Ethics and Reputation Management

An Ethical Approach to Reputation Management

Word of mouth has always been one of the main ways small businesses have gotten their name out and grown. While the value of word of mouth is undeniable, online reputation is playing a bigger and more prominent role than ever in how a business is seen by its potential customers. One of the key functions of your online reputation is offering a presentation of your company, and ideally, giving customers a reason to trust you. Trust plays a huge role in whether or not a potential customer will choose you over any other business. In this day and age, trust is one of the most important things your business can have. In a 2013 study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, customers identified authenticity as one of the top qualities that would attract them to a brand, and according to BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews from other customers just as much as they would recommendations from peers. In other words, a bad reputation, or no reputation, can kill your business.

It is important to navigate the world of online reputation management in a way that is viewed as ethical. Ethics is defined as the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity. With that in mind, there are some simple ways to stay on top of your online reputation while acting in a way that is also ethical.

Here are five simple do’s and don’ts when it comes to managing your online reputation ethically.


Don’t assume your reputation will speak for itself

It’s entirely possible that you’re the best at what you do, you have incredible employees, and your customers have absolutely loved and benefited from your service. While all of that can be true, if you are not actively monitoring and promoting your online reputation, you will stay practically invisible to a large potential audience. When a potential client first discovers your business, they will be quick to make judgments and buying decisions based on what they find online. At the end of the day, your reputation isn’t going to speak for itself. If you don’t showcase a strong online presence, that potential client is just going to turn the other way. One easy and ethical way to start promoting your business is by asking the people that have loved your service to leave you some feedback online.

Don’t create fake reviews

While this one seems like it should be a no-brainer, fake reviews are actually, sadly, pretty common and definitely unethical. This one goes two ways — don’t create fake negative reviews for a competitor, and don’t create fake positive reviews for yourself. This shady tactic is not only unethical, but it’s also not legal. According to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), online endorsements cannot be misleading, cannot publish fake or unfounded claims, and must disclose any relationship or connection between the reviewer and the company. The cost of violating these guidelines could be steep since the FTC has the legal authority to charge significant fines or even shut down a business. In one case in 2017, the FTC fined a car dealer in California $3.6 million for encouraging its employees to pose as customers and post fake positive reviews about the company.

Don’t create negative content about your competitors

In a continuation of the last point, keep in mind that creating fake reviews is certainly unethical, and sometimes illegal. It is absolutely not worth risking your business to trash talk the competition. When it comes to defamation and libel, the traditional rules apply to online content, which means that leaving fake negative comments for a competing business is likely going to get you into way more trouble than it’s worth. If you want to do something that is actually beneficial to your business, take a look through your competitors’ actual negative reviews and see if the ways they are failing are things that your company can excel in. For example, if their customers have commented about their cold and unwelcoming waiting room, you can really stand out by offering a comfortable and fun space for your clients to hang out in! By monitoring actual feedback instead of inventing fake feedback, you might end up learning something valuable about what your potential customers are looking for.

Don’t spam

Spamming, or ‘spamdexing’ the internet, with lackluster or false content can have an effect on search results and your ranking in them, and is definitely an unethical practice. There are many ways to create content

spam or link spam, many of which are deceptive. Algorithms are used by the major search engines in order to figure out where to rank a website by figuring out what keywords and category the website is relevant to. Some businesses operate under the idea that any content is good content and will create spam content in the form of articles or blogs that, to a reader, will look like garbage, but to an algorithm, might be full of keywords that might boost the website’s standing.

Don’t try to erase the past

There is a false notion out there that managing your online reputation means getting rid of the mistakes or criticisms your business has run into, and instead, showing the public a flawless and perfected version of your business. While you do want to highlight the good, it’s unethical to simply pretend the bad doesn’t exist, or to try and hide it from the world. Besides, the ‘delete’ button isn’t going to wipe you or your mistakes from people’s memories.


Practice transparency

Trust is everything for small business, and one simple way to build trust is to offer transparency to your audience. By offering transparency in your business, you are showing your clients that your business is open, honest, and worth trusting. One study found that 94 percent of consumers are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency. If you are willing to be upfront about your practices, you are that much more likely to gain bought-in, loyal customers. If you can’t offer it, potential customers can all too easily continue their search until they find a company they are happy to place their trust in.

Establish your business’ core values

This is one simple way to show your audience the kinds of things that are important to you as a company. It can also help to make sure your employees are aware of the kind of business you are, and how to act according to the values you establish. When your employees and your potential clients understand what you stand for, it helps them to decide if you are worth investing time and money in.

Learn from your mistakes, and from the mistakes of others

Accepting feedback and doing something about it is a responsible and professional way to handle your business. Customers will take notice that you care about their experience and are not too proud to learn and grow. In some cases, making a change after receiving negative feedback will make you and your business look even better than if nothing had been wrong in the first place! People respect someone who can learn and change, and customers certainly want to feel heard, appreciated, and valued. You can also learn from the mistakes of your competitors by seeing where they are falling behind in reviews and focusing on being great in those areas.

Publish valuable content

Content marketing is one of the best ways to add value to your business. By creating content, you are able to share information with your clients and become known as an expert in your field. When you share quality content, you make it clear that you are knowledgeable, useful, and worth following. The things you share are able to help you connect with your audience, establishing a relationship based on trust and familiarity. If you want to be seen and remain relevant, you need to participate in content marketing.

Stay Active

Keep in mind that consistency is key when it comes to marketing your business and keeping up with your reputation. Maintain a schedule when it comes to posting content, checking your reviews, and responding to your reviews. Again, this links to trustworthiness. Show your audience that their time matters by showing them consistency and excellence in all you do.

The Importance Of Reputation Management For Plumbers

Your online reputation is vital to your company’s success

The world of online reputation management may seem a bit too much for your local, family-owned plumbing company, but it definitely should not be overlooked or brushed off as being only helpful for younger generations. Let us fill you in on why your online reputation matters and what you can accomplish by taking control of it! By understanding and managing your online reputation, you can gain valuable insight into the minds of your customers, see where your reputation is shining or lacking, and communicate with your current and potential future clients!

What your reviews tell people

Whether for last-minute emergency services or a long-awaited planned project, when it comes time for the average consumer to choose a plumber, most people are going to turn to the internet before deciding who to hire. As a local business, your online reputation can make or break you. Today, your online reviews hold as much weight as word of mouth has in the past. In fact, 88-percent of consumers trust online reviews just as much as they would trust a personal recommendation. While positive reviews can help get your name out and grow your business, negative reviews can result in a bad reputation, which will undoubtedly harm your business.

Your loyal fans, your current customers, and an untold number of future potential customers are using online reviews every day to make their purchasing decisions. Think about it, from the most mundane household products, like sponges and hand soap, all the way up to important services, like optometrists and family doctors, people almost never choose a product or service without doing some research first. That means that it is more important than ever to stay on top of and manage your online reputation. Think of your reviews as the new word of mouth or referral.

Imagine a potential customer searches for local plumbers and comes across your page and a competitor’s page. Your page has no reviews and theirs has a few positive reviews scattered across Facebook and Google. That customer is most likely going to go with the business that people have recommended through their reviews! Many times, people are looking for a plumber with some level of urgency, and the average person doesn’t have much, if any, plumbing knowledge, so they really rely on those reviews to help them know which business to trust! Plumbing is a competitive industry, and you can be the best plumber in the city, but if potential customers aren’t told as much by someone other than yourself, they have no reason to believe you.

Check out your competition

Not only can your online reputation give you a leg-up in the industry, but it can also give you some good insight into what customers care about. Browse through the reviews of some of your competitors. What are the top compliments and criticisms being made about other businesses in your field? Maybe you hadn’t thought to really focus on communication, but you’ve noticed that that’s one of the things people complain about the most. You can help your business to stand out even more by going out of your way to be the best when it comes to communication! You commit to responding to all voicemails by the end of the day, you start to send out follow-up emails, and maybe you even set up your employees with a texting service so they can let the customer know when they are on their way. Soon enough, excellent communication skills

become something you are known for! By seeing where others are struggling, you can get a good idea about what is going on in the minds of the consumers, as well as what they value and what tends to bother them the most.

