Reviews and Your Online Reputation

A while ago, Darren gave a presentation about reviews and why they matter for your online reputation. He shared lots of valuable information about reviews and now we are sharing his wisdom and experience with you. Share your takeaways from this presentation in the comments section.

In this presentation, he covered the following topics:

  • Why do reviews matter?
  • How-to get more reviews?
  • Direct customers to your review sites
  • Get 5 reviews on Google to get the stars!
  • Diversify your reviews
  • Share good reviews as posts
  • Embed reviews as testimonials
  • Advertise on Yelp for cheap
  • Avoid the review filters on Yelp and Google
  • How-to respond to negative reviews?
  • How-to avoid negative reviews?

Watch the video below:

 

Transcription of “Reviews and Your Online Reputation”

I love this talk because there’s nothing too technical in it. It’s very understandable. It’s very actionable information that has a huge positive impact on your business. So getting reviews on your online reputation.

So just a quick question to start. Any guesses as to which industry has the most reviews out of any other industry? Restaurants, that’s a very good guess. Anyone else? Any other thoughts? What’s that? Hotels, of course. Yeah, you’d think that. Right. Yeah, so restaurants, hotels, certainly that’s what I would think. It actually turns out to be auto dealers, which really blew my mind.

We did this massive study where we crawled…we took 300 keywords across the U.S. and we tested them in 300 cities and then we crawled 100 pages deep. And it ended up 300 million businesses that we grabbed their review data for. And then we can sort it by category in terms of number over use and it’s auto dealers. And it’s because the auto dealers are so hooked into online reviews and they pushed the heck out of it. So anyone that buys a car, they’re like, “Please leave us a review online,”  and then they hound you until you leave the review. So it’s just a big thing in that industry.

Here’s a great example. This is Crown Hyundai in St. Petersburg, Florida. So I’m in this huge city. They have 1,200 Google reviews. I heard they’re up to 1,400 now since I took a screenshot. They have 853 reviews on DealerRater. They have 800 reviews on Cars.com. I think this is very interesting. They have nine reviews on Yelp.

Why this disconnect? And I’ll get into that, but basically it’s because Yelp’s filter is so strong. It’s like, “We can tell that this review was solicited,” or “This review was not genuine.” And so Yelp does this really good job of filtering out. So if you look at a business like this, then you know they’re really spamming or pushing reviews so hard, and this is a very clear indicator of what they should really have.

Why do reviews matter?

So this is also the local search ranking factors study that I talked about. It makes up 10% of your general factors that affect your rankings.

The most important thing is that reviews give customers confidence when they Google your brand name.

 

Let’s say someone’s looking at different businesses, they Google this landscaping company, and then they Google that landscaping company. When they start seeing this, you’ve got, like, 31 reviews. I think we have 42 reviews now. And then they can click that, and they can read the reviews, and they can see what people are saying about the businesses. It just really helps to make you stand out from the competition.

Review stars let users click!

Look at this one here. So which business do you think you’re going to call? You’re looking for a dentist in Seattle. You’re scanning the results. This guy doesn’t rank number one. He ranks down here, but he’s probably the one I’m going to check out because he’s got the review stars. His reviews are not very good. Hopefully I’ll find an example that has five stars, right?

But he’s got these stars. He’s really standing out from the rest of the pack. I’m going to check this guy out a little bit better. If you want to see a dentist with lots of reviews, check out the Cecil the Lion situation. That dentist ranks number one for everything now. He just ranks through the roof because he’s gotten so much online buzz and reputation. So Google’s algorithm…it’s interesting to show you the power of that kind of attention. But, unfortunately, it’s very negative for him.

So reviews can really tell customers about your company’s strengths. Once you start asking for reviews, you’re getting real people backing up your claims that you make on your own website. “Hey, we’re the best at this. “We’re the best at that.” Or “This is why we’re really good.” But once you get people actually saying that, that really has an impact on your sales.

So you don’t want to focus on reviews simply because, “Oh, it might increase my rankings.”

You want to focus on your reviews because it can increase your business. You’re going to have more people interested in you.

 

And since we really started pushing our review strategy at our company, Whitespark, we’ve seen a massive increase just because we have this reputation now. People Google our business and are like, “Wow. This looks like a great company.” And of course, we are a great company. Now, we just have some proof behind it, right?

