Chauncey: Welcome to the Being Found Show, the local business guide to being found online by more buying customers. I recently read an informative article on Search Engine Land, called Six Local Tips for Small Business SEO Success. In this segment, we are discussing the #4 business tip; Encourage and respond to online user reviews.

Encourage And Respond To Online User Reviews

User reviews help to build your business’ visibility in local search results, and so does your engagement in responding to them — whether they are positive or negative. However, small businesses need to ensure the reviews themselves always come from the outside. Your action item on this one is to encourage your customers to leave ratings and reviews of your business if they are satisfied with your work.

I understand that a lot of businesses, depending on your business model, struggle with getting them to go to your website, Yelp or wherever they need to be to do so. You can get customers to do a write up as well and then use that testimonial on your website. This is useful for businesses who have a large client base of older folks and sell higher ticket items to people who have saved up the money to pay for them. Home additions on paid off houses would be one situation where the client base is most likely older and less likely to be online.

Jake: I was mattress shopping recently, and the salesman asked me to leave a review, which I hadn’t thought about doing or even wanted to do, but he put the idea in my head. I didn’t think that it was rude or offputting and it didn’t hurt him to ask.

Chauncey: What this can be good for is nonconfrontational customers who maybe had a problem. Their review can maybe address an issue or a concern, and as a business owner, you want to know what is happening within your business. I realize that most of the loudest voices that you deal with are maybe customers who don’t necessarily have the right to be so upset, but it’s these quieter voices that you need to hear. These average people who have a problem with you or these average people that are supportive and what you do are the customers you want to hear from.

The next item on the list says as part of your encouragement, provide customers with a variety of sites to post reviews, so the spread is diverse across multiple key local sites. They are talking about Google, Facebook, Yelp, and your site. I’m not sure how Google’s going to mitigate this because there are a lot of opportunities to cheat on your own site.

Jake: I was actually just going to ask you what your take on that was.

Chauncey: Well you are supposed to be wrapping your site in Schema, and I guess Google thinks anyone smart enough to do that is a do-gooder and will follow the rules somehow.

Jake: For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, Schema is essentially a way of organizing data so that Google is very clear on what the data is. So there’s a schema format just for reviews, and it labels data. That includes the review, the name of the author of the review, the date published, the service provided and the provider of the service. Processing data and information is made easier for Google.

The next tip is to be proactive about responding to all types of user reviews. If the post is positive, thank the customer for their feedback and encourage them to use your services again. If the post is negative, explain that you appreciate the feedback and ask the customer to get in contact with you about their concerns so you can address their problems. This is saying you should respond to every review whether it is good or bad. Someone who took the effort and time out of their day to say whether or not your business was doing good is worth responding to. There’s a lot of concentration on the web about responding to and dealing with those negative reviews. But anybody who took the time out of their day to come by and say how great you were doing warrants a response.

Jake: I should mention too, as a business owner if someone does leave you a poor review, don’t argue with that. The business owner can never win a war. When you win, you lose, and when you lose, you lose. So simply say, you know what, go ahead and call me and we will see if we can work something out for you. If you had a poor experience, we want to know what we can do to make that better for you. Say anything other than it wasn’t your fault.

Chauncey: Yeah no one likes that guy. Now let’s say someone leaves you a bad review and you respond and say to give you a call. Well, 80 percent of the time they won’t call you. Now what you have up there is a bad review. If you responded with the intention to fix the problem, you are in a better place than if you didn’t. When people read that bad review, they will also see that the business owner responded and gave that person the opportunity to make it right. So the rest of the time they do call, and sometimes you can fix that, sometimes you can’t. You can at least humanize yourself, especially if you’re an owner-operator. Humanize yourself and try to rectify the situation. Things tend to go pretty good, but there’s always that one percent of the time that you just can’t make them happy no matter what.

Jake: You’re not completely powerless in that case. I have seen situations where people have left very unhelpful, scathing reviews so much so that there was French name-calling and that sort of thing. In cases like that, Google will call you up and ask if you will take a look at it. If it is against your policy because they are using foul language, you have the right to take it down, and that review will go away. That is a good way to get rid of one-star reviews.

Chauncey: The last item on this list says whatever you do, never post false reviews! When discovered – and they usually are, because they’re transparent –  you will either lose your visibility in search, or your visibility will not be the kind you want. You have the wrong intentions as a business if you are leaving yourself fake reviews.

I don’t know how they figure it out, but I do know how they post them. I’ve read some articles on this and you can buy a service where people set up fake email addresses and fake personas, hundreds of them, and then use those fake personas to leave reviews. These Google bots are not stupid or easy to fool. If they see a Gmail account, or hundreds of them in this case, that leaves tons of great reviews but has never sent or received an email, it is reasonable to assume they are not a real person.

Chauncey: They are watching and deciding whether or not it is credible. Like the Internet in general, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. I realize that one’s obvious, but we just need to run through it because it is very important. Losing credibility to Google as a business is not worth it in any circumstance.

To wrap up, it’s very important that you solicit reviews as politely as possible, you should respond to every review whether good or bad, and never leave fake reviews, but get yourself out there. This is hugely important in showing up in local search, and it’s also hugely important in conversion because once you got them, you want to keep them.

Thank you for listening to this segment of the Being Found Show, to hear the full show listen here: Being Found Show Episode #59 or subscribe to our Podcast.