You can also see where you might be outshining your competitors! By reading through the reviews, you might notice that you’re the only local company that keeps getting compliments about your friendly technicians. You can lean into that when it comes to your branding. Start by saying that customer service is something you’re known for, because at this point, it is, and you have the reviews to back that up!

Make yourself more visible

It is crucial for you to show up as one of the top results when someone searches for businesses in your industry. In fact, it’s been shown that 75-percent of people never scroll past the first page of search engine results! If you don’t show up on that first page, it’s almost as bad as not showing up at all. If you’re trying to buy your way to the top with keywords and paid ads, get ready to shell out the big bucks. An easier, and significantly cheaper, way to boost your visibility is through reviews. Your SEO (search engine optimization) is boosted when you provide original, fresh content, and new customer reviews are a form of content that not only helps by giving you precious feedback, but also helps to get your brand noticed by those algorithms that can push you to the top!

Communicate with your customers

Online or off, there’s no doubt that communication is valued in the service industry. Online reviews give you a unique platform where you can communicate with your consumer base quickly and publically. If a negative review comes in, you can quickly address the issue, showing potential customers that you are not only communicative, but that you also value customer feedback. In some cases, you can even turn around a bad review by addressing the customer’s concerns and showing them that you care about their experience.

Make managing your reputation easy with Top Rated Local

Plumbers who have been in business for a while will and have a long list of clients probably also have reviews across many different platforms, like Yelp, Home Advisor, Angie’s List, Facebook, and Google — Top Rated Local can help you keep track of where your reputation is by bringing them all to one place! It has never been easier to take control of your online reputation, and with some help from Top Rated Local, you can quickly get the shining reputation you’ve dreamed of.

How to Gain More Customers With Online Reviews

When it comes to generating more customers, nothing compares to the power of good, old-fashioned reviews.

Reviews can be a powerful tool for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Are you looking to generate more clients and customers for your business? Of course, you are! More customers mean more revenue, more word of mouth, more growth and, of course, more money! But it’s not always easy to get new customers to give your local business a shot, especially since there’s no shortage of competition out there.

One of the most effective ways to get new customers is word of mouth from your existing customers, and while that word of mouth used to be spread in person, these days, it largely happens online. That means that you need to find a way to make your business stand out online, and one of the best weapons in your arsenal for that is online reviews.

In many of our previous blogs, we’ve gone over how to get more reviews — which can be a challenge in itself — but today, we are going to be talking about how you can use those reviews once you get them to grow your business and gain more customers online.

Seven Tips for Using Online Reviews to Gain Customers

#1. Display reviews on your website to improve your conversion rate.

There will always be people that land on your website and immediately leave for some reason or another. Maybe you offer plumbing services but they were looking for an electrician. Maybe your website takes 15 minutes to load and they just don’t have the time or patience to wait around. Or maybe, after a few seconds of perusing your website, they’re simply not sure about whether or not they find your business trustworthy enough to entrust with their service.

While online reviews won’t help you branch out into electrical service or improve the amount of time it takes to load your website, they can give potential customers added peace of mind in knowing that your business is trustworthy and does great work. However, in order to reap those benefits, you’ll need to ensure that reviews are displayed prominently on your website and are one of the first things people see when they visit your business online.

#2. Use reviews to highlight your best features and services.

Reviews are more than just a sales tool online or something that drives traffic to your website. Reviews give you a unique look into what your customers are thinking and feeling, and they can give savvy business owners a whole lot of insight that they can use to their advantage. One of the best ways that you can use your reviews is by learning about the features, products or services your clients love the most — as well as what specifically they love about them.

For example, let’s say that you own a bakery. Your three-tiered chocolate cake with fudge might be your best-selling product, but your best-reviewed product is actually your caramel scones. If you’re just looking at the number, you may be tempted to throw all of your money into advertising for your best-selling product, but that won’t necessarily get you the best results or the most bang for your buck. By reading and paying attention to your online reviews, you can put more of your money to work for you by advertising for your most popular product, which, in this case, would be the caramel scones.

In addition to helping you decide which products and services are most popular and, therefore, most lucrative to advertise, you can also use reviews to guide your advertising for you. Say you are advertising for wedding photography. You may think that the key benefit of using your service is the artistic touch you offer, but every bride that has reviewed your business talks extensively about how comfortable and confident you made them feel. That is definitely the kind of feedback you can and should highlight in your marketing efforts.

#3. Use reviews to help your sales representatives have better conversations.

Just as reviews can guide the content you use in your marketing campaigns and help you highlight the features and benefits your customers love and are talking about, they can also help your sales representatives have better, more effective conversations with your customers. Whether your sales representatives are making cold calls or working through an issue with long-time customers, reviews can be a powerful tool.

Reviews can inform your sales representatives of why customers chose to buy a particular product or invest in a particular service, or why they chose to work with your business in the first place. They can help your sales representatives learn about how your product or service stacks up compared to the competition, as well as what concerns your customers may have about your product or service.

Even negative reviews can be beneficial when it comes to sales conversations because they can help your sales representatives learn about the most common objections your customers have and how to get around them. Negative reviews also give your sales team a jumping-off point to turn a bad experience around and earn a customer for life.

#4. Use reviews to create a case study.

Some reviews are made up of a word or two, giving you very little insight into what the customer actually thinks about your business, product or service. These reviews can be a benefit to your business’ overall rating on review platforms, but that’s about it. They don’t give your customers much information about working with you, and they don’t give you a lot of ammo to improve your sales or increase your client base.

On the flip side, some reviews are incredibly detailed and include lots of valuable information that you can use to better your business and to inform potential customers about what it’s like to work with you. One of the best things you can do with these kinds of reviews is to turn them into case studies that you can display on social media or your website. However, before you do, it never hurts to get permission from the customer.

Case studies are a lot like reviews, because they provide information about what a product or service can do for a customer, but they are a lot more detailed and informative, which is why you should utilize customer reviews to help you create them. Here’s what your case study should include:

  • The client’s pain points — what led them to utilize your product or service in the first place?
  • The client’s goal — what did they want to get out of utilizing your product or service?
  • Your hypothesis — what do you expect to happen when your product or service is used?
  • Your steps for tackling the issue — what strategy did you take to address the problem?
  • The results — what kind of end results did using your product or service lead to? What have you learned, and how can you use it to help others?

Not every case study needs to include every single point, but the more detail you can add, the more effective your case study will be.

#5. Make email marketing more effective with reviews.

Email marketing is something that most companies use these days to stay in touch with their existing customers, and when you take advantage of the customer reviews you already have, you can make every email you send out even more effective.

Sending out marketing emails isn’t really a strategy for attracting new customers. After all, if you have their email address, there’s a good chance that they’ve utilized your services once or twice, and that means that you’ve already earned their trust — at least to an extent. That’s why, in this case, you want to use reviews not to gain new customers but to keep your existing customers!

Let’s face it, there’s a lot of competition out there, and just because you’ve earned someone’s business once, it doesn’t mean that you’ll continue to earn it. Sometimes, customers need to be reminded of why they chose to work with you and what you have to offer that differs from your competition. Email campaigns are great for this reason, and you can make yours even more effective by utilizing reviews.

Whether you’re announcing a new product or service, or you’re highlighting the benefits of using your business over your competition, reviews can give weight to any claims you’re making. You can even send out an email consisting solely of reviews with a title, like “What Our Customers are Saying About Us.”

#6. Make your business more visible with reviews.

One of the most impactful ways that reviews affect your business’ bottom line is by making your business more visible online. When someone searches a relevant keyword for your business — like “plumber near me” or “best wedding caterer” — it’s imperative that your business is listed at the top of the SERP (search engine results pages). The fact of the matter is that most people simply don’t look past the first few search results, let alone the first page, so if your business isn’t near the top, you may as well not exist.

The more reviews your business gets, the more you can leverage them to boost your website’s SEO (search engine optimization) performance. The fact of the matter is that Google and other search engines give a lot more weight to what your customers say about your business than what you say about your business. For example, you can say that your the most qualified roofer to turn to in all of Milwaukee until you’re blue in the face, but you won’t necessarily turn up in the SERP for the long-tail keyword, “qualified roofer in Milwaukee,” until your customers start saying it in their reviews.

