions from your customers. You may find some problems that you haven't noticed that your clients have.
Key Step for All of Your Reviews
Respond to all reviews. If it's a bad review, apologize first, show your sympathy and ask for a second chance to show that you are not that bad.
the business owner apologizez at his customer for inconveniences and asks for another chance
The business owner apologizez at his customer for inconveniences and asks for another chance
Don't be afraid of the bad reviews that you might one day get. Be proactive and prepare in advance: if you prepare a plan on how to deal with negative reviews, they won't have such a negative impact on you and can actually be really useful.

How to Ask Customers to Leave a Review

Golden rule: If you want to get more reviews, just ask. Customers won't hesitate to share their feedback with you or with other people, especially, if you ask them personally. Choose the right time to do it (either during or after providing the service) and ask your customers the right questions, for example:

— How would you rate our employees communication with you ?

— What might have improved your experience with us?

— Why did you decide to purchase from us?

— What products or services do you wish we had?

How to Wisely Respond to Reviews and Be Cool

For success, your reply should contain a clear, polite and sympathetic message, regardless of if you get a positive or negative review.

Nevertheless, here are some points you need to pay attention to when responding to reviews.

Key Steps for Responding to Reviews

  • Negative reviews: keep calm, show sympathy and support the customer.
  • Positive reviews: show gratitude and compliment the customer if appropriate.
  • No-text reviews: thank the customer.
  • Fake reviews: prove that they are fake or simply report them.

Responding to Negative Reviews

If you receive a negative review, interact directly with the customer, sympathise with them and show your desire to support them. The best way to manage criticism is to offer your help and focus on the future.
Negative review towards the previous owner of the business
A negative review towards the previous owner of the business
Chris Y. behaves brilliantly in this situation and is very sympathetic towards the customer. He explains the situation, telling them that now everything has changed and tries to interest the once lost customer with a free repair offer in case something goes wrong.

It's not difficult to respond to negative reviews like in the example above. Let us show you a few templates that can help:
— David, we're truly sorry to hear about your trouble. Comfort is very much a priority for all of our clients and we will continue to do everything we can until these issues are resolved. We appreciate you providing us with this feedback and encourage you to give us a call if you have any additional concerns. Thank you.

— Jess, thank you for bringing this to our attention. We sincerely appreciate you taking the time to let us know of your concerns. Please feel free to contact the office manager to address your concerns in greater details.

— Dear Michael, we thank you kindly for leaving a review, and we are really sorry to hear that you've had a bad experience at our center. If you don't mind, could you please contact us by email at [email protected] Your comments can help us to improve and not to make such mistakes in the future. We hope that you will give us a second chance.

Positive Reviews

When you get positive reviews, it is necessary to thank the customer for their kind words. They spent time to write it and gave you a high rating, so taking the time to reply to them is one more way to show your customers that you care. Don't forget to pass along a compliment too.
Manager shares positive emotions of a customer
The manager shares the positive emotions of the customer
When you look through this reply, you feel the positivity radiating from both the manager and customer. This is an example of a good review and a good reply. The manager tells the customer that their words of appreciation will be shared with the clinic staff and also mentions how important reviews like this are for their center.

If you get positive reviews you need to reply to them, here are some examples of how to respond to positive reviews:
— I'm so happy to hear that you liked our classical massage! On Wednesdays, we have a 20% discount on Reflex massages, it's a hot deal now.

— Colleen, it means the world to us when a customer recognizes and appreciates our work ethic. Thank you very much for sharing your experience.

— Thank you, Catherine, for your kind words about our work and especially your great review of Dennis. We are thrilled that he provided you with such a great service visit!

No-Text Reviews

Sometimes instead of text reviews, you just get ratings.

If the rating is low, contact the reviewer and figure out what went wrong. If the rating is high, say a few words of appreciation to your customer.
No-text review with a high ranking
A no-text review with a high ranking
Unfortunately, the business owner decided not to reply to this review. Probably they have not considered it important because there is no text. Anyway, let's imagine that this is us who got this review and we do need to respond. Keep it short and sweet.
— Hi, Brian! We are glad that you found time to leave us a review. Hope to see you again at Avetex Furniture.
No-text review with a low ranking
A no-text review with a low ranking
The same story here, the business owner doesn't think a review without text is important, even though it's a negative one. This is how we would respond to such a review.
— Valery, we are sorry that you've had a bad experience at our salon. We would love to know more details about your last visit. Please, contact us at [email protected]

Fake Reviews

Fake reviews can be both positive or negative, but in any case, they are useless for your business. There are ways to fight against them: the easiest way is to flag or report these reviews or reply to them, saying that you haven't found any record of anyone of that name ever purchasing a service or product from you, or provide them with your contact details to get more info.
The business owner pointing out that the reviewer has never been their customer
A business owner pointing out that the reviewer has never been a customer of theirs
In the example above, Markus W. searched through his database and didn't find a customer with the name of the reviewer. Markus responded to the comment, letting other customers know that this review is false.

Business Review Sites

There are global and local business review websites where small and medium entrepreneurs can claim local businesses and start to actively interact with their consumers. Some of them are more famous (Google Reviews, Yahoo, Yelp, Facebook, etc.), some are less (Foursquare, Epinion, VendOp, etc.).

Advice: Choose the platform which feeds into smaller directories. Also, check which industries the review site covers and if your industry is on the list. Pay attention to the audience geography: some ratings and reviews cover only a single country, like the website "Which?" that only covers the UK and costs extra if your business is located in the US.

If you have an online review strategy, focus first on the Big 3 (Google, Yelp and Facebook reviews). These websites can help increase your business' online exposure and increase brand trust.
Originally published Sept 9, 2019 10:00:00 AM

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