Are online reviews impacting businesses? Let’s cut to the chase! The answer is resounding yes. The popularity and relevance of online reviews have significantly grown today. People are using them in a big way to decide on which products or services are better and which aren’t. With the emergence of e-commerce and social media, the importance of online reviews has increased even further; they have become an integral part of the business on the internet. According to a report from BrightLocal, 93% of people regularly read online reviews, while 85% of them said they trust online reviews from strangers much in the same way as personal recommendations. Another research carried out by Harvard Business School revealed that a single increase in Yelp star rating could increase revenues by 5% to 9% for restaurants. This is an important and insightful finding. Good or bad reviews can make a big difference between success and failure of businesses. Consumers are better armed with information today by doing research before choosing any brand. The more pertinent question, therefore, is: Can reviews be managed and utilized to your advantage? Sure you can. Here is how you can manage online reviews to grow your business: Get your best customers to review your brand While excitement and satisfaction are still on about your product or service, you can use this opportunity to get those customers to review your brand. A certain percent of satisfied customers will take the time and make effort to review your company on sites like MerchantCircle and Yelp. But you have to make the process easy and convenient as possible. When you receive positive feedback highlight those customers who took the time to provide them. Ask if you can share their testimonials on your website and social media. You can go an extra yard by creating a short video regarding your interaction with your customers. For example, after a service call is complete, make a video personally thanking the customer for giving you the opportunity to work with him or her. This is a surefire way to get your customers talking about you in a positive way. The following image depicts a good example of a review written by a satisfied and one of the best customers. Identify your best options for online review sites Your business needs to be featured on Google search as it is the most prominent search engine, which is why you should have a presence on Google My Business along with a Facebook page. Yelp is also recommended for small businesses, especially if you directly deal with customers. The reason is pretty simple – you need to create more options for getting better online reviews. To that effect, there are hundreds of business directories and review sites that can increase your visibility and reputation. So when people look out for online reviews, they will be able to find the best information from most trusted sources. You can start by observing your competitors and note any review sites they are appearing on. Also, take a look what they pursue in terms of keywords. Certain other review sites like HomeAdvisor, TripAdvisor, FourSquare, and Avvo depending on your business, can help you dominate your search results. Furthermore, you don’t have to pursue every review site. By just completing a competitive analysis, you will be able to impress more customers. Another practice you may pursue is to find review sites that are specializing in your niche. This practice might be very beneficial for you: The number of sites you will have to cover is much lower and the reviews would be much more credible. For instance, if you are specializing in online products, your product review should appear on review sites like Bestonlinereviews, Amazon, etc. Use reviews to increase your brand exposure A significant part of your online reputation is attributed to your customer reviews – are you using them effectively? Online reviews aren’t just a reflection of your products and customer service; they also influence your search ranking. You are more likely to achieve a top search ranking for keywords associated with your brand if you register and use your brand’s domain name. Customer reviews are more like user-generated contents and they demonstrate why it’s so important to communicate with customers in their own language. When your customers review your offerings, they create unique and fresh contents. Since search engines prefer fresh content, your business will automatically rank higher. Google also allows AdWords users to include a review snippet, which helps your listing stand out from the rest. Thus, by using reviews in an effective manner, you can dramatically increase your visibility and credibility. Leverage positive reviews using influencer outreach Startups, as well as bigger brands both, have started working with influencers to draw in more customers, more so because it is highly cost-effective. According to a report by Tomoson, 51% of marketers claim to acquire better customers with the help of influencers. So the reviews provided by influencers about your brand can work wonders for your business. However, it is very important to identify right influencers. You need to select the most relevant and potential ones. The truth also is influencers need to manage their reputation also, hence they are more likely to work with successful brands. For that, you need to have a right strategy to approach them and convince them about your brand value. You can use many effective tools to find right influencers. For example, HYPR is an excellent tool that gives you valuable insights into influencers’ audience demographics. Proactively seek feedback Another effective way to manage online reviews is to proactively request feedback from your customers. You can make use of many platforms that allow you to email or text customers asking if they would like to refer your product or service to their friends and family. By proactively inviting them, they are more likely to post their positive comments on various review sites. Also, following your brand on social media by people is a strong signal that they are the advocates of your brand. This technique has been highly successful of late. If you know that you have satisfied customers, there is no need for shying away to tell them you are on sites that have reviews. Thus, being proactive in engaging with your customers allows you to drive new reviews. You also need to build an action plan how to handle negative reviews. Final Thoughts It is important to note, gaining positive reviews for your brand also has a lot to do with how your staff are engaging with your customers. Make sure your staff understands that their performance is vital. So a good staff engagement can be critical for inviting positive reviews, apart from the above mentioned tips.