The Ridiculous Hidden Power of Local Reviews: Umpteen Ways to Use Them to Get More Business

Even the obvious benefits of great customer reviews are almost too many to count.  To wit:

  • They take a little pressure off your site to “convert,” because visitors arrive largely pre-sold.
  • They can help you eat up more of page one of Google.
  • They help you cultivate non-Google Maps or non-Google sources of visibility.
  • They take some of the pressure off your local SEO and other online-marketing efforts, because they build your reputation online and offline.
  • You’ll be a little more attuned to customer-service if you know you’ll ask for a review eventually.
  • Even if your rankings stink, they help you land more word-of-mouth referrals. (Those people probably Google you, too.)
  • Whoever sees your reviews in the local search results is more likely to pick up the phone.

Those are just the beginning, though.  You can squeeze many other benefits from customers’ reviews and from the process of earning and encouraging them.  As AJ Kohn said about commenting on blog posts, the hidden power of reviews is ridiculous.

Here are some of the less-obvious ways you can use your reviews to help your local SEO and marketing even more.

1. Use them to research keywords. You might not call your services what your customers call them, and you might not search for them in the way they search for them.  Where appropriate, try to incorporate those phrases into relevant pages of your site, or create separate pages on them.

2. Mine your reviews to learn exactly what kinds of customers have reviewed you, and why. Use those insights to determine who are the other customers most likely to review you (and ask them), and to make your services better.

3. Study your competitors’ reviews. Ask the same questions as in points #1-2.

4. Use a freshly-written review as an excuse to contact the customer who wrote it. Say thanks.  Ask how he or she is doing, or just say you’d like any further feedback.  That’s good to do on principle, and sometimes you’ll get repeat business out of the deal.

 

5. Use a new review as an occasion ask for an additional review, on a different site, if the customer is willing.

6. Write owner-responses in a way that makes you look great to anyone reading your reviews.

7. Copy and paste the reviews onto your site. (Google doesn’t seem to mind, and neither does Yelp, and other sites surely don’t care.)  I suppose this isn’t such a hidden benefit of reviews, but I have to mention it because it’s so important.  Your customers’ reviews are copywriting rebar.  Your selling points are stronger if you’re not the only one touting them.   Also, if you cite the city the reviewer is from, they’re semi-“local” content you don’t have to write.  They’re particularly useful on city pages.

8. Put them on a “Reviews” or “Reviews & Testimonials” page on your site. It might even rank for keyword + reviews local search terms.

9. Use them on a “Why Choose Us?” page.

10. Add reviews badges or widgets to your site to showcase the reviews. The badges serve as third-party “trust” symbols, if you use the badge(s) provided by the site where you’ve got the reviews.

11. Create your own badge, if none is available on the site where you’ve got a pile of good reviews.

12. Allude to your reviews in your AdWords ads.

13. Include them (or excerpt or link to them) in your email signature, possibly along with a link to your “Review Us” page.

14. Use them as seeds for blog post topics. You can expand on certain selling points (or other points) a reviewer brought up.

15. Use them to reduce surprises and customer-service issues, by encouraging visitors to read your reviews before they call you. Even if that means they have to open up another browser tab and take their eyes off your site for a minute.  Say something like, “We want you to know how we made other customers happy, and we want you to be our latest happy customer, so please take a minute to read our reviews.”  When they come back, they’ll be more likely to call you, and less likely to eat up your time with questions your past customers already answered.

Any non-obvious powers of reviews I didn’t mention?

How do you leverage your reviews (the good and even the bad)?

Any great real-life examples of one of the points I mentioned?

Leave a comment!

If You Rename/Rebrand Your Business, Will You Lose Your Google and Yelp Reviews?

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Let’s say you’re considering renaming or re-branding your business.  Part of that will involve renaming your online “local” listings – including Google My Business and Yelp.  Easy enough, but what will happen to your reviews?  Google’s form doesn’t inspire confidence, nor does Yelp’s handling of reviews in general make it feel like anything but Russian roulette.

Will Google or Yelp see the new name as a “new business,” and not let you keep your reviews on your renamed page(s)?  Will you have to start over from zero?  Will all your hard work not amount to a hill of beans?

The short answer is if the only thing that’s changing is your name, you should be able to keep your reviews post-renaming.

I recently asked both Google My Business and Yelp HQ.  Here’s how I phrased it:

Let’s say I’ve got a business called “ABC Carpentry” and I rename it “ABC Bathrooms & Kitchens.”  I also rename the business legally, and rename it on other sites, too.  So totally new name, but nothing else changes (site, address, and phone number are the same).  Would I be able to keep my reviews?

Thank you,

Phil

Here’s what Imran (who was very helpful) from Google support said:

Yes Google allows to keep the reviews.  Reviews will be there. He can [use] the name of any business if he is verified.

