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How to manage online reviews to boost your small business

Thursday, January 26, 2023

As a small business owner, you’re busy. Priorities can shift daily, but you should always care about online review management. Solely focusing on customer experience isn’t enough in the digital age. Having a strategy to manage online reviews is key to your business’ success.

In this blog, we’ll share:

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Potential customers care about reviews — and if you respond

BrightLocal shared in their most-recent Local Consumer Review Survey that consumers are reading online reviews now more than ever before. The survey showed the importance of review response on buying decisions — consumers favor businesses that take the time to respond to customer reviews.

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of consumers use Google to evaluate local businesses.

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responded they “always” or “regularly” read reviews when browsing local businesses.

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say they are “highly” or “fairly” likely to use a business that responds to all reviews.

Plus, the survey showed how essential star ratings are for businesses. Search engines and sites that offer star ratings (think Google and Facebook) provide an average rating of all your reviews that customers can see. Star ratings factor into your overall online presence, as these ratings can give a search engine optimization (SEO) boost, which can help people find you easier through searching your business and any associated keywords (think “craft store” or “diner”). Just 3% of consumers said they’d consider using a business with an average star rating of two or fewer stars.

You might be thinking, “OK, OK. I get it; reviews matter.” So how do you set yourself up for success? By making it easy for regulars and new customers alike to review your business.

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How to build and take care of your online presence

It’s been said that your brand isn’t what you say it is; it’s what Google says it is. Online search results are today’s digital storefront, and you need to make sure you’re creating an excellent first impression.

This means creating (or claiming) and managing accounts on Google, social media and review platforms. That way, crucial information, including your website, address, phone number and operation hours are available (and correct!) when someone looks for your business online.

Google Business Profile, also known as Google My Business, gives business owners the opportunity to reach customers through Google Search, Google Maps and Google Shopping. Most consumers go to Google first when looking for businesses; it’s the largest review site on the internet.

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Google Business Profile is free to use and lets businesses connect with customers, post updates, list menus, products, services and more. Your business profile will help you increase visibility on Google, especially with showing up in location-specific searches (think “boutiques near me”) and showing up on Google Maps results with your accompanying star rating. Appearing in local searches is especially important for smaller businesses.

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Facebook is the most popular social media site, and the second-largest review site on the internet after Google. Facebook reviews offer a “recommend” or “don’t recommend” binary system that factors into a recommendation score. This includes any star ratings prior to 2018, when Facebook changed its review system.

Enabling reviews on Facebook can help your profile be easily discovered on the platform by potential customers (more reviews = more credibility). Plus, Facebook reviews also help your business’ overall SEO, as search engine algorithms consider Facebook an authoritative site.

There are industry-specific review sites and apps with loyal communities. Yelp, TripAdvisor, and delivery apps from GrubHub, Postmates and UberEats have reviews and ratings. People will review your business on these platforms whether you’re actively managing your presence or not.

Choosing one or two review platforms to focus on can help you not get overwhelmed as you begin review management. Google reviews and Facebook reviews, with their SEO impact, may be a good start.

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How to respond to reviews — positive and negative

Managing reviews is a key element of online reputation management and digital marketing strategy. Customer reviews can help lift your business profile online and within search engine rankings. Customer feedback can also give you a pulse check of what you’re doing well and what you might do to improve. Plus, it affects your bottom line.

A 1-star difference on Yelp between you and a competitor represents about $90,000 in lost sales each year for restaurants earning $1 million annually. So it’s important to nurture customer reviews.

Let’s walk through the steps of review management strategy that can help you turn unhappy customers into happy ones.

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1. Cultivate your brand voice

How you respond and react to customers is a reflection of your brand. Make sure the voice is respectful, professional and most of all, sounds like your brand.

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2. Respond to every review ASAP

It doesn’t matter if it’s a bad review or a good one, you should respond. Over 50% of customers leaving reviews expect a business to follow up within a week. If a customer leaves a bad review, don’t ignore it. Since negative reviews can spread like a virus, responding early and often is important to limit damage but also to show that you care about your customers. Online complaints that go unanswered make consumers distrust your business.

