Good or bad, small business owners shouldn’t ignore online reviews, and with a little help, you can turn your reviews into a great marketing tool.
There are many elements of digital marketing, and online reviews can sometimes be the most frustrating one for small business owners in the sportfishing industry. How do you know where customers are leaving their reviews? Are these reviews going to affect you, are they important? Should you take the time to respond to the review?
These are important questions and although it can take some time and effort to learn the best ways to deal with online reviews, if you’re persistent you will eventually be able to turn them from a frustrating hassle into a great tool for building your reputation and winning over new customers.
What are online reviews?
Online reviews are feedback left by customers on websites such as Yelp, Google, and social media platforms such as Facebook. Many reviews consist of comments accompanied by a star rating and are posted publicly on the business’ profile and Google search results when a customer looks for a business.
What is my online reputation?
A tackle shop’s or charter captain’s online reputation consists of several different components such as testimonials, reviews, trustworthiness, social proof and much more; all of which are important to manage.
Business reviews are a big part of your online reputation because they come from customers and are posted all across the web and on your social media pages. Online reviews are also helpful in distinguishing the success of your business from the success of your competition. Due to online reviews, a person can get a better idea of the business’s customer service, their timeliness, and the quality of their sportfishing products and services.
Why do online reviews matter?
While it can take time to learn how to manage online reviews, they can ultimately become a powerful marketing tool. Whether you like them or not customers will see these reviews, so it is definitely worth the time and effort to encourage people to leave good reviews and capitalize on the results to gain new customers.
Rather than treating customer service as a necessary chore, view it as a marketing strategy. Customers with positive experiences are usually happy to send in good recommendations and reviews, making them very valuable. Potential customers often rely heavily on the comments of others and will make decisions based off of reviews. Therefore, positive reviews from the community lead to high conversion rates.
Reviews, good and bad, will provide you with valuable information that you can use to improve your business. In a lot of reviews, depending on the business and type of experience, people include points such as quality of service, cleanliness, staff, and hours. These points can help you take a deeper look into what is and isn’t working for your business.
How influential are online reviews?
Online reviews are very influential with customers and can be the deal breaker when it comes to winning or losing a sale. The majority of people will regularly read online reviews and most of those people will trust online reviews on the same level as they would a personal recommendation.
What are the best online review websites?
The best websites for online reviews tend to vary from business to business, but the following sites are important for just about any tackle shop owner or charter captain:
- Bing Places
- Yellow Pages
- Better Business Bureau
If you run a service-based business, here are some other websites you should know about:
- TripAdvisor (travel and hospitality)
- Yelp (restaurants and retail)
- Angie’s List (contractors)
- Kudzu (contractors)
Before having customers leave reviews for your business on Google, make sure you claim your Google My Business profile. Google My Business is Google’s listing platform for millions of companies, big and small and is a powerful tool that can be used to help your business rank higher in search results and reach more potential customers. After you claim your business on Google, you can receive notifications when a customer leaves a review, and it becomes easier to read and respond to each review individually. The reviews that people leave, along with their star ratings will show up when customers use Google’s search engine and Google Maps.
When your business page on Facebook is categorized as a local business with a physical address, Facebook reviews and ratings automatically become enabled. While you do have the option to disable reviews on your Facebook business page, you won’t receive the benefit of having positive reviews and feedback from customers and the boost in your search ranking for having reviews. Remember, it is important to track and reply to your customer reviews on Facebook, just as you would on any other platform.
There is a multitude of online review platforms across the web, but the one that tends to cause the most frustration for small business owners is Yelp. This is because of the fact the Yelp’s filter can sometimes hide a business’s positive reviews. While this is frustrating, do know that hidden reviews can resurface again.
Life is a lot easier when you are getting as many positive reviews as possible. Put in a strategy for using Yelp to your advantage. Here are some tips:
- DO NOT purchase reviews for your business. Yelp has a refined algorithm and can filter through purchased reviews and hide them from your customers. Purchasing reviews can also cause your profile to be flagged.
- DO NOT solicit reviews at your working establishment as Yelp’s algorithm is also able to distinguish if they are coming from a single IP address.
Do online reviews affect search engine optimization?
While businesses with a lot of online reviews and photos tend to show up more distinctly in local search results, the impact of reviews on ranking is highly debated. It is uncertain as to whether the number of reviews is the cause of a business’s increase of rank or if it is simply because the company is so visible.
While the impact on search engine optimization remains unclear, studies have shown that having reviews do increase interactions with your business from the search results. An increase in interaction and clicks will have a definite, positive effect on your website’s search engine optimization.
Asking customers to leave online reviews
Should you ask customers to leave online reviews? Yes, you should! In fact, asking customers to leave reviews is one of the best ways to get more of them (with the exception of Yelp).
It is important to create a strategy and continually ask customers for more feedback. Here are some tips:
- Think about where you want customers to leave reviews. Google? Yelp? Facebook? Be clear and precise on where you would like customers to leave feedback and provide a link for them to follow to post the review.
