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Five Review Sites That are not Google or Facebook

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We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Online reviews are one of the most important tools for businesses online. Reviews help clients to communicate with your company, promote you, and attribute to a decent chunk of SEO as well.

The facts are as follows:

  • 92% of consumers now read online reviews.
  • Star rating is the number one factor used by consumers to judge a business.
  • 80% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations./
  • On average reviews increase sales by 18%.

Reviews are important, and on average, a consumer will look at over 10 information sources before making a purchase. When we think of review websites, the two that are most often in our faces are Google and Facebook. However, having your business on multiple review sites will count for citations, and boost activity to rank you higher. So what other sites are out there to gather reviews?

Yelp

The go-to for most business reviews, Yelp has an average monthly unique visitor count of 145 million. 135 million reviews are posted per year, and most people you run into on the street will have the app on their phone. In fact, 70% of Yelp page views come from mobile devices.

Any variety of business can be posted on Yelp, and for consumers on the go it’s an easy-to- use, and reliable review site. If you’re not already listed on Yelp, you should make it top priority!

Foursquare

Foursquare currently has 10 million users with three million check-ins every day. Being one of the 400,000 business owners that use Foursquare as a marketing tool won’t just get you reviews, it will get you noticed. The way it works is users can check into a location as many times as they like and every time they do, their friends will know where they are. Users can become “mayor” of locations they are at the most, and fight for this title adding a fun, competitive aspect to this marketing tool—all of which will cost you nothing!

TripAdvisor

Users looking for the best places to go on a vacation or in their own city can rely on TripAdvisor. With 390 million unique visitors, 500 million reviews and opinions, and over 4.2 million business listed, like Yelp, this is a highly useful tool for review-gathering.

Better Business Bureau

To be a part of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), you will have to pay for a yearly membership. One of the oldest review and rating sites, the BBB is an authority on many businesses in North America. Listing detailed information including inception dates, a high rating relies on a list of factors including:

  • Type of business
  • Time in business
  • Complaint volume
  • Transparent practices
  • Competency licensing

The BBB is known for holding business accountable.

Consumer Affairs

Not only can you gather reviews with Consumer Affairs, you will also gain access to a wealth of resources to help you learn more about reviews, increase revenue, find brand ambassadors, and learn how to convert negative customer experiences into positive ones.

There are other prominent websites out there such as Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, and GlassDoor, however these are focused on serving specific purposes or industries. If you are in the world of home renovation, Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor are important. If you’re hoping to gain a reputation for future employees, GlassDoor is your best friend.

In the world of online marketing there is no shortage of online review websites, but getting your business to appear on those that are most viewed is your first step to business and SEO success.

Online Review Stats in 2017

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Every year surveys come out with percentages and detailed information regarding just about everything online. At LinkNow Media, we’re always interested in anything that affects SEO.
When it comes to online reviews, your reputation is pretty important, and the latest information confirms it. We’ll give you the “too long didn’t read” right now and say: reviews still matter in 2017.

So, don’t think you can get out of encouraging and monitoring them any time soon.

Who is Reading What?

In 2016, 95% of consumers were using the internet to look up local businesses. If you think that’s high though, 2017 has seen a 2% increase, up to 97%! If you currently run a business that doesn’t have an online presence, you’re making a big mistake.

Half of these consumers are looking for local businesses online at least once a month. Imagine how much business you’re missing out on if you’re not there to be found!
But, maybe your industry doesn’t really do that whole online thing? We doubt it. Among the top industries that have their clients reading reviews are:

    • Restaurants
    • Hotels
    • Healthcare
    • Clothing stores
    • Car dealerships
    • Tradesmen
    • Pest control
    • Cars for hire
    • Accountants
    • Locksmiths

And that’s just to name a few. So, where should you be collecting reviews? Facebook and Yelp unsurprisingly tied at 20% of consumers trusting them the most, followed closely by Google at 16% and the Better Business Bureau at 15%.