So how do you get more reviews? What are these things that you can do to make sure you get more reviews? It’s as simple as that. You really just ask for them. Make sure that every customer has some kind of review asking. If you have a process for that, it has a really big impact.

Reputation Builder to the rescue

So we have software for this. It’s called the Reputation Builder. So the way the software works is every customer that comes in, you just throw them into the system – name and email – and you click submit. What’ll happen is they’ll get an email that looks like this, “Hey, thanks for visiting us at FUSS Art of Hair. We appreciate your business and value you as a client. How likely would you be to recommend us to a friend or family?” So really simple question. This is called the Net Promoter Score. The Net Promoter Score was done by Harvard researchers as the one single question that can really evaluate the people’s satisfaction with their experience with your business.

So if they rate you a seven or higher, they’re going to get…Oh wait, I think I start with a six or lower. If they rate you a six or lower in this little email, they’re going to get sent to this page. “Hey, thanks for your feedback. Whenever we get feedback that’s not outstanding, we really want to know how we can improve our business. Tell us how we could have improved your experience today.” So this is now taking their feedback and putting it into our Reputation Builder system.

If they rate you a seven or higher, they get sent to this page. “Thanks a lot. We really appreciate your feedback. We’d love it if you would tell other people online about your great experience.” You’re driving reviews. So this has these two really amazing benefits. One, you are making sure you’re asking every customer, and the people that had a great experience, you’re pushing them over to the review sites. You’re getting positive reviews. And then two,  this is almost as important, anyone who had a bad experience, you are intercepting their negative review before they go and leave it online. So it’s super great.

Let’s say I went into a restaurant, I had a really terrible experience. I got home, and I’m stewing about it, and then I check my email, and they’re asking me for my feedback. I’m like, “Yeah. I’ll give you my feedback. This is what happened. It was terrible and the server was rude to me.” I’ve taken the effort now. One, I appreciate that the business reached out to me and they’re asking me for my feedback. If they never did that, I might go to Yelp. I might go to Google+ and be like, “Hey. This business is terrible. They don’t care about their customers,” whatever. One, they’re showing me they care.

And now that I’ve taken the time to write that, I’m probably not going to write over there because the business owner can get that feedback and deal with it before it becomes an online reputation problem.

So you’re doing two things with the software. You are intercepting negative reviews, preventing them from going online, and you’re increasing your positive reviews.

 

It works much better because you’re going to get about 10% success rate on this email. So about 10% of the people will actually leave you the review online. So you have to have a bit of volume of customers before this becomes really good. If you are a business, let’s say you’re a mortgage broker and you close five deals per month. I’m telling you, don’t use our software. If you’re only doing that volume of clients, it’s just better to send that personalized email. “Hey, this is John. We just closed your mortgage today. I hope that everything went well. I’d love your feedback. I’m looking to always improve. If you left me a review on Google+…”

And of course, John can identify which customers had a good experience with him or not, that personalized ask is going to have a much higher success rate. So if you have clients you have a personal connection with, some automated system is a little bit dry. A personalized ask will give you much better success with actually securing that review online.

And then the biggest thing you can do…I have this in here? No. The biggest thing you can do is a follow-up. So the first email, often don’t get it. You send a follow-up a week later and they’re like, “Oh, yeah. I meant to get to that,” and then they’ll do it on that follow-up. You get like a 60% increase on the follow-up ask.

We also have this system on our website called the Review Handout Generator. This is completely free. What it does is you put in your business name, your city, your phone number, your website. You upload a logo and then you click “Generate”, and it creates this PDF that you can handout to your customers. So this is completely free to use and it just shows them. Because a lot of people are like, “I would like to leave a review on Google, but what’s Google? I don’t know how to do that.”

And so this is just a step-by-step instruction. So if you have a Google account, then do this. If you don’t, do this. And it’s just a little simple walkthrough. And if you’re a retail business, you just threw one of these into every bag that came through; this could be very helpful to increase your reviews as well. It works on mobile as well, although I think we need to fix that now.

