How to Attract More Online Reviews for Your Local Business

If you own a local business, you should focus on attracting more online reviews from customers. According to BrightLocal's 2018 Local Consumer Review Survey, nearly 9 in 10 consumers search for local business reviews online. If a prospective customer discovers lots of genuine, positive reviews, he or she will feel more confident in visiting your business and making a purchase. But, how exactly do you compel customers to leave a review?


Create or Claim Profiles on Local Business Review Platforms


Start by creating a profile for your local business -- or claiming the profile if someone else has already created it -- on relevant local business review platforms. If your local business isn't listed on a particular review platform, customers won't be able to leave a review. You don't have to create a listing on all local business review platforms. Rather, target the platforms used most frequently used by your customers, ensuring your listings are complete and accurate.


Some of the leading local business review platforms include:

• Google My Business

• Facebook

• Yelp

• Angie's List

• TripAdvisor


Embed Existing Reviews on Your Local Business's Website


Take some of your local business's existing online reviews -- choose positive reviews, of course -- and embed them into your website. With the exception of Google My Business, most review platforms support embedded reviews. After copying the embed code of a review, paste it into the desired location of your website's code, at which point the review will become part of your site's content.


Embedding reviews on your website will educate customers about where your local business is listed online. If you embed a Yelp review on your website, for example, customers who visit you visit your site will see your local business is listed on Yelp. If you embed a TripAdvisor review, they'll see your local business is listed on TripAdvisor. Furthermore, embedded reviews usually contain one or more links to the review platform on which they were originally created, allowing customers who visit your website to easily leave their own review.


Don't Incentivize Online Reviews


While it may sound like an effective tactic to attract online reviews, you shouldn't offer customers a free product, discount or anything else of value in exchange for leaving a review. Known as an incentivizing, it's strictly prohibited by all reputable review platforms.


Incentivizing is a form of review manipulation. If you reward a customer with a 15 percent off coupon for leaving a review, he or she may feel obligated to leave a five-star review, even if the customer thought your local business was only worthy of a three- or four-star review.


In some cases, incentivizing online reviews is illegal. As per the Truth in Advertising, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires businesses to disclose any instance in which it compensates a customer for a review or testimonial. While the FTC typically only targets larger companies for nondisclosure violation such as this, it's best to err on the side caution by avoiding incentivized reviews altogether.


Use Caution When Soliciting Online Reviews


Assuming you don't reward them for it, you can usually ask customers to leave a review of your local business, but you should check the review platform's terms and conditions beforehand.


On Yelp, you cannot explicitly ask customers to leave a review. To encourage customers to write a review on Yelp or any other platform where review solicitation is prohibited, ask them to "check out" your local business on the platform instead. You'll still drive customers to the review platform, but you won't be breaking the platform's terms and conditions on review solicitation.


Ask Customers When They Are Most Satisfied


Timing is critical when asking customers to leave a review of your local business. You'll attract more reviews, as well as a higher ratio of positive to negative reviews, if you ask customers to leave a review when they are most satisfied.


To gauge a customer's level of satisfaction, look for cues. If the customer is still at your business's store, consider approaching him or her and asking about their experience. Most customers will gladly share their thoughts, providing you with invaluable information about the quality of your business's products or services as well as the customer's level of satisfaction.


If a customer has already left your store, review your local business's customer service communications to see whether he or she encountered or problems. When you're confident the customer is highly satisfied, ask him or her to leave a review -- or check out your local business -- on the appropriate review platforms.


Send Customers a Reminder Email


If you collect customers' email addresses, you can send them an email reminding them to leave a review. Email is oftentimes a more effective channel for attracting online reviews than face-to-face solicitation because it allows you to include links to your local business's listings. In your emails, remind customers they can leave a review on the platforms where your local business is listed, with a link pointing directly to each of your business's listings.


Respond to Online Reviews


According to a survey conducted by ReviewTrackers, over half of all customers believe local businesses should respond to their online review within seven days. If you don't respond to a customer's review in a timely manner, it may dissuade other customers from leaving a review.


When a customer discovers your business doesn't respond to reviews, he or she will assume your business is either inactive or uncaring. To encourage customers to leave a review, try to respond to all reviews within seven days. Most review platforms will send you an email when a new review is created, at which point you can head over to the platform to craft a response.


As your local business attracts more online reviews, it will generate more walk-in traffic and, therefore, sales. But you must provide an excellent product or service to compel customers to leave positive reviews. Allowing negative reviews to accumulate will only lower the trust and confidence prospective customers have in your local business.

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