April 7, 2011
If you’re running a business that depends on local traffic, you probably know that good reviews can bring more customers through the door.
But did you know that getting reviews – and not necessarily just good ones – can help your business rank better in search results?
It’s true. Getting customers to review your company on your Google Places listing, in Yahoo! Local, Bing, CitySearch, Yelp and other review sites helps you in a couple of ways:
– Ninety percent of consumers consult the Web before they head out of the house to make a local purchase. Yes, you read that right – 90 percent, according to digital marketing analysis firm eMarketer Inc. If your business has plenty of reviews for people to read – and most are enthusiastic, or at least positive – you’re likely to get some new customers. That’s because 70 percent of people believe in the validity of reviews written by strangers, according to The Nielsen Co.
– Having reviews of your business in several places – including your own website – can improve your search engine optimization (SEO) and help you rank higher in search results. That’s because search engines now look at reviews as an indication that a business matters. And if you’ve got plenty of reviews, you may be able to occupy more than one place on a page of search results.
Take a look at how much “real estate” Voodoo Doughnuts takes up on this search engine results page, called a SERP in SEO-speak. The company has hit gold with the top three spots. Voodoo also has the top spot in local results – the list headed “Places for donuts near Portland, OR” – and yet another spot lower down in local results.
Note that Voodoo Doughnuts’ place page shows 3,015 reviews. That’s a lot of reviews, and they’re clearly helping this already-popular shop get noticed by anyone searching for donuts in Portland, Oregon.
I’m Not a Doughnut Rockstar. How Do I Get Reviews?
The good news is, it’s not that hard to get more of your customers to review you. Adopting just a few practices recommended by local-search guru Mike Blumenthal can help your company’s website, Google Places page and other listings appear higher in searches – and win you more business.
A quick summary of how to get more reviews:
1) Get your company listed everywhere on the Web it makes sense for your business.
2) Ask for reviews – see suggestions below.
3) Deliver great customer service so people will want to review you, and so the reviews will be mostly good.
First, Stake Your Claim
There have always been directories and listing sites on the Web, though the ones most in favor with searchers tend to change over time.
Some good places to get listed:
GetListed.org offers free help for getting your business listed at top sites on the Web, including Google Places, Yahoo Local, InsiderPages.com and others. GetListed tells you which listing sites are free, which cost money, and advises you which paid sites might make sense for your business. The site also offers a tool called Local Dashboard that helps you track your online listings.
Yelp.com – Yelp is famous for its reviews of restaurants and other retail and service businesses. Local search expert David Mimh, who runs GetListed.org, says the site is essential for any bar or restaurant to list on Yelp.
CitySearch.com – It’s not as popular as it was a few years ago, but CitySearch is still where many people go to choose a restaurant or other local business.
Use any site where you know your customers are. Mike Blumenthal suggests choosing the sites that your customers favor. How would you know that? Well, you could Google your direct competitors to see where they’ve been reviewed, and make sure you have listings on those sites. If you own a pet supply business, and you know of sites where pet owners exchange news and tips – and you can list your business there – do it.
AboutUs.org has a page about virtually every site on the Web. Each website profile has editable fields where you can add your contact information, a short summary about your site and your logo. There’s also a wiki section where you can write as much as you like about your site and your business, and include links back to your site on keywords that matter for your business. Under the AboutUs DoFollow policy, those links can become follow links, and add some SEO value for your site.
How To Get Reviews: Make it Easy
Mike Blumenthal says you must make it very easy for people to review your business. One great strategy is to create a special page for reviews on your own website – for example, ”’http://www.MyLocalBusiness.com/reviews”’ – so people can leave their comments easily on your site. You can put the URL for that page on your business card, and hand it out to everyone. You could even print up a special thank you card with the reviews page printed on it, and slip it in with your customers’ purchases when you bag them.
Mike also suggests creating a QR code for your reviews page, and having it printed up fairly large, to display in your storefront window. A customer can then scan the QR code with her phone, and maybe even write a review of your business right then and there. Or have the QR code link to your Google Places profile.
Once you’ve listed your business at the sites mentioned in the section above, you can also print the URLs for those listings on a card, or use QR codes, to make it easy for people to get to your review sites. One caution: You can’t directly ask people to review you on Yelp – that can get you banned from the site. Nonetheless, lots of people know and use Yelp, so it’s still a good idea to be listed there.
It may sound simple, but the best way to get reviews is to deliver a good experience. Treat customers with courtesy and respect, offer a good product or professional-level service, and most of your reviews will be good.
Another easy way: Ask for reviews. When someone tells you how pleased they are with your company, ask them if they’d be willing to put it in writing. Guide them to the location where you’d most like the review to appear. Making it easy for them makes it more likely they’ll do it.
Anticipate that things will sometimes go wrong, and give people a way to let you know what’s gone wrong, so you can put it right immediately. Display your phone number prominently on every page of your website, so people can call you. If the phone isn’t the best option, or you want to offer more options, put a big “Contact Us” button on every page, and provide full contact options on the page it links to. It goes without saying that when people contact you with a problem, you must help them quickly and graciously.
Providing quick and easy ways to contact you engenders trust in people who come to your website. If you’re willing to be contacted that easily, you must be trustworthy – the exact opposite of those shady sites that offer no contact information at all.
Another big benefit: Helping a dissatisfied or perplexed customer can earn you an enthusiastic fan who’s more than willing to give you a good review. And that review is one more building block for growing your online presence.
Aliza is the editor-in-chief at AboutUs. She works with the content on our website, and the people who create it. @AlizaEarnshaw