How to Get 5-Star Reviews for Your Small Business

How to Get 5-Star Reviews for Your Small Business

In the not-so-distant past, if you wanted to find out which local business was reliable, and which wasn’t, you just walked up to your neighbor by the backyard fence and asked for a recommendation.

Today, the internet has taken the place of the backyard fence and everybody’s your neighbor. Online review sites are today’s version of “word of mouth.” Every happy (or unhappy) customer has the potential to share his or her experience at your business with hundreds — or maybe thousands — of other people.

Knowing that, do you really want to list your business with Google, Yelp, and other review sites? Do you dare open your business up to potential criticism?

Absolutely. Online reviews are far too important to avoid.

Online Reviews Make Your Business Visible and Create Trust

Reviews are another way to increase your local search engine rankings through organic means. The more people discuss your brand, the better its visibility is to Google. Each review creates unique content that’s relevant to your brand — and some review sites, like Yelp, may even come up higher in search results for keywords than your actual website.

In addition, consumers are increasingly wary and distrustful of marketing techniques. They work hard for their money — so they need reassurance that they’re going to get a certain value when they hire someone or buy a product. That’s why 90% of people check out a local business online before they actually visit it. It’s also why 89% of consumers need to read multiple reviews for your business before they’re willing to trust you.

Essentially, consumers are looking for a good reason to choose one business over all the rest. In an increasingly competitive market, that’s exactly what you need to give them. Registering your business at online review sites and working hard to get those positive reviews is the best way to do it.

The Reviews You Get Could Make or Break Your Business

A heartfelt, positive review can have a huge effect on your business. Most online review sites use a five-star ratings system — and every star a business gains is associated with increased revenues of 5%-9%. In addition, consumers tend to overlook a business that has less than four stars. They simply don’t trust them. That makes positive reviews a major driving force for foot traffic, no matter what business you are in.

However, positive reviews aren’t the only ones that consumers are reading. A single, deeply-negative review can also have tremendous consequences for your business. One negative review can cost you 22% of your potential customers. Get three negative reviews, and you’ll lose 59% of those who read them.

It quickly becomes imperative to gain as many positive reviews as you can for your business. That not only gives you more good things for consumers to read, it helps mitigate the fallout from the occasional bad review.

Start a Plan to Solicit Reviews from Happy Customers

So, how do you go about getting more positive reviews?

Whatever you do, don’t hire anybody to write fake reviews. Not only is that unethical (and possibly illegal), it can backfire on your business badly. Your goal is to build trust — fake reviews from someone paid to write them will destroy that trust in a heartbeat.

Fortunately, getting good reviews is actually pretty easy. You simply ask for them. As soon as you open your business up for reviews on Google, Facebook, or Yelp, put your plan into action:

  • Ask friends and family who have used your services or bought your product to write a review. The odds are good that they’re some of your biggest fans anyway. Ask them to be specific about what they find most compelling about your business so that their reviews have that all-so-important ring of authenticity.
  • Talk to your most loyal customers. You know who they are. Let them know what you are doing and ask them for their support. Try reaching out to the people that already support you online through your Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest pages.

People love to be asked for their opinion, and you’ll continue to build trust by making your most loyal customers feel like they’re partners in your success.

Respond to Positive and Negative Reviews Alike

One of the biggest mistakes brands make is not responding to reviews — good or bad. Consumers want a response. Far too often — about 63% of the time — they’re disappointed.

A simple, “Thanks! We look forward to seeing you again!” can often suffice for a positive review, while negative reviews take a little more finesse. Since the world is watching, keep your tone professional and address customer complaints as openly as possible. Avoid angry, emotional responses and focus on the overall impression you want to make on others who read the exchange.

When you respond to a review, you’re telling the customer who left it that you care about his or her opinion. You’re also telling everyone else that you’re responsive to all kinds of feedback.

The Takeaway

Your customers are your neighborhood — and you need to lean over the metaphorical fence between you and engage their support.

Online reviews are a fantastic opportunity for your business. Not only do they help with local search marketing, they’re a tremendous source of information and feedback. Learn to solicit that feedback — and respond to it in earnest — and you’ll gain your customers’ trust and give prospects a reason to pick your business out of the crowd!

