Your review count and average ratings are just the tip of the iceberg.
Your business might have 200 reviews and a 5-star average and your review strategy could still be a flop.
That’s because lots of other factors – I can think of 51 – determine how much your customers’ reviews help your local visibility and your ability to get more customers. It matters which sites you’ve got reviews on, who your reviewers are, what they say in their reviews, what they don’t say, and how much marketing mojo you wring from those reviews.
You can use this post as a checklist to “audit” your reviews strategy, and you’ll probably think of ways to improve your strategy right away. But this is not a paint-by-numbers, “Do these 51 things” type of post. How to improve your strategy and your reviews may not be simple or easy. The first step is to know what success looks like.
Beyond review count and average rating, here are 51 ways to know whether your reviews strategy is working.
(By the way, you’ll want a “Yes” answer to each of these questions.)
1. Do you have reviews on the sites that show up on the first page (or two) of Google when you search for your business by name?
2. Do you have reviews on the sites that show up on the first page or two for your main search terms?
3. Do you have plenty of reviews on sites that are geared toward to your industry?
4. Do you have reviews on any sites that feed your reviews to partner sites?
5. Have you removed as many duplicate listings as possible, and tried to consolidate reviews that were spread out among duplicate listings? (See this for Google, and this for Yelp.)
6. Do any of your colleagues who work at your location (other doctors, lawyers, agents, etc.) also have reviews – and on a diversity of sites?
7. Do all of your locations have reviews?
8. Do you have at least one Yelp review? Crucial because Yelp reviews will also show up on Apple Maps, Bing Places, and Yahoo Local.
9. Have Yelp reviewers uploaded photos of your business (or your handiwork)?
10. Are your reviewers from the cities where you want more customers?
11. Do some of your longtime customers mention in their reviews that they’re longtime customers?
12. Have some of your customers left reviews spontaneously – without your asking?
13. Have some of your reviewers uploaded profile photos? (They can upload profile photos on Google+, Yelp, and Facebook. Can’t think of other sites at the moment – but please tell me if you know of any.)
14. Is there roughly the right balance of women and men among your reviewers?
(Props to you if you can tell me what movie this arm-wrestle is from.)
15. Do your reviewers’ ethnicities more or less reflect those of your customer-base?
16. Do you have any reviews from “Elite” Yelpers?
17. Do you have any Google reviews from “Local Guides” or other high-volume power reviewers?
18. If your customers (or clients or patients) are concerned about associating their full names with reviews, do some of them still write you “anonymous” reviews?
19. Do you have any reviews from non-customers (e.g. leads or peers)?
Reviews and ratings
20. Are at least some of your reviews long and detailed?
21. Do reviewers mention specific services?
22. Do you have recent reviews?
23. Do you have old reviews? (If you don’t, I guess you can’t help it. Just start racking ‘em up today.)
24. Do you have at least a few less-than-stellar reviews? (You should.)
25. Do reviewers mention your company by name?
26. Do customers mention the selling points you hoped they’d mention?
27. Do reviewers ever mention exactly where they’re from, or where you performed your services for them?
28. Is at least one review funny?
29. Do you have a reviewer who was skeptical at first but became a raving fan – and mentioned that fact in his / her review?
30. Are your filtered reviews (on Yelp) mostly positive?
31. Have you tried to get removed any negative reviews that violate the site’s content policies?
32. Do your reviews indicate what types of people should not become your customers?
33. Have any customers updated once-negative reviews to positive reviews?
34. Do any customers compare you favorably to specific competitors? Bonus points if customers make a comparison in your favor in their reviews of your competitors.
35. Do you post responses to (at least some of) your reviews? (Read this for tips on responding to reviews.)
36. On Yelp, do readers “vote” on your reviews?
37. Do you have a separate “Reviews” page on your site?
(You can create one the old-fashioned way, or use a service like Grade.us. Above is an example of its “Review Stream” plugin in action.)
38. Does your email signature include links to where people can read your reviews?
39. If your reviews are pretty positive on average, do you showcase them on your site in such a way that most visitors will see your reviews? (Like with widgets and badges.)