For an example Abc@gmail.com has got a verified location, and it has got reviews. If he wants to change name, then he certainly can change name of the business without losing the reviews.

Here’s what Autumn at Yelp support said:

Some changes to businesses do not have a substantial enough effect to render the current listing obsolete. We evaluate business transitions on a case-by-case basis in order to determine if a new listing is necessary or not.

For more on how we handle business changes, check out our Support Center: http://www.yelp-support.com/article/What-are-the-guidelines-for-substantial-business-changes?l=en_US

Lest Yelp changes the rules later, here’s the relevant blurb on “Rebranding” (as of this writing):

Businesses that change names but retain the same customer experience, we’ll generally update the name of the business rather than create a new business page. As such, name changes can be submitted as a general business information update.

If the new name is accompanied by changes in the location, ambiance, or other fundamental elements of the customer experience, a new business page may be created to help customers differentiate between the old and new experiences (see the sections for Renovations and Moves).

I hope that info makes it feel like less of a cliff dive.

Any questions?  First-hand experience?  Leave a comment!

Should You Copy and Paste Your Online Reviews onto Your Site?

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You worked your tail off to get those reviews – on Google or Yelp or Facebook or another site – and want visitors to your site to see them.  But you might have refrained from putting them on your site, because of one fear or another.

I was gun-shy about it for several years, too, but have copied and pasted reviews on clients’ sites and even on my site, and have seen others do it without issues.  I’ve found that copying and pasting your online reviews is not only fine, but also smart to do.  (More on that in a second.)

By the way, I draw a distinction between online reviews – which customers write on sites like Google or Yelp – and testimonials, which only appear on your site.  Unless you’re in some super-regulated industry (like financial planning), there’s little or no debate as to whether it’s OK to put testimonials on your site – even though everyone knows you can cherry-pick and edit them.  (In my opinion, they can still be of value if you use them correctly.)

Anyway, back to whether you should showcase your online reviews on your site.  I say you should, for the following reasons:

1. They won’t get filtered because you copied and pasted them. I’ve tested that with Google reviews.  I’ve also tested it with Yelp reviews and reviews on other sites.  The reviews don’t get filtered.  You might get your reviews filtered for other reasons – like asking too many customers at once – but not because you put them on your site.

2.  I have never seen an issue with duplicate content: a page with third-party reviews not ranking well after reviews are added, or the wrong page ranking in the search results, etc. Now, your page with your review probably won’t outrank the review site with your review, because (for one thing) the review site probably has a bit more link juice than yours does.  But that’s got nothing to do with the review.

3.  The review sites seem fine with it. Google – ever the killjoy – doesn’t have a rule against showcasing your reviews.  Yelp has stated clearly that reusing your reviews is OK, as long as you attribute the review clearly.  I’ve never seen less-strict, more-hands-off review sites discourage it, either.

4.  Those reviews are relevant content you don’t have to write. They’ve naturally got “keywords,” and they may be “local” – especially if you cite where your reviewers are from.

5.  You’re letting other people talk about how great you are. That’s more compelling to would-be customers.  By the way, those reviews on your site don’t have to come across as cherry-picked.  You should link to the review site they’re from, and encourage visitors to Google your name and check out your reviews for themselves.

6.  You’re saving the text of the reviews. If they ever disappear for whatever reason, at least they won’t disappear for good.  You’ll have them on your site.

7.  More potential customers will see your reviews. You can’t assume everyone will see your reviews in the search results.

8.  It can condition customers to write reviews. Having great reviews on and off your site is how you’ll get customers to pick you specifically because of your reviews.  Later, after you’ve made them happy, they’re less likely to be surprised if you ask them for a review – and more likely to say yes and to follow through by writing you a good review.

A few notes:

You can excerpt your reviews, if you don’t want to copy and paste them in full.

You don’t need to take screenshots of your reviews.  As I’ve described, copying and pasting the text – which Google can crawl, of course – is not a problem, and having the text be crawlable by Google is half the reason you’d do it in the first place.

You shouldn’t mark up your third-party online reviews with Schema.org.  You should do that only for testimonials that appear exclusively on your site.

You can use review widgets or badges, too.

What’s your approach to using your online reviews?

Any reasons to do it – or not to do it – that I missed?

Leave a comment!

If Nobody in Your Area Cares about Yelp, Should You Still Bother Getting Reviews There?

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“My customers don’t care about Yelp.  Nobody around here cares about Yelp.  Why should I even try to get reviews there?”

That’s a valid concern of business owners in most of the US – and in most of the world.  Yelp, the Billion Dollar Bully, makes itself hard to avoid and even harder to like.  The site is only powerful because of all the reviews.  They’re its lifeblood.  So why on earth would you want to ask your hard-earned customers to review you there – when they probably don’t value it any more than you do?

