Six Ways To Get Customer Reviews That Boost Your Local Search Rankings

September 29th, 2009 by Priya Shah

SEO experts are almost unanimous in their agreement that customer reviews play a crucial role in boosting visibility and rankings in the local search results. So how can you use this information to leverage local search rankings for your own business?

In a previous post, we discussed how a pro-active approach to customer service and feedback can boost your business reputation online. Positive reviews are a sign of trust, and that carries a great deal of weight in search rankings. Happy customers are an excellent source of positive feedback and reviews.

For businesses trying to boost their visibility in local search, online customer reviews on Google Maps pages and third-party review sites are crucial to higher rankings. Although negative reviews can hurt your overall business reputation, they don’t adversely impact your search rankings.

If you’re worried about negative reviews, take comfort in the knowledge that search engines don’t really differentiate between positive and negative reviews. As local search expert, Matt McGee, points out, “There’s no such thing as a negative rating. There are only degrees of positivity.”

So, how do you go about getting your customers to post reviews on Google? Yes, you could outsource that to a company that handles SEO and reputation-management for its clients. But as local search expert, Mary Bowling notes, “It helps with trust that the review is legitimate and not gamed.”

Here are six tips on getting more customer reviews than you can handle and leveraging the ones you have to boost your local search rankings.

1. Ask and You Shall Receive

Taking a pro-active stance is the best approach where customer reviews are concerned. When a client or customer offers praise or positive verbal feedback, ask whether they would be willing to be quoted online and email them a link where they can post a review. You’d be surprised how many of them are happy to recommend a product or service they really like.

2. Offer Incentives – Not Bribes

For those customers who get a little lazy with filling out forms online, a little incentive could give them the push they need to get that review posted. Ethically, this must be approached carefully. You can offer coupons, discounts or freebies to those customers who post a review online. It should not be stipulated that it must be a positive review. If worded “leave us a great review, and you can get 20% off your next purchase,” it’s a bribe.

You could even have a monthly draw for customer review/feedback. Mike Blumenthal offers tips on using Leavefeedback.org, a site created by Michael Jensen of SoloSEO that facilitates review creation.

3. Complete The Sentence…

One trick that many companies use to get customers to write a review is to give them a feedback form on the way out. One section of the form is usually devoted to asking for comments. Customers who have trouble filling that section in, are more likely to do it if you use a “complete the sentence” format in that area.

For instance, “I love (Your Business Name) because ____________”. If this form is available on your website, you could email them and ask for feedback anytime while offering incentives for those who do give it. Always ask your customer for permission to post their comments on your website and on review sites online, along with their name (or initials) and location.

4. Use Social Proof

When you first create your local business listing on yellow pages, review sites and business listing sites, a blank review page could keep many potential reviews away. People are more likely to post reviews for a business that already has a number of reviews online.

As long as they’re legitimate and you create a separate profile for each review, you can use customer reviews from your website and feedback forms to populate these sites and provide social proof for the hesitant ones.

5. Cut Down On Negativity

Companies have little control over what is posted about them online, but by engaging directly with your public, you can respond to negative reviews quickly and minimize their impact.

Almost every business creates a couple of dissatisfied customers, and the more malicious ones could post negative reviews that harm your business reputation. The best way to minimize their impact is to get many more positive reviews than negative ones.

6. Engage With Your Audience

Don’t let the conversation online go unanswered. Respond to feedback promptly and appropriately and thank users for positive reviews posted. Contact reviewers who post negative comments with an incentive to change their review. Offer them a coupon for your products or special service that will help them change their opinion about your company.

Feel free to use these tips to get more customer reviews. It’s a great way to improve your visibility and rankings in the local search results.