In addition to making your claims more impactful online, reviews also affect your website’s SEO by giving you fresh, new content on a regular basis. If you’ve heard anything about SEO, you’ve probably heard the phrase, “content is king.” That’s because adding fresh content to your site on a regular basis is still the most important thing you can do from an SEO standpoint. But that doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to write a new blog every day or post on social media; reviews are a powerful way to add content and help you show up at the top of search results.

#7. Use reviews to provide better products or services to meet your customers’ needs.

Improving your bottom line has a lot to do with how you advertise your business, but it also has a lot to do with how you run your business and the products and services you’re offering your customers on a daily basis. So far in this blog, we’ve talked a lot about how you can use reviews to improve your marketing strategies, but it’s just as important to know how you can use them to better meet your customers’ needs and provide them with the kind of service they want to talk about.

If you’re like most business owners, chances are, you don’t have time to be involved in every customer interaction or be there on every job. That’s just the reality of the situation, and it means that you’re not always in the know about what your customers are thinking or feeling. Reviews can give you a lot of insight into just that, and you can use the feedback you gain from them to provide better service in the future.

Not all feedback is going to be beneficial, and unfortunately, reviews can sometimes be incredibly petty. Some customers are going to be unhappy no matter what you do, but you can learn a lot of valuable information about your business if you look for common themes or complaints.

Take the first step toward making the most out of your reviews with Top Rated Local®.

Generating reviews is a key part of building a strong, impactful online reputation for your business, but it’s just one part of it. It’s also important to respond to those reviews and know how to utilize them effectively. One of the best things you can do to start managing and maintaining your online reputation is to get your business listed with Top Rated Local, which will give you the ability to respond to reviews, provide you with real-time notifications when you get reviews and so much more — all at no cost to you.

Becoming a Top Rated Local business is a no brainer, and it’s totally free to get listed! What are you waiting for? Get started today.

The Dos and Don’ts of Generating Reviews

There’s a right way and a wrong way to generate reviews.

Businesses need reviews in this day and age, and that’s true regardless of the industry they are in, how long they’ve been around and the level of service they provide. Unfortunately, though, most people still don’t write reviews on their own, even as up to 90 percent of consumers religiously read them when making purchasing decisions. However, the vast majority of consumers will write a review when asked.

If you had a chance to read our last blog — Why Buying Reviews is a Bad Idea — then you already know that buying reviews is shady, can ruin your online reputation and could even be potentially illegal, resulting in huge fines and even the risk that your business’ listing might be taken down completely.

When you take a few minutes to read the guidelines on major review sites, like Google and Yelp, you’ll quickly find that asking for reviews is definitely a grey area, and if you’re not careful, you could incur the same kinds of risks as you would by buying reviews. It’s for that reason that every single business owner understands the dos and don’ts of generating reviews, and that’s why we’ve come up with this guide to help.

The Dos and Don’ts of Generating Reviews

DO create and claim your business listings.

There’s a reason why so many people don’t write reviews on their own, even if they were completely satisfied with their experience — it’s inconvenient! Life is busy for many of us, and the idea of taking time out of our busy schedules to write a thoughtful review just seems too prohibitive to many of us. And when you’re asking the customer to sign up for an account or to create a profile on a review site in addition to writing a review, it makes the process even more time-consuming and inconvenient. That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to create and claim your business listings on multiple review sites.

In addition to making it easier for your customers to leave a review for you on their preferred site, claiming your creating and claiming your business listings will also help you to ensure that your information is accurate and up to date on every site your business is listed on. On most review sites, claiming your listing also gives you the ability to respond to reviewers on different platforms.

Are you ready to start creating and claiming your business listings? Start with Top Rated Local — it’s free!

DON’T pay for fake reviews.

Getting reviews naturally can be difficult, and since most business owners understand how important those reviews can be, many of them have resorted to simply buying reviews. Buying reviews is certainly easier than trying to earn them naturally, but it’s a big no-no and it can do a lot more damage to your business’ online reputation and overall well-being than you might think.

The risks that you take when buying reviews include losing the trust of your customers, getting fined by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), getting your site taken out of the SERP (search engine results pages) altogether and missing out on valuable feedback that you could use to make your business better.

If you’d like to learn more about how buying reviews can be damaging for your business, check out our previous blog — Why Buying Reviews is a Bad Idea.

DO ensure that your customers know how important reviews are for your business.

As we mentioned, asking for reviews is a grey area, and on some review sites, like Yelp, it’s more than a little frowned upon. However, asking for reviews is also the number one most effective ways to actually get them, so where does that leave us?

There are ways to ask for reviews without actually asking for them. You don’t have to come right out and say, “Please write a five-star review for us on Google,” to get the point across that you’d like a review. A better way to do so is by making sure that your customers know how much you value their feedback and how important reviews are for your business’ future success.

DON’T bribe your customers in exchange for reviews.

Incentivizing reviews is another easy way for businesses to generate more reviews, but much like outright asking for reviews, there’s a fine line between incentivizing reviews and bribing your customers to write reviews, which is certainly against the guidelines of many review sites. In fact, some review sites treat incentivizing reviews the same way they treat outright buying fake reviews, and you’ll risk the same kinds of penalties.

You should never offer your customers discounts, special offers or free products in exchange for five-star reviews. However, a less-shady way to accomplish the same goal is to enter clients who give you feedback — good or bad — into a drawing.

DO ask that your customers convert their feedback into reviews.

Your customers give you feedback all of the time and in many different forms. Sometimes, they’ll tell you in person about their experience. Sometimes, your customers will email you about their experience. Sometimes, your customers will tell you about their experience over the phone. It’s important to note that, while this kind of offline feedback is a valuable tool for helping you make your business better, it doesn’t do much for your business’ online reputation.

When you get feedback offline, it doesn’t hurt for you to ask your customer to turn it into an online review, particularly if you’re not trying to pressure the customer into giving you a specific star rating or writing specific things about your business. Here’s an example of how to ask your customer to convert their feedback into an online review:

“Thank you so much for the valuable feedback! We value it so much and would really appreciate it if you could leave it for us online so that you could help other customers make the right decisions for their needs.”

DON’T write your own reviews.

Like paying someone else to write reviews or bribing your customers to write them, writing your own reviews can seem like an innocent way to quickly generate reviews, but it’s definitely a black-hat tactic that is against the guidelines of every major review site. Not only will writing your own reviews make your business vulnerable to the potential penalties — which, to recap, includes fees, the possibility that your listing could be taken down and the loss of trust with your audience.

Fake reviews are easier to spot than you might think, and if you aren’t planning to go to the trouble of creating a fake profile on Yelp or Google, it’ll be all too easy for your clients to determine that you — the business owner, CEO, manager, etc. — are writing those reviews, which will cause them to lose trust in your brand and possibly even ditch you for your competition.

DO make great customer service your number one priority.

Encouraging your customers to write reviews is great, but as you can see, the line between what’s acceptable and what’s not can be blurred easily, particularly since review sites often have differing guidelines. However, there’s one surefire way to generate more reviews that every review site finds acceptable and that you never have to worry about breaking guidelines or rules — and that’s to make providing next-level customer service your number one priority.

Every time you interact with a customer, think about how they are seeing your business and how they might represent the interaction online. And while it’s true that most people won’t automatically write reviews on their own unless they are unhappy with their experience, that doesn’t mean that great service never encourages people to write reviews. In fact, here at Top Rated Local, we see reviews all of the time that start with something along the lines of:

“I never write reviews, but I got such great service that I knew that had to…”

DON’T make getting reviews a competition for your team.

Your employees are the face of your company. As the owner, CEO or manager of your business, you’re often too busy with everything else to have face-to-face interactions with every single customer, but your team, on the other hand, does have those personal interactions with your clients. And because of that fact, it’s absolutely essential that your customers know why getting reviews is important.

This doesn’t mean that you should try to get more reviews by creating a competition among your team to get reviews. If a bonus or another reward is on the line, it might encourage your team to use black-hat tactics in order to generate more reviews, and they could end up getting your business in trouble.

