by Jayson DeMers
Local search functions a little differently than national search; you’ll face far less competition, and you’ll be working for a position in the “local 3-pack,” the top 3 results for a given query, based on a user’s location. While many of the ranking factors that affect your national rankings will impact your local rankings as well, you’ll also need to consider some local-specific factors–and the most important one here is the quantity and quality of local reviews.
In short, the more reviews you earn on third-party sites (and the better those reviews are), the higher you’ll be able to rank in local searches. Sounds simple, right? There’s one big problem stopping you from getting them, but there are plenty of alternative strategies to help you achieve your goals.
The Problem With Requests
Yelp and similar third-party review sites are pretty serious about not allowing you to ask your customers directly for reviews. The philosophy here makes sense; if companies were allowed to freely influence their customers to leave reviews, they might skew the reviews in their favor by selecting only the most likely customers to leave reviews, or might use bribery to solicit more positive comments.
Strategies for Getting More Reviews
So how can you get more reviews if you’re not allowed to ask for them?
1. Make your presence on review sites known. You can’t pressure your customers to leave a review, but you can give them visual indicators of your presence on third-party review sites. Some review sites, like Yelp, will even give you stickers and other visual prompts for free. Advertise your presence on your front door, at the cash register, on your website, on social media, and anywhere else you can think of.
2. Keep your brand top-of-mind. Keep your brand top-of-mind with your customers by sending them greeting cards periodically, or keeping them enrolled in an engaging email list. As long as you keep giving them consistently positive service, they’ll be inclined to say something or do something positive for you when they’re reminded how much you value them.
3. Ask customers for reviews in person. Third-party review sites won’t be able to tell when you’ve asked a customer for a review in person; they mostly don’t want you to buy reviews online or bully your audience into leaving reviews with spammy email practices and the like. Reach out to some of your best customers and see if they’d be willing to give you some positive words.
4. Give exceptional experiences. About 25 percent of consumers will only leave reviews if their experience was exceptionally good, and another 33 percent will leave reviews if their experience is exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. Obviously, you’ll want to be on the positive end of the spectrum here. Go out of your way to give not just good experiences, but exceptional ones, to as many customers as you can.
5. Ask specific questions on social media. Try to gather feedback on social media by asking specific questions about your products or service. You’ll get some immediate feedback in the form of responses and comments, and if you include a link to your presence on a third-party review site, you may also encourage responders to leave a formal review.
6. Respond to existing reviews. You should also take the time to respond to reviews–both positive and negative ones. When other people see that you’ve responded to reviewers in the past, they’ll learn that you take reviews seriously, and will be more likely to leave a review of their own. Additionally, you may earn the chance to rectify a mistake or a bad experience by following up with a customer who left a bad review.
Keeping Reviews Positive
Of course, you’ll also need to invest extra effort to ensure those reviews are positive. Here are some basic steps you can take:
- Maintain best business practices. Work on improving the quality of your service in every way you can, and train your staff to give more personal, memorable service to every customer.
- Listen to constructive feedback. Pay attention to any negative reviews you receive. What points of feedback can you take action on? How can you use this new information to improve the business?
- Make things right. If a customer is unhappy, before or after they leave a review, go out of your way to make things right. You might be able to turn that 1-star review into a 4-star one just by reaching out.
You won’t be able to amass a horde of positive reviews and comments overnight. But if you apply these strategies consistently and keep giving your customers positive experiences, you’ll build your review base in no time.
Be sure and visit our small business news site.