A few reasons to hold your nose and work to get at least a few good reviews on Yelp:

1. Even people who don’t give a rip about Yelp still see your average rating in the search results when they Google you by name. They can tell that it’s a review site, even though they may not care that the review site is Yelp.  If nothing else, it’s a voice in the chorus.

2.  Yelp feeds reviews to Apple Maps, Bing Places, and Yahoo Local. So if you have a 1-star or a 5-star average on Yelp, that’s what people who check out your listings on those 3 local search engines will see.

3.  It’s worth having a couple positive reviews on Yelp just in case someone does a hatchet job on you there. It’s a defensive move, at the very least.  The time to start trying to get good reviews is not when you’re in a hole.

4.  Even though most people in the great State of _____ have the good sense not to care much about Yelp, some small segment of the population may pay attention to it. Throw them a bone.

5.  Maybe Yelp will broaden its appeal one day.

6.  It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. Yelp doesn’t need to become your main squeeze, or a major time-commitment.  The goal is to get at least a couple good reviews on the board.

7.  It’s great practice for you, in the name of getting dialed-in on your review strategy. You’ll get a little better at knowing whom to ask, when to ask, how to ask, etc.  If it proves too tough to get a given customer to review you on Yelp, ask him or her to review you somewhere else instead.

How to get at least a few reviews on Yelp?  These posts may help:

How to Bulk-Identify Prime Yelp Reviewers with Yelp’s “Find Friends” Feature in 7 Easy Steps – me

20+ Depressing Observations about Yelp Reviews – me

8 Reasons Why Your Business Should Use Yelp’s Check-In Offers – Joy Hawkins

3 Next-Level Yelp Tricks for Business Owners – Brian Patterson

Do people in your area give a hoot about Yelp?  How do you approach it?

Leave a comment!

P.S.  Thanks to Lisa Moon of Paper Moon Painting for asking me a thought-provoking question last year that made me want to write about this.

How Much Do You Know about Local Reviews? Take This Quiz

Like it or not, your business hinges on your reputation (or soon will).  Your online reviews are an ever-growing part of your reputation – and sometimes they’re one and the same.  But getting happy customers / clients / patients to speak up is hard.

There’s much more to it than just, “Run a good business and ask your customers.”  Those two things are essential, but they’ll only get you so far.  Whether your review strategy is pretty good or phenomenal depends on how well you know details, particularly the ins and outs of each review site that matters.

Even if you’ve done OK on reviews so far, you probably want to do even better.

Even if your business has done well so far with few or no reviews, you’ll need good reviews to bump it up a level.  Also, you don’t want to wait until you’re in a hole with negative reviews to get serious about getting the happy people to speak up.

Do you have what it takes to start racking up the reviews? My 20-question quiz will tell you.

It’s tough, but doable.  It’s not trivia or history quiz.  All the questions focus on the real-life challenges you face as a business owner who works hard to win customers, works even harder to do a good job for them, and just wants more of them to speak up online. (It’s also relevant if you’re an SEO or other marketer and want to help your clients on reviews.)

Good luck!

What’s your score?

Any questions?  (Please don’t give away the answers.)

Leave a comment!

P.S.  Special thanks to Darren Shaw for his great feedback on the questions and answers.

Yelp Now Showing Review Summaries on Business Pages

If your business has more than about 10 Yelp reviews, Yelp now will try to summarize them in 2-3 sentence-long blurbs at the top of your page.

This appears to be new.  At least for Yelp.  Google’s been showing the same kinds of summaries for over 2 1/2 years.

Unlike with Google’s review-sentiment summaries, Yelp lets you see at least some of how the sausage is made.  If a specific keyword appears often enough in the (unfiltered) reviews, it will probably end up in a sentiment snippet.

Click on one of the blue hyperlinked keywords and you’ll see where in the reviews Yelp grabbed that word.  Similarly if you click on one of the gray “# reviews” links; Yelp will show you which specific reviews it bred together to beget the review-sentiment  lovechild.

Keywords in reviews have always seemed (in my experience) to help your local SEO in indirect ways.  They affect your reputation – or at least the “first impression” – in obvious ways.  Add another way.

I’m guessing Yelp rolled out these summaries as a way to make large bodies of reviews easier to digest for users of the mobile app.  In theory it may also be of minor use when you’re looking at a business with hundreds of reviews, though in a case like that I doubt Yelp’s summaries will satisfy most people.

I’m sure there’s also a monetization scheme stuck to the bottom of the other shoe.

When did you start noticing Yelp’s review summaries?

Why do you think they’re doing it?

Good thing or bad thing

Leave a comment!

Review Strategy for Enterprise Local SEO: How Big Brands Can Survive the Reviews Revolution

Last week I spoke at the Brandify Summit in LA.  Great event and great audience – full of people who run the local SEO for big companies (e.g. Wal-Mart, Disney, Walgreen’s).

