The value proposition for online review sites is simple as they enables almost anyone to offer a public review and rating of a business. A review site allows users to give both good and bad reviews of businesses – and gives consumers the opportunity to make an informed purchase decision. This new reality can be a challenge for businesses, however.
Here are some general recommendations when it comes to online reviews:
Face this new reality. Review sites are here to stay, so we can’t put our heads in the sand and ignore them anymore. Sites exist to review all manner of businesses, and your business may have reviews that you have never seen – leaving the reputation of your business in the hands of the internet community without any input from the business owner or management. Review sites have strong authority with search engines, and online reputation management firms which have attempted to suppress review sites with positive content are losing the battle. Many online reputation pros have thrown in the towel and are now recommending engagement to change review site content, rather than trying to push them down in search results.
Claim or create your company page on the main review sites. Your company may not yet have a listing on a site like Yelp, but any customer or interested party could create one without your knowledge and certainly without your consent. Business owners should look at the main review sites and either claim their page if one has already been created or create their own listing – this will give you a small level of control. If you have a claimed page, then you can enable the tools provided to businesses by review sites, such as notifications of new reviews and the ability to respond to reviews. This is the single most important reason to claim your page, so that you will be notified of new reviews.
Build out your review site listings. Across the board, executives from review sites recommend completing profiles and adding information to business listings. Up-to-date photos, videos and descriptions increase page views as well as interest from prospective customers or employees. Plain listings without images look stale as customers on review sites are typically interested in getting current information. At a minimum, most review sites offer the opportunity to post photos, videos, detailed descriptions, hours of operations and contact information.
Engagement. Likely the biggest trend in online reviews centers on engagement. Interaction between businesses and their customers helps build the overall sense of community, and executives from review sites universally advocate for responding to both positive and negative reviews. While responding to a negative review may not change the opinion of the reviewer, the response may positively impact the next consumer. According to TripAdvisor, for example, business owners should explain in responses how they plan to remedy negative situations. Future customers appreciate honesty and also react favorably to engaged businesses.
All business, not just those in hospitality, need to develop an ongoing strategy to manage online reviews. Regular audits of online practices and a commitment to engagement are critical.
If you have questions about online reviews, dealing with negative reviews or the removal of reviews, please feel free to reach out.