If one business has 143 positive Google reviews and the nearest competitor has three, which would you choose? Consumers are wired to assume the crowd is making the right choice. When people read online reviews, they are influenced by other people’s experiences with those companies. This is why putting a solid strategy together around online reviews can mean a lot more new business.  Here’s how you can start building up your online reviews.

3 Ways to Start Your Online Review Strategy With Google Reviews

  1. Claim your business listing on “Google My Business”.  It only takes a few minutes and it will increase your chances of showing up when potential customers search for companies that match your products and services when your customers are searching. Google my Business has updated their platform to pull in online reviews from Facebook, Yelp and any other relevant platforms for your business.
  2. Encourage customers to leave online reviews. The best part about Google Reviews is that they are really simple to get. Currently, it’s as easy as asking someone with a Google account to write your business an online review. If they need help, you can help them navigate to the page on their phone where they can write the Google review while they are still inside your business.
  3. Fill it up with content.  Google rewards people whose profiles are complete.  Make sure that you fill out Google’s forms COMPLETELY, that includes dates and times that you’re open, upload images of your offices, team, and products, add your website, social media channels.  If Google asks you for it, make sure that you have it.

Yelp Online Reviews are More Specific and Powerful

Yelp is considered a fairly a strict online review platform.  They even go so far as to tell businesses NOT to tell their customers to review them on Yelp! Think of Yelp as a bouncer in front of an exclusive club; only pretty girls and famous guys can get in. Yelp will only allow an online review if it passes their strict metrics, which include how long the reviewer has had a Yelp account, the number of Yelp reviews they’ve written and the quality of their online reviews.

Yelp’s recommendation software is designed to highlight reviews from people who are inspired to share their experiences with the community. Most businesses only target happy customers when asking for reviews, which leads to biased ratings. The recommendation software actively tries to identify and not recommend online reviews prompted or encouraged by the business. If someone has a Yelp account and they are willing to write a review for your business or one you represent, you should definitely ask for their review.

What To Put in an Online Review?

Checking-in, photos and a good story are all elements of a great online review no matter what review platform you use.  Here is an example of a great online review template:

“We’ve been visiting XYZ restaurant for a couple of years now and we always ask for the same waiter, Sean. He’s memorized our order by this point and even knows that we want one Korean street taco, even though they usually come in threes. The all you can eat option is our favorite and the salmon nigiri is out of this world. If you are planning on eating here on Friday, make sure to make a reservation ahead of time. They book up fast. In all likelihood, we’ll be eating here a few years from now.”

A good online review has:

  1. Street address: It’s hard to get foot traffic to your store without a specific address.  Make sure you include one so that customers can find you.
  2. Clear and complete description: Think of this as a menu. Tell your customers who you are, what you do, what problems you’ll solve.  Your description should entice people to choose you. Focus on those things that make your business unique.
  3. Images of product, staff, location, etc.  Get your online reviews started by adding pictures of all the things that communicate the personality of your business; your team, products, location, etc.
  4. Hours of operation: Make sure that your listing contains detailed days and hours of operation.
  5. Website: Include a link to your website.

The downside for Yelp is that at any moment, Google can update the algorithm and your rank will change. To successfully utilize online reviews, people have to work within the parameters set by Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Yelp, Pinterest, LinkedIn and the countless other social media sites.

What Online Reviews Mean for your Business

The first reviews will be the hardest.  But once you’ve established a rhythm, momentum will pick up. When you have more online reviews than your competitors you will see your credibility increase. What the majority of people choose attracts our attention. Having more reviews than your competitors is wonderful advertising.

There are online review platforms that will integrate the option for potential and current customers to leave a review directly into your website.  Here are a few you can try:

Beyond this, earning online reviews remains a personal endeavor for most small businesses. The business owner or salesperson simply exchanges their relationship capital for a review. According to Google, here are the ways they would prefer you to get your online reviews:

  1. Remind your customers to leave reviews. Let them know that it’s quick and easy to leave business reviews on mobile devices or desktop computers.
  2. Reply to reviews to build your customer’s trust. Your customers will notice that your business values their input, and possibly leave more reviews in the future.
  3. You can also create and share a link that customers can click to leave a review. Learn how to read and reply to reviews. Verify your business so your information is eligible to appear on Maps, Search, and other Google services. Only verified businesses can respond to reviews.

Replying to online reviews is an underutilized strategy for many business owners and entrepreneurs. Don’t just respond to bad reviews. Responding to good reviews is just as important. Remember that every word relates to your business and is being measured by Google’s artificial intelligence algorithm RankBrain.

When you respond to a review, you are showing potential customers that you care enough to communicate with them. You also give Google the evidence it requires to rank you well in their search rankings. The impact of Google reviews is undeniable. We’ve seen meteoric jumps in rankings in Google Maps based on online reviews alone.

Ask yourself today: what strategies can I implement to double my current online reviews? Where do I fall when measured against my competitors in this arena? Who could I ask for an online review today?