How to Handle Fake, Negative Online Customer Reviews

How to Handle Fake, Negative Online Customer Reviews

Online reviews are essential for small businesses, as they play a huge role in a consumer’s path to purchase journey. Consumers turn to local reviews to learn more about a business and its product and service offerings. Such reviews help build trust with consumers and establish credibility, putting the customer’s mind at ease when they are ready to make a purchase.

It goes without saying that the more positive reviews a business has, the more credible it will appear. It’s also important to recognize that the occasional negative review is both completely normal and unavoidable. False bad reviews, however, are an entirely different story. These reviews can provide potential customers with an inaccurate depiction of your business, thereby damaging your reputation.

According to BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review survey, 79% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year, but 84% admitted to not always being able to spot them. Additionally, consumers are reading an average of 7 reviews prior to trusting a business. That means that you must make the most of the reviews that you have and confirm that they are both accurate and truthful.

So, what should businesses do to handle those occasional fake, defamatory online reviews? Here are a few steps.

Determine if the Review is Real or Not

It’s a reality that you’re going to receive negative reviews, the important part is how you respond to them. When you see a negative review, don’t always assume that it’s fake. The Digital Marketing Institute lists 5 different ways to determine whether or not a review is fake:

-It doesn’t focus on any specifics, but rather very general information
-It includes a lot of verbs and few nouns
-It features more first-person pronouns
-The review is one or five stars
-The person reviewing has a shady history

Don’t Act Immediately

As a business owner, it’s understandable that when these reviews pop up you’re going to be upset and angry. However, it’s important to not act on those emotions right away. To avoid the risk of potential customers taking the review seriously, you’ll want to act promptly, but be sure to take a moment to calm down and decide on a rational course of action.

Work on Getting the Review Removed

Depending on which site the review exists on, you may be able to get it removed. There’s never any guarantee, as review sites cannot be expected to remove all of the negative posts. Here’s how some of the popular channels handle these situations:

Facebook: Facebook’s Community Standards are a set of principles predetermined by the company that will ideally help create a safe online environment for its users. If a review violates any of these standards, the post can be removed.

Yelp: On their website, Yelp lists three reasons for why they might remove a review, the reviewer has an apparent conflict of interest, the review doesn’t focus on the reviewer’s own consumer experience, or the review contains inappropriate material.

Google: According to Google, reviews that violate their review policies can be removed from Google My Business listings.

Seek out Positive Reviews

Positive reviews will help increase your business’s credibility, so you should always work on trying to gain more of them. The BrightLocal survey mentioned above revealed that 68% of consumers left a local business review when asked. So, if you’re confident in the service you’re providing, remember to ask your customers to provide feedback about their experiences on popular review sites.

This is How Online Reviews Affect Your Local Search CTR

This is How Online Reviews Affect Your Local Search CTR

We know that online reviews can make or break your local business. They are a huge part of your online reputation and good reviews can even cause consumers to spend more money while negative reviews tarnish your online reputation and cause consumers to lose trust.

Reviews can even improve your local search ranking. But, until recently, there hasn’t been a lot of research on how those reviews can affect your click-through rates (CTR).

A recent study, though, found that online reviews, good and bad, directly affect whether or not a consumer will click on your business’s listing in local search results.

Let’s look at the findings.

How Online Reviews Affect Your Local Search CTR

The study used local search results (the local pack/map results) as well as localized organic results and listed businesses with the following variations:

  • No star rating
  • Low star rating (1-2)
  • Higher star rating (3-5)

Using 18 variations of search results containing the types of star ratings listed above, a panel of 6,283 participants viewed search results and were told to click on the business that seemed like the best choice.

And, the results are not surprising. Here’s what they found:

Reviews are the Main Reason Consumers Click on Your Listing

Participants were asked why they chose to click certain listings, from reasons like “I liked the business name,” to “It was the top result.”

The most common answer, by far, was “It had positive reviews and star ratings.” In fact, 56 percent of people gave this reason for choosing a business while only 10 percent of participants gave the next most common answer, “I liked the business name.”