Direct customers to your review sites

You should also have page on your website that you can direct businesses to. So if you’re doing a personalized ask, you might send them to a page that looks like this. It’d be like, “Hey, thanks for doing business with us. We’d really appreciate your review, and here are some sites that you could leave us a review on.” In Canada, n49 is a big site, Google and Yelp.

I have a caveat about Yelp. I’m going to talk about it now. If I talk about it again later in the presentation, then I’ll skip it. But the thing about Yelp is you don’t ever want to ask someone to leave you a review on Yelp. And the reason is, if you ask just some person, you don’t know them very well, they were just a customer of your business, if they’re  not currently an active Yelp user, what happens is they go to Yelp, they create an account, they type up a review for you, they submit it, then they never use Yelp again.

That is the best signal Yelp has to prove that that was a solicited review. This is a person that doesn’t use Yelp. That review is guaranteed to get filtered. It’s a waste of your time. It’s a waste of the customer’s time. Don’t ask for reviews on Yelp, unless you happen to know that they are – I’ll totally talk about this later – don’t ask unless you happen to know that they are active Yelp users. So if you know that they are in some way, you’ve seen them or whatever…I think I’ll show you a thing later about how you can figure out which of your customers are active Yelp users.

Another thing you can do is you can add a little note at the bottom of your receipts. You print out the receipt and it just says, “Hey, don’t forget to leave us a review.” That’s a little helpful reminder. You can get a business card printed that you can just throw into your bags or give out at the end of any transaction. This is the way we ask for reviews at Whitespark. As we finish every one of our citation building projects…this is one of the biggest things we do. We do hundreds of these projects per month.

Everyone that closes, we say, “As your citation building project is now complete, I was hoping you would consider leaving a review of your services on our Google listing. If you prefer to use Yelp, you can find our listing here. As you can imagine, reviews are extremely helpful to us when others are researching citation services.”

In three months, we went from hardly any reviews to 31. I think we’re at 42 now. So within a month, we get another 10. So I gave this presentation at the end of May – so a month and a half, two months? I don’t know. Time flies. So basically this has had a huge impact on the number of reviews that we’re getting on our business. And the only thing we did is we decided to start asking. And if you start doing that at your business, if you start asking people for reviews, you’ll see this kind of impact in your own business.

Review Tips

Get 5 Google reviews, get the stars

So here’s some little tips about reviews. Get five reviews and you get these little stars in the search results. These little stars here. Once you have five, you start getting them. So this guy here, he’s only got four reviews. He doesn’t have the stars. You might be wondering, “Okay. Well, this guy’s got five. Why doesn’t he have those?

Just so you know, there’s a little delay on it. The last review he got was within the last week, probably just a couple of days ago, that fifth review. And so by this time, like a week later, he’ll actually have the golden stars. And those stars are really key. They really draw attention to your listing and the results, especially if you’re competition doesn’t have them. So it’s really valuable you get those five Google reviews.

Diversify your reviews

Step number two, tip number two is diversity. Don’t get all of your reviews on Google, or all your reviews on some other site. In Canada, YellowPages and n49 are good alternative review sites. YellowPages is great actually. There’s a huge benefit to getting extra reviews on YellowPages. I don’t have Wi-Fi, but I could show you.

But basically think of this, when you type in “plumbers Edmonton,” you’re going to see random businesses and you’re also guaranteed to see the YellowPages category page for plumbers Edmonton. When you get more reviews on YellowPages, your listing goes up on that YellowPages.com category page. When your listing is ranked higher on that category page, Google now sees that you’re a business that has its own stuff. But on this page that’s ranking number one on page number one, you also have a mention on that page. So that really helps your rankings.

Plus, if anyone clicks through, you’re going to rank higher in YellowPages. It’s the only way to increase your rankings within YellowPages itself is to get more reviews. So YellowPages rankings are very valuable. This is what my recommendation is, get the five on Google, then shift to YellowPages. Get 5 to 10 on YellowPages, then shift to n49, then go back to just a mixed bag and just keep rolling them. So diversifying is very important.

This is a cool chart about the local review ecosystem because when you get a review on YellowPages, well, all of a sudden, you got reviews propagated now to Yahoo Canada, Canpages, GigPark and Weblocal. So you actually get this benefit effect of one review on one site feeds reviews on other sites. So it’s really valuable.

