And why Google Place deserves your immediate attention.
The majority of consumers, 59 percent consider ratings and reviews an important factor in selecting a business, according to the 2010 15miles/comScore Local Search Study. However only 27 percent actually use ratings and reviews in their purchase process. As it turns out, the reason for the difference in importance and usage is the availability of ratings and review content for consumers to use.
Only 23 percent of consumers have submitted a rating or review online, the study found. So if ratings and reviews are important to consumers, it then stands to reason that businesses and brands with more content will be considered and selected by consumers more often.
Tip #1 – Ask existing customers to rate your business.
Many ratings and review sites like Yelp discourage this practice, stating it affects "authenticity" of the rating. I disagree; asking for the review is simply the extension of an off-line business building behavior of asking customers to refer or recommend a business and the first vital step to getting content. Below is a picture of a point-of-purchase reminder used by a local deli near my home to increase the amount of ratings about its business.
Ideas I have seen used by businesses asking for reviews include:
Now we also need to cover some of the "don'ts " associated with reviews. Asking for a review should not be confused with paying for reviews. Clearly the practice of paying for reviews should not be considered. Avoid giving a discount as an incentive to writing a review.
Finally, leave friends, family, and yourself out of the process. Nothing is worse than a review written by an insider or promotional in nature e.g., "You have to try their lobster mashed potato special on Wednesday night for only $12.95."
Tip #2 – Make Google your focus first.
Google last week announced changes in ratings and review content for Google Places. The intent of these changes is to develop more Google-specific ratings and reviews content for consumers to access. According to its blog post "…we've heard loud and clear that reviews help you find the places that are right for you, especially when you're able to get recommendations based on your tastes and those of your friends." Accordingly, Google has removed third-party site review snippets from Google Place Pages in favor of its own content. In the past, we would have recommended that businesses target their efforts to sites like Yelp or Citysearch as these act as citations and provide benefit in optimizing Google Place Pages. And while reviews on other sites still act as citations for your Google Place Page, your emphasis should shift toward building content directly on Google.
Additionally, consumers are more apt to review a business that has claimed and built out the content on its Google Place Page so this is a good place to start.
Tip #3 – Monitor your reviews and have a response plan.
Inevitably, someday a dissatisfied customer will post something about your business, so be prepared. Here are some techniques for responding to a bad review:
Here is an example using these tactics:
Thank you for your comment. We are sorry that you did not enjoy your recent visit to our business. I would like to help correct the treatment you received, please contact me at 555.1234 at your earliest convenience so that we might improve our improve customer service.
Consumers do not expect all businesses to have five-star ratings. They do, however, expect businesses to respond and deal with issues. Ratings and reviews provide business owners with critical feedback on how consumers view their offerings, service, etc. Use this feedback to help make your business better.
Be on the look out for fraudulent or competitor negative comments. But be careful how you respond. Most sites provide a process for flagging inappropriate reviews. I was amused the other day to see a review for restaurant A that received a less-than-good review with a comment that the food was so much better at restaurant B. The owner of restaurant A simply left a comment on the review that the review was posted by the owner of restaurant B's wife.
Ratings and reviews are in high demand by consumers and can be a powerful way to increase business. Get engaged with your customers to increase the online dialogue so more consumers can help select your business.
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Gregg Stewart is president of 15miles Local Marketing, a full-service marketing agency specializing in digital local solutions, headquartered in Connecticut. 15miles is a local search agency supporting the offline, online, and mobile solutions for businesses of all sizes, including Fortune 500 companies. At the helm, Stewart applies his successful, tenured career in interactive advertising and local search to the ongoing development of digital solutions for his clients' online-marketing campaigns. Through his strategic counsel, national and local brands become better equipped to target and reach niche consumers for increased leads and sales. In addition to his Clickz columns, additional columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
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