Online reviews are critical to SEO, brand perception, operational improvement, and overall business growth — that has not changed. However, different review sites have different stances on how businesses should get reviews, and businesses need to be sure they’re in line with each one.
Yelp is a recent example. Earlier this week, many local businesses received this email:
This notification is being sent to all businesses and users that appear to be soliciting reviews from their customers in any way. It might seem a little scary, but it’s just a reminder to abide by the same policies Yelp has had all along.
Yelp is simply securing their place in the market in a different way, so you need to approach Yelp reviews in a different way than reviews on sites like Google or TripAdvisor. Again, nothing has changed, but if you haven’t been acting in compliance to Yelp’s policies, you should start doing so now. In an effort to conserve authenticity, Yelp has now begun flagging profiles of businesses they believe have solicited reviews and sending them a warning email like the one above. Businesses can fill out a compliance form and the flag will be removed from their profile once Yelp is certain the review solicitation has stopped.
“But I want more Yelp reviews!”
While you’re not permitted to ask customers to review you on Yelp, it’s totally fine for you to guide customers to your Yelp business profile so they can see what other customers have said, and, if they want, leave a review of their own. The best way to ensure they leave a review? Give them an awesome experience that they want to talk about.
That’s what reviews are, after all: genuine opinions about personal experiences. They help customers know what to expect, and they help businesses learn what to improve.
Yes, reviews boost your search engine ranking and help you stand out from competitors, but they do so much more than that. They also provide critical customer insights and build brand loyalty — both are absolutely necessary for a business’ long-term success.
Yelp CEO Joe Stoppelman recognizes this, explaining in an interview with Wall Street Journal: “It’s crucial to maintaining consumer trust to keep reviews and advertising separate. Reviews are recommended to consumers by software that is impartial to advertisers or any other commercial relationship.”
So instead of just stacking up piles and piles of reviews and calling that success, it’s imperative to actually take a look at the content in the reviews — prospective customers are looking at it already, and they’ll be able to tell if you aren’t.
How to build brand loyalty with online reviews:
- Monitor all your reviews from all sites in real-time
- Setup alerts for every time a new review is posted about your business
- Respond to both positive and negative reviews promptly and thoughtfully
- Analyze reviews to identify recurring issues and pinpoint their root cause
Reviews let you measure the success of the products and services you’re providing, and help you understand your overall business performance in ways that hard data cannot. They provide visibility into customer interactions at an individual location and employee level. They give context to financial metrics and reveal precisely what you’re doing right and what you can improve to increase customer happiness and subsequently revenue.
Bottom line: businesses cannot afford to ignore their existing customers in their efforts to acquire new ones. Sites like Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, OpenTable, and Amazon do not have such a hard line when it comes to review solicitation, so by all means, continue asking customers for feedback on these sites and others, but remember: the value of reviews lies not only in how many you have, but in the experiences described within each one. If you’re only focusing on getting more reviews, you can’t expect your ratings to keep going up on their own. Think of each customer review as the beginning of a conversation, and make sure it continues.