Start generating reviews the right way with Top Rated Local today!

Navigating the ins and outs of the different guidelines on reviews sites can be tricky, and what’s acceptable on one review site may not be acceptable on another. However, there are a lot of dos and don’ts that aren’t negotiable, and we hope that this article has helped to clear them up just a little bit.

Generating reviews is an essential part of online reputation management, but it’s only one step in the process. With Top Rated Local, you’ll have everything you need to be able to manage your business’ online reputation like a pro, including real-time notifications when you get reviews, the ability to reply to your reviews, a more frequently updated Rating Score™ that will give you a snapshot of your overall online reputation, a Top Rated Local badge of your own so that you can display reviews on your website and the ability to verify your reviews and eliminate fake reviews. And unlike many other review sites, businesses don’t “pay to play” on Top Rated Local.

With Top Rated Local, you can take your business’ online reputation into your own hands effectively and professionally, and the best part about it is that it’s 100-percent free. What are you waiting for? Set up your business on Top Rated Local for free today; it’s a no-brainer and the easiest thing you can do to maintain your business’ online reputation!

Why Buying Reviews is a Bad Idea

Every business needs online reviews in this day and age, but buying them isn’t a good idea.

With up to 90 percent of consumers saying that they read online reviews before making purchases or hiring companies — and more than 80 percent of consumers saying that they trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends and family — it’s clear to many business owners that reviews are an essential part of success.

Even though online reviews are absolutely essential, most people still don’t feel compelled to write them on their own, except of course when they’ve had a negative experience. So how do you ensure that you get plenty of reviews while still protecting your online reputation? If you’re like many business owners, you may be tempted to buy those reviews.

Reviews aren’t so easy to come by organically, and buying online reviews is a quick, easy way to ensure that potential customers have plenty to read when researching your business. Really, all you need to do is google, “buy fake reviews,” and you’ll be inundated with shady companies offering black-hat tactics to help you get ahead. However, buying reviews is a double-edged sword, and if you do, your business is likely to get hurt.

Five Ways Online Reviews Can Damage Your Business and its Online Reputation

#1. Your site could be nonexistent in the SERP.

One of the most profound ways that buying reviews can negatively affect your business by damaging its standing in the SERP (search engine results pages). As far as search engines go, Google is king. Approximately 92 percent of searches are conducted on Google, whereas, only around 3 percent are conducted on Bing and only 2 percent on Yahoo. This means that, if you want your website to show up at the top of the SERP, you need to make sure that your business is in its good graces, which means that each and every review should come organically.

If you’re unaware, you need to note that buying reviews for your business is against Google’s guidelines. According to Google, any reviews you get “should not be posted just to manipulate a place’s ratings. Don’t post fake content, and don’t post content for the same place from multiple accounts.” And unlike Yelp, which will add consumer alerts to fake reviews and the profiles for businesses that buy them, Google can actually take your listing down completely.

Google takes fake reviews seriously because their goal is to provide the best, most accurate results for their customers, and reviews a key part of doing so. The goal of buying reviews is increased visibility for your business, but buying them is a surefire way to eliminate your business’ visibility altogether.

#2. Buying fake reviews is illegal.

Too many business owners, buying reviews on Google or Yelp may seem like an innocent way to boost visibility, but many would think twice if they knew that it’s not only shady but against the law. That’s right, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) sees buying reviews as illegal, and it could cost your business in a big way.

In 2013, 19 companies were caught by New York’s Attorney General and the FCC posting fake reviews and hiring others to write reviews for them. This initiative was called “Operation Clean Turf,” and it was designed to crack down on astroturfing. The name, “astroturfing,” comes from the concept of businesses buying “grassroots” approval for their business through fake reviews. At the end of the investigation, these 19 companies were ordered to pay more than $350,000 in penalties. Another company, Legacy Learning Systems, was accused of generating more than $5 million in sales by paying affiliates to post reviews for them online and ended up settling with the FTC for $250,000.

However, fines aren’t the only thing you have to worry about when your business is caught buying reviews. You can bet that consumers will get wind of the matter, and when they do, it sends the message that you’re buying reviews because you can’t get them on your own — not exactly a good look.

#3. Fake reviews are more expensive than you might think.

The vast majority of consumers will read around 10 reviews before making the decision to purchase a product or work with a business. And it’s enough just to have reviews; your reviews need to have been written recently — within the last two weeks — in order for people to truly trust them. That means that your business’ bottom line is dependent on your business’ ability to get new reviews on a regular basis, and buying reviews may seem like the only way to save it. But you should know that buying reviews costs more than you might think.

Businesses who offer to post fake reviews for other businesses know that they’re taking a risk, and you’ll most likely find that buying reviews won’t come cheap. The cost of fake reviews could be as much as $10 per review, and that’s nothing compared to the fees you’ll have to pay if your business ends up getting caught paying for reviews.

On the other hand, it costs nothing to earn business reviews organically! All you have to do is work hard, provide next-level customer service and be honest with your customers about how important reviews are for the success of your business.

#4. You can’t gain any insight from fake reviews.

Organic reviews are valuable for businesses in so many ways. They are like free advertising for your business, and they’ll help to convince consumers to take a chance on your services or products almost as much as word of mouth would. They also help to ensure that your business shows up at the top of the SERP, which improves its visibility and increases the amount of traffic your website will get.

However, there’s one other big benefit that comes from organic reviews — you can get valuable feedback that helps you make your business better. A successful business is geared toward satisfying customers’ needs and providing them with an unbeatable experience, but you can’t possibly do that if you don’t have any insight into how your customers feel about your business. Reviews can help you put your finger on the pulse of your customers’ thoughts and feelings, and without them, you’re left lost in the dark.

If you pay for reviews, you can’t possibly know how your actual customers think and feel about your business, and you can’t use their feedback to get better and, ultimately, earn more of their business in the future. That means that the likelihood is high that any organic reviews you do get will be negative because you haven’t had a chance to address the issues your clients have with your business, services or products.

#5. Fake reviews are easier to spot than you think.

Fake reviews can range in quality, from detailed, specific reviews that are super convincing to overly broad reviews that seem fishy from the get-go. While fake reviews can seem legitimate on the surface, with a little digging, savvy consumers can easily spot them.

For example, say someone has written a great fake review for your business, complete with a high-quality image and a detailed description of their experience. When taken at face-value, it’s hard to see the downside of this kind of review, but there are lots of ways that consumers — and Google — can spot a fake review, including:

  • Doing a quick search into the reviewer’s previous posts – Either Kelly has eaten at 25 restaurants this week (and it’s only Thursday), or she’s getting paid by multiple restaurants to write fake reviews.
  • Looking at the IP address – If someone has written multiple fake reviews from one IP address, Google will spot it.
  • Watching out for false information – Sometimes, individuals and companies that write fake reviews for businesses don’t properly do their research and may end up writing false information that can easily be caught by consumers who are familiar with what you have to offer.

These are just a few of the ways that fake reviews are caught. Learn more by reading our previous article — How to Determine if a Review is Fake.

As you can see, fake reviews are easier to spot than many businesses might think, and when you’re found out, it won’t do any favors for your business’ online reputation. When your customers see that you’re buying reviews, they’ll start believing that you can’t get them organically and honestly.

Incentivizing reviews can easily be confused with buying them.

When most business owners think of buying reviews, they often think of people paying a faceless freelancer or company to write fake reviews for them. However, it’s not always that straightforward, and if you’re not careful, incentivizing reviews can quickly turn into or be confused with buying them.

A lot of business owners don’t realize that, when they enter customers in a drawing or offer future discounts in exchange for a review, it’s not so different than buying them outright, and Google will likely see them as one and the same.

For example, offering discounts or free products or services in exchange for five-star reviews is a black-hat tactic that is definitely against Google’s review guidelines, and it’s not so different than offering a discount for reviews in general from all of your customers. Both of these tactics are frowned upon by Google, but the difference is that bribing your customers to leave you five-star reviews could also be illegal.

Stop buying reviews, and start earning them with Top Rated Local®.

