How Business Owners Can Control Their Destiny With a Single Webpage
As many business owners struggle to keep up with reviews online, consider this: what if you owned the reviews page? As in, created a single page on your website where potential customers can read testimonials from happy customers. It’s a simple idea, but one that can pay off big for your business.
This idea comes from my friend Matt Antonino, who provided search engine optimization (SEO) services to wedding photographers for several years. For the wedding photographers Matt consulted, there is simply no end to the number of review sites that exist. The Knot, WeddingWire, Yelp, Wedding Channel, OneWed, Google+, Thumbtack, Yahoo! Voices…there are many more. Other service-based businesses have a similar unending list. Restaurants have UrbanSpoon, Zagat, and TripAdvisor, contractors have Angie’s List, Home Advisor, Houzz, and more.
On these websites are varying levels of security for business owners. Some take sourcing legitimate reviews very seriously, carefully identifying fake reviews and flagging or removing them. But as the web continues to explode with an endless parade of websites where customers can leave reviews, the potential for anonymous, fake commenters grows.
The Risk of Fake Reviews is Real
On nearly every review site, your competition, personal contacts, or simply grumpy people can leave terrible, anonymous reviews. We’ve seen it happen just this week, as Internet pranksters took over the Yelp page of a self-proclaimed homophobe, dubbing it the “best gay bar in town.”
A funny joke (played on a man who seems like he can’t take one), but this prank illustrates the possibility for fake reviews from “customers” who have absolutely no relationship with you. In fact, most of the reviews from pranksters came from states far away from the local bar in Oklahoma: New York, California, Illinois. And as of this posting, the days-old reviews that are clearly fake have not yet been removed by Yelp.
If you find fake reviews, most sites will allow business owners to contest reviews that are not from real customers. But there’s always the risk that with so many sites, you may not find every review, or worse, that the websites will refuse to remove fake reviews.
Own Your Search Results: Share Your Online Reviews
While you shouldn’t shut down your Yelp account just yet, as a business owner, you should take steps to own your reputation online. When a potential customer Googles “your company reviews,” they should see more than Yelp and Google+. Your own page should be there, too.
A reviews page on your own website is likely to rank competitively on search engine results with Yelp and other review sites. With time, it may even outperform them, allowing you to own the top search engine result for reviews of your company.
It’s a simple solution to a real problem for business owners: create your own reviews page. Populate it with real feedback from people that you know to be legitimate customers with true, fair assessments of your business — because you actually remember working with them! Customers may still check Yelp or other sites (and ideally, find positive reviews there, too), but if your page is honest and transparent, you can gain their trust.
Tips for Creating Your Own Reviews Page:
- Make it fair. A review page on your own website only works if customers feel they can trust what they’re reading. Instill confidence in your reviews by not just cherry picking your ideal customers. You should also highlight critical reviews that are still positive overall. For example, a home services company might share a review that says the technician was 10 minutes late — but that he apologized and made up for it with great service at a fair price.
- Post quiet feedback. Some of your kindest reviews from customers may never see the light of day online — until you share them. Post glowing emails, letters, and photos of satisfied customers as they walk out your door.
- Keep it real. When you own the reviews page, it’s on you to reassure customers that you’re telling the truth. Coming straight from your company, they’re likely expecting to find embellished reviews or even fictitious ones. Resist the temptation to create a fake customer review that praises all of your best qualities. Most consumers are savvy enough to sniff out what’s real and what’s not, and the presence of just one fake review is enough to make them distrust the rest of your hard earned legitimate reviews.
- Show proof that your reviews are real. How can website visitors verify that the reviews you’re sharing are from real customers? Ideally, you’ll be able to show them proof. On Matt’s reviews page, he has links to the photographer websites he worked on attached to each review. Wedding photographers can post client photos along with their review, others can post screen shots of positive comments on Facebook or Twitter. Even a full name, date, and location can instill confidence if your customers are willing to share them. Whatever you can do to show that your reviews are real, do it.
- Consider search engine optimization (SEO). Your single page of reviews is powerful, but it has a lot of competition on Google. With so many review sites available, the results for “your company reviews” are likely to be flooded and may be tough to break into as a new page. But with the right formatting, you can leap to the front of the pack. Ideally, your page should be hosted on www.yourcompanysite.com/your-company-reviews, with a similar title of “Your Company Reviews.” Also consider adding “your company reviews” and similar keyword phrases to more advanced SEO measures, including image alt tags, meta titles, and meta descriptions.
- Ask for reviews. We all know that ticked off customers may be rushing to write a nasty review on their phone from your own parking lot, but a happy customer may not feel a need to share their feedback at all. But getting positive reviews from these customers may be as easy as simply asking for them. Make asking for reviews part of your customer process. When you close a file or deliver your final product, take the opportunity to ask for reviews — either for your site or third party review sites, or even both.
There’s no stopping the growth of review websites and with them, the risk of fake reviews. And while third party review sites should be a part of your overall online reputation management strategy, it certainly doesn’t hurt to take small measures to control of your own reviews. Make your website the most trusted source for reviews online, and you’ll gain the confidence of potential customers.