Yelp! I Need Somebody (Help, Not Just Anybody)

Customer reviews and testimonials have always been important and Yelp is one of the first sites that come to mind. Potential customers may visit your Yelp page even before they come to your website or place of business. Here are some tips to help with reviews:

Make it easy for customers to find your business on Yelp by officially claiming it and filling it with all the right information and categories. Name, address and phone number changes could lead to duplicate listings, which is confusing.

Add your listing to crucial places like your website, Facebook profile, email signature and more. Also add stickers and decals on your windows, counter etc.

Encourage natural customer reviews. This means absolutely no fake reviews, incentives or compensation. Yelp’s filter is good at detecting and hiding fake or suspicious reviews.

Reach out to active and power users. Like the title of this post suggests, getting a positive Yelp review is great. But ideally, you don’t want just anyone to leave a review. And there’s a good reason too. If a n00b signs up for a Yelp account and leaves your business a positive review (and no reviews for other businesses), it might not even show up due to Yelp’s filter. If possible, you want those good reviews to come from someone who has authority in the local community and influence across different social networking sites.

Although this sounds difficult, it’s where being a business owner helps. Encourage Yelp check-ins for specials and coupons, this way, you can actually interact with customers and dig a little deeper to find out if they’re active on Yelp. Providing excellent service is key regardless.

Don’t appear too desperate or pushy for reviews. Instead, create open engagement by encouraging happy customers (and hopefully active users) to visit your Yelp page.

Stay on top of the mobile game. If you’ve used Yelp’s phone app, you’ll know that the “local” aspect isn’t completely accurate. Most of the time, top reviewed business listings will get preference, unless you specifically set the filter to display businesses by physical location.

Helpful Articles:
What We Can Learn About Taking Criticism & Reputation Management
Yelp in Your Words: Negative Review? Stop, Drop and Roll
- 11 Things You Didn’t Know About Yelp
5 Tips To Get More Online Customer Reviews
Buy Reviews on Yelp, Get Black Mark

Building Authority and Trust with Testimonials

testimonialsWhat’s the big deal with testimonials? As a small business, it’s important to recognize that potential customers place a lot of weight on reviews and that they are becoming increasingly influential. Testimonials can make or break your business’ credibility. In fact, a study from earlier this year shows that 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Many small business owners fear customer reviews, especially sites like Yelp or Citysearch where customers can “bomb” their listing with bad reviews. There are aspects of reviews you can’t completely control, but it’s important that you monitor your online reputation and respond in a timely and sincere manner. Reviews are important to customers because it helps them determine if the business is reputable and trustworthy. Here are 4 easy steps you can take to buildup and showcase positive testimonials:

Make it Easy for Customers to Review and Leave Feedback
This is where an easy to access Testimonials page on your site can help. You are in complete control of this content and you can also add success stories, effective case results and other content to supplement positive customer experiences. It can also be as easy as leaving a Leave Feedback button or dedicated space on your site.
Some businesses even post links to all their listings to make it easier for customers to find. For example, have a page with links to your Google + Business/Bing/Yahoo local page, Yelp, Super Pages, Kudzu listings and more. That way, customers don’t have to go digging around to leave reviews and leave them in the appropriate place.

Asking for Reviews
If your business is lacking online reviews, it doesn’t hurt to ask recent clients for an honest review. The key here is to ask them for a testimonial and not to push the fact that you are expecting a “good” review from them. Make your customers feel important and let them know that you will take their questions and concerns into consideration. You can make it convenient by showing customers links to your Google Places page, Yelp page, and other reputable review sites.

Send a Form for Testimonials
After a project is completed, you can also e-mail clients a generic form to fill out. This eliminates the hassle of asking them to sign up for review sites in order to leave a review for your business. These reviews can be placed throughout your site and expanded on through Case Results, press releases and even blog posts.

Implement Microformats to Highlight Positive Reviews

Have you been noticing 5 star reviews (not related to review sites) like this showing up? This snippet makes a big impact if you’re on the first page for competitive keywords and will help bring in more clicks. Learn more about how you can easily implement that on your own site here.