Buying reviews can seem like a quick and easy way to boost your business’ online reputation, hang onto more customers and attract new customers, but as you can see, the consequences just aren’t worth the risk. Regardless of whether your business is caught buying reviews by your customers or by Google, Yelp or another review platform, it will spell trouble for your online reputation.

That’s why it’s important to stop buying reviews and start earning them the natural way with the help of Top Rated Local. At Top Rated Local, we help to provide businesses and consumers with a more honest, trustworthy review sites where they can avoid the common online reputation pitfalls, including fake reviews, competitor reviews and more.

Are you ready to get started? Sign your business up with Top Rated Local today for free!

Why You Need to Respond to Online Reviews

Having reviews is a must for every business, but it’s not enough to simply have them — you also have to respond to them!

Responding to reviews is a must for every business.

Did you know that 84 percent of consumers place just as much trust in online reviews as they do word-of-mouth referrals from their friends or family? These days, reading online reviews is a very important part of the purchasing decision for consumers, but the simple fact that you have reviews is just the first step of an effective reputation management strategy. And if you’re hoping to take your strategy to the next level, it’s time to start responding to those reviews!

Whether your reviews are positive or negative, it’s important that you take the time to respond to each and every one of them. And believe it or not, taking the time to respond to a review is not a waste; it can be beneficial for your business in many different ways! In fact, you could be missing out if you don’t respond to your reviews. That’s why we’ve taken the time to put together this list of the top five reasons as to why you should make it a point to respond to each and every review:

Six Reasons to Start Responding to Your Reviews

#1. Show that you care.

A lot of business owners understand why it’s important to respond to negative reviews but completely fail to respond to positive reviews. This is a mistake, and to consumers, it looks like you only care enough about responding when your reputation is on the line. However, if your customer can take the time to write a review, you certainly can take the time to respond to it, and best of all, doing so will show that you care.

Responding to reviews, negative or positive, shows your customers that you care enough to respond regardless of the kind of review they leave you. Of course, how you respond to negative and positive reviews will be different, but regardless, leaving a meaningful, sincere reply will show the world just how thankful you are for your customers and for their efforts to leave you a review.

When you only respond to negative reviews, you’re merely managing your online reputation, but when you respond to every review — negative or positive — you’re utilizing your online reputation to market your business!

#2. Show off your customer service chops.

Responding to your reviews, particularly the negative ones, is a great way to show off your customer service skills. The fact of the matter is that most people are willing to accept that businesses are operated by humans who are capable of making mistakes. Therefore, when a mistake occurs, they’ll be a lot more willing to forgive that mistake than you might think. However, in order to earn that forgiveness, you need to be able to turn the bad review around with the right kind of response.

When you respond to reviewers who aren’t so happy with your service, it gives you a chance to turn the situation around and demonstrate to — not only the customer in question but to anyone else who may have been following the exchange online — the lengths you are willing to go to in order to turn a wrong into a right.

Taking the time to appease an upset customer demonstrates to the world how committed you are to pleasing your customers. Best of all, it could help you create a cheerleader for life. When a customer sees the lengths you are willing to go to win them back, they are often willing to shout it from the rooftops.

#3. Share your side of the story.

One of the challenging things about reviews is that you can’t control what people say about your business in them. Because reviews are so very public, this fact can make a lot of business owners incredibly nervous — and rightly so. However, what you can control is how you respond to those reviews, and even if the review in question was entirely inflammatory, responding is critical because it allows you to share your side of the story.

Let’s say, for example, that one of your competitors writes a fake, one-star review on Google or Facebook. There are steps you can take to get that fake review taken down (at least in some circumstances) but in most cases, most review platforms won’t immediately take down a fake review, and until they do, you need to be able to tell the truth about the interaction.

While you should never call out a fake review in your response, you can say something along the lines of, “We don’t have a record of working with you, but we’re sorry that your experience wasn’t up to our high standards of excellence. Because our records don’t indicate that we’ve ever worked with you before, we’d love to hear more about the situation so that we can take steps to make it right. Please email us or call us to discuss the matter further.”

#4. Earn a customer for life.

In a previous blog — What Makes People Write Reviews — we talked about what motivates people to write reviews. Among the many things that motivate people to write reviews, one of the most common is just that people want to be heard. However, people aren’t likely to feel heard if they’re in a one-sided conversation with themselves, which is essentially what a review with no response is.

Making your customers feel heard and valued will require a response that’s well-thought-out and demonstrates the fact that you’ve truly listened to your customer’s needs and thoughts. A simple, “Thanks for the review!”, won’t suffice. Instead, respond to the specifics in the review, and not just the negative ones.

For example, say you own a restaurant, and a reviewer raved about the lasagna and the fact that your waitstaff remembered the fact that they had a nut allergy from their previous dining experience with you. A personal, detailed response might go as follows:

“We’re so happy that you loved the lasagna! It’s our Chef’s grandmother’s family recipe, and it’s one of our most sought-after menu items. Needless to say, we’re proud of it, and we’re so excited that you loved it. And thank you so much for your kind words about Stephanie, your server on Saturday. Stephanie has been with us for a few months now, and the kind of personalized service she offers is what we strive to provide day in and day out.”

#5. Enhance your website’s SEO power.

Where does your business rank on Google for applicable keywords? Are you on page one? If not, your website could use a little SEO (search engine optimization) TLC. These days, if your business doesn’t show up on page one of Google, it may as well not exist at all. Let’s face it, most people aren’t even looking past the first few search results, let alone to the second page, so doing whatever it takes to help your business rank highly should be your top priority. Luckily, your reviews can help!

Reviews are a powerful SEO tool because Google puts more trust into what your customers are saying about you than what you’re saying about yourself. And when you take the time to respond to those reviews, it gives you a chance to boost your ranking fuel for the keywords that are most valuable to your business.

Let’s pretend that you’re a photographer hoping to rank for “best wedding photographer in Maryland.” The likelihood that your reviewer will use those exact words probably isn’t high, but you can utilize those keywords in your response. For example:

“Dear Katelyn, we had so much fun working with you to capture your special day, and we’re so excited that you love your pictures! We strive to be the best wedding photographer in Maryland each and every day, and we truly value your feedback and your business. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this review, and we hope that you’ll think of us when you need an experienced photographer for family portraits, baby portraits and more!”

#6. Enhance your business’ overall reputation.

Responding to reviews helps to enhance your business’ online reputation in so many different ways, but one of the most impactful is that it discourages competitors or disgruntled ex-employees from leaving fake reviews, and it also discourages people from utilizing review sites as a way to blow off steam about minor, inconsequential issues.

A review platform is an easy target for people who have malicious intent, and that’s especially true if the business owner doesn’t take the time to respond to reviews. If someone thinks that their review will go unchallenged, it could embolden them to make false or inflammatory claims about your business. However, if they don’t think that they’ll get away with it, the chance of them leaving that review will be greatly diminished.

Decreasing the number of trolls who feel emboldened to leave you fake reviews is just one of the ways that responding to reviews can improve your business’ overall online reputation. Demonstrating to your customers that you are willing to listen and respond to their feedback could also encourage more people to write reviews for your business.

Sign up for Top Rated Local to take your business’ online reputation into your own hands.

Responding to reviews is an easy way to take control of your online reputation and start managing it like a pro. However, you won’t be able to respond to your reviews until you start claiming your listings on every review platform.

Get started by claiming your business with Top Rated Local! We offer you a free, effective way to manage your business’ online reputation by giving you the power to respond to reviews, get real-time notifications when someone leaves you a review, have your Top Rated Local profile prioritized on Google, gain insight into your reputation across verified review platforms and so much more. And the best part is that all of this is free when you sign up for Top Rated Local!

Become a Top Rated Local business today!

How to Ask for Reviews

Reviews are the lifeblood of your business’ online reputation, and to get more reviews for your business, all you have to do is ask!

Every business owner could benefit from asking for reviews.

Businesses need reviews, and that’s true regardless of how big or small the business is, or what industry it’s in. The fact is that, whether consumers are looking for an experienced electrician or a delicious place to grab a bite to eat, a lot of them are going to let online reviews guide their buying decisions. And unfortunately, even if you make it a point to provide the very best service, most people won’t take the time to write reviews on their own. That’s why you’ve got to ask!