And, how many of these browsers turn into conversions? 68% of US consumers are more likely to use a business with positive reviews, with 40% citing negative reviews as a reason not to frequent a local business.

Best of all, the number of consumers who will actually visit a business after reading a review has grown by 10% from last year, to 17%.

Focus on Quantity and Quality

Factors that have also grown in importance since 2016 are the quantity and quality of reviews. There’s no way you can just sit back and coast when it comes to this powerful SEO builder.
54% of consumers rank star rating as the most important factor, with quantity coming in second at 46%—up 11% from last year. Consumers also want to see you getting involved. Up 10% from 2016, 30% now want to see you responding.

Therefore, our best advice to you is to keep doing what you’re doing. But do it a lot more. You still need to be drumming up reviews and monitoring them, providing professional responses to both positive and negative, but the importance of review building and etiquette has only become more important.

Feeling overwhelmed? You can always put the reins in the hands of an experienced SEO team like the one at LinkNow Media!

Can I Review my own Business?

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In the world of online reviews, many business owners like to start the ball rolling by leaving their own company a star rating or a little review.

Sounds innocent enough, but is it?

Whether your intentions are good, or shady, reviewing your own business is a bad idea.

Nearly 80% of consumers rely on online reviews before hiring a service or purchasing a product. In fact, peer reviews are trusted as much as recommendations from family or friends. With this in mind, it can be easy to get greedy and impatient when you’re just starting out.

However, you need to keep in mind that fake reviews are unethical, and even illegal. That’s right—you can be sued for posting fake reviews. It is called “astroturfing” and websites such as Google, Yelp and Amazon have been known to sue over it.

But you might be thinking: “How is it a fake review if I state that I am the business owner, or don’t say anything and just leave five stars??”

In the case of a five-star rating, it’s true you can probably get away with it. But if anyone realizes you are the business owner, your credibility is shot. If you reviewed your own company with five stars, who’s to say you didn’t talk other friends and family members into leaving biased reviews, or even pay for fake reviews?

    A fake review can be any of the following:

    • Asking someone who is not a customer to write a review.

    • Paying someone to write a review, even if they are a customer.

    • Asking an employee to review your company (it’s different if they review and state that the review is about their experience as an employee).

    • Creating a fake profile to review your company.

    • Reviewing your company as yourself, the business owner.

    That’s right, even if you state that you are the business owner and you’re just stopping in to leave a positive review, it’s counted as fake.
    Why?

    Because you have added to your rating. Whether you’re up-front about who you are or not, you have successfully altered the rating of your business and that is the goal of fake reviews.

    In 2016, Amazon sued 1,000 fake reviewers in an attempt to crack down on this practice. They stated that these false reviewers were tarnishing their brand with inauthenticity.

    No one is invulnerable to this sort of crackdown.

    So, how do you get started with reviews? There’s nothing wrong with suggesting that clients leave a review. Mention it on your website by linking to your business page, or put a sign up in your brick and mortar business.

    But next time you’re considering somehow leaving a review for your own business, just say no.

The Better Business Bureau vs. Peer Reviews

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The Better Business Bureau (BBB) was founded in 1912 and created to focus on advancing marketplace trust. An unbiased authority, their accreditation of businesses across the United States and Canada have held a lot of weight when it comes to displaying the quality of a business.

Ranked F – A+ and providing basic information on a business such as founding date, as well as customer reviews, it’s a great website to gain valuable information. Factors that affect a BBB accreditation are:

1. Build trust

2. Advertise honestly

3. Tell the truth

4. Be transparent

5. Honor promises

6. Be responsive

7. Safeguard privacy

8. Embody integrity

These are all excellent things for businesses to aspire towards.

However, over the years, the BBB is losing its standing as the first resource discerning customers turn to. While businesses still proudly display their accreditation, and rightly so, consumers are starting to turn more to online reviews on sites such as Google, Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook.

