The power of online reviews to shape and inform the public about your business is immense.  Given the influence and virtual permanence of these reviews, they can effectively make or break the amount of new traffic that walks through your real or digital doors.  The worst thing you can do as a marketer, however, is to think that you have no control over the situation.  In fact, you can and need to control your online reviews consistently get more positive reviews.

While some businesses, such as this Italianrestaurant in San Francisco (Botto Bistro), have leveraged bad Yelp reviews to their advantage, generally, you will want to stick with best practices to solicit and control your online reviews in an efficacious way.  There are some strategies and tips you can use to build and control your online reviews as you see fit.

The Importance Of Online Reviews

There are plenty of statistics available to support the argument that online reviews are highly important for your business.  At least 90% of people who recalled reading online reviews claimed that positive reviews influenced their buying decisions, and a similar 86% claimed that their buying decisions were influenced by negative reviews.  One study from Harvard Business School found that for every one-star increase in a business’ Yelp rating, their revenue was 5-9% higher.

Stats like these can be found everywhere.  All of them point to the undeniable fact that online reviews are an immensely powerful manifestation of the phenomenon of social proof, or word of mouth and to maintain your reputation, you must control your online reviews.  In uncertain or ambiguous situations, for example, where a customer does not know the quality of a set of restaurants in an area, consumers tend to copy others in their decision-making.  These days, this is most easily done with the power of the internet and a quick Google search for reviews.  Even with little real information behind them, the online reviews your business collects can have a big impact on your bottom line.  As a business owner or marketing manager, you should take steps to control your online reviews to do what you can to ensure these reflect on your business in as positive a manner as possible.

Ways To Control Your Online Reviews

Below, we will take a look at what you can do to control your online reviews an offer some specific and actionable tips to implement today.

Get More Positive Online Reviews 

Reviews are, in many ways, a numbers game.  If you are running your business reasonably well and make a reasonable effort to treat your customers respectfully, you might expect to generate a review distribution that is average or slightly above average.  However, this assumes that most customers leave reviews, which is not always the case.  Ensuring that more customers leave a review is a good way of controlling your online reviews by balancing out the rating effects of a critically bad review and making this review appear to be more of an outlier.

How is this done?  One way to start taking control of your online reviews is to consider what motivates people to leave reviews at all.  There are many potential motivations, including altruism, recognition of excellence, reciprocity, revenge for perceived harm, or simply personal interest.  Channeling these sentiments into your request for reviews or comments is a good way to solicit more of them.

Your happy clients don’t do a review because they either forget, it is too hard, or they are too busy.  By far, the most reliable way to solicit more positive reviews is to make it super easy for the clients to quickly complete a review at the completion of service.  Follow these simple steps and get more good reviews:

  1. Remind them via email, text, or phone call to give a review at end of a transaction or at logical points in the service process.
  2. Create an effective message and a call to action with a simple customized link to your preferred review site(s).  Here are a couple sample messages from, one of the highly rated reviews platforms.

“Thanks for choosing us. We’d like to invite you to share yourexperience with us.  Your feedback not only helps us, it helps other potential customers.”

“If we’ve served you this month, thank you for theopportunity!  We’d love to hear about your experience, and no doubt others would, too…”

  1. You may want to create an incentive for the review.  “Have a copy of coffee on us.”
  2. Drive them to a landing page that you control (e.g., your Google My Business Page or your Facebook Page). While ultimately, you want reviews to be left on the premier third party sites that customers use to evaluate and compare companies, products, and services, over time review sites change, new sites emerge and older sites lose popularity.  Through sending the customer to a landing page that you control, you can control your online reviews better by simply directing the customers to the review sites that will have the most impact.
  3. Offer a few different sites for them to leave a review on but be sure not to overwhelm them.  Instead, just choose a few sites and be sure to highlight the ones that are most important to your business or industry.
  4. Remember to monitor your reviews carefully and respond professionally to both positive and not so positive reviews.

To further control your online reviews, it’s a good idea to offer an alternative for customers than leaving a bad review.  For example, you might provide a customer service phone number or email address, or, on the other hand, you can connect with them directly on social media.  If you do choose the social media avenue, just be sure that the long-term public visibility of the issue is kept to a minimum.  Twitter is a popular platform for companies to offer customer support to their clients, but you need to monitor your feed closely to provide prompt replies.

Substance Over Stars

While it is great to have your business consistently receiving five-star reviews, it is far better to have informative and insightful commentary about your products and services.  Real details of users’ experiences are more likely to evoke the emotions of review readers and get them into your store.  Having a call to action with a request for comments in your store or your firm on your business cardor your website is a great place to start. These simple prompts are enough for many people to voluntarily leave feedback.

In terms of substance, it is also important to be cognizant of where the most influencing happens when it comes to online reviews.  According to Neil Patel, a marketing guru, these are Google, Facebook, and Yelp in most cases.  These sites have a lot of users and generate a lot of traffic.  They also feature reviews of any variety of business types.  Putting the bulk of your efforts to control your online reviews on these three pages will provide you with the most benefits.

Leverage Bad Reviews

While no business should actively strive to generate bad reviews, when one inevitably gets a poor review, some simple strategies can help you make the best of a bad situation.  If you control your online reviews appropriately, bad reviews can be an example of the expression “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

In truth, the more actively people are reviewing your business, for good or for bad, the better this can be for your visibility on search engines like Google.  Besides, as pointed out above, consumers are looking for authenticity when they read online reviews.  If your business only features positive stories, this is more likely to be perceived as fake or insincere in comparison with a business that has an above-average but mixed review profile.

Beyond that, bad reviews are an excellent opportunity to take the high road and demonstrate how much you care about your customers and their experience with your business.  Control your online reviews by responding politely and making the effort to correct any issues that bad reviews point out about your business are great ways of winning customers back and impressing potential new customers.

No Substitute For Good Business to Control your Online Reviews and Reputation

Ultimately, you can give your business the best shot at consistently soliciting positive and substantive online reviews by running it well.  Treating your customers well and providing something of value with consistency is the best way of ensuring that the good far outweighs the bad.  When the odd disgruntled customer does leave a review, handling these with tact and humility can benefit both your efforts to control your online reputation and the functioning of your business in general.

To find out more about the importance of reviews for your business and for learning how to control your online reviews, get in touch with our team at Mikesell Digital Consulting today.  With our professionalism and expertise, you can be sure that your business will be in a strong position going forward.