Share good reviews as posts

You can do this cool thing. If you get a good review on your Google page, you can share it as a post. So Blue Plate Diner does this. So they got this review from Stephen who said, “Oh, I had a great experience.” And then they share that as a social post on their Google+ pages that says, “Oh, thanks Stephen. I’m really glad you liked it.” So you’re getting this extra benefit of your review.  You got a review, and now it’s actually feeding your Google+ social profile.

Embed reviews as testimonials

You can embed reviews as testimonials. So you have to share them as a post first, then you can embed the post. See this little arrow, Embed post, and now you can take that review and use it as a testimonial on your website. So you’re getting double benefit from that one online review.

Advertise on Yelp for Cheap

This is cool.  I’m sure most businesses have been hounded by Yelp to do advertising. It’s really expensive and not effective, but you can get into Yelp for really cheap if you just use Google AdWords. So you sort of advertise on the content network, and you can specifically target Yelp, and so you can get your ads showing up on competitors’ pages in Yelp for really cheap because you just use pay-per-click. So that is a really smart way to get into Yelp – advertising.

How to avoid the review filters

How to avoid filters on Yelp and Google. So there’s a few things that will get those reviews filtered. So this is what I talked about with Yelp. There are two ways to find your customers that are on Yelp already.

Tip 1: Reviews from inactive users will get filtered.

 

So if you have a customer, you can upload them onto your contact list in Gmail, and then you can connect that through Yelp. You just click the “Find Friends on Yelp”, and then it’ll show you the profiles of people that have Yelp accounts. It’s really nice.

You can also do it on your Facebook. So most small businesses end up doing work for their family and their friends because they’re like, “Oh, I need an accountant. Well, my sister’s an accountant, I’m going to go to her.” So these are people that you could ask if you connect your Facebook to your “Find Friends in Yelp.” You can find all of your friends that are on Yelp, and those  people, you already know them. Those are totally legitimate people to be like, “Hey, sister. Can you please leave me a review on Yelp?” And that’s a review you know is not going to be filtered because you can see they’re active on Yelp, they’ve left four reviews, they have some friends, they use the site. When you see that, that’s a good person to ask.

Another thing you could do on Yelp is if you have a following on your Facebook page, you could say, “Find people who like my Facebook page,” company name, and use Yelp and you can get this list. These are all the people that like our Whitespark Facebook page and happen to use Yelp. So if I was going to reach out to our own customers and say, “Hey, can you leave us a review on Yelp?” These are the people I’m going to contact. So I’ll cross-reference that with our contact list, our database and we’ll be like, “Hey, really appreciate your review.

In Google, Google is not very strict on the filter the way Yelp is. But one thing you could do on Google is you can only ask people that have a Gmail account. So if you have a Gmail account, then you know that they actively use Google products, they already have an account, they don’t have to go through the hassle of creating one.

Tip 2: Reviews from the same IP will get filtered.

 

A lot of car dealerships have this problem. They close the deal and they walk the person over to their review station and say, “Hey, can you please leave us a review? We’ll give you a 5% kickback,” or whatever it is, or “We’ll throw in the sports package,” well, I think that’d be too expensive, but you know what I’m saying. So they give them some kind of incentive to leave a review right on the spot. All those reviews are coming from the same IP. Google can identify that, Yelp can identify that and say, “Okay, these reviews are obviously garbage,” and just filters them out.

Tip 3: A flood of reviews will get filtered.

 

If you get a flood of reviews at one time, those reviews can get filtered. So for example, you’ve had zero, zero, zero, one review, one review, over the past three years operating business. Then you’re like, “I got an idea. Let’s email our entire mailing list of 40,000 people and say, “Hey can you all leave us a review?” And then, pow, you get 17 reviews in one day. That is a very clear signal to Yelp and to Google that those reviews were solicited, and so those can get filtered out as well.

Tip 4: Reviews from the same referrer URL might get filtered.

 

Reviews from the same referrer URL can get filtered. So this is a little bit of a problem with this type of thing. So if all of those reviews are coming from that same page, and Google can see, every time someone leaves a review they were on this page first, then those can get filtered. We skirt around that with our Reputation Builder. There’s a page that’s an interstitial page.

