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Online reviews on websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Zomato, Google, and Facebook play a major role in shaping the purchase behavior of today’s consumers. To understand how consumers feel about them, smart brands are investing in online review monitoring — tools that help them track what is said about their business online.

According to the latest research:

  • Reviews influence purchase decisions: 4 in 5 American consumers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. 79 percent do so to make sure the product or service is good, 61 percent read reviews to make sure the product or service works, and 53 percent read reviews to make sure that they don’t get ripped off.
  • Reviews can affect brand reputation. 4 in 5 consumers reverse their purchase decisions based on negative reviews, while positive reviews and ratings can sway a consumer to pay nearly 9 percent more for a product or service.
  • Reviews are an important trust factor: 32 percent read at least 4 to 6 reviews before they put enough trust in a business. According to studies, reviews inspire twice as much trust as general social networking “likes.”
  • Reviews have a major impact on SEO: Reviews can influence up to 10 percent of a business’ search ranking, and are one of the top seven factors that determine local search results.

Smart marketing executives and business owners know that the first step to effectively managing online reviews and customer feedback is to monitor what customers are saying online, across all relevant websites and channels.

Online Review Monitoring Dos and Don’ts

If you’re just getting started with review monitoring, you may be curious to find out what the best practices are. Here’s a list of dos and don’ts to help you monitor online reviews and drive the best results from your efforts:

Do claim your business listings and review profiles. Setting up your business profiles on sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, and Facebook puts you in a position to gain greater control of what customers are saying online.

Let’s get this straight, though: 99 percent of the time, you won’t be able to censor or delete reviews. But by planting your flags in places where people are talking about your brand, you can listen more carefully and accurately to customer feedback, get notified of new reviews, and even respond to your customers in ways that protect your brand reputation.

Do respond to reviews and say thank you. Engage with vocal customers by responding publicly to reviews. Research studies found that 78 percent of consumers believe that a business cares more about them whenever they see management respond to reviews. And don’t forget to say thank you, too: it’s a great way of showing the reviewer and the rest of your audience that you value customer feedback, regardless of star rating.

Do dive deeper into customer feedback. Often, your customers’ reviews, particularly those that are candid and highly detailed, will reveal important information that your business needs to know: high-impact customer experience issues and trends, operational problems, improvement opportunities.

An online reputation management service or a review monitoring tool with text analytics features can make your process a hundred times more efficient, but it shouldn’t serve as a substitute for human review reading. Set aside some time every day or every week for reading your online reviews and analyzing customer feedback. What you find out may surprise you.

Do promote your brand presence on online review sites. Not getting enough reviews? Maybe a simple “Find Us on Yelp” sticker on your entrance door or a link to your TripAdvisor listing in your e-mail signature can help.

By expanding your marketing efforts outside your home base (your website) and promoting your brand presence on online review sites, you can more effectively inspire consumer trust, and even stir passive fans into review-writing, testimonial-giving promoters and evangelists.   

Meanwhile, here are some common mistakes you should avoid:

Don’t lose your cool. It’s okay to have an emotional reaction whenever someone criticizes your business, but remember that nothing good has ever come out of writing angry responses to negative reviews. Stay cool, calm, and collected, and opt for professional, resolution-driven responses. (You definitely don’t want to end up like these guys.)

Don’t discard negative feedback. Sometimes, bad feedback can be good for your business. When monitoring online reviews, pay close attention to what your critics are saying. They just might have something constructive to say about your business, and their feedback may even help you find improvement opportunities you would otherwise have missed.

Don’t bribe customers in exchange for positive reviews. Some lazy marketers try to manipulate reviews by bribing customers to leave only positive feedback, or by hiring freelance writers to drown out low ratings with 5-star raves.

These practices can cause long-term damage to your brand reputation. Even worse, you risk being penalized by the host review site as well as by government regulators like the FTC.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on and experiences in review monitoring. What’s your process like, and what are some of the issues you have encountered? Let us know in the comments section below.

Migs Bassig

Migs is the Content Manager for ReviewTrackers. He's a creative writer who has helped numerous companies communicate more effectively online, and he loves sharing his local marketing knowledge to help brands and business succeed.