So, what does the BBB offer their members that free reviews do not?

Right out the gate, you’re going to have to look at your client demographic. The baby boomer generation grew up seeing the BBB as a standard of excellence. A business could be ruined with the right misconduct complaints. If they are your target, the $500 yearly BBB membership could be a valuable investment.

Once you’re a member, you start off with an A rating which is pretty good. This could go up with good reviews, or down with bad. You’ll receive a logo that you can place on your site, the backlink is good quality SEO, and your membership fee is tax deductible.

The biggest difference between the BBB and other review websites is status and history. Accreditation looks great but when it comes to sheer quantity of opinions and SEO value you would be better off encouraging reviews across other platforms, especially if you have a younger audience.

In Conclusion

So, in the end, do we believe in the relevancy of the Better Business Bureau in 2017? YES we do! A membership just may not be for every business, especially those just starting out.

Like with any marketing tactic it’s important to weigh your options and look at your target market. Online reviews are an amazing sounding board for your customers to tell other people what they think about the products/services you offer, and for you to respond to their feedback.

When you read about what’s affecting SEO, you’re not going to find the BBB listed anywhere but you are going to find a lot of stats about reviews.

It’s a fact that over 80% of your current and future clients are reading reviews and taking them seriously, and they’re not hunting for the ones on the BBB.

However, the BBB provides a long-standing pedigree that is appealing to many browsers who want to know more about your website. If you’re able to make the investment, we recommend you try it out. But until you’re able to, just keep building those reviews!

How Consumers Use Reviews Online

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When you’re searching online to find the perfect restaurant to try out on Friday night, the last place you’ll choose is one with zero online presence. In the information age that is exactly what people are looking for: information. They want to see photos, other customer’s opinions, and maybe even a virtual tour if you have a physical storefront. These days, 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more, with 94% saying they’ll use a business if it has at least a four-star rating.

On average, a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a five to nine percent increase in revenue, with just one negative review costing you 30 customers. Reviews are the best way to hold a business accountable. Consumers look for reliability, expertise and professionalism, and if you cannot practice these they’ll let you know.

So, if negative reviews are so dangerous, why collect reviews at all? Well, a couple negative reviews are better than no reviews at all, so long as you’ve got some positive ones going on as well. When negative reviews occur, respond quickly, admit to any errors, reiterate your company’s mission and if possible and warranted, provide compensation.

When a consumer looks at or leaves reviews online, they’re looking to:

Find the best business for their needs

Build trust

Express themselves

Help other consumers

Here are some more numbers to help you understand the benefits of reviews:

92% of consumers read online reviews

68% say positive reviews make them trust a business more

Only14% of consumers will use a business with a one- or two-star rating, whereas 94% would use one with a five-star rating

80% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations

Online reviews are probably the most important tool for a modern business. You can gain them with skill by requesting them from loyal customers and publicly thanking positive reviewers while apologizing to those who had a bad experience.

A business with active reviews on websites like Google, Yelp and Foursquare will get a boost in SEO making their online presence skyrocket and produce tangible results in the form of an 18% uplift in sales.

Now more than ever, consumers want to see that business’ are run by real people, not robots. By interacting through reviews, you are showing that you care enough about your customers to take a moment out of your day to leave a personalized response to their opinion, and being able to do that is massively beneficial to any business. The last thing the 2017 consumer wants is to deal with a business that is unreachable.

Reviews impact search ranking, too. In 2014 Google updated its search engine to take into consideration the reviews from popular sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. So, if you’re actively getting your customers to leave reviews for your business, you’ll get more business, guaranteed. This sets off a chain reaction to in turn produce more reviews and more new customers.

Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews and interact with customers. It’s the only way your business is going to grow and survive. Give the gift of communication, and your consumers will most definitely give back!

