It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, it is if you have kept yourself off Santa’s naughty list. And these days – the online equivalent of that is the online review sites. One too many negative reviews, and you feel like all you’ll be getting are lumps of coal.

The holidays are a time for family, friends, and festivities, and hopefully for you, bustling sales. When you have this type of large influx of customers, your business’s online reputation is about to get a boost. It’s a two-pronged opportunity – attracting new customers that you can convert into long-time customers that will give you more positive reviews.

It’s likely you are getting a large influx of potential new customers reading your online reviews before they visit you for the first time. Perhaps they’ve been sent by friends or family, or through a work connection, they are looking for something new and different. It’s important your reviews shine a positive light and give them confidence in their visit. On the other hand, with a large influx of customers, it’s the opportunity to get a lot more online customer reviews, and you want them to be positive.

The question becomes, how can you manage your online reputation without gluing yourself to the computer each day? It’s true that review management is important all year round, but during the holiday season, it becomes even more crucial to get positive feedback on your online reputation. In this blog post, we will discuss review management tips that will help keep your independent business on top of the review sites in your community!

Which Sites Do You Need To Monitor?

Review sites are a great lead generation tool for many independent businesses (no one is looking up Walmart or Applebee’s reviews… though they probably should). Reviews are a key part of your business success. What others say about you is far more powerful than when you are saying. Online reviews give power to the customers to tell their version of their visit, which provides social proof to other potential customers.

Your first step is to go to Google and search your business concept in your town… for example, “Italian restaurants in Eugene, OR “bookstores in Pocatello, Idaho.” Note the top sites that return results, it’s typically Google, Trip Advisor, Yelp, Facebook, and if you are a restaurant that takes reservations, OpenTable.

Focus on the top sites in your community, note where you rank currently, and monitor and respond to move yourself up the lists. Track performance as time passes- even a one-star increase can have a huge impact and is worth celebrating. Each site has a different algorithm to rank businesses, and they are constantly changing, but it is typically based on a combination of the number of reviews, the quality (star ranking) of the reviews, and how current they are.

Step 1 – Claim Your Sites

Claim and optimize your Google Business Listing and your top review sites (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook). If you haven’t claimed your business profile, you’re losing money because it diminishes the credibility of your brand. Claiming the sites is very easy to do and gives you control over the information that is listed.

If you aren’t controlling the details of what consumers are seeing about your business, who is? When a business is listed online but hasn’t been claimed by the owner, anyone can enter information on that business and Google will scrape the web looking for the data, which may or may not be accurate.

As well, every time you claim your business on a major platform, you are also providing details about your company and building links back to your website and social profiles. This ultimately helps with your SEO ranking, getting you higher in search results and builds your following on social media.

Once you’ve claimed your site you have access to some basic analytics so you can have a basic understanding of how your business is comparing. You can find out how many people found your business during a specific time or where people searching for your business live, which can help you target new customers.

Step 2 – Listen And Take Control Of Your Online Reputation

Many business owners believe they are at the mercy of site user evaluations like Google Reviews and TripAdvisor. It’s not true! Engagement is what the site creators are encouraging – because it also benefits their business.

When you engage with your accounts and answer all positive and negative feedback, it shows that you are invested in customer satisfaction. Bad reviews are an opportunity to “right the wrong” and turn a bad experience into good. Good reviews give you the opportunity to show gratitude and appreciation. And the best part is, you’ve done it publicly.

Sometimes restaurateurs will consider a negative reviewer a complainer considering that it’s only that they have a frustration that they want solved – and they have opened to door for you to do just that.

Why Do You Need To Manage Reviews For Your Business?

Reviews of your business on Yelp or Google will take place, whether you like it or not. It won’t help if you hide your head in the sand or hope for a low number of negative reviews.

Reviews are an excellent way to get a quick insight into how your customers think about your business because often, they aren’t comfortable being honest while in the business. They provide a way to hear feedback about the user experience in your business, and often they will provide useful upgrades or suggestions for improvement. Do you know the specific things that customers appreciate best? If you know what these things mean, you can take the right actions and keep going.

Negative Reviews Are Inevitable

There are always going to be negative reviews, so your challenge is to heavily outweigh them against a large number of positive reviews. People understand that it takes four 5-star reviews to counter a 1-star review so that a total of four stars are rated accordingly. Consider negative reviews as an important tool that can improve your products or service. Responding properly to a negative review may inspire them to do rewrite the review to a more positive one.

How Do I Respond to Negative Reviews?

Generally, a great way to get more positive reviews is by being responsive and taking care of any problems identified in a negative review. Sending out a review response that attacks back or criticizes the reviewer is not going to help. Those responses will be permanent reminders and will often circulate so other people can see how you respond when things go wrong. Professionalism is your only choice.

Balance is key when it comes to readership reaction. In general, if a review has been posted multiple times or it shows significant back-and-forth, then there might be some bigger issues that need addressing. Responding quickly and intelligently can head off a bigger, worse review avalanche, but ignoring these problem reviews will only lead to them getting worse over time until they turn into negative online reputation problems.

In a previous blog post, How To Prepare For The Holiday Review Increase, we provided some actual copy that you can cut and paste to use when responding to reviews. Keep in mind, you don’t want every response to sound the same, and you want to come across as genuine and sincere. Use the words we have provided, but add your own style.

How to Respond To Positive Reviews

Once you have addressed any review issues that need tending, it is time to focus on responding positively to the positive reviews that are being posted online. If people see your business getting multiple five-star review postings, they might be more inclined to stop in for a meal or shop at your business, giving you their business based on that review alone.

The best way to respond is by being sincere and showing your gratitude for the review. Maybe they have a favorite product that you can highlight or recommend a similar product as a suggestion. And remember, no one likes a bragger, so keep things grounded in reality – there’s nothing worse than someone who acts high-and-mighty online.

How do I get more positive reviews?

A lot of people only write reviews about bad experiences compared to those that left happy. If you explain to your customers how it is important to review your product/service and give them an easy way to do that, then it will encourage them to leave feedback and praise. You can mention it as they pay for their visit and point out a QR code that links to your review sites from their receipt. It’s important to remember that giving payment or incentives against the terms and conditions of various websites.

Step 3 – Share

82% of users read customer reviews in the local business, and 97% read reviews posted by a business.

Once people post their comments online, they are public, and you can use them as testimonials in your marketing. Using a program like Canva can help you make social media posts, images for your outbound emails or to put in a rotation on your website. Consider using them in-house as well, on your menus, table tents, flyers, business cards, or signage. Include a QR code to link directly to the review site of your choice to encourage even more reviews.

Create a Repeatable System

A good review management process and a system to publish the best ones is very important. With the proper tools and a solid plan, review management does not have to be the headache you might expect it to be. With a smart strategic plan, you can make managing the tasks of organizing review processes easier.

To get a full assessment of your Online Reputation for your business and what you could be doing to capitalize on your holiday reviews and capture more new customers, sign up for a complete Online Review of your Google Business listing and review sites. Also, see how you rank amongst your competitor- a $297 value for FREE because you read our blog.

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Michael Thibault
Michael Thibault

Michael Thibault

Known as “The Done For You Marketing Guy for Restaurants.” International Speaker on Restaurant Marketing. Published contributing author of 4 Marketing Books. Industry expert on Google Searches and Review Sites. Recovering Independent Restaurant Owner and Caterer of over 21 years. And, all-around good guy.

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