Online Reviews

How many reviews do you have?

Businesses that serve a local geographic market for their products and services thrive on referrals. All the great and not-so-great things that your customers are telling others about you and your business. Historically this has been by word-of-mouth. That is still perhaps the most important method of getting new customers. However this is limited in that it generates a relatively small number of referrals.

Now couple this with the fact that 90% of your prospective customers will do research online first before selecting who to buy from. For businesses that provide a service, this can be a daunting task for a consumer...until recently. Nowadays there is a plethora of sites that provide reviews of local businesses that have been submitted by...your customers. Reviews also often include ratings. Ratings are assigned to reviews typically on a 1-star to 5-star scale.

Naturally, the more reviews, the more popular a business is perceived to be. And the more stars, the better the product, the service, the experience. What your customers are saying online about your company strongly influences other people who are evaluating whether to do business with you or someone else. And the more sites your business is reviewed on, the more prospects there are who may pick up the phone, email you, or walk in. This concept cannot be underestimated - your customers are doing some of your marketing for you and their reach is immensely greater than simple word of mouth.

So you want to make it easy for your clients to post a (hopefully great) review about you. This means you need to have profile listing at the most important and influential review sites. Because your customers may not want to spend the extra time and effort to create a listing for you first before they can submit a review.

So here, in rough order of importance, are the most influential review sites. Not all apply to all industries, but it is time very well spent in visiting these sites, and submitting a profile. Always, always fill out all information available to you. And, yes, they are all free for a basic listing!

1. Google+ Local

2. Yahoo Local

3 Bing Local

4. CitySearch

5. Yelp

6. SuperPages

7. TripAdvisor

8. MerchantCircle

Note: AngiesList is very influential but you only get listed after one of your customers submits a review to the list.

What many don't realize is that Google and other search engines are also looking at your reviews and ratings when determining how to rank you in their Local/Maps section. And many of these review sites provide a link back to your website, which can provide some SEO ranking boost in the normal search results. For more information on this, and the importance of submitting your business to Google Local correctly, see The Power of Google+ Local (Maps) And Why It Matters to You.

So the big question is, how do I get my customers to give reviews on my wonderful business? Do do I gently incentivize them to go to these review sites? Here are a few ideas for your consideration:

1. Give each customer a coupon before they leave, giving them a small discount next time they are back in exchange for submitting a review of your business to the site of their choice.

2. On your business cards, in your newsletters, in your email signatures, on your invoices/receipts, remind them to post a review of your business.

3. Offer free Wi-Fi at your business? Make a first default page that reminds them to submit a review.

4. Make it even easier. Create a "Review Us" page with links to all the major review sites. "Go to and kindly submit a review of your experience with us to the site of your choice".

What others say about you is much more important and credible than what you say about yourself in your marketing materials. This is powerful stuff, do not underestimate how this can drive new customers to your business!