Asking for reviews is more powerful than you might think. An estimated 70 percent of consumers will write a review when asked. However, a lot of business owners feel iffy about the notion of asking for reviews, and it’s important to note that, while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking for a review, there is a right way and a wrong way to do so.

10 Expert Tips for Asking for Reviews

#1. Make sure that your customers know how important their feedback is to you.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: most people won’t write a review on their own. It’s not because they’re lazy or they don’t care. In large part, people don’t write reviews because they don’t see the value in it. Although a lot of people utilize reviews to help them make buying decisions, many of them don’t realize how essential they are for small businesses. That’s why you need to let them know!

At the end of delivering the service or product, when the customer is gushing about how much they love your work, it’s OK to let them know that the best way they can thank you is by going online and writing a review for you. Tell them that their kind words online will help you get more business and improve your online reputation. Once they realize what an impact their review can have on your business, they’ll be a lot more willing to write one.

#2. Give them a choice of review sites.

The last thing you want is for one of your customers to have to create a username on Yelp or a profile on Facebook in order to leave you a review. This kind of inconvenience will make the likelihood of actually getting said review much smaller, and it’s why it’s not acceptable to have your business listed on one or two review platforms. You need to make it easy for your customers to leave you a review on the platform of their choice!

Make sure your business is listed on as many review platforms as possible, including the big ones — Google, Top Rated Local®, Yelp and Facebook. And don’t stop there. You also need to ensure that you claim your listing, which will make it possible for you to respond to reviews and effectively manage your business’ online reputation.

#3. Ask in person.

There are a lot of different methods you can use to ask for reviews, and while most of them are effective, the very best way to ask is in person. In fact, asking face to face is the gold standard as far as asking for reviews is concerned. When you ask in person, the likelihood that the customer will actually take the time to write the review is much higher.

Asking in person is especially powerful if you’ve been working with the customer face to face. Let’s say, for example, that you own a flooring store. Your sales associate has spent hours working with the customer on picking the right material, color and pattern for their needs. In those hours, a bond of some sort is formed, and the customer will feel more compelled to write a review.

#4. Get buy-in from your employees.

As a business owner, you’d probably like to be on the forefront of everything in your business, but the reality is that you’ve got a lot on your plate. Most business owners don’t have the time or the resources to be there for every customer interaction, and although you may not be there yourself to ask for a review in person, you can still utilize the power of asking face to face by having your employees on the front line ask for you.

Ensure that your employees know how important reviews are for your business. You can also incentivize reviews by offering bonuses or other prizes when your employee is mentioned in a review, or when a customer they work with leaves a review. This way, your employees are just as bought into the importance of getting reviews as you are, and it also encourages them to go above and beyond in every interaction they have with your customers.

#5. Ask in a follow-up email.

While asking for a review in person is probably the most effective way to actually get one, it’s not the only way, and in some cases, asking for a review via email might be your best bet. In situations where you don’t have a lot of — or any — face-to-face interactions with the customer, asking for a review in a follow-up email might be more comfortable for you or feel more appropriate for the situation. Here are a few tips for asking for a review via email:

  • Use the person’s name in the subject line of your email.
  • Test out the effectiveness of different subject lines.
  • Send the request from a person’s email — don’t send the request from a faceless company account.
  • Send a link in the email to multiple review sites, making it easy for them to leave the review on the site of their choice.
  • Thank them ahead of time for their business and for taking the time to write you a review.
  • Get personal in your email — email can often feel impersonal, but you can make it more personal by recapping the service you offered or your experience with them.

#6. Ask for feedback instead of asking for a review.

When you ask a customer for a review, you should never try to steer them toward leaving you a positive review or five stars. But unfortunately, in some cases, even if you simply ask, “Would you mind sharing your experience with our company in a review online?”, the customer will still hear, “Would you mind going online and leaving us a five-star review?” As unfair as it may be, it’s also for this reason that some business owners are scared off by the idea of asking for a review in the first place.

This is exactly why you need to be very careful about how you frame the question when you ask for reviews. In fact, you don’t even have to mention the word “review” at all, and sometimes it’s best if you don’t. You may find that, as opposed to coming out and asking for a review outright, sometimes, it’s much more effective to simply ask for feedback. For example, “We’d love to hear any feedback you have about your experience with our company! Would you mind sharing it with us on Top Rated Local?” This way, you’re not even mentioning reviews or attempting to shape the kind of review you’re asking for. It’s also important to frame the question in a way that the customer knows that you want their feedback in order to get better, not necessarily to get more customers.

#7. Ask for reviews in your invoices.

The vast majority of businesses send out invoices to every single customer, which makes them a great place to request reviews online. One of the best parts about asking for reviews in invoices is that you don’t have to think about it; the request is automatically sent to every customer without the need for you to take more time out of your schedule or to make a special request. Plus, this way, it doesn’t look as if you are only asking for reviews from customers who have had a good experience because you’re asking everyone.

Whether you’re asking for a review in a digital invoice or a physical invoice, it’s important to direct your customers to the review platforms your business is listed on. And if you’re sending out a digital invoice, take it one step further by including the links to review sites, eliminating the need for your customers to search for you online. If you’re sending out physical invoices, you can accomplish the same thing by including a QR code your customers can scan that will take them directly to your business’ profile on review sites.

#8. Ask for a review via handwritten thank you note.

Asking for a review in an email and in person are both great options, but there’s another great option that not many business owners utilize these days — direct mail! These days, direct mail is seen as an outdated marketing tactic that can’t keep up with the hustle and bustle of the world of fast-paced digital marketing, but it’s important to recognize the fact that it can still be incredibly effective, especially when it comes to asking for a review.

After the service is complete, take a moment to write out a thank you note by hand. In this note, you should recall what you did for them, thank them for their business and let them know how much it would mean to you if they would take a few minutes to leave you some feedback on Top Rated Local, Google, etc. Direct mail works because it has a significantly higher open rate than email does, and the fact that you actually took time out of your busy day to write out the note in hand will make a big impact on your customer.

#9. Give your customers an incentive for writing reviews.

Sometimes, it’s not enough to simply ask for a review or explain why a review is important. Some people need a little more motivation to write a review for your business, and one of the best ways to get reviews out of those people is to encourage them through incentives. However, you’ll want to be careful when it comes to incentives for reviews. It’s important to note that there’s a fine line between incentivizing reviews and paying for them — which is more than a little frowned upon.

When you incentivize reviews, it’s important to make it clear that you are incentivizing every review, not just five-star reviews. It’s also important to offer the same incentive to every customer, not just the ones who are happy with your service. Here are a few examples of incentivizing reviews the right way:

  • Enter customers who write reviews in drawings or sweepstakes.
  • Offer a future discount for writing reviews.
  • Provide customers who leave you with reviews exclusive offers.
  • Add a bonus to the customer’s next order for leaving you a review.

#10. Ask for reviews while everything is still fresh.

Reviews can give you a lot of insight into how customers perceive your business, giving you the ammunition you need to get better and mold your service into something your customers really want. However, in order to get real, honest feedback that you can actually use to get better, it’s important that your customer write a review for you while they remember everything clearly and it’s all still fresh in their mind.

One of the best times to ask for reviews is when the customer is in the process of giving you feedback in person. When they’re sitting there with you, expressing their gratitude or concern, it’s the perfect opportunity to ask them to put that feedback in a review that will help you make your company better and help other customers make the right buying decisions.

Take ownership of your online reputation with Top Rated Local!

In this day and age, asking for reviews is a no-brainer, and it’s something every business owner should be doing. But there’s one other incredibly simple things you can do to take ownership of your online reputation, and that’s to claim your business listing with Top Rated Local! When you claim your business, you’ll be able to respond to your reviews, receive real-time notifications about your online reputation, gain an immediate boost to your Rating Score™, display the Top Rated Local badge on your website and so much more — and the best part is that it’s free!

What are you waiting for? Set up your business on Top Rated Local for free today!

What Makes People Write Reviews

Understanding why people write reviews is the first step towards getting more reviews for your business.

People write reviews for all kinds of reasons.