How Online Reviews Impact Your Local SEO

More and more businesses are realizing the importance of online reviews when it comes to promoting their product or service, but did you know reviews also affect your Search Engine Optimization? SEO is just as crucial to the promotion of a business in 2017 because it means a boost in your ranking. For example, if someone is searching for a hair salon there are many options. But if you have the best SEO, they’ll find you first.

When you’re trying to beef up your SEO online reviews are critical to this process. Search engines love fresh user generated content, and customers love social proof. In fact, 90% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.

Search engines like Google or Bing are in the business of creating fast and accurate search results, and the input from real people in the form of reviews is a great way to do this. In a recent study by Moz it was determined that reviews make up 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank results.

Factors that can play into your business’ SEO include a variety of signals such as linking, keywords and categories, with reviews coming in before social media in terms of boosting your business!

Google favors high-rated sites, and in a world where customers spend 31% more on a business with good reviews, you’ll want to get a review gathering strategy in place if you don’t already have one!

A good way to do this is request that happy customers leave a review. If you’re selling online, include your request in a thank you email. At a physical store, create a flyer you can drop in a customer’s bag along with their merchandise. You can even create a landing page on your website linking to review sites for the ultimate ease of access.

Review sites that will get the results you’re looking for include:

Google My Business/

Yelp

Foursquare

Citysearch

YP.com

Try the Review Handout Generator by Whitespark and Phil Rozek if you need an easy way to create handouts for your store, then wait for the reviews to start flowing!

Asking for reviews can be a bit of a scary process, considering you can land on a customer who’s not happy with their interaction. But don’t worry—even negative reviews keep your business active from a search engine’s point of view, and as long as you respond to all negative reviews in a calm and professional manner, you’ll be just fine.

Finally, on your quest for reviews, don’t be tempted into paying for fake reviews. This is considered fraud and you could be in big financial trouble for doing it. Not to mention, it’s just better to have legitimate reviews for your business. Even if they’re criticizing you, you can learn something from unhappy customers.

No matter the size or type of business you run, online reviews are imperative to keeping it running successfully. So, go and gather reviews and see just how good the results are!

A concept image of a magnifying glass with a wooden handle on a textured white surface showing the word authentic but magnifying the word fake resembling counterfeitting

Receiving Fake Reviews From Competitors

In this day and age, dishonest companies have been able to stoop to new lows by attempting to damage their competitor’s reputation online with fake reviews.

While it may not be immediately obvious that a competitor is attacking you, a quick check through their other reviews should give you a clue. They are likely attacking other similar businesses in the area. If negative reviews are posted on other competitor’s pages within a tight timeframe, you’ve got the start of a case.

Fake and negative reviews are tricky to deal with. Always do your research before dealing with them, or you may be responding inappropriately to someone who is simply expressing their displeasure. Remember—there is such thing as a legitimate negative review. Take these as constructive criticism, and respond politely.

Tact at All Times

When responding to a fake negative review from your competitor, practice tact at all times. Whether this negative review is legitimate or not, treat it with the same respect. Follow these steps to compose a polite and professional response:

Breathe

Literally. Breathing exercises will calm you down, so take a few deep breaths.

Don’t take it personally.

A difficult one, but part of being a professional.

Address the issue.

Start your response off by repeating their complaint. For example: I understand that you (insert situation here).

State your core values.

Inform the reviewer of your business’ core values and why they don’t match with what happened.

Make a game plan.

Tell the reviewer what you plan to do to remedy the situation. If this is a competitor leaving a fake review, you likely will not actually do this because the situation did not occur. But, existing and potential customers will appreciate seeing what you would do if it really had happened.

Say thank you.

Thank the negative reviewer for their constructive criticism and invite them back to experience your business again in a better light sometime in the future.

Even if you expect this review to be removed, there will be wait time. Writing a proper response is of value to your future clients. Don’t lose business and allow your competitor to accomplish what they came to your review page for in the first place.

