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Don't Just Yelp About It: 5 Tactics To Manage Your Online Reputation

Yahoo’s abrupt substitution of Yelp reviews for its pre-existing Yahoo Local Reviews has had some small business owners yelping in pain and indignation. As Angus Loten reported in the Wall Street Journal, in some cases, positive Yahoo reviews that had built up over the years simply vanished—leaving a content void or, worse yet, much lower-rated reviews. And, this is a problem because good reviews matter. It’s that simple.

In a recent study by Dimensional Research on behalf of Zendesk, 90% of participants who recalled seeing positive reviews stated the review affected their buying decisions. The number affected by negative reviews was nearly as high (86%). Earlier research by Harvard Business School assistant professor Michael Luca found that a one-star increase in a Yelp rating translated into a 5% to 9% increase in revenue of independent restaurants. His findings that chain-restaurants did not show a similar benefit and that chain restaurant market share declined as Yelp penetration increased provides further evidence of the important of positive revenues for the small business owner.

While you might not be able to compel Yahoo to change its user-review strategy, you can be aggressive in rebuilding and enhancing your online presence. Here are 5 ways to manage your online reputation and capitalize on the power of positive reviews.

Know What People Are Saying

The first step in online reputation management is to know where you currently stand. To do this, you need to monitor and participate in review sites.

  • Take advantage of Google Alerts. Create a Google Alert with your business name. This will enable you to receive notifications when your business gets mentioned on websites, including review sites.
  • Claim your name. Most major review sites, such as Yelp and Angie’s List,  allow business owners to create a business account or to claim their business name. Taking advantage of this option enables you to quickly respond to reviews, monitor web traffic, and present information that highlights the best aspects of your business.  
  • Don’t try and “game the system” Knowing the power of online reviews, it’s tempting to want to create a positive impression by posting hand-crafted, favorable reviews. Don’t give into this temptation! This practice, frequently called “astro-turfing” is frowned upon by review sites. Most review sties employ a number of sophisticated methods to ferret out bogus postings, such as multiple postings from the same IP address. In fact, this is one reason why Yahoo scuttled its own, unfiltered reviews in favor of Yelp’s more vigorously vetted ones.  Bottom line: Don’t review your own business; don’t actively solicit customers to write reviews and don’t compensate anyone else for writing reviews.

Take Action to Improve Online Reviews

While you can’t write glowing reviews yourself or actively solicit customers to write them for you, you can take steps to increase the probability that you will get favorable reviews.

  • Customer service—good or bad—frequently triggers on online review posting. By making outstanding customer service a priority, you will reap the many benefits: repeat business, customer loyalty, word-of-mouth referrals and favorable online reviews. Happy customers don’t give bad reviews.
  • Respond promptly—but professionally—to reviews.  Nearly every review site will offer the opportunity to respond to a negative review.  Take advantage of this option, but make sure to do so professionally.  Apologize for the problem, explaining any facts that contributed to it. Provide your contact information and encourage the reviewer to contact you in order to resolve the issue. Don’t just respond to negative reviews.  Thank those that give you a positive review, letting them know that you appreciate their business.   

Creating impressive review site profiles takes time and rests primarily upon excellent customer service and a quality product. Although the progress is gradual, you should begin to reap the benefits of increased sales and inquiries as your online reputation soars.

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