Here at ReviewTrackers we believe that one of the best ways to build your business reputation is by generating online reviews. And one of the best ways to generate online reviews is by asking customers to write and post them for you, on major sites like TripAdvisor, Google+, Facebook, Foursquare, etc.
(We would normally add Yelp to the list, but the popular review site’s content guidelines prevent local businesses from reaching out to customers for reviews.)
It’s no surprise that one of the ReviewTrackers features our business clients love the most is the Review Request tool, which identifies happy customers and creates beautiful and customizable review request E-mails to be sent to these customers.
DO: Generate new reviews
By making the effort to increase their quantity of online reviews, local businesses can:
- Boost local search performance. Review signals (quality of reviews, quantity of reviews, etc.) are an important ranking factor in local search.
- Improve online ratings. Cornell research shows that, as a business receives more reviews, the aggregated rating is likely to increase.
- Strengthen your reputation. The higher your ratings are, the stronger your online reputation gets. An increase in both the quantity and quality of your reviews can also minimize the impact that negative comments and low ratings may have on your business.
- Understand customers better. Even if the new reviews aren’t overwhelmingly positive – and contain some harsh but warranted criticisms – you’re still creating structured opportunities to understand customers’ attitudes better and identify which aspects of your performance can be improved.
DON’T: Incentivize reviews
There is one critical point we have to make about your review management and generation efforts: do not “incentivize” your reviews. If you’re asking customers to review your business, don’t give them rewards or incentives of any sort.
Even giving discounts to reviewers count as giving them incentives. Just this week, the FTC cracked down on an auto shipment broker called AmeriFreight for misrepresenting its online reviews. According to the FTC’s press release, the company failed to disclose the fact that it gave rewards (in the form of $50 discounts) to customers who posted reviews, and was thus guilty of deceptively representing that its glowing reputation and great reviews were based on the unbiased opinions of its customers.
FTC found AmeriFreight in violation of the guidelines it set in 2009, on the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising.
“With a blog post, testimonial, review or celebrity endorsement, if there is any form of compensation or close relationship between the party giving the endorsement and the business receiving it, it is required that the relationship be made explicit,” wrote Local U’s Mike Blumenthal. “It is now clear that these rules apply to online reviews for local businesses as well.”
It’s also illegal to incentivize reviews even if there’s no requirement that the review should be positive. In 2013, New York regulators cracked down on 19 companies caught faking online reviews. One of these companies was actually a tooth whitening service company that gave away $10 coupons in return for any review, regardless of whether it was good or bad.
“Endorsements (such a positive reviews and high ratings) are an important tool for advertisers and they can be persuasive to consumers,” FTC’s website states. “But the law says they also have to be truthful and not misleading. If there is a connection between the endorser and the marketer of a product that would affect how people evaluate the endorsement, it should be disclosed.”
We’re not saying you should stop asking customers for reviews. Just don’t give them rewards for it. For more tips and tricks to help you with your review and reputation management program, here’s a list of ethical ways to generate more online reviews.