Directory listings are an essential part of your online strategy that you must utilize to be successful. This post will explore how to get better reviews and successfully use online directories. There are many different sites you can list your business including outlets like Google Places, Yelp! and the about section of your Facebook Business page. Additionally, many professions have review sites that are industry specific. You can also easily join the growing number of business owners listed in the Locable Places Directory by creating your free IMPACT listing.
Did you know many local publishers, like local magazines and daily newspapers also have directory listings and reviews on their website? These can be extremely valuable forms of traffic to your website because of the highly localized nature of their readers. Check your town’s most popular lifestyle magazines and newspapers and you are likely to find a place to list your business for little to no cost.
There also are a growing number of sites that are industry specific like Zillow for Realtors, or HomeAdvisor for contractors. If you are in a professional or trade service, you will most definitely want to be listed on an industry site. When visiting the site you may find that you already have a profile. If that is the case it is essential that you check it for the correct information and fill it out completely. Google “ reviews” and your industry to find out if there are any major review sites for your industry that you may not know of.
Being listed in as many as possible is a great way to get new customers that are ready to buy right now. Some may avoid these sites because of the chance of receiving a bad review, which can be detrimental to your business. That is a risk and we will get into that topic shortly. For now, here are the 5 most critical ways to handle online reviews.
1. Personal Touch and Outstanding Customer Service
It is impossible to start talking about online reviews and directories without starting with customer service. The very essence of online reviews start with delivering an excellent experience to the client or customer that will give them a reason to talk about you online.
In today’s market, businesses are becoming more and more systematic and people can sometimes feel like a cog in the machine. One of the steps you should be taking to avoid that is a personal approach. Employ a strategy of really connecting with customers in order to make them feel special. Train your staff to make eye contact, ask how people are doing (genuinely) and make it OK to have a conversation with a person.
No one likes to be treated like a number and employing a customer service strategy that goes above and beyond will help you build great online reviews exponentially faster.
2. The Right Way To Approach Directories and Reviews
By now, hopefully you have taken the first step and gotten your business listed in as many places as possible. Make sure all your listings have the appropriate links back to your website to help you get more traffic. You will also want to complete each profile as fully as possible with information like the areas you service, your specialties, and your most current address and contact information.
Now that you are listed in these directories, you have to look at them like living extension of your business online. They are working 24/7 to introduce your business to new people. But you need to keep an eye on them all to make sure they are doing a good job. Keep a running list of all your listings and passwords so you can periodically check in on them. We recommend checking at least once a month to see if everything is running smoothly.
After you have made your list, you can then begin to see which reviews sites are most helpful to your business. You will typically want to focus most of your energy on sites that will return the most value.
Each local community is unique and the dominant site for reviews can vary. Do a little research and find out which directory and review sites are used most in your community. Some towns might have a huge Yelp! following, others may have Google Places, and others may still may be a popular local publication in your area.
Identify the most popular sites by looking at the top businesses in your field and seeing how many reviews they have. Focusing your effort on a site that the average business has 50-100 reviews is much better than going with a site that averages only a few reviews per business.
The only exception is dominating a site by having the most reviews in your industry, even if its just a few, can sometimes have huge value. This strategy can be used if you are trying to build up your online credibility quickly.
3. How Review Quality Effects Which Reviews Are Shown
Now that you have identified the different review sites and chosen which ones to focus on, there are a few things to keep in mind about each of them.
Not all review sites are created equal. Some sites will give weight to certain reviews based on a number of factors like how often the reviewer posts, or how many friends they have on the network. Yelp! in particular gives preference to their heaviest users know as “Yelp! Elite” and typically features their reviews more prominently and for longer periods of time.
Some of these sites also do not even show reviews if the reviewer doesn’t have an active profile. In this case, you may get an excellent review, but no one will ever see it. Keep this in mind when asking for reviews. If possible, check with your customer or client before asking for a review. If they are not already active on a site, their review could be filtered out and not seen at all.
Local directories on local publishers sites, and places like your Facebook Business page typically show all reviews submitted. If you want to build up visible reviews quickly without worrying about them disappearing, these can be good places to start.
4. The Right and Wrong Way to Ask For Reviews
Once you understand how reviews are displayed and which sites are popular in your area, it is time to start gathering reviews. Just creating your directory page is not enough. To get the ball rolling you must be active in asking for reviews.
Sites like Yelp! frown on asking for reviews directly, whereas sites like Zillow have stock messages built into tools to actively solicit reviews. We recommend that you reject both of these approaches and find a better method that works for you.
When asking for reviews be genuine and true to who you are. Make sure the message you are spreading is authentic to your brand. You can post to Facebook with something like “We really appreciate all our great customers out there, would you please take some time to leave a review on (your directory of choice).”
If you are planning to reach out to specific clients and customers, don’t be too pushy about it. A quick email checking in with someone then adding a link to review at the bottom, or a personal phone call, can go a long way toward getting some good reviews. You might also think about adding some text to your email signature along the lines of “It would mean the world to me if you took a few moments to review me on XXX” with a link to your review page.
A few things to avoid:
Popups on your site asking for reviews or feedback- People hate popups and some even think they are associated with computer viruses.
Mass emails– Your customers can tell if you are sending a personal or mass email. Mass emails might feel like spam and although it may get you a few reviews it could hurt overall customer relations more than it helps.
Too many follow-ups– depending on the medium one or two follow-ups may be acceptable, but you should be careful not to overdo it. If you called the first time, following-up with an email a few days later is perfect. You can also do the opposite: start with a quick email, and call a few days later to follow up. Just make sure you aren’t hounding your customers with multiple calls or emails every day, no matter how badly you are trying to get reviews.
5. The Right And Wrong Way To Reply to Reviews
Now that you are listed across a few outlets and have compiled some reviews, you should be feeling pretty good. Keep on working to gather more good reviews and your directories will really start working for you.
However, after a while, there may be a chance of you getting a bad review. The most important thing you can do to help avoid a bad review is serving your customers well. Focus on improving your product or service and if there is a dispute, do your best to handle it in person to the customer’s satisfaction so they don’t leave angry. A customer that leaves angry or slighted is the most likely to leave a bad review.
In the rare chance you do receive a bad review, there are a few steps you can take to help mitigate it. The first is to verify that the person leaving the review is a real customer or a client. If not, most sites have a process for reporting someone that has never been your customer or is leaving a fake review to get that review removed.
If it turns out they were a customer and still left a bad review, we suggest first sending a message through the review site privately, most sites have a way for business owners to respond to the review internally. Use this method first to see if there is anything you can do to remedy the situation and apologize for any problems they had with your business.
If they don’t reply to your private message you have a few options to consider. First, you can leave the review out there and not respond. If you choose this method do your best to compile more good reviews quickly to drown out.
The second is a bit more difficult: answer the bad review publicly. This gives you a chance to show you care about each and every customer. Make sure to apologize, be sincere, and again try you best to communicate that you want to do better for the customer. Avoid at all costs disputing the customer, telling them they are wrong, or insulting or talking down to them. Even if the customers are wrong, these disputes will come off as insensitive or crass.
After taking these steps you will be well on your way toward creating a great online reputation and create many more customers that find you online. Eventually, after managing these sites for a while, business will be rolling in from people that initially found you through review sites and directories.
You will eventually create a snowball effect because customers that found you on review sites are much more likely to post their own review without even being prompted. As you can see, there are many benefits and a few pitfalls to online directories and reviews, but if you follow this advice you will become a review machine in no time!
Now let’s hear from you! Have you had any good/bad experiences with online reviews? How did you handle them?