So what happens is if you Google someone’s brand name, like let’s say you type in Whitespark, then you click the Whitespark link, it looks like it’s going to Whitespark, but if you right-click and copy the actual link, it’s this Google redirect page. So in our software, we actually use that Google redirect page. So it looks like someone Googled your name, then they jumped over to the search page. So that’s how we do it to get around that.

Or you can just send them to the Google search directly. So this page here, “Leave us a review on Google,” rather than that linking to your Google listing, you can link it to “Markville Toyota”…oh, this is the Yelp example. Link it to this. Now, Yelp doesn’t have this referrer data. It looks like someone Googled your business and then came over to Yelp.

How to respond to negative reviews?

This is very important. How do you respond to negative reviews? So there’s a few tips around this. A lot of businesses get defensive. Don’t do that. Number one, own the issue. Demonstrate that you’re paying attention to the issue. Describe how future customers are not going to have this problem, “Hey, we’re really sorry you had this experience. We’re putting some things in place to make sure that that’s not going to happen again.” Make sure you fix it. You might want to refund them. You fix whatever they’re complaint was. Really, don’t be defensive. Look like you’re trying to help them.

If you effectively deal with customer’s complaint and show that you care, you can sometimes turn an angry customer into a brand advocate, and they might even take that review down. After they have left a negative review online, if you really show them you care and you solve the problem – that’s the only way to get a review taken off.

You can go to Yelp or Google and say, “Hey, can you remove this review? It’s slanderous,” or whatever. Chances are, they won’t. But if you make it right with the customer, now they’re like, “You guys are the best. Thanks for really helping me out with this issue.” Then you can ask them, “Hey, we’d really appreciate it if you took that review down.” And they often will.

So I actually saw this happen on Gravity Pope a number of times. Gravity Pope was a client of ours. And we would get tweets and people would be like, “How rude were the salespeople at Gravity Pope.” And so a friend of mine, Angela, who works there, would immediately reach out to them, get in touch with them, have a phone call with them. And then, inevitably, an hour later, you’d see a new tweet that came out that said, “I love Gravity Pope. This is the best company. They really took care of me. They care about how I feel.” You’ve switched an angry customer into a new brand advocate.

How to avoid negative reviews?

How do you avoid them in the first place? Well, this software works. This helps you to not get those negative reviews going into the ecosystem. The really important thing is to follow up quickly and resolve the concern with the customer. So if anyone had a customer, if you catch them before they start festering and leaving a review online, that can really help.

And so finally, what is the absolute best review acquisition strategy? So this is the strategy that seems to work. I interviewed a dozen people before I did a presentation in Seattle, businesses that were just killing it at reviews. And every time they were doing really well in reviews, it was basically this process – they make sure that every single customer gets asked without exception. And this is done top down, from the CEO of the company says, “This is an important issue that we’re doing company-wide. Every customer that comes through here needs to get asked for a review and this is how we’re going to do it.”

They give them a little card that has links to the review sites, usually a short link, a Bitly link or a Google link. So it’s a short link that can jump them right to the review sites. And then the email follow-up is key to that. So you don’t need fancy software. I would love for you to sign up for our software, I think it’s pretty great. But if you just do this, that will actually get you exactly what you want.

That’s it. Thanks.

AUTHOR

Eduard de Boer

Eduard started with hand-coding websites in 1993 and became immersed in SEO, reputation management and content marketing in the years thereafter. After almost two decades Eduard is still following his passion: consulting and helping companies to profile themselves better. Eduard is also a certified Google Maps Business Photographer.

Follow Me on Twitter

0 comments on “Reviews and Your Online Reputation

  • What a great presentation, Darren! You really covered the waterfront on this one. I’d recommend it as a must-watch for new agency hires. Good luck with your new review product!

  • The tip on “advertising on Yelp for cheap” is a huge help as we can’t afford to advertise on Yelp nor do we want to as it seems our positive reviews get taken down when we stop advertising.

    I’m sure there is no connection between advertising on Yelp and how your positive reviews stick or don’t stick when you stop advertising. After all that would be very unethical and there is no way Yelp is anything but ethical…… did I also mention that I believe the world is flat?

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