No Solicitation: Encouraging Honest Reviews

No Soliciting SignA decade ago, a business could market itself successfully through a combination of print and web advertising alone. Now, with the prevalence of social media networking in consumer-culture, customers are less prone to take advertising at face value. They want to hear what other people have to say about a business or product before they give it a chance, and one of the primary ways they form an opinion is to check out a business’s online reviews.

Directories and search engines like Yelp, Google, and Bing allow consumers to rate and review companies with which they do business, and these ratings and reviews help determine visibility and reach on the search engines. Reviews tell the search engines that your listing is worth seeing.

But since at the end of the day you are more interested in attracting people to your business than in gaining favor with search engine bots, you should focus on gleaning auspicious reviews that enhance your reputation above that of your competition.

So what’s the big deal? Stellar customer service equals stellar online reviews, right? Well, not quite. Reviewing a business takes time and effort, and oftentimes if a customer is happy with your service, he or she simply does not see the need to post a favorable review. In fact, most people don’t write reviews until their ire is up. That means that one bad customer experience out of a hundred is more likely to generate a public online review than the 99 good customer experiences.

To add to this qualm, the search engines and directories prohibit direct solicitation and incentivizing of reviews (for an example of this mindset, take a look at what the official Yelp blog has to say on the matter). If you don’t adhere to the rules, you can be penalized by the filtering of reviews and even the lowering of your search ranking. The search engines want “organic” reviews populating their listings to ensure that the online community stays honest. While this idea is beneficial for the consumer, it can be very frustrating for the business owner.

The big question is this: How do you encourage happy customers to review your business without specifically encouraging them?

The big answer is this: Instead of blatantly soliciting online reviews, tastefully promote awareness of the review platforms.

Let’s look at a few ways in which we can promote this awareness:

Utilize social media and email- Just like you might admonish your existing customers to visit your Facebook and Twitter pages via email, be sure to do the same for your online listings. A simple call to action like “Check us out on Yelp” or “Visit our Google + page!,” will do the trick. Consider using this tactic as part of a follow-up email after a customer makes a purchase. That way, you establish good will by inquiring about his or her satisfaction while simultaneously creating top-of-mind awareness for your review platforms.

When it comes to social media, you should follow a similar pattern by regularly posting about your local listing presence—especially about your presence on Yelp, as it is a type of online social community as well.

Put your website to work- One of the biggest deterrents of online reviewing is the number of steps involved. The user has to login (and create an account if they don’t have one), rate the business, and write a coherent review that they don’t mind the rest of the world seeing. For a busy adult, this can appear a daunting and unnecessary task.

It follows that the wise business should make it as easy as possible for their customers to write and post reviews. Provide prominent links to your review platforms on your website, so that customers can click directly to them without having to search. Most review platforms offer badges that you can embed on your website rather easily, just like you might for Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. These badges link directly to your listings. Here’s one from Yelp:

Don’t forget the in-house clientele- If you have a brick-and-mortar location that customers visit regularly, be sure to “advertise” your listing presence via window clings (which some review platforms offer for a small fee) or small signs/flyers. Again, the “Check us out on __,” formula works quite well in this arena.

These are just a few of the ways you can subtly encourage your happy customers to rate and review you online. And when not-so-happy customers offer their two cents, be sure to consider and implement that feedback. Negative reviews are positive when used constructively. Here at Primm, we assume that the quality of your customer service is top-notch. If you need any help at all with local listings, SEO, website development, or public relations, call us today at 757-623-6234.


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