A measly 9 percent chose a business just because it was the top listing, meaning that it’s better to show up lower and have good reviews than to show up at the top of the local search results but have a bad star rating.

A Higher Star Rating Increases Your CTR

Listings with five stars got the most clicks (nearly 70 percent!) from the local pack while each decrease in star rating meant fewer clicks. Listings with four stars got 59 percent of the clicks and if a business had 3 stars, it got 44 percent of the clicks.

The good news is that improving your star rating improves your CTR. Boosting your rating from 3 stars to 5 stars gets you 25 percent more clicks.

Low Star Ratings Decrease Your Local Search CTR

It’s no surprise that low star ratings will make consumers less likely to choose your business. The study found that having a one-star rating decreases your clicks by 11 percent.

What is surprising, though, is that listings that only had a one-or-two-star rating received fewer clicks than listings with no rating at all. So, it’s better to have no reviews than to have a low star rating, not that we would recommend neglecting your review marketing and reputation management.

Final Thoughts

To increase your CTR in local search results, drive traffic to your website and bring in new customers, you need a positive star rating. This study showed that if your star rating is low, consumers will look right past your business and toward the competition, so now is the time to improve your star rating.

To understand how to improve your star rating, you’ll need to first know why consumers leave negative reviews. Once you have that down, you should start replying to your online reviews. Follow this up by actively working to get more reviews and you’ll be well on your way.

Don’t be Deceived by These Small Business Digital Marketing Myths

Don’t be Deceived by These Small Business Digital Marketing Myths

Digital marketing has helped many small business owners all over the US grow their businesses tremendously. However, there’s an abundance of information on the internet regarding digital marketing — best ways, how-to, etc. — and for small businesses owners looking to educate themselves on these various topics, it can get quite overwhelming.

So how can small business owners separate fact from fiction? It all begins with the right research from trustworthy, reputable sources. In this article, we’ll outline and debunk a few of the more common digital marketing myths.

Digital marketing isn’t meant for small businesses.
As we know, technology has come a long way over the last few years, and these advancements have led to changes in consumer behaviors. It’s no longer a question of whether or not your customers are using social media, or searching for your business online, it’s a guarantee. And you want to make sure that you capitalize on these opportunities by having a presence on these various digital platforms. Creating a website, being active on various social media channels and claiming you Google My Business listing are all great ways to kick off your digital marketing strategy.

I’m putting in the work, so the results should be immediate.
As the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait, and such is true with digital marketing. Unfortunately, regardless of how much work you put in and how correctly your strategy is executed, you’re still not going to see significant changes over night. It’s important to look at digital marketing as a marathon, not a sprint, and recognize right off the bat that it’s going to take time to see the results you’re looking for.

My business doesn’t need to be on social media.
Although it’s true that you don’t need to be on every social media platform, you should be on the ones that align with your target audience. You don’t want to go in blindly, so it’s important to first figure out the demographics of your customers and then conduct research on the social media channels that are being utilized by those consumers. Social media helps build a connection between your business and your customers, so being present on relevant platforms is crucial.

I don’t need a mobile responsive website.
As mentioned earlier, technology has transformed consumer behaviors, and more consumers than ever are utilizing mobile to not only find local businesses, but to make purchases as well. In fact, 88% of consumers who search for a type of local business on a mobile device call or go to that business within 24 hours. It’s imperative that your business’s website is mobile responsive, especially given that 57% of internet users will not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile website.

Bad online reviews are bad for my business.
Although bad reviews are never a good thing, a few of them won’t break your business. If a customer lodges a complaint, it’s important to respond to it, rather than avoid it. By responding to a negative review, you’re showing customer’s that you are willing to listen, you care about their poor experience and are willing to rectify it. This can be beneficial in changing customer’s perception of your business, while gaining insight into the interaction and correcting similar ones moving forward.

