Friday, August 16, 2013

The Rise of Online Reviews--KeepCustomer's first guest blog

If you own a small business and have not established a website combined with social

media, it’s time to get on the bandwagon. With more and more customers researching

products and services online, it’s crucial for businesses to know what is out there and

establish a strong online presence. Here is a brief overview of online reviews and what

you need to know to benefit from them as a business.

A Huffington Post article in October 2011 reported that in 2011, 80% of consumers made

their purchasing decisions based on negative customer feedback online, a number which

had which increased 67% from 2010. Chances are, your business has already shown up

on any number of online review websites or has made the rounds in the social media

realm without your knowledge.

In the last decade, consumers have become more and more savvy when it comes to

making informed decisions about what they purchase. Most people use the Internet to

shop for coupons and check online reviews regularly before they set foot in a store or

add items to their online shopping cart. Regardless of the nature of your business, you

must be aware of online reviews when approaching the subject of your company’s online

presence. Some of the most popular review sites used by customers are found on Google,

Bing, Yahoo, Yelp and Angie’s List.

Just like any trend, you have to take the good with the bad. Fraudulent online reviews

are on the rise and can negatively impact a business’s reputation, costing them to lose

customers and cut into their profits. Many businesses are taking on guerilla tactics to

make their businesses look better by placing negative posts of their competitors in the

form of bad reviews. This requires that businesses are proactive in defending their online

identity and make certain they are not participating in bad marketing behaviors.

Another tactic some companies are trying is to pay customers for positive feedback.

In November 2012, the well-known online review company Yelp began cracking down

on this activity by posting a pop-up alert that the review was paid for by the company.

According to Yelp’s VP of Corporate Communications, in reference to the practice of

a company paying for positive reviews said, “One jewelry store was paying someone


Here are a few things you can do to safeguard your business online.

• You must have a company website. All businesses must have some kind of
online presence, even if you have a bare minimum. Having a legitimate website
will keep your customers from getting the wrong information from those who do
not have your best interest in mind.
• Create a Facebook account for your company. Social media has such
a powerful influence on the success of today’s businesses. Capitalizing on this
important reality will allow your customers to be active participants in what
you do. Creating events, offering coupons and encouraging and responding to
customer feedback will improve your bottom line and better match your business
goals with the needs of your customer base.
• Set up a Google alert for your company name. You need to know what
people are saying about you and the best way to keep tabs on this is to set up a
Google alert. This will help you stay informed with your customers online. You
can choose to receive emails once a week or daily depending on your needs.
• Respond to your customers with care. It’s important to check online
customer review sites as well as your designated website for customer feedback
regularly. Approach any negative feedback cautiously. Every customer response
should be tempered with professionalism and full awareness of any specific
customer complaint needs to be researched internally before conducting any
direct response to an online review. With that said, businesses can gain a great
deal of knowledge for improving their customer feedback and overall quality of
their product or service.

Sara Collins is a writer for  NerdWallet , a site dedicated to helping consumers find the

best savings account rates.