Online customer reviews rival those of word-of-mouth recommendations when it comes to consumer trust. Follow our 5 step plan to begin building your brand on Yelp, Google, Facebook, and beyond.

Modern consumers use online research to learn more about a product they are interested in purchasing, a service provider they might hire, or a business that they are interested in working with before they take the plunge and buy.

Reviews are critical to this research and decision process, with consumers putting almost as much store in online reviews from other shoppers as they would a personal recommendation from someone they know.

The vital role reviews play in the purchase process means that you can’t afford not to take a proactive approach to online reputation management. The good news is that most consumers are open to leaving a review when asked—so even if building a strong review profile feels like a Herculean task for your local business, it is entirely possible.

Whether you have just a few reviews, too many negative reviews appearing prominently in search results or no reviews at all, our step-by-step guide will help you to grow your online reviews and navigate the entire online reputation management process from start to finish.

In addition to showing you how to get more customer reviews for your business, we’ll also share some tips to help you to grow online reviews you earn across a number of review platforms.

Step 1: Deliver an excellent customer experience

The first step to gaining more positive reviews for your business is to ensure that your customer experience warrants that five-star rating. Focusing on outstanding customer service is the best way to create a positive impression, which can then be translated into a great online review.

Step 2: Be proactive about requesting reviews

In our Local Consumer Review Survey, we found that 70% of consumers who were asked to leave reviews for local businesses went on to do so. While some customers will take it upon themselves to leave a review for your business without being prompted, others won’t, so it’s important that you get into the habit of always requesting a review from your customers.

There are a number of ways you can do this, including face-to-face, via email follow-ups, and on calls. Make it a habit to ask for feedback at some point during all business transactions using the method that seems most appropriate for that particular client.

You don’t need to have a cookie cutter approach, but automating the request process is an option if you’re limited on time. One easy way to do this is to use Link Mode to add a review link to the footer of all emails or build a review request email into your transactional email machine.

If you operate in a physical location, it’s good practice to ask your customers to leave you feedback immediately after their purchase. You can facilitate this process by having a tablet or other device available for review purposes in store near the point of sale. You can do this with Kiosk Mode within BrightLocal Reputation Manager.

If you provide clients with a service, such as a beauty appointment, plumbing job, or hotel booking, add a trigger for a few days afterward so that an automatic email requesting a review from the customer.

Step 3: Be strategic

Keep in mind that simply asking for a review may not always get you the results you want. Building a review generation strategy that focuses on growing reviews requires thinking about the when, the why, the how, and the way that reviews are asked for.

A common mistake is to wait too long before you ask for a review. Reaching out to customers three months after you’ve done business with them isn’t likely to bring you much success. Ensure you are asking your customers for feedback immediately after the transaction or soon after in a follow-up email.

Step 4: Offer a variety of review platforms

Once you know how to ask for reviews and have a process in place to do just that, turn your attention to how those reviews are going to be physically gathered.

It’s critical here to offer a variety of review platforms. If you only have TripAdvisor set up, for example, or restrict customers to Facebook reviews and recommendations, the consumers that don’t have a Facebook account or aren’t familiar with the platform could be discouraged from leaving a review.

Having a variety of options on offer puts you in a much better position to accrue more online reviews. If you haven’t already, establish profiles on Facebook, Yelp, Google My Business, and any niche online review sites that may apply to your industry, such as RateMDs.com, Angie’s List, UrbanSpoon.

Once those accounts are established, create a dedicated page on your website that features links to your profiles on Yelp, Google and the other review sites. Include a message that prompts visitors to write a review using the platform of their choice, but bear in mind that the rules around soliciting reviews are different for each platform.

It’s also much easier to transform verbal testimonials into positive online reviews when you offer a variety of platforms. Whenever you receive positive feedback from a client in an email, in person, or on the phone, get into the habit of asking the customer if they would mind turning their comments into an online review. Check which platform they prefer and then simply email a link to that source.