40. Are the review snippets that show up in the search results more or less positive?
41. Is Google showing flattering review snippets in the knowledge graph?
42. Do you re-share your Google Plus reviews in your “Posts” stream?
43. Do you mention your name, role in the company (if appropriate), and contact info (if appropriate) in your responses?
44. Are your Google Plus “review stars” showing up in the search results?
45. Do you rank at or near the top of the search results within a given review site?
46. Do reviewers mention specific people in your organization as standouts?
47. Have you won any awards as a result of your reviews? (E.g. Angie’s List Super Service Award.)
48. Does one of your listings (or your “Reviews” page) rank for name of service + “reviews” search terms? This is probably the best approach to barnacle SEO, by the way.
49. Has a happy customer ever written a polite and unprompted defense of you in response to another customer’s negative review?
50. Are you the obvious choice to click on in the Google Places results?
51. Do customers ever say, “I chose you because of your reviews”?
Did you conclude your review strategy isn’t working too well? These posts might help:
How to Execute the Perfect Local Reviews Strategy – me
Principles for a Review Plan: Considerations in Encouraging Customer Reviews – Mike Blumenthal
Review Management: 7 Tips on Avoiding Bad Reviews – Mike Blumenthal
5 Ways Negative Reviews Are Good for Business – Matt McGee
Edit, Remove and Respond To Reviews – Tools For Conflict Resolution – Miriam Ellis
16 Reasons to Get Reviews on a Diversity of Sites – me
Industry-Specific Local Review Sites: the Definitive List – me
Mining Your Online Reviews: 25 Nuggets You Can Use to Get More Local Customers – me
Can you think of any other signs of a winning reviews strategy?
Besides review count and average rating, what do you think is most important for attracting customers?
Leave a comment!
Tim Colling says
Wow, Phil, what a terrific, comprehensive reviews strategic planning checklist. Thank you!
I noticed that in your list of industry-specific sites at https://www.localvisibilitysystem.com/2014/08/05/industry-specific-local-review-sites-the-definitive-list/, you mention Caring.com. One of the things that I appreciate abut that site is that they actually HELP you get reviews by calling your customers and soliciting review comments from them. Obviously you have to respect your customers’ privacy in using this service, but what a great help it is!
Thanks, Tim – I didn’t know that about Caring.com!
Andy Kuiper says
Very thorough Phil – thanks for sharing 🙂
Hey Andy, thanks.
Great list, Phil: Here is the number one way we have learned if our reviews are working for our various services.
Among existing customers we poll them, when we can, with some marketing questions. We always get a round to asking around reviews. A VERY significant number of customers read reviews. We are fortunate with a lot of strong reviews (okay, not fortunate….we work at giving good customer service)
The reviews have led to a lot of sales. Our customers have told us so!!!!!
Thanks, Dave. I couldn’t agree more. Point #51 is probably the best sign you’ve struck gold.
This is such a great posts for small business owners-on so many levels. For me it has been helpful to give a phone call to some of the customers who have left spontaneous reviews to say thank you. I have noticed that they often tell their friends who also come to our business-which has sometimes led to other positive reviews. So glad you are out there Phil sharing vital information on your blog.
That’s an excellent practice, Frank. Very smart.
Jon Hall from Grade.us says
Phil, you’ve done it again! I’m pretty sure we’ll be referring *everyone* to this post.
P.S. Glad you like the reviews page in #37. That’s our new “Review Stream” WordPress plugin. All marked up with rich-snippet schema to boot!
Jon Hall from Grade.us says
BTW, “Predator”! Nice 😉
Thanks, Jon! I knew that page was created with Grade.us, but I didn’t know about the new plugin. Nice. I’ve updated point #37.
Chris Campbell says
Awesome list of resources to utilize the power of local reviews for your business.
Great stuff as always Phil. A bunch of points I’d never even thought of.
And I think that arm wrestle is from Predator, no?
Yep – it’s from Predator! You know your Ahnold movies cold 🙂