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Think about the last purchase you made or the last place you went to.

Chances are you did some research online to evaluate your options.

But how do you possibly narrow down your choices?

Customer Reviews.

It is simply impractical to visit every store or purchase every product that fits your search. So the next best option is to read about what others have said about a particular product or business. This gives you a better idea of what you can expect with your purchase.

It’s not surprising then that more consumers are increasingly relying on reviews for recommendations. One study on how reviews influence purchasing behavior found that 88% of consumers look at reviews to determine the quality of a business.

Do you read reviews

Reviews are incredibly powerful for one reason: Social proof.

Social proof is a phenomenon where people assume the behaviors of others in a given situation. It can be highly influential in terms of swaying opinions. And it’s the reason why many companies spend millions of dollars a year to sponsor rising stars to endorse their products or services.

There are different types of social proof but one of the most prominent is the customer review.

Why Customer Reviews Matter

Ratings are a major conversion factor.

If you were deciding on which restaurant to make a reservation, you might look at the reviews to help you decide. The first has an average rating of 2 stars with 55 reviews. But the next result has an average rating of 4.5 ratings with over 100 reviews. Which one seems more appealing?

The second one simply because the higher reviews provides much stronger social proof.

Reviews are also featured prominently in the local search results. Here is an example of a search for pizza restaurants in the area:

Customer Review Examples

The first result is higher but the second immediately jumps out because of the sheer number of reviews.

More reviews ultimately adds more to your bottom line. Five star ratings are far more likely to convert potential customers and even increase click through rates. Search engines also consider this local SEO factor as part of its ranking algorithm.

But how do you actually get them? To answer that question, we look at several ways to get more customer reviews. Implementing these recommendations will help your business gain a competitive advantage in the process.

1. Find Appropriate Review Sites For Your Industry
Yelp is perhaps the most popular site to find reviews about local businesses. But it may not necessarily be the best option for yours. Here is a simple process to finding review sites that are most appropriate for your industry

  • Search for target keywords: Search for different keywords relevant to your business (e.g. local SEO services Austin Texas) and scan the results. Make note of the review sites that appear in the top results.
  • Create profiles: The next step is to create profiles on those sites. Be sure to fill everything out by including your business name, address, and a link to your site.
  • Manage customer reviews: Reputation management is an important part of building a trustworthy brand. While most customers will be completely satisfied with services rendered, others may not. So it is important to manage and respond appropriately to reviews, both positive and negative.

Now you should have a list of top review sites in your industry. The next step is get actual reviews from your customers.

2. Entice Customers to Leave a Review
Most satisfied customers are happy to write about their experience with a particular product or business but they often need to be reminded. Encourage customers to leave reviews using a soft approach.

Here are some ideas:

  • Link to review sites: Create a separate page on your site with links to your profiles on review sites. Encourage reviews by placing a link to the page on your homepage or email signature (e.g. Check out our customer reviews here or leave your own!).
  • Create print materials: Print flyers or banners with more details about where customers can leave reviews. Then leave them around your business where customers can see them such as on the counter or near the front door.
  • Affix review signs: Stickers from well-known review sites help add even more credibility to your business. If you have a storefront or company vehicles, affix signs from review sites that your business is on.
  • Ask: Sometimes the best way to get more reviews is simply ask your customers either by email, phone or directly in person.

3. Never Pay For Reviews
Some review sites such as Yelp strictly prohibit businesses from paying for reviews or offering other incentives for them. The company CEO has stated that it takes a strong stance against such practices. Businesses that buy reviews or solicit them could see the following alert on their profile pages:

Consumer Alert

A better option is to affix a Yelp sign where it is visible such as your window or wall.

Final Points
Getting reviews can be a slow process, especially in the beginning. But doing so helps better position your business in front of potential customers. Reviews essentially act as a form of social proof. If customers are rating your business highly, there must be a reason why.

While getting reviews on Google Maps via Google+ is important, ideally you also want to seek reviews from other sites such as Yelp and Yellow Pages depending on your industry. Be sure to carefully check the terms and conditions of each so you know exactly what you are allowed to do.

A natural progression of customer reviews is another important point. It looks incredibly suspicious if reviews on your profiles explode overnight then suddenly drop off the next day. In fact, this is a pretty good indication of fraudulent practices and could get your business banned from certain review sites. Make getting reviews part of an ongoing process for your business.

It happens.

No matter how hard you try to satisfy all your customers, there will undoubtedly be some that will write a bad review. This is why it is essential to keep tabs on your business including mentions online so you know what others are saying. You will then need to decide how to respond.

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