Keep on Keeping on

Being a business owner will always come with its ups and downs. This is what professionalism is all about! Practice being a professional adult at all times, flag inappropriate reviews and represent yourself well.

Should Google not agree with your report, you can always escalate the situation, encourage friends and family to flag the reviews as well, and tweet @GoogleSmallBiz to hurry the process along.

Like with school yard bullying, a reaction is always what a troll wants, so give them a minimal one. In the end, you make your own reputation in the business world and can overcome anything by keeping a cool head.

Business Owners’ Bad Review Responses A Case Study

Reviews are a fact of life when it comes to running a business.

They can be your best friend, or your worst enemy—depending on how you deal with them.

While it is tempting to write a scathing and entertaining response to people who leave negative reviews, as a professional, it is your duty to hold your tongue and not let your emotions do the thinking.

Below, are some examples of negative review responses, and how they could have been handled better.

1.

Where to start?

Firstly, admitting that you are inebriated when discussing a business issue is never OK. One shouldn’t be drunk in the first place when you’re on the clock (and yes, if you’re responding to reviews in your own time, that counts), but publicly admitting it is highly unprofessional. Next, making personal critiques (grammar) and suggesting a customer see a psychologist is not constructive. Especially when your own grammar and sanity could be up for review.

A more appropriate response to this review would be to apologize for their bad experience, and address the price issues. If your restaurant does have fluctuating prices, that should be noted in store and online so customers are prepared. There can certainly be reasons for this practice but it should be transparent so customers aren’t surprised.

2.

This one isn’t quite as extreme as the last, and could very well be true. However, this response is tinged with sarcasm and, if true, reveals unnecessary personal information. An apology in this case would have been better—state that you were unavailable for serious personal reasons, list that it was no excuse to not communicate with customers and let them know it won’t happen again. Offer them a discount or other incentive on a future booking should they be in town again.

If for some reason the situation is an emergency that keeps you away from your work, and you don’t have someone who can help you out with your business in this way, maybe think about hiring an assistant.

3.

As a business owner, your responses should not look like it was written by a ten year old

…and this one is a great example of what that means. Sure, this review was not the classiest, but the appropriate response would be to take the higher ground. As always, apologize! If you were having a bad day, admit that you were and say it was wrong of you to take it out on customers. Depending on what the prices are, they could be explained/defended in some way. Maybe point out that your aim is not to be cheap but to provide quality food.

What review responses come down to is the old adage “The customer is always right”. They may really not be, but your job as a business owner is to represent yourself and your company in the best way possible, no matter what others are provoking you to do. Responses can always be formulated to be reasonable even when defending oneself, but if you don’t have the time to compose something that is well thought out, apologies are the best policy.

Happy review reading, everyone!

Relaxation Techniques for Responding to Negative Online Reviews

zenWe talk a lot about the dos and don’ts when it comes to responding to negative reviews, and we always stress the importance of keeping your cool. Today, we’re going to take that advice one step further by providing you with a few relaxation techniques and breathing exercises to keep you level-headed when faced with a scathing review. Follow this advice from LinkNow Media and you can’t go wrong.

Mindfulness app

Stop, Breathe & Think is a guided meditation and mindfulness app that offers breathing techniques with the aim of assisting you in broadening your perspective, getting in touch with your emotions, and improving your reactions to stressful situations. Many of the exercises can be performed in under 10 minutes, so not having time is no excuse! When practiced regularly, this app can help reduce anxiety, increase compassion and enhance motivation. It has everything you need to respond to an unfavourable opinion about your business in a calm manner.

Inhale pink, exhale blue

Inhale pink, exhale blue is a breathing exercise that can regulate stress, relieve tension and improve your mood. This breathing exercise is practiced by bringing your awareness to your breath and imagining yourself inhaling pink and exhaling blue. Another variation of this exercise involves inhaling love and exhaling fear. Whichever one you choose, this awareness will help bring you to the present moment, which is integral to managing the emotional distress of whatever is front of you—in this case, harsh words about your service or product.