Add Video Testimonials
Adding videos of actual customer testimonials is an easy way to add a personable touch to your website. It’s one thing to talk about yourself and the effectiveness of your business, but testimonials from a real-life client brings that trust to a whole ‘nother level. Learn more about video marketing for your business here.

For some businesses, gathering and monitoring reviews may seem like an afterthought that takes up too much time. Remember, it is the little things such as this that will help build credibility and trust which will help bring in more conversions and that’s what matters.

Video Marketing Opportunities for Small Businesses

youtube ad

Some small businesses may not be aware of how video marketing services can greatly benefit their online reputation. Let’s take a look at 3 ways videos can help your business:

1) Improve Customer Relations – Videos are a great platform to do webinars, short Q&A’s, tutorials and more. In these cases, the content is free and easily accessible so that you help establish your company as a credible source of information when customers need more assistance. On the other hand, some larger companies (Domino’s and Playstation) have used videos as a medium to quickly apologize and address unhappy customers. Either way, it helps to utilize and integrate a different form of communication via video.

2) Enhance Brand Awareness – When you create videos, this shows passion and knowledge that you have for your specific industry. Not to mention that putting a face to your business helps establish trust and a genuine representation of your company. (Just think of what Matt Cutts represents for Google and Rand Fishkin for SEOmoz.)

3) Reach a Larger Audience – If you’re interesting in using video ads to promote your business on YouTube, that’s now possible! In a way, it works like Adsense, where a company can bid on keywords that are related to their business. With more users on YouTube, don’t expect this ad trend to disappear. This is an area that small businesses can really embrace to find relevant customers.

Find out more about video marketing in these related blog posts:
Does Your Business Use Facebook Video?
Video Marketing for Your Business

What We Can Learn About Taking Criticism & Reputation Management

Sometimes, the blogosphere feels like a small place that is relaxed and almost too casual. As a regular reader/blogger you might feel the need to respond immediately to criticism. But as a owner or manager, you have to think about how your words will reflect upon your brand or company that you represent. There is no exact science in how you should respond to “negative” comments you come across and there might not even be a need to respond sometimes.

What brings me to this point is some comments in this article about ranking decreases on Search Engine Journal. (Interesting and valuable read, I might add.) A self-proclaimed SEO at JCPenney made some comments and you can read them for yourself – was this really necessary over 1 year after the “event” had taken place. I know this wasn’t an official statement but it seemed off-putting to me. For those of you who are fuzzy about JCPenney’s run in with Google’s penalization, this may refresh your memory.

Anyways, here are some takeaways from that are inspired by this dialogue and others like it:

1) Don’t appear so defensive – This is something that we all see so often. Many people feel the need to come out with fists flying and like they are so offended that they have to put up a defensive barrier. Even though a timely response is seen as a good thing, it doesn’t help to post an emotionally charged response without thinking things through. This might be ok for flame wars or YouTube comments but not if you’re representing or associated with a company. What’s even worse… immediately deleting a negative comment.

2) Don’t change the subject and bringing up other irrelevant topics – Another thing that is common is to try to shift the focus and somehow turn the blame on the comment/commenter. When this occurs, with especially a valid point, it makes your company seem less credible and trustworthy. This reminds me of a client who got a negative comment and responded by shifting the blame on a name mix-up! As in… “It wasn’t us! It was someone who went by a similar name who happens to be in the same area…” Regardless of the situation, it’s important to present a calm response and take the conversation off a public forum. Reputation management should not consist of the blame game or being so eager to teach a lesson to people who don’t agree with you.

3) Don’t not provide a solution – One thing I don’t get is when responses don’t provide a solution. While you could go back and forth on criticism made, it doesn’t help to bring up the past and not show what you are doing to improve the situation. This is what effective reputation management is all about, going forward and focusing on the good that the company can provide.

