Posted on in Marketing

​In today’s digital world more and more people turn to the internet first for information about businesses and services. As a result, online review sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List and Google+ ‘Local’ have become increasingly popular. These sites provide a platform for people to write reviews of companies and offer others beneficial firsthand accounts.

Why Use Them?

With the internet facilitating a constant information stream and conversations about just about everything, it becomes imperative as a business owner to know what people are saying about your company and where they are saying it.

The Local Consumer Review Survey 2012 showed a significant shift in consumer attitudes toward online review sites with about 72% of consumers stating they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 52% saying that positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business. Statistics like this show the growing influence of online reviews, and for business owners solidifies the importance of harnessing the power of these sites as well as protecting against their potential negative impacts.

Where To Start?

The first step to monitoring and staying in control of your business’ online reputation is to find and claim your business on each of the sites. You will be asked to first verify some information, but then will be able to add informative content to your page and read and respond to customers reviews.

The Challenge: Managing Negative Reviews

While it is difficult to have reviews removed even if they are completely false, negative reviews can be managed by staying tuned in and responding quickly. Often a bad review may be the result of a misunderstanding or oversight that can be cleared up or explained. Also a sincere apology and recognition that a customer has been heard can go a long way. It is important not to respond to critics with anger or excuses. While a review may seem harsh or insensitive, pause a moment to calm down before responding and then take the opportunity to diffuse conflict with a calm, friendly response.

Negative reviews can also be good feedback about things to improve and ways to make your business better. Look at these reviews as a learning experience, chance to improve, and vehicle for creating conversations with your customers. Many times once a person feels they have been heard they will alter or delete a review on their own. Even if is not deleted, other customers will see you took the time to respond, which shows you value the quality and integrity of your company.

The Advantage: Positive Reviews

Online review sites also create a platform for your business to enjoy free and effective marketing. If you provide great service and have many loyal customers, encourage them to write a review on Yelp or Angie’s List. Positive reviews can dramatically increase sales, boost your overall online reputation and drive traffic to your website. It is also important to encourage many positive reviews so that one or two negative ones will not make as much difference.

Statistics show the effectiveness of good reviews and many customers (especially younger tech savvy ones) are more than happy to share their positive experiences online. Once you have a handful of positive reviews you can link to them from your webpage so customers visiting your site have easy access to great reviews about your business.

The Big Picture

People are talking online all the time about companies, so as a business owner you need to be a part of this conversation. Online review sites can help significantly increase customers, grow your business, and solidify a positive reputation. To get started monitoring your business online check out some of the most commonly used review sites: Yelp, Angie’s List, Google Plus Local, Insider Pages, and Yahoo Local Listings.

Learn how to manage angry customers for your contractor business here!