This is a guest post by Amanda DiSilvestro. She gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for HigherVisibility.com, one of the leading SEO companies in the United States.
Online reviews have always been a part of Google and good business management, but just recently Google has really started ramping up places you can features reviews. Based on some of these moves (discussed below), it seems that business reviews are going to be more important than ever in 2014. Small business owners need to make sure they’re taking advantage of all the different review options, making efforts to earn quality reviews, and communicating with the team about updating and managing comments. But how?
Different Options and Places to Feature Reviews
Fortunately, understanding reviews and creating a solid strategy isn’t going to be too difficult. The first step is understanding your options for reviews and where you can feature them. A few of these options include:
The New Options
- AdWords Review Extensions. Google just announced this new feature a few weeks ago and it centers around ads that you see on SERPs. With review extensions, a company can feature a small 67-character review right under their ad. All you need to do is visit the Ad Extensions tab in your AdWords account, which you can learn more about here. Below is a screenshot from the Google announcement that shows what they will look like:
- Shared Endorsements. This is another new feature and it deals with the way in which Google displays ads. The idea is that Google will focus on gathering all of the information about a company—photographs, comments, +1s, and yes, reviews—and then show that on a SERP if someone had searched for something related to your business prior to that search. The comments are taken from Google+ reviews, which brings us to our next point. First, below is a screenshot from the Google announcement that illustrates what the shared endorsements will look like:
A Few Old Options
- Google+ Reviews. As discussed above, users do have the option to review your company on Google and these reviews will show up on a SERP (even without using Shared Endorsements). If I Google my favorite coffee house, Vinaka Café, reviews will show up on the SERP (shown left). If I click on reviews I get a whole list of reviews and the option to write my own (shown right):
- Yelp Reviews. Yelp reviews are huge. You’ve surely visited Yelp before and have noticed that this network runs entirely on reviews, both positive and negative. Consumers like Yelp because companies are not in charge of moderating reviews like they are with some other platforms, so it seems more legitimate. If I type my favorite restaurant into Yelp, I’ll see a list of reviews (898 in fact) that look like the following:
Of course, there are many other places online that are less popular but still allow consumers to post reviews about your company. This includes forums, Yahoo and Bing platforms, and social networks like Facebook. It’s up to you to see where your audience is heading when they go to write a review. Consider setting up a Google Alert for your company name so you can monitor what is said about your company (at least to a certain extent).
Some Tips for Generating Great Reviews
Of course, in order to feature reviews you have to have reviews. There are several different ways that you can make efforts to gain quality reviews from your customers (without being overbearing!):
- Ask loyal customers to leave a review before they go. Google and Yelp do not advise you, however, to offer any free gifts.
- Make it easy to leave a review either online or when someone is visiting your business by having a box for written reviews or a button on your website.
- Educate people on your social networks about where they can review your company.
- If you see that someone left a negative review, try to reach out to that person, resolve the issue, and have them write another review.
- Put example reviews and testimonials on your website so people will want to participate.
It’s important to remember that you do want a few negative reviews for your company (in fact, constructive criticism would be better than negative). This will help your company seem real and show that you are willing to face those negative reviews by commenting back. You can the Higher Visibility blog to learn more about reacting and recovering from bad reviews.
What about Fake Reviews?
It should go without saying that fake reviews are not tolerated by Google and certainly are not appreciated by customers, but it’s not unreasonable to want to know how they work. After all, business owner or customer, you’re going to want to know what’s being done to make sure you’re not reading fake reviews (and if nothing is done, how to spot them). Below answers a few questions you may have:
How do you get caught posting a fake review?
- What’s the punishment if you get caught? If you get caught posting fake reviews, it’s very likely Google will penalize your site (making it harder to find on SERPs), and in extreme cases will completely block your site. More likely than not, however, you will get a fine. The amount will completely depend, but it can range anywhere from $1000 to $10000.
- How can you tell, as a consumer, if a review is fake? Look at the username and see if you can see any type of profile. A real author will surely use a real name and have a few social networks that all match up. If there is excessive praise or the opposite, it could also be fake, so pay attention to how the review is written. Is it constructive, or full of jargon?
Do you think reviews will be more important in 2014? What are you doing to help foster some great reviews? Let us know your strategy and your thoughts in the comments below.