Studies show that over 90% of consumers use online reviews before visiting local businesses, but the majority of small business owners don't even monitor their reviews. Your online reputation has a direct impact on your bottom line.
A quick online search for most businesses will turn up a great deal of information… and sometimes that information is very damaging!
Online “rating and review” sites have become common. In addition to general rating sites like Yelp, Google+, and Angie's List, there are sites devoted to rating many different types of businesses, including restaurants, hotels, auto mechanics, doctors, lawyers, and even funeral homes!
Here are several things you should be doing to protect your online reputation:
- Provide great service and a great customer experience. When things go wrong, have a clear procedure for customers to talk to someone in charge and have the issue addressed, and be sure all your employees understand the procedure, and let customers know about it. The best way to deal with bad online reviews is to solve problems before a review is ever posted.
- Monitor your online reviews and mentions on social sites. You can check the major review sites (at least once a week), or you can use a service like ReviewPush or Trackur. You can also sign up for Google Alerts to find new mentions of your business on the web.
- Invest in SEO for your website, and create pages on Facebook, Google for Business (Google+), and online directory sites. Your goal is to make sure that users who search for your business online will find lots of quality, positive mentions which you control.
- When you find a bad review, see if the rating site has a way to challenge the rating, or to ask that it be reviewed by the site moderators. If not, see if there is a way to post a response to the review. Be sure your reply is calm and professional. Apologize for any problems that may have occurred, and stress the positive aspects of your business.
- You may be tempted to threaten legal action, or to actual contact a lawyer. In the United States, this is fruitless. The law is clearly on the side of the review sites, which are not responsible for content posted by users. The operators of the sites understand this, and ignore threats of legal action.
Learn more about the business of online reviews at the Rating and Review Professional Association.