Tips and how-to guides for organic and local search engine optimization (SEO), with an emphasis on DIY for local businesses.
Many local business owners know that getting positive customers reviews on social media can make Google jump for joy, i.e. shoot to the top of local search results.
Unfortunately, getting customer to leave positive reviews on social media is not easy.
People just do not have the time or energy to review local businesses, especially for businesses that provide your "typical services."
By typical services I mean commonplace businesses like insurance, home repair, realtors, financial advisors, bottled water, retail sales, etc.
Nothing against typical businesses, I own one myself. When was the last time you gave your Internet Marketing Consultant a glowing review on Google Plus? Eh? Makes you yawn just thinking about it.
Unless you are Amazon or a hot restaurant/night club or some other flashy business, most likely your customers are not going to voluntarily leave glowing reviews for your business on the web.
Unless of course you provide terrible customer service or products, this is a great way to get customer reviews. But that's another topic for another day.
So what can you do to get the much needed positive customer review that helps your findability on the web?
You can alway ask your customers to leave a review. You can even offer them some promo if they leave a review. Many businesses do this already.
Don't do it. Soliciting customer reviews is a big no-no in the eyes of the major review sites like Google Plus Local, Yelp and others.
Soliciting reviews is considered an exploit for ranking purposes, in the same category as creating fake reviews or you-review-me-and-I'll-reveiw-you schemes.
The important review sites (cough Yelp, Google+) track reviewers. If your customer leaves a glowing review but is not an active reviewer or social media user, the review might trigger the exploit flag.
Offering an incentive for a review is paramount to bribing which is unethical.
Plus asking a customer for positive reviews is kinda tacky don't you think. Do you really want to beg for praise?
You shouldn't need to solicit reviews if you provide great customer service or products.
Note: There are exceptions to the "Don't Ask Rule" see the PS at end of this article.
Ok, back to the key issue: what do you do to get more customer reviews?
What you need to do is "encourage engagement" with your customers and your social media.
Instead of pressuring your customers to leave a review, you can simply mention your presence on Social Media (cough Yelp, Google+) and make your customers aware of the benefits to engaging with your social media sites. (i.e. great content, check-in offers, specials and discounts, etc.)
So don't solicit customer reviews, rather encourage engagement. Here are some ideas.
Create a Check-in Offer. When customers are in your business and they "check-in" on their mobile phones they let their friends see what businesses they are patronizing. So create a check-in offer to encourage customers to engage with your social media.
Display social media signage. Post window stickers and table displays that display your social media profiles and links.
Email Signatures. Include links to your social media listings in your email signatures. Add a benefit to clicking the link such as "Check out our check-in offers."
Respond to Social Media Reviews. If you do get a review on social media, be sure to respond to the review and implement customer suggestions if valuable. Especially respond to bad reviews. Reviewers love to get feedback and your active participation may encourage others to leave a review.
So be cool and don't solicit customer reviews but rather take steps to encourage engagement on your social media listings.
PS: Like everything there are exceptions to the Don't Solicit Review policy. For example, the travel website Trip Advisor encourages asking your customers for reviews. However TripAdvisor does call it "...encourage participation in TripAdvisor..." Also TripAdvisor aggressively controls the review process to prevent fake reviews. And TripAdvisor considers biased reviews to be fraud.