Keep in mind, too, that you can (and should) add links to your review platform profiles to your website and all customer-facing communication channels, including emails and social media feeds.

Step 5: Respond to reviews

The final piece of the puzzle actually lies in what you do after the review is received. Not only is the speed and frequency with which you reply to online reviews important, it also shows customers that their time and opinions are valued. Consumers are likely to feel more inclined to leave a review if they feel like their feedback is valued and listened to, so responding to reviews should be a critical part of your online review generation strategy.

Responding to negative reviews is just as important—if not more so—as acknowledging positive comments. Follow our guide to dealing with negative reviews if this seems like a minefield and you’ll be well on your way to crafting an authentic, sustainable, and valuable online reputation.

How to get reviews on Yelp

It’s important to note that it’s against Yelp’s guidelines for businesses to ask for Yelp reviews. Instead, make customers aware of your presence on Yelp, and focus on providing a service that deserves a review.

Yelp provides a number of resources for business owners and with just a little effort, you can use these to improve your online reputation. If you’re located in the USA or Canada, Yelp will give you a ‘Find Us On Yelp’ sticker to display at your place of business. Making customers aware that they can rate you on Yelp is key here so as before, make sure your Yelp profile is linked from your email footers and is easily discoverable on your website.

You can use Yelp’s features such as ‘request a quote’, ‘check in’ and ‘deals’ to grow your Yelp customer base—therefore making Yelp reviews much more likely. Before doing that, make sure your profile is fully set up, accurate and your business listing claimed.

You can embed your top reviews on your website and social media, and always remember to respond in a timely manner. This shows other Yelp users their feedback is valuable.

How to get reviews on Google

Knowing how to increase Google reviews is a really powerful tool for the local business owner. Studies have shown that having Google reviews directly correlates with better local pack rankings (though remember that this doesn’t equal causation).

Google is also a natural first port of call for many consumers when they’re searching for a product or service, so having a regular influx of positive reviews means your company is ripe for consideration from the very early stages of the buyer journey.

Google My Business’s Marketing Kit provides local businesses with assets designed to make use of existing reviews, generating stickers, posters, social posts and more to help local businesses grow their customer reviews. For more guidance on growing your Google reviews, take a look at our guide.

How to grow reviews and recommendations on Facebook

To get Facebook business reviews racking up, you’ll first need to enable the review function on your Page. Once you do this, anyone will be able to check in at your location and leave a Facebook review.

  1. To enable reviews, pull up your business Page
  2. Click Settings and then Edit page
  3. Select the Add A Tab option
  4. Click Add Tab next to Reviews

Reverse this process to remove reviews from your Page. Keep in mind that if you do this, all of your acquired reviews and recommendations will no longer be publicly visible.

How to get more customer reviews on TripAdvisor

According to TripAdvisor’s own research, 83% of travelers say TripAdvisor reviews give them the confidence to make the right travel decisions. If you’re in the travel industry, this makes a strong TripAdvisor review profile a real sales asset. The platform says that driving reviews can increase link activity by 25% and clicks by 32%.

TripAdvisor has a number of tools which you can use to encourage guests to leave a review, which include physical reminder cards which you can give to guests as they depart, a downloadable reminder flyer and ‘Review Express’, which is a collection tool that you can use to send a professional email to visitors requesting a review.

There’s also a TripAdvisor widget you can add to your website, and a Facebook app which will display your TripAdvisor reviews on your business Page. All tools can be accessed via the TripAdvisor management center.

Why Use BrightLocal for Reputation Management?

Here at BrightLocal, we recognize the need for local businesses to have stellar review profiles in order to continue to compete. Online reviews and feedback are becoming much more prominent in search and other areas, so building a trustworthy reputation and keeping that customer love is more important than ever.

That’s why we’ve developed online reputation management tools that allow you or your clients to generate, monitor, and showcase online reviews in a smooth, seamless, and successful way.

Reputation Manager is competitively priced, full-featured and easy to use. Learn how to revolutionize your online reviews with Reputation Manager today.