Research shows that 88% of customers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. So should you take the plunge and allow customers to rate and review you online?
Like it or not, everybody has an opinion about your business. But do you know what they’re saying online? More importantly, do you know what it takes to manage and improve your online reputation?
According to Google, 97 percent of all users search for local businesses online. That includes people who live near your business as well as first-time visitors to your community. As a business owner, you should know the websites where people are getting their information about your business.
- Yelp: Yelp allows users to search for and review local businesses, from hotels to restaurants to retailers. The site has more than 50 million unique visitors a month. Each business listing has a five-point rating, reviews from visitors and business information. Users and business owners can update the business listings.
- TripAdvisor: On TripAdvisor, users can rate everything from hotels to restaurants to flights to vacation rentals. Users (or owners) can share photos of hotels and restaurants they’ve visited and participate in forums. Website services—and a number of services for business owners—are free to users, who provide most of the content.
- Google Places: Google Places offers recommendations for local businesses, from retail stores to restaurants. Users can find and share places with other Google users, and businesses can claim their business listing online, as well as add photos, videos and special offers. Like the other three sites, paid advertising/listing upgrades also are available.
So, where should you start?
- Create your page, or claim it if it exists already. Creating a page is relatively easy, and claiming a created page or listing on any of the sites is just a matter of entering information and responding to an automated phone call.
- Make sure the information about your business is complete and up-to-date. People come to these sites looking for information, so the more up-to-date, accurate information on your listing, the better. Are you closed on Sundays? Is there a website you can link users to? This information will give online visitors a better picture of the amenities you have to offer.
- Monitor your reviews and respond constructively to customers’ complaints or concerns. This is particularly easy on Yelp, where business owners have the ability to respond to negative reviews privately or publicly correct erroneous information in profiles. Yelp even offers an online guide for business owners looking for a how-to on responding to critical reviews. Likewise, don’t be afraid to interact with users (either positive posters or negative ones) on other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
As a small business owner, it’s impossible to control everything that’s being said about your business. But, by working with these websites, you have an opportunity to shape some of the dialogue.