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Interpreting your online reviews to generate more local customers

Online reviews: You probably know our take by now. They’re good for your business, just as long as they’re not overwhelmingly negative. (And if they are, you have bigger fish to fry than worrying about your online reviews.)

 
The more your business is reviewed, the better it will rank in organic search, which brings us back to the point in the preceding item: Your business benefits massively from appearing on the front page—and especially on the top half of the front page—in Google organic search results.

 
That alone would make it extremely important to focusing on having your business reviewed regularly, especially on Yelp, the big dog in online business reviews. Other review platforms, from Google Plus to Yellow Pages to industry-specific sites, perform similar functions.

 
But then there’s the whole business of your online reputation and how much it helps to get positive reviews. Few consumers these days decide on a business without checking out objective assessments on places like Yelp, and that’s especially true for high dollar products and services.

 
Hopefully we’re all agreed that your business needs to work on generating reviews, especially positive ones. But reviews provide another advantage to your business: They provide free feedback on what you’re doing well, what you might be doing poorly, and specifically what you can do to improve.

 
By mining this information, you can make tweaks to your business approach to better serve customers and grow your local customer base. Let’s go over a few ways you can use the content from online reviews to be even more successful:

 
Specificity

 
When customers are reviewing your business, are they making note of the business aspects (particularly your services) that you want them to?

 

For example, if your claim to fame is a lightning-fast response to scheduling appointments, is that regularly being noted in the reviews? If it’s not, you might want to let reviewers who leave positive assessments know that the most detail they go into, the better.

 
Remember, people who are fans of what you do want to reward your business with a good review. Don’t be afraid to subtly guide them toward addressing the aspects that separate you from the competition. This also helps you legitimately get high-ranking keywords into your reviews without stepping over any ethical lines.

 
Details that relate to your website pages

 
Online reviews can help you determine the composition of your website and what aspects might need their own pages.

 
For example, do reviewers rave about a service or aspect that doesn’t currently have its own page on your site? If so, create a page specific to that feature.

 
If reviewers tend to specify other things that particularly resonated with them, such as free estimates, discounts or emergency services, it’s a good idea to create a separate page where you highlight those services (or at least play them up more on your site).

 
Look for other places to play up your company’s unique selling proposition (USP). You can do this on your site, your Google My Business page and other sites that showcase your business. Whatever it is your happy customers rave about, highlight that.

 
Get to know your reviewers

 
You can learn a lot about your satisfied customers from checking out their profiles, either on Yelp or other review platforms. Mine this information to get a better idea of who is likely to be most satisfied with your business and who probably will be more likely to review it.

 
Consider the demographics of who’s reviewing you: Are they more often women or men? White collar or blue collar? Have they reviewed your business on just one platform or several? Do they tend to review lots of different businesses (that’s good) or just yours (still good, not just as good as if they spread the love elsewhere).

 
How many of your reviewers are repeat customers vs. first-timers? Have they also received services from your local competitors, and if so, how positively or negatively did they review a competitor compared to you?

 
Testimonials

 
People who give your business rave reviews obviously are excellent subjects for testimonials, but it’s good to show a little care in soliciting a reviewer for a testimonial.

 
For example, Google and Yelp don’t want you directly using their reviews as testimonials. Their concern is understandable: Just because someone reviews your business, even if it’s five-star/A-plus all the way, that doesn’t necessarily mean the reviewer wants to be directly used in your marketing.

 
With that said, it’s a tactic you see all the time from all sorts of businesses, suggesting neither Google nor Yelp are too hardcore about enforcing their policies in this area.

 
Just to be safe, our suggestion is not to use anyone’s online review directly as a testimonial. But if you think the reviewer would be inclined to provide a testimonial, it certainly can’t hurt to ask. (This is best done through private message, because inquiring publicly on the platform might strike some more sensitive reviewers as being pushy.)

 
If the reviewer is cool with it, you could ask him to write up something short you could use on the site, or you could excerpt a portion of the review for the testimonial.

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