In the National Search Engine Optimization arena, getting people to link to your site with great anchor text is what the game is all about. There are thousands of articles about it, there are companies that dedicate themselves to the practice, there is even (purely rumor) a religion based on the subject.
So, what about the local search scene? Is there a similar practice? Yes….What is that Practice?
Customer Review Building
Why do I feel this way? You can submit your company to IYP’s, but you can’t submit your company to get automatic reviews. Other people have to review it, and this is why I think that customer reviews are the “back links” of local search. I also think that they are going to become a big determining ranking factor in the future, as it becomes easier to get into IYP’s (and more and more companies are doing so).
So, when that prophecy comes true, you had better know how to get some good reviews. This will be a starter guide. I am hoping that people will comment and build onto this in the future.
How to Get Reviews
- Asking Customers Online
The best example I could find on this one is Lombardis Pizza in New York. They have 502 reviews at the time of this post. Wow. One of the ways that they have achieved this in part, is to offer a ratings tab on their site in which a visitor can click through to city search, aol, or yahoo to leave reviews (no link to google). They don’t offer anything in return, but they sure have accomplished the most reviews I have seen on a listing.
I am a big fan of linking to a review site from your personal website. Many people will review if they were led through the process and to the right place. You will get good and bad reviews this way, but as long as you provide a great service than you will have nothing to worry about. I would love for some of these review sites to come out with plug-ins for websites to allow users to review right from the businesses site online.
- Asking Customers through Email
If you are constantly in touch with customers (lets say in the service industry) then they might not be visiting your site very often, but communicating through emails frequently. I am certain that I have a few customers of my own that have never been to my business website, and I am in touch with them on a weekly basis! These are some of the people who are most likely to leave great reviews that are detailed and helpful to you and customers. So, to get them to leave a review simply send them a PERSONAL email asking for one. Be sure to include a step by step process for submitting a review, but more than likely every one you try this approach with will review your company.
I would stay away from a generic emails as they come across as something for the spam box. If you can make someone feel that there review matters a lot to you and your company, then chances are you will get it.
- Asking Customers Offline
Though this is the most uncomfortable, it is still a very effective way of getting reviews. I have seen this done a number of ways. You can call the individual and ask for an online review giving them instructions over the phone. This allows you to hand pick customers for reviews (like emailing) but is a very straight forward approach.
If you have a place of business that people come to often, you can have a customer review pamphlet to hand out that steps through the processes of leaving a review with individuals. This pamphlet can also be mailed (though it would be the most expensive way of getting reviews)
Something that I have never seen, but I feel would be effective is having a review station set up in your place of business. Basically, a computer that has links to different review sites and customers can fill it out while they are browsing around. If any one has seen this please let me know!
Final Customer Review Thoughts
When everything is said and done with local search, reviews are a big, big deal.
- They make your company real
- They are an outsider’s opinion
- At a certain amount, they affect your rankings
- They increase Click Through Rate
- It can be a challenge
Those things to me mean that over the next few years, reviews online will be worth their weight in gold. So, get out and start getting reviews.