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In this age of digital makeover, online reviews should be one of the most important part of your marketing strategy. Competition exists in almost every field in this era. In order to stay ahead in the game, every business needs to work on their online presence and their brand’s reputation. One of the key aspect of this is to receive, monitor and respond to both good and bad online reviews. To reap the benefits of online reviews, one needs a solid strategy and a particular span of time to deal with customer reviews and feedbacks.

We will be discussing the following topics in this blog:

1. Best Practices to Get Online Reviews
2. How to Handle Negative Reviews
3. Impact Of Online Reviews In Your Local SEO Strategy
4. Tools that Can Help You Track Online Reviews
5. Final Takeaway!

What Are Some Best Practices to Get Online Reviews?

  • Third Party Review Platforms: It is very important to register yourself in every business directory of your particular field. This is especially true if you are a local business, i.e: your business offers its services in and around a local area. You never know the directory which your potential customer or present customer will be searching for you. Most of these business directories offer an option to the customers to rate and review the business.There are many business directories that specialize in listing local businesses only. So you should definitely be on the lookout for such websites.
  • Social Media Presence: Nowadays, more and more people are using social media sites not just for the purpose of socializing with friends and family but also to find the best product or service available in the market. The screenshot below will give you some idea about how social consumers decide to interact with brands.

    A bar graph depicting social consumer habit

  • Responding to Reviews: It is very important to respond reviews of our customers. This gives a feeling of importance to the customers which is very beneficial in long term. Reply with a thank you message if there is a positive reply. If there is a doubt or question, clear it with as much as clarity and transparency possible. Negative reviews need to be handled smartly, which we will talk about later in this post.

    An good example of online review feedback

    The screenshot above is a good example on how an online review should be handled properly.

  • Ask For Genuine Feedback/Follow-up: It is very important to take follow ups of your customers. While running a local business, chances are your customers are going to be local as well. In that case, you can ask for reviews and feedbacks personally, that is, while meeting face to face. Raking up positive reviews from local and well known customers can prove to be very beneficial for you. You can send a thank you email or a message or even can call in some cases. You need to take care of correct time if you are calling your customer. Along with thanking you note, you can ask for feedback or reviews and can give the choice of platforms to review.

    An example of asking for feedback

    Check the video below to about the Do’s and Don’ts of asking for reviews.

  • Reward Reviews: You can even start rewarding for reviews. Rewards can be in terms of some points or coupons. But don’t overdo this.

So what do we conclude?

Taking care of customers’ expectations and providing them value experience is the foundational strategy for earning reviews. It is not just about getting reviews but also to create a close level of communication with customer service and this would help you to understand what customers want from your products. This way you can improve your product or service, customer base and online reputation. Local businesses tend to be more vulnerable to reviews, since their customer-base are also locally based most of the time, hence the factor of “word-of-mouth” comes into play many times.

How to Handle Negative Reviews?

  • Understand the problem, react quickly and politely:First of all, you need to understand the problem of the customer. Even if the customer is wrong, you need to explain that in a very polite tone. Don’t forget the fact that your response will be read by many potential customers. Make it quick because in the time between, that negative review can affect your online reputation badly.

  • Be specific in your answers: If the customer complains, or voices a doubt regarding a particular product or service about your company, provide a direct and clear answer. You need to show your dedication at that point of time. Providing a direct answer will make the reviewer feel important and satisfied.
  • Ignoring is not an option: Ignoring or deleting a bad review can be worse for you than negative reviews. This will make you look like an unprofessional brand that doesn’t care about its customers.
  • Try to take the issue offline: If the issue cannot be solved by just giving a reply to the review you can offer an offline medium (Phone number or through email) to the customer to get connected with you. This will show that you care for your customers and are willing to solve the issue.Check the video below on how you can handle negative reviews.

So, what do we conclude?

A good local business must embrace bad reviews. Negative reviews can be an important part of your review strategy. Whether we like it or not, bad reviews are the ones that are most read by users as compared to positive reviews. You need to monitor them on regular basis in order to improve your customer experience, be ready and alert to respond.

How Online Reviews Impact Your Local SEO Strategy

  • All New User-Generated Fresh Content: For local businesses, customer reviews are a great source of content ideas. Any question that your customer asks about can lead you to a new content topic with a new keyword.The reviews themselves can be considered as user-generated fresh content with relevant terms which consequently help in SEO strategy.The icing on the cake is that it acts as an influential content for the potential customers.

  • Higher CTR Rates: In the current scenario, most of the customers read online reviews before making a decision to buy a particular product. According to a survey conducted by Brightlocal, 88% of total consumers say that they prefer to read reviews about local businesses before selecting them. Many such studies and surveys have shown that most of the consumers trust online reviews and pick a business which has positive reviews or good star rating. This is the reason why online reviews and ratings boosts CTR and better CTR results in better ranking in SERP’s. The screenshot below will give you an idea about the psychology of consumers and how they pick a business.

    Bar chart showing how users pick business

  • Boosts Social Presence: Along with technical aspects, Local SEO also focuses on elements such as social media presence. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are the sources for customers to get more details about any local business or product or service. A solid review strategy for social media can give an edge over others in the terms of social media presence and can create love for your product or service.

    Social media presence

  • Reliability and Trust: The reviews of your business give a positive remark to the customer’s mind due to which the customer gets a feeling of reliability and trust on the products and services listed on your website. Even negative reviews can help you if handled smartly.