How to Optimize Your Google My Business Page

How to Optimize Your Google My Business Page

If you’re a small business owner looking to improve your local SEO strategy, the first step on your list should be claiming and verifying your Google My Business (GMB) listing. In claiming this listing, you’ll increase your chances of being found in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), Google’s Local Pack and Google Maps. The listing is completely free to claim and holds all of your relevant business information like hours of operation, address, phone number and more.

So, after you’ve verified your listing, what should you do to make the most of this free listing? Here are a few tactics.

1.) Fill in your business information completely.

First and foremost, it’s crucial to fill out all of your business information. If you don’t, someone else can, as Google provides a “Suggest an edit” option where anyone can edit or change your listing. Monitoring and updating this information regularly is wise, as users are not notified when changes are made to their listing.

Be sure to add photos, as consumers find visuals appealing and they can subsequently lead to greater engagement. Adding relevant keywords and search phrases to your listing can prove useful as well, as Google utilizes different signals to provide user’s search results.

2.) Utilize all of the available tools.

Google has added a wealth of useful tools to the GMB platform that help small businesses succeed and highlight their best, most unique facets. Some of the available tools include:

Website Developer: The website developer creates a website for your business within minutes using the information pulled from your GMB listing. After choosing a custom domain, users can edit text, photos and other design features from any device. As information on your GMB listing is updated, the information on your site will update as well.

PostsPosts give small businesses the ability to share unique updates and offers in real time. Whether you’re having a big sale, announcing a new product or hosting a special event, use Posts to spread the word and get people excited and engaging. Be sure to use images in your Posts to make them more visually appealing.

Questions & AnswersWith this feature, businesses can post frequently asked and important questions and answers within their GMB listing.

MessagingThis tool allows businesses to communicate directly with customers from their GMB listing. Users can answer questions, provide feedback and connect with customers in real time.

InsightsInsights provide analytical data from your listing. This data can then be used to understand your customers, where they are coming from and what they are looking to find. The data displays customer interactions, including: how customers found your listing, where customers find you on Google, customer actions, direction requests, phone calls and photos.

3.) Manage and respond to customer reviews.

Online reviews can significantly benefit your business in a number of ways. According to a 2017 Consumer Review Survey from BrightLocal, 97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day.

First, they can help improve your ranking in SERPs, as well as click-through rates. Secondly, they help you stand out against your competitors and build trust with consumers. Responding to reviews, positive or negative, demonstrates your commitment to your customers and that you value their opinion.

The more positive, helpful reviews your GMB listing has, the better. Google encourages asking customers for reviews following a positive experience. They even provide step by step instructions on how businesses can create a direct link for customers to write reviews on your GMB listing. They also provide tips for responding to reviews.

4.) Add a variety of photos and video.

Visuals have become an essential component to digital marketing. Visuals help humanize your brand, educate consumers and gives customers a look into what goes on within your business. According to Google, almost 50% of internet users look for videos related to a product or service prior to visiting a store.

Contrary to popular belief, photos and videos don’t have to be professionally done, they can be taken in the moment with a smartphone. Google allows users to post a 30-second video about their company right on their GMB listing, here are the guidelines:

  • Duration: Up to 30 seconds long
  • File Size: Up to 100 MB
  • Resolution: 720p or higher

5.) Add a business description.

A new component to the GMB dashboard now allows users to provide a brief description of their business directly within their listing. This description is meant to educate consumers on what sets you apart, things like product and service offerings, company history and other unique facets of your business.

This particular description should be exempt of things like promotions, pricing and sales. The character limit is 750, however, only 250 of those show up in the knowledge panel, so be sure to make the most of those first few sentences. Business descriptions should not include any URLs or HTML coding. For more information on how to edit your business description, Google offers easy to follow instructions.

Google also now allows users to turn on alert notifications for when a consumer opts to receive updates when you post new information or media on your listing.

Claiming and optimizing your business’s GMB listing can provide endless opportunities for your small business. And the fact that it’s free is incentive enough to claim it. As new features are added, it’s important to stay updated and utilize them, as they will only help your rankings in SERPs and the local three-pack. It’s important for small businesses to take advantage of this free listing by creating a fully optimized page packed with high-quality content.

