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Change Your Stars: How to Respond to Online Reviews

Change Your Stars: How to Respond to Online Reviews

Tuesday, August 06, 2019
Kyle Harris

You already know that online reviews matter. But do you know how much they matter? According to Moz’s latest Local Search Ranking Factors survey, review signals are more important than ever when it comes to local SEO. In 2015, review signals were weighted at 10.8% of a business’s overall ranking. By 2018, they had risen to 15.44%—a jump of almost 50%.

And that’s just search. Think about the people behind the numbers; the actual customers who will call, visit, or avoid a business—especially a local business—based solely on star ratings, review sentiments, and owners’ responses. Do you really want to let that negative review float around the web, causing untold harm to your reputation? Don’t you want to draw eyes towards glowing reviews from satisfied customers?

Here’s how businesses of all shapes and sizes can limit the damage of bad reviews, maximize the impact of positive reviews, and weave subtle marketing messaging into their responses.

How to respond to a negative review

Negative reviews can seriously damage any business’s reputation, and failing to respond to negative reviews only compounds the problem. After all, this is your opportunity to not only engage in damage control but also turn the situation around and seize an underappreciated marketing opportunity.

Remember that you’re free to respond to all reviews, even if you’re only jumping on the response train now. Users can see reviews that go far back in time, so they’re still relevant. There’s no such thing as a review that’s too old to respond to!

  1. Whatever happened, apologize and sympathize

    If a customer brought a complaint to you in person, you would try to make it right—and the same goes for online reviews. Replying also shows other readers you are not shady or neglectful, and that you are taking steps to ensure this problem won’t happen to the next customer. This even applies if you believe a negative review to be unfounded or unjustified. Regardless of how the rest of your exchange unfolds, start by acknowledging the customer’s concerns and expressing sympathy. “I’m really sorry to hear you were disappointed by your experience at our coffee shop.”

  2. Inject a little positivity

    This is your best opportunity to make things right. For many businesses, that means emphasizing that most customers are pleased with their experiences. But even if you eventually turn the situation around, this isn’t the type of content you want to appear in local search results for your business. Make sure your responses to negative reviews omit your business name and target keywords. “We’re actually well known for our speedy service, so I will definitely look into this for you.”

  3. Keep it short and sweet

    Don’t share too many details, ask probing questions (you may not like the answers!), or risk upsetting your customer even more. Three short sentences should be more than enough to say what you need to say.

  4. Move the conversation into a private setting

    You’re not replying to just one reviewer: you’re speaking to everyone who reads this review, including potential future customers. But that doesn’t mean the entire exchange has to take place in public. Share contact information so the reviewer can continue their grievance one-to-one in a private channel. “Please contact me via direct message so we can discuss.”

How to amplify a positive review

A five-star review is its own reward, right? Well, not entirely. There are a number of reasons why you should consider a positive review to be just the first step in longer process.

For starters, it’s polite to acknowledge praise. If you received a compliment in your everyday life, you’d say thanks, wouldn’t you? The same principle applies here—not least because it’s all happening in public.

With the overwhelming majority of consumers now reading online reviews, replying to a positive review is a also good chance to engage these people and broadcast your marketing message in a subtle way.

  1. Express thanks—and be as specific as possible

    Make it clear that there’s a real person behind your reply, and call out a specific detail of the review. “Thanks so much for your kind words. You’re absolutely right: Marie is an exceptional financial planner and she really cares about her clients!”

  2. Include your business name and target keywords

    Remember those Local Search Ranking Factors? Well, the importance of keywords in your reviews is also on the rise. In 2017, keywords in reviews were only the 26th most important factor—now they’re at 14. So, maximize the potential SEO benefit by incorporating your business name, category, and location. “The entire team here at ACME Savings Chicago is delighted to hear your feedback, and we’re proud to help local people like you with all your retirement planning needs.”

  3. Sprinkle a little marketing magic

    Your reply is going to be read by others, so why not take the opportunity to casually mention a new feature or promotion? “Did you know that our new savings portfolio is now available?”

  4. Include a call to action

    Turn that satisfied customer into a brand ambassador: ask them to try another product or service, or to spread the word about your business. “Ask us about our new savings app next time you visit—and bring a friend!”

You are what your reviews say you are

Google recently confirmed that responding to reviews actually improves your local SEO over time, removing any lingering doubt that review responses are an integral part of every brand’s online performance—and a basic prerequisite if you want to succeed in local search.

Beyond SEO, remember that most consumers first encounter new brands online. That means online reputation is more important than ever before. A strong strategy to monitor, respond, analyze, and action reviews is worth its weight in gold.

Don’t have the time, manpower, or expertise to respond to reviews for all your locations? That just happens to be a specialty for our team of Local Presence Management (LPM) experts. Let’s schedule a friendly chat about your digital goals, challenges, and opportunities. Contact DAC today to get started.

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