Why You Should Ask for Online Reviews, Even If You Don't Sell Products

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Online reviews can make or break a business.

You can go online to rate and review restaurants, podcasts, hair salons, hotels, teachers, potential dates, dogs... when you really stop and think about it, we're very close to living in that Black Mirror episode. You know the one.  

Ratings and reviews are important for your business, of course, because positive ones can boost your credibility, build trust in your brand, tell potential new customers that you're worth checking out, and make you feel supes good about what you're doing. Reviews also give you tons of actionable information about your customers and your business. 

In fact, 88% of U.S. consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from their friends and family! The majority of consumers read them. When was the last time you checked out some reviews? We bet it was within the past week or two, at least.

Even if you don't sell products or have a retail store, online reviews matter. If you're part of a non-profit, you should be well aware of websites like Charity Navigator and Guidestar, which collect reviews from volunteers and donors. If you hire employees, review sites like Glassdoor gather reviews from your current and previous employees to share what it's like to work for you.

So, let's make sure you're bringing in the positive reviews and ratings regularly, because you know what's worse than a negative review? No reviews.

Prioritize what review platform would have the most positive impact for your biz.

Start by figuring out where you're listed online. Open an incognito browser and look up your own business on a search engine. Are you listed on any sites like Yelp? Are you in any online directories you weren't aware of. Search every incarnation of your business name that you can think of, because customers aren't always super careful about spelling.

If you are listed in a directory or on a site that you don't remember signing up for, don't be surprised. These online directories often allow anyone to add a business and share some information about it, whether that business approves or not.

You can usually claim the listing by proving that you're the business owner in some way, and it's a good idea to do that so you can update your listing with the right information and branding, and so you can respond to reviews and customer complaints.

Here's a big ol' list of directories where you might be listed.

Don't forget to look up directories related to your industry, especially if you're in a service-based business. For example, if you're a therapist or a medical professional, you might be listed in a directory like ZocDoc. If you have a consulting firm, you might be listed on Clutch.co. If you're part of an association, you could be listed in their professional directory too. Get creative in your searches!

And, of course, if you have a Facebook Business page, you could have reviews (but Facebook calls them "Recommendations" because... why not?). Use this top-to-bottom guide to learn all about those, including how to turn them off.

Make it as easy as possible for your customer to leave a review. 

The best way to get more positive reviews is to ask! Don't be shy about reaching out to your happiest customers and best clients, and asking if they can leave a review about you. Former clients and customers count, too.

Be specific about where they should leave the review if you're especially trying to boost your profile on an industry directory. Your customers will probably be excited to help you boost your business, but make it as easy as possible for them to do that.

Send them an email, and include links to these review sites so your customer only has to click once to share their positive thoughts about you. Or, if you're not sure if they're tech-savvy enough to deal with a site like Yelp or Facebook, ask them to send you a testimonial directly that you can feature it on your website. 

Next, think about the key moments of your interaction with your customers when they might feel the most positively about you. Maybe they see a "Thank you for your purchase!" page when they buy from you; you could add a link for them to leave a review there, when they're excited about what they've bought. Or, in a service-based business, you could request a review when you've wrapped up your contract and sent your final invoice. (Save this for happy clients and customers, of course!)

If you're really serious about your customer review game, there are tools that integrate reviews with your website and with business listings. Here are five you can check out; they can even integrate with your email marketing to automatically ask your customers to rate and review you after they've made a purchase or visited your website.

Update your Google My Business listing. 

We keep mentioning Google, and there's a good reason for that: Keeping that Google My Business listing updated and responding to reviews there is one of the easiest ways to boost your overall visibility online. Google itself has repeatedly said how important this is, so we should listen.

Use our step-by-step guide to update your Google My Business listing and make sure it's looking as spiffy as it can be. Add photos, double-check your address on Google Maps, ensure your hours are filled out, add your social media profiles, and fill in any other blanks that you can. And, of course, if you have any reviews there, reply and thank those happy folks for their kind words. 

Every little bit helps your listing show up more often for your potential customers!

Worried about negative reviews? 

Next week, we'll cover how to handle negative reviews on platforms like Yelp and Google, and share some tips for responding to unhappy customers.