How to Reply to Your Business’s Online Reviews

How to Reply to Your Business’s Online Reviews

Building a review marketing strategy and working to consistently get new positive reviews is a great start at reputation management for your business, but getting new reviews shouldn’t be where your effort ends.

You also need to reply to those reviews.

Customers have grown to expect quick replies from businesses online. In fact, many customers expect you to reply to their review within 24 hours.

So, how should you reply to your business’s reviews, and which reviews are you supposed to reply to?

Which Reviews Should You Reply to?

Most online review platforms give reviewers the chance to rate your business from 0-5 stars and comment on the reviews. For the sake of this article, we’ll call 0-2 stars a negative review, 3 stars a neutral review and 4-5 stars a positive review.

Here are the reviews you should reply to and why:

  • Always respond to your business’s negative reviews and try to make things right for the reviewer
  • Respond to all or many of your neutral reviews to find out what would’ve been the push that took the experience from three to four or five stars, and again, try to make things right for the reviewer
  • Reply to many of your positive reviews to let the reviewer know you appreciate the review

Why Should You Reply to These Reviews?

Since 97 percent of consumers read reviews, we know that local consumers who are looking for your products or services will be reading your reviews, and they’ll want to know that you engage with past customers if they had a subpar experience.

This lets the reader know that you want your customers to be happy, and that will make them more likely to choose your business.

Besides, replying to a negative review could change the reviewer’s response once you’ve solved the problem. This will give your star rating a boost and make consumers more likely to choose your business as 49% of consumers will only use a business if it has at least a four-star rating.

Now that you know which reviews you should respond to and why you’re replying, let’s talk about how to reply to those reviews.

How to Reply to Your Business’s Positive Reviews

It might seem silly to reply to your business’s positive reviews, but this is a great way to turn one-time customers into repeat customers or brand loyalists.

It also shows potential customers that you care about the customer experience, and that makes you look good. I know if I’m looking at two similar businesses in my area and one business takes the time to reply to customers, that’s the business I’ll choose.

Follow these steps when replying to positive reviews:

  1. Thank the customer.
  2. If they wrote anything specific such as “my hair color turned out great,” “they aligned my tires for free,” “the chocolate ganache cake was out of this world,” etc. mention that specific thing in your response “we love the color on you,” “the tire alignment was no problem at all!” or “we’re glad you liked the chocolate ganache cake.”
  3. Tell the customer you hope to see them again soon.

How to Reply to Your Business’s Neutral Reviews

  1. Thank the customer for their business.
  2. If they mentioned anything that they didn’t like, address that issue.
  3. Apologize.
  4. Ask the customer what you can do to make things right for them or invite them to call, email or visit you in person so that you can fix any issues.
  5. Follow up to make sure the customer is happy.

Neutral reviews can be tricky, especially if they didn’t write anything in the review. If that’s the case, follow the above steps, but ask why they didn’t have a good experience. For example:

“Hi [name], I’m sorry to hear you didn’t have an excellent experience with us! Could you please call me at [business phone number] to discuss what we could’ve done to improve your experience?”

How to Reply to Your Business’s Negative Reviews

Negative reviews. Ugh.

This is a tough one, because you work so hard to make your business a great place, service or experience. At some point, though, someone will be unhappy. There’s no avoiding it.

And, that person is likely to air their grievance with the entire Internet. Luckily, replying to the review can salvage the relationship since 70 percent of customers will return to your business if you make things right for them.

Here’s how to reply to those unfortunate but inevitable negative reviews:

  1. Take a moment to breathe or walk away from your computer. Negative reviews can be upsetting, and the last thing you want to do is reply when you’re still upset.
  2. Once you’ve calmed down, apologize to the reviewer, even if it seems unfair or even if the bad experience was their fault.
  3. Ask how you can make things right for the reviewer and mention any specifics they put in their review.
  4. Again, follow up to make sure the customer is happy.

Final Thoughts

Remember that you can’t please everyone in business. People become unhappy and write negative reviews for many reasons.

Reply to all your negative reviews, all or most of your neutral reviews and many of your positive reviews. Follow these steps and you’re on your way to a better online reputation.