  • Search Engine Counts Rates and Reviews: Google considers the rating and reviews of a particular site and favors the one with more number of rate and reviews. These rates and reviews give a social proof for your business and also boosts the authority of your website.The star ratings that are visible in the Google search results instantly create trust in the mind of users for your local business which in turn increases traffic and conversation rates.Read about the eligibility guidelines of Google here.
  • Here’s How You Can Help Google Identify Reviews on Your Website

    The process of implementing Schema markup has been in effect for quite some time. Schema markup is the process of structuring some very important information present on a website, in a machine readable form, which can be used by Google to display such information in SERP.

    For this blog, we are going to talk about a particular type of Schema markup, called ‘AggregateRating’ schema. This type of schema can be used to mark, or highlight, star ratings and reviews left by customers on a website.
    For local businesses, AggregateRating schema are added in conjunction with LocalBusiness schema. A basic LocalBusiness schema looks like this:

    
    <script type="application/ld+json">
     {
     "@context": "http://schema.org",
     "@type": "LocalBusiness",
     "address": {
     "@type": "PostalAddress",
     "addressLocality": "Irvine",
     "addressRegion": "CA",
     "postalCode":"92618",
     "streetAddress": "123 Happy Lane"
     },
     "description": "This is your business description.",
     "name": "Gene’s Delicious Donuts",
     "telephone": "555-111-2345",
     "openingHours": "Mo,Tu,We,Th,Fr 09:00-17:00",
     "geo": {
     "@type": "GeoCoordinates",
     "latitude": "40.75",
     "longitude": "73.98"
     }, 
     "sameAs" : [ "http://www.facebook.com/your-profile",
     "http://www.twitter.com/your-profile",
     "http://plus.google.com/your-profile"]
     }
    </script>
    

    While a basic AggregateRating Schema looks like this:

    
    <script type="application/ld+json">
    {
    "@context": "http://schema.org",
    "@type": "Dentist",
    "name": "Family Dentistry",
    "aggregateRating": {
    "@type": "AggregateRating",
    "ratingValue": "4",
    "reviewCount": "2"
    },
    "review": [
    {
    "@type": "Review",
    "author": "Ellie",
    "datePublished": "2011-04-01",
    "description": "I'm not entirely upset with this office, but the staff at the front desk could have been nicer in letting me know they have nothing available for the next 2 months.",
    "name": "Good services, poor communication",
    "reviewRating": {
    "@type": "Rating",
    "bestRating": "5",
    "ratingValue": "3",
    "worstRating": "1"
    }
    },
    {
    "@type": "Review",
    "author": "Lucas",
    "datePublished": "2011-03-25",
    "description": "I was finally able to get my old crown replaced with a new, porcelain one at a cost that doesn't break the bank.",
    "name": "Affordable Crowns",
    "reviewRating": {
    "@type": "Rating",
    "bestRating": "5",
    "ratingValue": "5",
    "worstRating": "1"
    }
    }
    ]
    }
    </script>
    

    You must be very careful about what kind of schema you would want to use for your own business. If your business is not local, you can go for an Organization type schema as well.

    You read about review and rating schema markups and their best practices here.

    The screenshot below is a good example of the result of implementing AggregateRating schema

    Rating and review schema

    Please note that if your schema markup does not comply with Google’s established guidelines, your website can face penalty and lose ranking as well as traffic. Read our case study on Schema markup mistakes, and how you can avoid them.

    Tools that Can Help You Track Online Reviews

    For a growing local business, monitoring new reviews and responding to all of them can be a daunting task.

    Fortunately, there are many online tools out there which you can use to monitor reviews, respond to them, as well as receive feedback. A few of them have been listed below:

    • Trackur:Trackurcan be effectively used to track brand mentions across social media websites, forums, images as well as videos. You can view search trends related to your local business and the sentiment of customers. This tool is very effective, and should be used by every business. There are several plan which you can choose from, and each of them have their own advantages. Check the screenshot below:

      Trackur Price Plans

      Of course, there is a 10-day ‘Free Trial’ that lets users enjoy the software’s Premium Plan, so that they can make up their mind about getting a paid subscription later.

    • Hootsuite: Hootsuite is a very popular application that can be used to track social media websites. The software allows you to connect to and manage all you social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn etc. in one place. You can schedule posts and messages, listen and engage with your followers, and view in-depth analytics in order to see how your content is being perceived and make improvements where they’re needed. This tool is a good option for local brick-and-mortar business owners to monitor customer complaints and testimonials and address them quickly. Check their plans on the screenshot below:

      Hootsuit Price Plans

    • Google Alerts: Google Alerts is free option to monitor online reviews. Google alerts can be termed as customized search option. Local business owners can create custom alerts by setting up particular keywords that are relevant to their business. Google will then pull up any new content that contains your specified keywords, and send you notifications via email.
    • Reputology: Reputology is a review monitoring website that alerts users with time-sensitive emails about any negative customer reviews. The tool provides analytics for customer service management and sends detailed summary report of consumer feedback that you can reply to and identify any areas of improvement within your business. Social media management tools can also be integrated with this platform. Check their plans on the screenshot below:

      Reputology Pricing Plans

Final Takeaway!

Nowadays, reviews have become a vital factor in the decision making of potential customers. This is why search engines are also taking these reviews into account while setting up their rankings for a particular keyword. Working on a review strategy is not a rocket science. Its practices are very simple as mentioned above.

Local business owners should take online reviews seriously. Customers tend to judge a local business more based on the reviews than personal recommendations.

Dealing with public sometimes means facing customers who have unrealistic expectations. But the majority of customers just need a fair treatment. A smart local business owner must support and train the staff in complaint resolution, customer dealing, and satisfaction. It is important to take a positive approach towards negative reviews. You can make most of this opportunity that customers provide in the form of negative review by shining on the public stage and building a reputation in the terms of customer service.

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