- Think about when you should suggest the review. Do you want a customer to leave it before they convert or after?
- Think about how you will help your customers understand the meaning and benefit of the review and communicate that with them.
- It is important to interact with your customers and show them that you are listening to their feedback. Have a strategy for who will respond to online reviews, when they will do it, and how. Customers want someone that they can engage with, so don’t just leave them with an automated, generic message.
Asking for reviews on one site vs. multiple sites
It is better to target several review sites rather than just one as you want to make sure that you have positive reviews in as many places as possible. Do remember to stay focused however, so you don’t get overwhelmed monitoring reviews and posting replies. If you are just starting out and don’t have any online reviews yet, try beginning with one site and add others as you receive more customer feedback and ratings.
What if I don’t have time to ask customers for reviews?
Asking customers to leave reviews for you doesn’t have to take up much time. In fact, with a little preparation, you can just add it onto your regular interactions with customers. If you create customer feedback cards with simple instructions and a link to your business profile, you can give out the card at the end of a sale or service with a quick request. Automated emails sent after transactions are also a great way to reel in reviews, you can even use the same information that’s on your cards.
Tracking online reviews
There are several online software solutions and well as service solutions when it comes to tracking your online reviews. Which one of these solutions that you go with really depends on how much work you’re willing to do yourself or how much you want to outsource the work. It is important to track your online reviews so you can monitor what is being said about your company and so that if someone leaves negative feedback, you can respond quickly.
Many full service, digital marketing companies will offer reputation management and monitoring. If you would rather not pay for this service and are more of a do-it-yourself business, there are a couple of ways to track your online reviews for free:
- Track your online reviews through Google Alerts. This service allows you to set up notifications for branded queries such as your business name, product names, or employee names. If Google picks up a mention of your business online, it’ll let you know.
- Social Mention is another great, free tool that allows you to track your reviews across the web. All you need to do is type in the keywords you would like to monitor, like your business name, and it will alert you.
Handling Negative Reviews
It is imperative to respond to negative reviews and a reply might help mitigate the damage caused by the negative review. No one likes bad reviews but it is never a good idea to ignore them as it gives people the impression that the business either doesn’t care or doesn’t know what is being said about them.
How you respond to negative reviews is important. Don’t reply in a defensive or argumentative manner, instead try to resolve the customer's complaint. Here are a couple of suggestions to consider when trying to resolve a complaint:
- Try reaching out to the customer via phone or email and see if the issue can be resolved. If you can resolve the issue, ask them if they would be willing to edit their review; many people will do this as they are happy to have personal interactions.
- If the problem cannot be solved or you can’t reach the customer, respond to them through the review site but remember to keep a positive and professional attitude.
- Bury the negative review in positive ones. A negative review won’t hurt if there are several positive, glowing ones above it.
Responding to positive reviews
Responding to positive reviews is just as important as responding to negative ones. Take the time to thank customers for their business and for taking the time to leave feedback. Engagement with your customers will help you grow your reputation and create loyalty.
Don’t pay for positive reviews
Don’t fall prey to companies offering to write you good reviews for a fee and don’t bribe customers in order to get positive feedback; it’s never a good idea. Customers expect that online reviews will be unbiased and paying for reviews will ultimately ruin your credibility if you are discovered; most customers can tell when an online review is ingenuine.
Can I review my own business?
You shouldn’t ever review your own business as it is considered unethical and it is likely that you will get caught. Rather than asking past customers to leave a positive review, encourage them to share honest feedback about their experiences with your business to help you continue improving your customer experience over time.
Is it possible to remove bad reviews?
In the majority of cases, it is impossible to remove reviews. Efforts to silence customers typically backfire but in some cases you may be able to appeal to the hosting website to have the review taken down. While reviews online are allowed to contain negative feedback and opinions, they are not allowed to offer false information. If a review contains false information, is abusive, or is irrelevant to your business, you may be able to have it taken down.
Handling bad reviews from former employees and competitors
Managing bad reviews from former staff and competitors can be tricky and frustrating for any business owner. Do your best to have any false or abusive reviews taken down; if you can’t do that try to outweigh the bad reviews with positive ones. You can also try getting in touch with the person who wrote the review, asking them to update it. Sometimes you will find that this person does not respond to phone calls, emails, or social media messages so creating a feedback page on your website can help with conversation control.
Biggest mistakes small businesses make with online reviews
The two biggest mistakes a small business can make with online reviews are: ignoring them completely and not monitoring them seriously. While negative reviews do happen, responding to them is a great way to smooth them over and show future potential customers that you do in fact care about their experiences and will listen to their feedback.
There are many elements to digital marketing and online reviews can be one of the more frustrating ones. With a little time and effort however, online reviews can be turned into an incredibly beneficial marketing tool. Tracking online reviews, positive or negative, is important because not only do they affect your reputation but you can also learn a lot on how to improve your business which will ultimately increase your ratings and reputation. Hopefully the tips in the article will help you on your journey to reel in some great reviews!