4) Be positive and useful – Sometimes, things just come across more cold and unfriendly in text. This isn’t to say that you should be overly enthusiastic but you should be mindful of how your responses are read and if it’s easy for an angry or sarcastic tone can be applied to what you wrote. If someone has an opposing view, you can respond with your side of the story and facts to back it up. It’s not as simple as just telling them that they are wrong or that they don’t know the whole story without presenting any credible proof – especially if you’re focused on maintaining a company’s integrity and image after a mishap.

This post isn’t about ragging on jcp, as it’s just small example of many situations. It’s a difficult position to be in to respond to negative comments and we can all learn from these and be prepared. If you have any other thoughts on responding to negative comments and such, it would be great to hear it.

Why You Should Never Immediately Delete a Negative Comment

If you receive a negative comment, reply or message on any of your social media profiles, your first instinct would probably be to delete it before anyone sees it. But you can turn this negative into positive if you resist the urge to delete.

Resisting the Urge

Let’s say you do get rid of the comment – you’ll also immediately lose the chance of getting more information about that customer and getting to the root of their (and your) problem. As much as we’d like it to, deleting this comment won’t make the angry customer go away. What’s even worse is failing to recognize if your business or employees have wronged a customer. We’ve all heard that a satisfied customer might tell a few of their friends about your business. But an unhappy customer will go out of their way to let the whole world know!

Making Your Problems Worse

In fact, it could make your online reputation problems even worse. Have you ever heard of a little thing called Ripoff Report? This site is notorious for publishing all types of uncensored complaints from customers. The real kicker is that they NEVER (or almost never) remove these complaints, whether it’s unwarranted or not.  So, before you know it, that one quip on Facebook could turn into a permanent black mark on your brand’s name.

A Quick Response is Better

If you delete a customer’s comment, it will only make them more angry and ensure that you’ll lose their business. Instead, try to reach out on the public forum to show that you take customer service concerns very seriously. Converting a once unsatisfied customer could turn them into a new brand ambassador for your business, and at they may even follow up on their initial complaint. The bottom line is that you need to show that you’re paying attention to their comments and complains instead of just trying to make them disappear.

With the instantness and speed of social media sites, it’s important to learn about how to respond to all types of comments. Oh yeah, don’t forget to keep everyone on your team up to date about the response protocol. Keep your eyes, ears, and mind open so that you won’t have to fear a negative comment again!

Managing Your Online Reputation

As Joan Jett famously sang,”I don’t give a damn ’bout my bad reputation.

If you’re amongst the few with this mindset, there’s always room for improvement. One important aspect of social media marketing is managing your online reputation. And that consists of two basic parts:

1) Staying alert about negative feedback
2) Being ready to respond quickly and appropriately

Social Media Monitoring
There are many different tools and services that can keep you updated on what’s been said abut your business. Good ol’ Google Alerts should be the first on your list and it’s also free. Radian 6 and Monitter are a few others that come to mind.

Regular participation on your social media profiles should also help if you get any customer inquires or direct complaints. (Another reason why you shouldn’t just create profiles and let them sit there.) Remember, these are only tools that will help you be more aware of customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Crafting a response is another area to focus on.

Choosing an Appropriate Response

When I see a bad review on Yelp or Facebook, it’s always refreshing to see a meaningful reply from the business owner. Unless, it’s something like this: “Why don’t you come in here and say it to my face?”

As verified business owner, you can respond directly to reviews on Yelp, Google Places or Yahoo! Local Listings. But remember, your online reputation and future business is on the line, so it’s probably not wise to blame or threaten the customer. There are many things you can do in these cases but it’s best to take action first – especially before the complaints pile up. You can invite the customer to a more private mode of communication and help fix their problem. You can also apologize for their experience and invite them to try your products/services again. I’ve seen this happen many times with reviews reversed (from bad to good) when customers are offered a second chance.

Brand monitoring is a key function of social media marketing. Don’t let your little problems snowball into a reputation crisis that you can’t avert!