Stretch, stretch, stretch

Most people associate stretching with warming up or cooling down after physical exercise as a way improve flexibility and prevent injury. However, stretching can also do wonders for the mind too. This is because stretching regulates your heart rate and blood pressure, helping to promote mental calmness, which is key when it comes to responding to a negative review. Here you can find a handful of yoga poses and stretches that you can do at your work desk. Or, just simply touch your toes. Even something as small as this can help improve your mood to assist you in responding to a negative review without getting defensive.

Final Thoughts

Getting a negative review on Yelp or any other customer review website is never fun. If you are like most people, your response might be to go on the defense, but you need to find ways to avoid doing that. Being defensive isn’t going to help right a wrong, and it certainly won’t win over someone who is upset about your service. When it comes to fixing the problem, you need to remain calm. Exercises like the ones above can help with that, but you’ll need to practice them consistently.

Have you had any success with practices of nature? If so, have they helped other areas of your work life? At LinkNow Media, we’d love to hear about it. Let us know in the comments section below

How Small Businesses Should Respond to Negative Reviews

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When someone leaves a negative review, DON’T PANIC!

There are two reason not to panic:

  • There is probably something you can do to better the situation
  • Everyone is going to have a couple of bad reviews. You could have had a tough customer or it is possible that you made a mistake. You’re only human. However, that doesn’t mean you can sit back and do nothing.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Focus on what the person is concerned about. It may seem completely irrational but you have to remember that the customer needs to be taken seriously. Is it because of something that your company did or did not do? Is it because they did not read the fine print? Take notes.
  • Talk with your team to see what went wrong and why. Was there a misstep or are you dealing with a customer that expected more than you could deliver?
  • When you write a response, make it clear that you hear what they are saying and that you empathize with their situation.
  • Apologize and make sure it is sincere.
  • If you can make amends, then resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
  • Don’t try to defend yourself. It is great in a court of law but what customers want to see is how you resolve problems.
  • Write what you want to say first and then have someone else read it or give it a night and go back to it.

If You Made a Mistake

Own up to it in the response. What most people are looking for in a company is honesty. If you can show that you made an honest mistake and are willing to take steps to fix it, you will regain the trust of potential clients that read the review. This will also give you an opportunity for the client in question to give you a better review.

Make sure to keep a professional tone at all times. If you wish to go into a detailed explanation then try to do so with the client privately first. Explanations can take a lot of back and forth and since you don’t know how the customer will respond it is best to do it through email or in person.

If You Did Not Make a Mistake

It is sad to say but just as there are companies out there that cheat their customers, there are also people who try to blackmail companies into getting free services by using or threatening bad reviews.

In this case, you may just have to face the situation. They are someone who cannot be reasoned with and they just want something for nothing.  To prevent this in the future it may be a good idea to document the work you perform so you can provide a response with evidence at their accusation.  Though these proofs are best done privately through email.

Of course, be professional about it and attempt a response online as well. As long as you come off as being professional then some people who see the review will not automatically believe you are in the wrong.

In the worst-case scenario, you may have to give them something for free but that is up to your discretion.

Contact the company that the review is posted on. There may be able to remove the review if it is vilifying or defamatory.

Concentrate on Getting Positive Reviews

Make sure to ask your clients that appreciate your service to give a review on different platforms. After a job has been completed, perform call backs a while later to see that they are still satisfied. That is a great opportunity to ask for a positive review.

With enough effort, you can start to drown out the negative reviews and get yourself back on track.

There Is a Positive to This Negative

Consumers are becoming savvier with online review sites. If they see that accompany has only 5 and 4 star reviews they may become suspicious that all the comments are manufactured rather than genuine. Having a few bad ones balances out the situation and gives people the impression that you are professionals but also people.

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