How to Leverage the Power of Online Reviews

Online review sites can be some of your best lead generators. In fact, a whopping 84 percent of people trust online reviews as much as the recommendation of a friend or family member. This is from a 2016 BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey which also revealed:

  • 92% of consumers now read reviews online.
  • 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
  • 68% of consumers form an opinion by reading just one to six reviews.
  • 60% of consumers say that negative reviews make them not want to
    use a business.

How to use review sites to your advantage
Review sites can be a great selling tool, but it won’t happen without a little work.

  • First, fully complete your company profile, making sure all information is correct and updated including your company’s name, address, phone numbers, business hours, website, service area, business categories, credentials, and brands represented.
  • Use pictures of projects, people, products and anything else that accurately reflects your company’s brand.
  • Solicit positive reviews from satisfied customers – on your website, in emails, on receipts, in person. According to the BrightLocal survey, 50 percent of customers will leave a review if asked.
  • Prevent negative reviews by using a call to action like “Not happy with our work or our products? Please tell us so we can make it right.”

Actively posting helpful content and engaging review site users by answering questions, solving problems, or participating in conversations will also help promote a positive online image.

How to monitor review sites
“Online reputation management” is a combination of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), public relations, and social monitoring strategies. Start by monitoring how your company is perceived online. Here’s how:

Check sites individually. The simplest, although most time-consuming, route to monitor what others are saying is to regularly check and search all platforms, not just the ones where your company has a presence.

Use Google Alerts. When filling in keywords, use both correct and incorrect spellings of your company name. Use positive, negative and neutral terms – ABC Floors best, ABC Floors worst, ABC Floors refund, ABC Floors issue, ABC Floors workmanship, etc.

Pay for a service. Firms that specialize in online reputation management will provide SEO and other strategies to push negative content lower in search engine results. Many offer other services for improving your online image.

Before hiring a service, spend some time internally managing your online image. It’s not that difficult; it just takes a little time and attention.

How to respond to negative reviews
According to Vendesta.com, 95 percent of unhappy customers will return to a business if their issue is resolved quickly and efficiently. Further, satisfied customers are less likely to keep talking about their negative experience. Here’s how to do it:

  • Respond promptly. However, if your immediate response sounds angry or hostile, sleep on it and edit it the next day.
  • Acknowledge the situation and apologize for any mistakes. At the minimum, apologize for the inconvenience or misunderstanding.
  • Explain what led to the problem and how or why it occurred, especially if the explanation is reasonable. The tone should be explanatory, but not sound like excuse-making.
  • Address the person’s concerns directly and correct any inaccuracies.
  • Discuss what’s being done to fix it or prevent it from happening again.
  • Write like a real person, not a corporate entity; be conversational yet businesslike.
  • Close with an invitation to talk privately and provide a phone number and email.
  • When communicating privately, offer to provide restitution or otherwise correct the situation, if warranted.

Some people may not respond positively, even after every effort to resolve the issue. In that case, let it go and move on.

How to get the most from each platform
Each platform has its strengths. Following are some tips for making the most of each one.

  • Houzz showcases projects and visually engages visitors. Answer questions, share your expertise, and the leads will follow. Catch prospects when they’re in the mood to build, remodel or refurbish.
  • HomeAdvisor recommends home service professionals in a user’s area, lists professionals who pay for qualified leads generated by the site, and allows online scheduling directly from the site. Being listed on HomeAdvisor also carries credibility.
  • Angie’s List homeowners can browse business profiles and search for home service providers. Members also see in-depth reviews by other members.
  • Yelp features both photos and reviews. Post photos and ask happy customers to post theirs, along with reviews. Build a profile that stands out from the competition.
  • Google My Business is a free business directory listing that includes driving directions, hours, etc., and also allows businesses to respond to reviews. It can reveal how customers searched for your business and where they’re coming from, and it integrates with the AdWords Express pay-per-click service.

Other sites include Yahoo, Facebook, and the newer Porch.com. When possible, offer an incentive like a free consultation or estimate to move the prospect along in their customer journey.

How to get started
If you don’t already have one, hire or appoint a social media manager. Whether it’s a family member or part-time intern, someone needs to take responsibility for managing your online reputation. Have them build your profiles, provide quality content, counteract negative comments and actively solicit positive reviews. The right person will enjoy the work, and the company will reap the benefits.

Katrina Olson is a freelance writer and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. Reach her at katrina@katrinaolson.com.

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