Google Map PointerReviews are important, and will only grow in importance for both business and SEO. As a business owner who depends on this local business, you want positive reviews, but how do you get them?

We’ll discuss some ways, but first we should identify who we’re really after and why. It’s very simple…

Motivation & Means

Motivation – How charged up is someone is to leave a review? Why should they care at all? Do they ever consider leaving a review for your business? Motivation to leave feedback can be for any reason at all, and tends to dissipate over time if no action is taken.

Means – Are your customers aware they can leave a review on the Internet? Are they aware of, Yelp, MerchantCircle, or Google Places as a way to leave their feedback about your business? Do they have accounts on any of these sites, and a convenient and timely method of leaving feedback before they lose motivation? Does your average customer savvy with using a PC, are they online on a regular basis, and/or do they have a mobile device outfitted with social media?

It works like this:
The more motivated a customer is, the more likely they’ll find their own means of reviewing. Leave someone feeling good? If they’re not prompted to review, they’ll likely go about their daily business thinking about weather, sports and what’s for dinner. Ruin someone’s day? Expect them to tell everyone.

Let’s say realistically, you get two angry reviews in a month. One customer every month is totally blown away by your amazing service and drops a review on Google Places. This leaves you with three reviews every month. But if this ratio of 2:1 continues every single month, it won’t be long before your online reputation looks overwhelmingly negative.

We don’t need to look at these three reviewers, though. All businesses are going to have these “three reviewers” and you can’t control that. It is the un-motivated 97% is who we are after; if you could pick the brains of this large chunk of your customer base, you’ll likely find a diverse mixture of opinions, thoughts, criticisms and compliments.

Providing convenient means and the motivation for the bulk of your customer base absolutely essential to the competition-stomping credibility you want. Let’s discuss some ways to get their attention.

How to Get Positive Online Reviews For Your Business

Add a Computer At your Store Location – Put a PC in the lobby. Add shortcuts (Google Places, Yelp, etc.) and a desktop background image (or tape a sticker to the PC) explaining how to leave a review. This is especially useful for any location with a waiting room, where customers tend to just idly sit and wait for their turn. (Car dealerships and repair centers, doctors/dental offices, etc.) Place instructions as well as a shortcut on the desktop to various review sites along with instructions on leaving a review.

Use QR Codes Directed to a Review Page – QR Codes are so darn convenient for consumers with smartphones, and useful for business owners especially since they’re free. Android users are also likely signed into a Google account, or at least have one already. Put put a flier on-site at the point of purchase, on a business card, on store receipts, stickers, menus, or even the product package that directs a customers’ mobile device right to a special landing page, or to the Google Places page where customers can instantly hammer out a review.

Here are some sites you can use to create QR Codes, some that offer paid packages that include Analytics:

Ask for a Positive Review – While never asking will result in the occasional review, if you want positive reviews, be pro-active about asking for them. Simply ask them if they had good service, when they say yes, ask them politely to leave a review for you. When asked how, have business cards or fliers with QR codes and a landing page they can visit on your Website that explains how to review. If your staff are asking for reviews, make a game out of it to see who can get the most customer reviews. You can also ask them for their e-mail address or to drop their business card in a fish bowl and follow up with them later about their experience.

Create a Follow-Up E-mail – Whether your customers visit your retail location or purchase from you online, collect their e-mail address. Follow up with them in 2-3 weeks; thank them for their business, ask them if they are happy with their purchase and politely request a review. And to sweeten the deal, you can also provide…

Incentives – I’ve found simply throwing a coupon out there and asking for a review in return works well. This technique alone probably converts 2-3% of customers into reviewing. I never demand someone submits a review to get a discount, just simply ask for it as a generous favor in exchange for the coupon. Typically, your average customer will spend the time to leave their honest opinions if they want to use the discount.

Online Review Etiquette – What Not to Do

Phony Reviews – Don’t pay someone (outsource) to leave a bunch of phony reviews for your business. Don’t post fake reviews. Websites will remove false reviews or even penalize if you’re caught, and you don’t want to be “that guy” with phony reviews. It doesn’t look good.

Entering Handwritten Reviews – It’s tempting to collect paper reviews and write them in yourself, but it’s walking a fine line; this violates the Terms of Service of many Websites. Even though the reviews may be honest and real, I would be cautious of submitting reviews this way.

What to do with Negative Reviews

It doesn’t matter how justified the opinion is, it happens sometimes. There isn’t much you can do with negative reviews themselves, although many Websites will allow you to report abuse (spam, personal information, lewd/rascist comments) or respond to reviews. Fortunately, many of the most important review sites will allow you to submit a response:

  • Google Places
  • CitySearch
  • Judy’s Book
  • Yelp
  • Superpages
  • Yahoo!

A tip on responding: If the tone is polite and aims to resolve the matter, and the comments made address the negative review directly, most readers are more apt to be forgiving and understanding about stinky reviews.

Need to get your business into local site listings?

Please see my last post on Do It Yourself Local SEO, which includes a big list of important Local Websites so you can get your local business found online!

Any more ideas for getting local reviews?

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on local SEO and business reviews. Have you seen or used any other methods of getting local business reviews? Let’s share ideas; add your comments below!