I talked about how most big companies are awful at encouraging reviews, and how they can learn from the smartest small-to-medium businesses.  You can benefit from my review-strategy suggestions no matter how big or small your business is.  Here’s my slide deck:

Be sure to check out the further reading in my second-to-last slide (#47).

By the way, if you found that useful, you’ll love this post.

Any questions?

Any slides that weren’t clear?

Favorite strategy suggestions?

Leave a comment!

Google Shoehorns Critic Reviews into Desktop Local Search Results

Google’s hustled on this one.  Less than a week ago, reviews from “critics” started appearing in the local search results on mobile devices.  Now they’re showing up in desktop search results, too.

Right now, “Critic” reviews only show up for restaurants and the like.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it remains that way, but I could imagine Google doing the same for hotels.

This latest tweak is a number of things: a bite out of Yelp’s pie, possibly a sign that Google knows it’s got quality-control issues with Google reviews, and definitely a test to see whether users click on and read and trust “critic” reviews more than those written by the unwashed masses.

Of course, it’s all part of an effort to jack up AdWords use in one way or another – whether or not anyone outside of Mountain View knows yet exactly how.

One thing that puzzles me about this update (or swiftly rolled-out test) is it’s not clear how Google might extend “critic” reviews to showing up in the local search results for industries where business owners really lay down the Benjamins for AdWords – legal, medical, home-improvement, realty, insurance, etc.  Most restaurateurs aren’t big on PPC.

What do you make of “critic” reviews?

Are you seeing them in any non-dining search results?

Leave a comment!

10 Ways Local SEOs Can Start Helping Their Clients Get Reviews

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Most local SEOs don’t help clients on reviews, much or at all.  They can’t outsource it, it doesn’t look like a lot of billable hours on paper, it takes tough love, and they’re not even sure what they’re supposed to do.

That’s a shame.  Few things can prove your worth as much as helping clients get dialed-in on reviews.  Having good rankings without good reviews is good only for one’s competitors.

Besides setting up the review tool du jour (usually a waste of time) and maybe creating some printouts (usually a good move), what can local SEOs do for clients on reviews?

Plenty.

1. Help troubleshoot their current review strategy. You will find problems – and ways to improve.

2.  Do a “review audit.” I like to do a quick “just the facts, ma’am” -type audit, with an emphasis on niche review sites.

But if you’ve got your client’s ear for broader business advice, you might also do this very different type of review audit, which Miriam Ellis suggests.

3.  Do a bulk “Find Friends” lookup on Yelp – as a way of identifying which customers are active on Yelp and there most likely to write a review there. Also, explain to your clients that they can easily look up new customers / clients / patients one at a time, as they come in, if that’s easier.

4.  Find the waste. Does your client have 200 DemandForce “reviews” but none on Google?  Does your client ask everyone for a Facebook “like,” but not even a Facebook review?  Has your client sent 50 people into Yelp’s meat grinder, only to have their words and goodwill extruded out as 50 filtered reviews?

5.  Critique and improve your client’s outreach emails. There should be two requests: one in-person, and a friendly email follow-up a few days later.  A personalized, friendly, brief, not-pushy email that offers customers a couple choices of review sites is an easy way to pick up stragglers who otherwise would’ve forgotten to put in a good word online.  Write a version that you think will do better than what your client currently sends, and test it out.

6.  Mine the reviews.

7.  Showcase your client’s reviews on the site. That’s not a problem with Yelp or with Google; they won’t get filtered.  But you still want them on the site, because [BLEEP] happens, and because you can’t assume that would-be customers saw all the good reviews in the search results before visiting the site.  Also, it’s relevant on-page content that you don’t have to write.

8.  Build a “Reviews” page.

This is one place to do #7, although you can and perhaps should show off your reviews elsewhere on the site, too.  By the way, the page doesn’t have to come across as “having your mom as a reference on your resume.”

9.  ALSO build a separate “Review Us” page. That’s different from the “Reviews” page, which you’d build mainly to impress would-be customers (and maybe even to rank for some “reviews” local search terms).  Only current and past customers see the “Review Us” page.  You’re no longer trying to impress them; now you’re encouraging them to write the kind of review that probably was why they chose your client in the first place.

10.  Discuss review strategy – continually. You won’t get dialed-in after one phone call, or even after a couple of months.  You need to help your clients diversify.  You need to keep them from bribing customers or making it too easy, so that the reviews your clients get are impressive and not bare-minimum or fishy.  You may need to replicate your success in other locations of your client’s business.  If you just don’t forget about all the ways you can help, you’ll become indispensable.

How do you help clients earn more and better reviews?

Any suggestions I’m missing?

Leave a comment!