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!

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