Every business needs reviews, and it’s not acceptable just to have one or two — you need as many as you can. It’s also not enough to have hundreds of reviews if none of them are recent. A five-star review holds a lot of weight, but that weight becomes diminished the older the review is. Many consumers don’t even look at the reviews that are more than a few months old, because they no longer see those reviews as relevant.

Your business’ online reputation can make or break your success both online and offline, and it depends on your ability to get multiple positive reviews on a regular basis, and in order to do that, you need to have a good understanding of why people leave reviews in the first place. When you understand people’s motivations for writing reviews, you can fine-tune your strategy for getting lots of reviews

Seven Reasons People Write Reviews

#1. To help other consumers make the best choices.

A lot of people write reviews because they genuinely want to share their experiences with other consumers, so that they can make the right buying decisions for them. Whether that experience is positive or negative, these reviewers want to be able to guide other people to make what they see as the right decisions.

You can generally spot these types of reviewers by looking for more detailed, story-driven reviews. If someone really and truly is motivated by helping other people make better buying decisions, they’ll probably give the entire 411 about their experience, right down to the name of the person who helped them and the time of day they were helped.

#2. To have their opinions heard.

These days, it’s not always easy to get noticed or to feel heard. There are so many people out there with opinions, thoughts and feelings, and if social media is any indication, people want to express themselves! It can be difficult to break through the noise under normal circumstances, and one of the best ways to ensure that people are actually heard is to speak directly to a business via reviews.

When someone writes a review, they’re not another anonymous person complaining to customer service, and they don’t have to rely on a tech to relay their message to management. Reviews allow people to communicate directly to the business in a way that ensures that they will be listened to and can’t be ignored.

#3. To be a part of the group.

People find camaraderie in all kinds of places. You see it in fandoms all over the internet, and if you’ve ever stepped foot in a midnight showing of a movie or at your local comic con, then you know what we mean. People love to connect with other like-minded people, but that doesn’t stop with dressing up as their favorite superhero or writing fan fiction.

Reviews are a great way to make a connection with other people who share your likes and dislikes. You see this most often in reviews for movies, television shows and books, but some businesses invoke the same kind of response in their customers, particularly businesses that have a strong brand or offer unique products or services.

#4. To vent about a bad experience.

One of the most common reasons anyone writes a review is in response to what they perceive as a bad situation. Maybe they had to wait longer than they expected for the product or service in question to be delivered. Maybe the person who helped them was late or didn’t provide them with the level of service that fits their expectations. Or maybe they simply don’t accept that mistakes happen. Whatever the situation, people are more likely to spread the word after a bad experience than a good one.

Perception is reality, and even if you’ve done everything in your power to provide the best possible customer service and meet all of their needs, sometimes, you just don’t live up to expectations. And unfortunately, people are more likely to write a review when they’re upset as opposed to when they’re happy,

#5. To give feedback about products or services.

Some people genuinely want to help businesses get better! There’s no such thing as a perfect product or service, but businesses often don’t see the flaws in what they’re offering. That’s because businesses only see one side of the equation. You can’t possibly know about every potential flaw or downside of your product or service unless you are the ones using it on a regular basis. That’s why your customers’ insight is very valuable!

These kinds of reviews are incredible because they give you the ability to make changes to your products or services that can help you attract more future business, make your current customers happy and keep your current customers coming back for more.

#6. To say thank you for a job well done.

Going above and beyond in order to provide the best possible service for your customers is a surefire way to get great reviews for your business. Let’s face it, these days, customer service can be lackluster, and a lot of people are simply accustomed to service that’s less-than-ideal. One of the best ways to actually make an impact on your customers is to provide the kind of service they can’t ignore and that they’ll want to yell from the rooftops.

These kinds of reviews are some of the best any business can hope for. When prospective customers read them, they’ll be able to tell exactly how hard you work to please your customers, and about how much your customers appreciate that hard work.

#7. Because they were asked to!

There are many reasons why people write reviews on their own, as we’ve discussed in the points so far, but unfortunately, the vast majority of people don’t write reviews by themselves, at least not at this point in time. More and more people are writing reviews on their own, but until that day when it becomes second nature to consumers, your best course of action is simply to ask!

Very few people will write a review unprompted, but when asked, 70 percent of consumers will write a review! Asking for reviews is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you actually get them, and no, you don’t have to bribe people with discounts or gift cards. All you have to do is let them know how much a review will mean to you and request that they write one for you.

Be sure to stay tuned for our next blog to learn how to ask for reviews the right way!

Every business needs reviews!

Understanding what motivates people to leave reviews will help you gain more for your business, which will help you build the kind of online reputation you want. However, gaining more reviews is just the first step in the process of building and maintaining a solid online reputation for your business. The next step is to get your business listed with Top Rated Local!

Become a Top Rated Local business today!

Using Social Media to Improve Your Reputation, Part 2: Managing Your Profiles

Your online reputation is vital to your company’s success

In a previous article, we outlined the importance of taking control of your company’s reputation by finding out where you stand and how to get started on your business’ social media journey. Now, we are going to outline a few best practices when it comes to managing those social media profiles.

Social media has become an invaluable tool that can help you reach new audiences, gain reviews, manage your company’s reputation, and most importantly, it provides a space where you can instantly engage with your consumer base, so we want to make sure you are fully equipped to manage a space where your clients are able to leave you instant public feedback!

Commit To Authenticity

With social media, you have the opportunity to build trust in your business before you ever even meet the customer. In this day and age, trust is one of the most important things your business can have. In a 2013 study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, customers identified authenticity as one of the top qualities that would attract them to a brand.

The Journal of Consumer Psychology defines authenticity as, “The extent to which consumers perceive a brand to be faithful toward itself, true to its consumers, motivated by caring and responsibility, and able to support consumers in being true to themselves.”

It makes sense that authenticity is important to consumers. People want transparency, and certainly don’t want to feel like a company is pulling one over on them. People want to have some sense about what a business’ beliefs and values are, and whether or not they might align with their own. Having trust in a company means that a customer sees that business as worth taking the risk of investing their time and money into.

In order to build an authentic brand, you have to have a deep understanding of your company’s core values, and then show your commitment to those values in the things you post and the way you engage with your followers.

Share Your Brand’s Story

At the heart of it all, social media profiles offer a place where you are able to show your brand or business the way you want to be seen. You have a unique opportunity to give your business a voice and share it, not only with your most loyal following, but also with an untold number of potential future clients and fans! I personally follow a small ice cream shop in Portland, a city I don’t live in, just because I like their fun and engaging Instagram profile. Customers don’t only care about what you are selling and at what price; more and more, they also consider and care about who you are. People genuinely like stories, and adding a personal element to your brand gives them something to connect with or relate to.

Telling your brand’s story means giving your customers a look into who you are as a company and why your company exists. When deciding to put something on social media, decide if your post answers any of the following questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Why do you do it?
  • How do you do it?
  • What’s next?

Deciding what your story is and how you share it can add some much-needed integrity to your social media profiles, and can give you a sense of direction when it comes to navigating how and what to post.

You don’t have to overthink what it means to share your story. It can be as simple as sharing behind-the-scenes stories of the day-to-day work life, giving a sneak peak at a new product that’s coming out, putting a spotlight on one staff member, sharing an infographic or educational article, posting a photo of the inside of your shop before you open for the day, talking about how your business uses sustainably-sourced products and why, or talking about a charitable cause you are raising money and awareness for.

Engage With Your Followers

In our last article, Using Social Media to Improve Your Reputation, we talked about finding and setting a tone for your business. By now, you know that using social media is a great way to keep in touch with your clients, your community, and your potential customers. As we discussed in that previous post, with social media, you are also able to set the tone for how you would like your business to be seen by others. Do you want to be known for your unwavering professionalism, your playfulness, or maybe your approachableness? There’s not really a right answer here, but it is best to decide on a tone and stick with it. By setting the tone, your customers know what to expect from you when they engage with you online, and it is very important to show them that they CAN reach you. This all adds on to the idea of trust and authenticity.

Liking someone’s comment on your picture, or leaving a quick message or response, shows them that you are paying attention, shows them you care, and gives them the sense that you are bought in to them and their experience. Social media makes it fun and easy to connect, chat, and engage with the people who enjoy your business.