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3. Say thanks for positive feedback

Whenever a happy customer sings your praises, go out of your way to thank them. Positive reviews are a more important purchase consideration for consumers than discounts or business location. For particularly good reviews, consider asking the customer if you could use the review as a testimonial on your website or marketing materials.

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4. Don’t delete bad reviews

Your blood pressure might rise when you see a negative business review. Don’t let your feelings get the best of you. Deleting negative online reviews or being rude to the reviewer can cause things to escalate. Instead, take a non-defensive attitude, apologize and thank them for bringing it to your attention. Follow up directly via email or private message so you can make it right and find a solution. This takes the conversation offline from the public forum, but shows you’re willing to address concerns. Once you’ve resolved the issue, respond to the review to show the steps you took to fix the situation. If there are discrepancies between the customer’s experience and what actually happened, it is appropriate to respectfully share your side of the situation — but make sure to try to understand their version of events.

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How to get more reviews of your business

Plenty is never enough when it comes to positive, new reviews of your business. If you’ve done the work to build up your online presence, it comes down to making it easy for customers to review. There are many ways for you to solicit reviews from happy customers:

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1. Ask in person

Train your staff to ask for reviews from customers when it’s clear the customer was happy with the product or service. It shouldn’t be a script where staff says, “Please leave us a review on Google/Yelp/TripAdvisor,” at the end of every customer interaction. If it’s a script, it’s likely to have the opposite effect.

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2. Use in-store signage

If you have a brick-and-mortar, you can use posters, table tents and more to ask for reviews. Use QR codes on marketing materials that point to a list of profile links — Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. — so they can review on the platform they choose.

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3. Ask on your website

Solicit reviews by using call-to-action buttons or pop-ups on your website, directing users to leave reviews with just one click.

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4. Use your loyalty program, email newsletters, etc

If you have a loyalty program, you can offer points or cash-back rewards for leaving reviews. If you publish an email marketing newsletter or send marketing emails, include buttons for your social media accounts and review sites to make sure customers know where to find and review you.

Remember that it’s a fine line between asking for true, honest feedback and going too far and “astroturfing.” What’s astroturfing? It’s where you create artificial positive chatter about your business. Astroturfing includes actions such as posting fake reviews, soliciting product endorsements or placing advertorials. It’s better to use your time and money to get reviews the old-fashioned, tried and true way instead of trying to cut corners to get lots of positive, fake reviews quickly.

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How to build yourself a system to monitor and manage your brand reputation

Monitoring and managing your social media, new reviews and more can seem time consuming on top of everything you have going on. If you can, assign the tasks of checking for new reviews and responding to a single person or team. You can set up search engine alerts for your business name, and many of the review sites include alerts for new posts. But you’ll want to check the sites and your social media proactively to make sure you don’t miss anything.

If you aren’t already using review management software or a social media management platform, you may want to start. It’s a time saver to consolidate your online presence in a single place for you to monitor and review. It can show you which posts are popular, shared, liked, and commented on. It also empowers you to post to multiple social channels at once.

Everyday consumers are window shopping your digital storefront. How you manage your online reputation either invites them in the door or sends them someplace else. With a positive, up-to-date online presence, you will be on your way to grow sales and your bottom line.

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Resources and support to overcome everyday challenges

From big name entrepreneurs and authors, to the local entrepreneur doing something profoundly right, The Entrepreneur’s Studio podcast is an on-the-go resource where you can watch, listen or read valuable stories from others who have been in your shoes.

For more tips and resources on how to run a remarkable business, check out the Entrepreneur’s Studio podcast.


Heartland is the point of sale, payments and payroll solution of choice for entrepreneurs that need human-centered technology to sell more, keep customers coming back and spend less time in the back office. Nearly 1,000,000 businesses trust us to guide them through market changes and technology challenges, so they can stay competitive and focus on building remarkable businesses instead of managing the daily grind. Learn more at heartland.us