Do you trust the word of a stranger? Increasingly we do, especially when buying a product or service for the first time or one that’s expensive. Word of mouth has always been a powerful way for companies to gain business. A recommendation from a trusted source creates valuable opportunities that may otherwise be hard to get. If you are not connected by a common contact, online reviews play an important role when potential clients are searching for services. If your search engine optimisation strategy is working, then your company and reviews will show. At the beginning of a selection process, before you have been been approached, the online review acts as a recommendation. Whether you like it or not, people will read reviews – you need to make sure yours are right.
4 benefits of online reviews
- Reassurance – A review helps potential buyers understand if they are buying from the right company.
- Cost effective – The only cost is your time to ask and say thanks.
- Brings you closer to customers – Requesting a review indicates that you want to hear from them and want feedback. People like to be asked their opinion and it can create an opportunity about how you can better serve them.
- SEO – Reviews do help improve rankings (though the extent is unclear). Your listing will be more eye-catching and encourage more clicks.
Don’t be afraid of negative reviewsReviews (positive and negative) are important trust signals. Having no reviews could be more damaging. A 100% positive review rate arouses suspicions. Readers may not believe that the reviews are honest and think they have been made up. Negative reviews are an opportunity to engage with dissatisfied customers. Use them to understand how services and communication can be improved. People understand that reviews are opinions, and it will be clear if a negative review is a rant to let off steam.
Creating a review strategy and processA review process is not just for executing a successful digital marketing strategy – it’s fundamental to how you do business and interact with clients. It’s likely that you will need other people within the business such as sales and account managers to be part of the process.
1. Decide where you want to featureMoz recommends spreading the review love across different sites to minimise risk and make the best contribution to SEO. Reviews fall into three categories:
- Industry – some industries have bodies that allow people to rate members and then publish the results. You may need to pay to take part in this but the benefit will be the credibility from being part of the organisation and enhanced trust.
- Free – apps and websites such as Google, Foursquare, Yahoo and Yell. Google reviews are particularly powerful as they will show in search results under the company name.
- Paid – websites such as TrustPilot allow you to manage and automate the review process. This can reduce the review administration, and works well for ecommerce businesses.
2. Creating a processYou need to consider your existing and new clients. They are at different stages of a relationship cycle so one process will not apply to both. Deciding who will request the review varies according to the company and the review process.
Existing clientsIf you are starting off with no reviews, then the existing client base is the best place to start. A personal approach, such as a telephone call, is best rather than sending a blanket email to everyone. Too many reviews at the same time will be suspicious to search engines. By taking the time to ask someone, they are more likely to do it and will also appreciate the effort you have made. It can help strengthen the relationship, especially if there is useful criticism in the review. Be clear about where you want them to review you, providing the right links and thank them afterwards. Look at existing communication channels for opportunities to request reviews. Adding a prompt to email signatures or in a regular newsletter will generate a response. Make sure it is pointing to the appropriate website or directory. If you have regular reviews with clients, make it a standard request to provide a review (or update one). This will keep the review cycle fresh.
New clientsYour newest customers may be at the beginning of their journey with you so asking for a review may be jumping the gun. Consider putting in a formal review at the end of a project/purchase to collect feedback and ask if they can review you on a particular platform. Again, this is best done in person or over the phone. If this is done for every new client, then the existing client process will be easier and reviews will be added regularly.
3. Reviewing the reviewWhen the review has been added, read it:
- Positive – thank the reviewer (if you haven’t done so already). Some review websites allow you to do this on the site, e.g. Trip Advisor.
- Negative – acknowledge the issue. You may be able to do this on the review platform so potential clients know you are responsive. This shows that you care and want to improve the service you provide.
4. Measuring reviewsCreating KPIs for reviews will help you benchmark performance and the success of the review strategy. Suggested KPIs
- Increase in traffic from review websites
- Increase in rankings
- Increase in satisfaction rating
Three things not to do in reviews
- Post fake reviews – you will get caught out
- Get too many at once – search engines will be suspicious
- Bombard clients with review requests via email – if their opinion matters, ask them in person or over the phone
Three things to do for reviews
- Thank people for leaving reviews
- Pick relevant review sites where you target audience would look and trust
- Address any negative criticism