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Generate more online reviews

Alexander Zaugg, Founder

11 April 2017

Responses are only needed if there are reviews, and reviews are a savvy way to get more user generated content about your local business – for free!

We’ve already talked a lot about how to deal with online reviews and how you can leverage them to support your business. But in this post we want to share how to actually get online reviews -precisely how to get more of them posted at your most relevant sites, while securing good quality.

Level 1 – Where / which platforms?

If you are opening a new business, you probably can’t wait for your first online review – don’t worry, they will come and once started, they won’t stop. Prepare yourself!

Firstly, you need to determine on which platforms (e.g. Google, TripAdvisor) you’d like to be present and if you’d like to collect reviews on your own page.

Let’s get started with the easier part – reviews on platforms. Depending on the kind of business and your location, you have a wide choice on which platforms you’d like to focus on. We’ve created a list that should help you to decide. However, we believe big players like Google, Facebook and TripAdvisor should be in your set of considerations. So before someone else opens your business as a listing on these platforms, do it yourself and claim your business. Ensure to upload your contact details, logo, nice pictures and opening hours. Like that, even if there are no reviews yet, you make it easier for potential customers to find you.

Once your customers start writing reviews on these platforms, make sure you respond to them diligently and use them advantageously.

If you’d like to collect reviews on your own site, you can do that in order to make your homepage more authentic (testimonials) and drive traffic to your own page instead of review platforms. This makes particular sense if you are an already well-established business with  lots of regulars. In case you are fairly new in the game, we recommend focusing on big review platforms in order to be found more easily on search engines.

“Don’t get the most, but real and good quality online reviews”

Level 2 – How to encourage customers to leave reviews?

Well, the short answer is, just ask them! But as usual, that’s only half the truth – especially taking platforms like yelp.com into consideration, who have a very strict policy in place which doesn’t allow business owners to ask customers directly to leave feedback. Sounds a bit counterintuitive, but yelp wants to be a very objective place in order to keep up their reliability, knowing that business owners only ask happy customers to leave reviews. However, this is so far the only platform we know with this strict policy in place and even for this case there are solutions, which we’ll highlight later on.

When encouraging customers to leave online reviews, we need to differentiate between doing this online or offline. Let’s start with the easier part – online.

The simplest way is, if you have email addresses for your customers (if you don’t have them, start to collect them). So next time you send your customers a newsletter, copy in the link of your relevant review-site or your own homepage and ask them to leave some honest feedback. This should be avoided for yelp, but feel free with Facebook, TripAdvisor or Google.

If you don’t have email addresses yet, let visitors of your homepage know where they can rate you. Place badges / logos from your relevant platforms on your page and link them to your business. These badges / logos can be downloaded from most platforms (e.g. TripAdvisor). You can also use a good review as a testimonial, but ask the reviewer first.

On social media you can ask your followers as well to leave an honest review – for example, after a big event of yours. Just be sure to put your request into context and not just fish for compliments, nobody likes that. Another good option on social media is simply to share a good review you’ve received.

The trickier way, but in our experience more powerful, is to transform the “offline” customer experience into an online-review. Meaning, ask your customers who stayed a night in your hotel or enjoyed a fabulous meal in your restaurant to leave a review. There are many ways to do so – we list here the ones, where we have had good feedbacks from our customers:

  • The owner / chef asks directly when saying goodbye. For yelp you can stay subtler like “check us out on yelp”.
  • You work with stickers (provided by the platforms) to put, for example, on your door to let people know which platforms you are present on. Don’t overdo it, just focus on one or two.
  • If you have an electronic register, which you can program, put a small note at the bottom of all your receipts

As it happens it’s not what you say, but how you say it. So, don’t push too much or do anything, which makes you feel uncomfortable. This would only be considered unauthentic and probably lead to negative reviews. Just start slowly and find your way – you have enough time.

Online reviews and responses are an important part of your SEO.
Generate more online reviews

Level 3 – Make sure you receive good quality reviews

There is an alleged shortcut to generate more reviews, the use of one of the rather dubious web services which promise (positive) reviews for money. We are very clear about it – don’t use them, ever! It’s not only not sustainable (review platforms can detect and penalize you) and unfair, you also won’t get valuable insights from your customers.

We recommend principally earning your good reviews. How to do that? Well, make a good job! Of course, this is easier said than done, but it’s true.

Many top-rated businesses use the following tactics:

  • Implement the score of your business on review platforms as a goal for your staff –> if they can increase the score, they should be incentivized
  • Create a culture among your staff where mistakes can be discussed openly without further punishment. Like that you can make sure you hear bad news directly and not from your customer, especially if you don’t spend every day in your company
  • If something has really gone wrong and you receive a negative review, deal with it professionally and learn from it
  • Online reviews are a two way street: respect your customers by taking them seriously and respond to all reviews diligently and even use them as a marketing tool
  • Every day many small success-stories happen in your restaurant / hotel: make sure your staff can capture them (e.g. a photo of a well-organized wedding) and you can share them online

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About the Author 

Alex takes care of our customers as their problem-solver and trouble-shooter. Of course writing compelling responses is a big part of his work as well and he strives for the best customer experience in every field he works. Therefore he tries always to discover new tactics how to improve our service and the one of our customers.

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