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Marketing Mastery: Managing your online review strategy

January 30/February 6, 2017: Volume 31, Number 17

By Jim Augustus Armstrong

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 3.50.37 PMI was planning a recent business trip and, like I always do, checked the reviews of the hotels where I was considering staying. It was second nature, as much a part of making my decision as checking a hotel’s availability, pricing, amenities, etc. I do this for virtually any new service or product I’m considering to buy. I bet you do, too. And according to a recent survey, 92% of consumers (e.g. your customers) now read online reviews. It is becoming increasingly critical that you have an on-purpose review strategy. It’s too important to leave to chance, which unfortunately many dealers do.

Following are three things to consider when managing your online review strategy.

Aggregate star ratings. This simply means the average number of stars your business receives on a particular review site (Yelp, Google, etc.). For example, let’s say on Google your business has 10 5-star reviews and 10 4-star reviews. This would give you an aggregate star rating of 4.5 stars.

This means every time you have a thrilled customer you should ask her to review your business. This is beneficial because lots of positive reviews help you get more customers. They also help eliminate the effects of negative reviews by keeping your aggregate star rating high. Occasional negative reviews are not necessarily bad for your business as long as your overall reviews are positive.

A good review management strategy will involve asking happy customers to leave reviews.

Recency of reviews. According to a 2016 Bright Local survey, 73% of consumers think reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. This is another reason why it’s important to ask for reviews on a continuous basis.

It’s also important for SEO. Google’s search algorithms favor recent reviews, so gathering reviews on an ongoing basis helps prospects find you online. Also, a steady stream of reviews (two or three a month) is better than 50 in one week. In fact, you can be penalized for acquiring too many all at once. A good review management strategy will produce a steady stream of positive reviews.

Diversity of review sites. Most businesses focus on gathering reviews on Google, Yelp and Facebook. However, industry-specific sites can also be valuable. Having listings and reviews on Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and Houzz make you more visible to your target audience.

A word of caution: Be careful when investing money into marketing on industry-specific sites. Many dealers have found they tend to attract price shoppers. If you choose to spend money on these sites make sure you have a good filtering mechanism to quickly weed out price shoppers. For example, if your listings are generating phone calls from prospects asking for price, don’t give them one over the phone. Instead say, “Mrs. Jones, I’d love to help you with that. At Jimbo’s Floors we don’t do estimates. We give you a written, guaranteed, no surprise quote. Let me ask you some questions that will help me do that.” Your questions should lead prospects on a logical step-by-step process to an appointment for an in-home visit or a meeting at your store. If after doing this the prospect refuses to talk to you, or insists on simply getting a price, you’re likely dealing with someone who will waste your time and then buy elsewhere once she finds out you’re not the cheapest.

By having an on-purpose plan to manage reviews, you can create a stellar online reputation.