From “never going back” to “couldn’t have been nicer,” all it takes is a few keystrokes on a reviews site such as Yelp or Citysearch for one happy/disgruntled customer to add /subtract in a major way to your bottom line.
The good news is that review sites offer small business owners the opportunity to manage their online profiles and respond to reviews. In most cases, it’s free and just requires you to find your profile page on the site, click a “claim this business” button, give a business email or phone number, then wait to be verified by the site. You’d be smart to take full advantage of this opportunity. It costs nothing, but can cost you a lot more if you don’t pay attention to what’s being said about your business.
Here’s a quick guide for small business owners to some of the major sites for reviews, ratings and recommendations:
Unusual for a reviews site, Yelp allows business owners to respond publicly to a review and privately in a message that only the reviewer can see. This gives the businessperson an opportunity to explain his or her side, possibly leading the reviewer to reconsider. For private messaging, Yelp requires that the business owner include a photo, to help humanize the conversation. Yelp will only remove a review if it violates the site’s content guidelines. It says that it scans reviews to eliminate fakes. Check Yelp’s helpful Support Center for business.
Yahoo! offers only public response to reviews, but users can go back in and revise their review if they have second thoughts. The site does not filter comments but if you report nasty behavior they may consent to block the user’s access to your page. Sign up at their free listing page.
Citysearch (City Grid Media)
Business owners with a free listing can respond publicly to a review but readers have to click to see the response. A paid listing gives the owner’s response a prominent spot under the review. Owners can’t privately message a reviewer but the reviewer can go back and edit a review. The site will remove reviews that violate content guidelines but don’t proactively look to knock them out. Find your profile and click to claim it or visit the paid advertising page.
This site has a different model: Consumers pay for membership and only members can review a business. You can register your business for free and then respond to reviews, and you can encourage your customers to weigh in by handing out review forms. Editors check the reviews against content guidelines and may ask a member to revise it. Angie’s List will take down a review if the reviewer’s claims are disproven through the company’s complaint resolution process. You can’t pay for positioning on Angie’s List, but you can offer coupons or discounts if members rate your business an A or B.
Businesses can create a free profile and respond to reviews. Reviewers can rewrite their reviews if they have second thoughts. If contacted by the business, the site will consider deleting reviews based on the editorial policy. In addition to reviews posted by Dexknows.com users, the site displays reviews from Yelp; to respond to those, you’ll have to go directly to Yelp.
The most popular social media site isn’t about reviews, strictly speaking, but there are plenty of opinions being expressed about businesses. If you’re a retail business or restaurant, chances are Facebook already has a generic listing page (called a Place) about you, where users can post comments. You can’t answer comments, however, until you go through the following steps: Create a personal profile on Facebook. Set up a page for your business, including the address. Claim the Place page, then merge the two. You will also be able to delete comments — but use your power wisely. Customers will catch on if all the comments are very positive.
With this social media service, users “check in” to a local business when they visit and write “tips,” short comments about the place. Owners can claim their venue on Foursquare for free.
Google’s location pages for local business display reviews by Google users and link to other review sites. Business owners can claim their Places, respond to reviews and “flag as inappropriate” review comments that violate Google’s content policy to request that Google remove offensive comments. Google displays links to Places prominently in its local-search returns so these pages are important to claim and monitor.
The top-ranked travel site offers free listings for restaurants and hotels and business owners can respond publicly to any comments. Check their help page for business owners.
Helpful tip: Reputation management tools can pull together what is being said about your business online and display it in a single dashboard for you to look at. This is a handy way to keep track of all the online ratings and reviews, instead of having to go to each of the sites listed above.