How to use online review sites

Posted on April 4, 2012


how to use online review sites

I recently attended a fascinating session about the importance of online review sites. This session was given by Francis Skipper and Halley Sheffield of 451 Marketing, a public relations, social media marketing and search marketing agency. The information they presented was so helpful, I just had to blog about it.

Why are online review sites so important to your business and marketing strategy?

It’s all about the numbers.

  • Traffic to the major online review sites like Googleplaces, Yelp, TripAdvisor, CitySearch and UrbanSpoon grew 158% last year.
  • Googleplaces has 250,000 new claimants a month.
  • Yelp has over 61 million unique monthly visitors.
  • TripAdvisor has over 50 million unique monthly visitors.
  • Urbanspoon, now a part of CitySearch, has 4 million unique monthly visitors.
  • Reviews on a site can boost conversion rates by 20%.
  • 70% of people consult reviews or ratings before purchasing.
  • Consumers are 50% more likely to use a local business after a positive review.

These numbers are pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say?

So how do you take advantage of these online review sites? It’s pretty straightforward.

1. First, claim your listing on each of the online review sites.

You’ll be asked for some contact information like the business phone number and the business address. Once your business has been verified, you can go in and fill out the profile more completely.

2. Complete your business profile on each online review site.

Make sure you use keywords relevant to your business. When people search with these keywords, the online review sites come up first. This is a great way to get to or near the top of the search listings without having to update your website.

Don’t forget to add pictures! Most people are visual and adding pictures will make your business seem more real.

3. Monitor your listings and be proactive.

You can easily see what customers are saying about your business, see of any problems and anything that you’re doing right.

4. Think before you respond to reviews.

Make sure your responses are sincere and that they come from a person. When people post reviews, they have to give an email address. Address the problem directly with the individual. You can certainly acknowledge their complaint online, but take the specifics offline.

Thank customers for their positive reviews. Make your reply sincere, short and sweet.

5. Use feedback to improve your brand.

Sure there will always be those cranky people who love to complain. If more than one customer complains about the same thing, then you probably have an issue that needs to be addressed.

6. Mix online and offline.

Remind customers of your online presence, offline. Have you seen the little “find us on Yelp” stickers on the doors of your local business?

7. Encourage participation by offering special deals.

Just be sure to keep your employees informed about what you’re offering. I have had the unpleasant experience of patronizing a local business because of its glowing Yelp reviews. The profile clearly stated that you would get a discount on services if you mentioned you found the business on Yelp. Well, the front line employee knew nothing of that deal.

Never ask customers to write a review, this is considered bad form.

What experiences have  you had with online review sites?  Have they helped or hurt your business?

Photo is courtesy of tnarik’s Flickr photostream, under Creative Commons Licensing.

P.S.  If you’d more information about online review sites, you can see the full 451 Marketing presentation here, Navigating online review sites.

And if you’d like to hear Francis Skipper live, he is available for speaking engagements. Francis is a digital marketing expert who not only knows his stuff, but is an entertaining speaker!