In addition to connecting with your client base, social media sites have also become a place where customers can go for their customer service requests or to leave a review of your product or service. No matter what kind of feedback you are getting on social media, you have the chance to respond, so make sure you always do so quickly and directly. Show the public that you are listening, and show them that you care.

Don’t underestimate the power of reviews. According to BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews from other customers just as much as they would recommendations from peers. It’s important to keep in mind that people take notice of online reviews and your response, or lack thereof, to them.

In a previous article, How to Handle Bad Reviews, we listed out a more comprehensive strategy for handling and responding to the inevitable negative reviews you will get. Make your life easier by having a policy in place when it comes time to craft your response. Remember to always be professional and direct, address their concerns, and move the conversation into DMs, email, or over the phone.

Social media is also a great place to gather positive reviews and experiences from your customer base. When people share a photo of themselves enjoying time in your store, wearing your merch, or enjoying your hand-cut french fries, like their photo and ask if you can use it yourself! Plenty of businesses repost customer photos in their Instagram stories, showing their clients that they are seen and that your business cares about them and their experience. Not only does this make that one customer feel special, but other customers might then go and post photos using your products to get the chance at being featured themselves!

Take the first step towards being in control of your online reputation with Top Rated Local!

Your business’ online reputation is undoubtedly linked to online reviews and the way people engage with you and your business on social media. Top Rated Local has the resources you need to stay on top of your reviews and reputation. Best of all, listing your business with Top Rated Local is free!

Using Social Media to Improve Your Reputation, Part 1

Your online reputation is vital to your company’s success

By now, you have undoubtedly encountered the profile of a brand that has an amazing social media presence. You know the type: it has eye-catching content; they are engaged with their audience; they have a clear voice and tone, and they ultimately come across as trustworthy. In a world where consumers are making their purchasing decisions based on online reputation, it is more important than ever to know how to manage your own.

Social media has become an invaluable tool that can help you reach new audiences, gain reviews, manage your company’s reputation, and most importantly, it provides a space where you can instantly engage with your consumer base.

Luckily, having the kind of eye-catching and reputable social media presence that consumers love and trust is absolutely attainable to everyone, and not just to huge corporations and influencers!

To get started, we suggest first going through the following steps:

  • Find out where your reputation is at right now
  • Decide what you want your reputation to be
  • Create a policy or guide around your social media presence
  • Decide which social media platforms will help you reach your target audience

Find out where your reputation is at right now

Before getting started on the path of managing your business’ online reputation, you need to know where you currently stand. If this is something you have never looked into, it can feel overwhelming or scary to get started. Similar to a credit score or going to the dentist, ignoring your reputation and reviews isn’t going to fix them or make them go away. Also similar to a credit score or going to the dentist, if you are willing to invest a little time into educating yourself and putting in the work, you will be able to take control and get results you can be proud of. There are many sites available for the public to leave your business a review. While it may be tempting to stay in the dark when it comes to your reputation, stepping up and taking control of your listings is the first step towards showing your customers and potential future clients that you care about their feedback. We recommend getting started by claiming your business’ listings. Top Rated local is free, and is a great way to manage your business’s online reputation. It aggregates ratings and reviews from verified review sites online and then ranks businesses based on their overall Rating Score™. By using this incredible tool, you would be able to monitor and manage your reviews across a variety of sites, all from one place!

Understanding what people think about your company is a great place to start when it comes to figuring out what to do next in terms of your business’ reputation. If you go online and find out that people have had negative experiences regarding your business’ cleanliness or customer service skills, that’s something you’d want to address before you launch into a silly social media campaign.

Decide what you want your reputation to be

Using social media is a great way to keep in touch with your clients, your community, and your potential customers. With social media, you are also able to set the tone for how you would like your business to be seen by others. Do you want to be known for your unwavering professionalism, your playfulness, or maybe your approachableness? There’s not really a right answer here, but it is best to decide on a tone and stick with it.

Take Wendy’s for instance. They broke the mold when it comes to their voice on social media. They have become renowned for their quick quips and harsh humor. Their ability to snarkily torch competitors and fans alike even prompted them to create their own holiday, National Roast Day, where people, competitors, and other companies lined up for the chance to have Wendy’s throw some shade their way and publically roast them. They’ve said that they want their social media feed to be like their food — better than what you’d expect from a fast food place. And it worked! People are following and engaging with their accounts because they have used their social media to come across as more than a faceless corporation.

Now, the Wendy’s tone obviously isn’t the best model for every business, but every small business can take note when it comes to deciding what you want your voice and reputation to be, and sticking to it.

A strategy popularized by L’Oreal is to utilize its employees to highlight the company as an excellent employer, resulting in a better company culture, higher employee engagement, and doubling as a simple but effective recruitment tactic. Through the use of hashtags, L’Oreal employees are able to share what life is like in their offices, showcasing the company’s perks and culture. They are also able to share how they socialize and come together as a community, both at work and outside of the office. Any company can use a set hashtag to showcase its unique culture and community, and can use the resulting posts as free and engaging content on their own page! Does your staff always have the most impressive Halloween costumes? Do a few of your employees volunteer once a week? Do you rock a monthly office karaoke? Show it off! When it comes to forming trust in a company, there’s no better referral than authentic endorsements from its own happy employees!

By utilizing social media, you have the opportunity to show your customers and potential clients what is important to your company. It might be your awesome company culture, your commitment to customer service, your playful nature, or your unwavering excellence. Decide what that is and start to use your social media accounts to share it with the world!

Create a policy or guide around your social media presence

Once you have decided how you want to use your company’s social media accounts, you need to decide who has access to those accounts and what policies they will stick to when using them. As far as managing the account goes, it might be best to limit the number of people who are in charge, so as to best stick to your set tone and policies, and to minimize that potential for mistakes. When it comes down to making a decision about what policies to follow, start by thinking about what will help support your company’s goals, and go from there.

There is no need to overthink the kinds of policies you want to set, they can be really simple, like saying:

“Never share sensitive or confidential data with the public.”

You may not THINK that you have to lay out rules like that, but you would be surprised by what kinds of things people might not consider before sharing something on social media.

Ideally, the policies you set are less of a strict list of rules and are more of a few guidelines that help to direct you. Social media is constantly changing, so keep in mind that it would be beneficial to revisit your policies every once in a while to make sure your company is keeping up with the times. At its best, a set of social media policies is simple to understand, ever-evolving, concise, and straightforward. With a comprehensive and well-thought-out policy, you can stick to your brand identity and tone, outline how to manage social media while remaining compliant with laws regarding privacy, confidentiality, and copyright, and encourage employees to interact with and promote your brand.

Decide which social media platforms will help you reach your target audience

When it comes to social media, a world of ever-growing and ever-evolving options is available to you, so it is important to know about some of the bigger platforms and understand what each one does.

Pew Research has shown that Facebook and YouTube are the most popular platforms, and their users are the most broadly representative of the population as a whole; meaning that those platforms can likely help you reach the widest audience. Facebook’s official stated purpose is that people use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, discover what’s going on in the world, and share and express what matters to them. Based on its intended purpose, Facebook is a great tool for small, local businesses looking to connect within their own communities.

While it may sound tempting to throw your name out where the largest number of people might happen to see it, if you are trying to grow your company or drive more business your way, it might be best to focus on a target or niche audience. If you know your market, you will be more likely to find an engaged, active, and bought-in audience.

Of course, the type of business you have is another indicator of which social media site would work best to reach your target audience. Age demographics also play a role in which platform will reach the people you want to reach. Do your research, understand who uses which social media and why, and find what works for you!

Starting Your Social Media Journey

Utilizing social media platforms gives you the power to directly interact with your most loyal customers, your employees, similar businesses, and potential clients. With proper use, social media can show off what makes your business wonderful and give your customers a place where they can learn more about you.

Remember, start out by finding out what your customers are saying about you across review sites. You can do it for free right now with Top Rated Local! From there, you can start taking control of your online reputation and extending and promoting that reputation across whichever social media platforms work best for you and your business!

Don’t forget to check out the continuation of this article: Using Social Media to Improve Your Reputation, Part 2: Managing Your Profiles