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Often times online business reviews are the bane of a business owner’s existence. All it takes is ONE customer who is already having a bad day and decides to take it out on your business’ Yelp page to put into question why you even bother running the business in the first place.

Unfortunately, you can’t avoid this. People have bad days and it’s impossible to please everyone.

What you CAN do is encourage all those customers who have a great experience to leave you positive online business reviews and ensure the good reviews far outnumber the bad ones. The double-bonus here is that lots of good online business reviews are a positive signal to search engines that you are doing great work and often results in better search engine rankings.

So with hundreds of online business review websites out there, how do you choose which ones to refer your customers to? Here is how we recommend you go about this:

1) Let the customer choose
Customers who are likely to leave a review are also likely to already have a website of preference. They may be a Yelp Elite member, in which case asking for a review on Foursquare would be like asking a Microsoft employee to use Google for their search engine. If they’re happy, willing to leave a review and have an affinity toward a particular website, let them review away.

2) Non-branded search
If the customer doesn’t have a preference, then we want to start with a non-branded search. Do a search for the best term that describes your business, but doesn’t use your business name. For example, with our client Strut The Pup, we would search for “Seattle Dog Walker”. Look down the list of websites that are there and see if any allow reviews. If so, target these first as the stars will show on the 1st page of Google results for your main keyword by simply getting these reviews.

In this example, we would want to target Google, Yelp &

For restaurants, this is often going to be Google & Yelp. For Doctors, Google & Healthgrades. It’s always best to do the actual search as in some cases the results will vary.

3) Branded Search
Next, do a search for your business name. If there are any sites that show 3 stars or less, target these. You don’t want potential customers who are looking for you to see bad reviews and get scared off.

If we search for “odd dog media”, the result would tell us to focus on Google, Facebook & Yelp. Notice that while Yelp doesn’t show any stars yet, it’s a known review website showing up on the first page. If we were able to get some reviews, they would be very visible to people looking into our business.

4) Your own website
If you have concern about your customers not being tech-savvy enough to log into these systems and leave a review, you can always accept a review directly on your website with a simple form. You can even protect privacy by only collecting initials rather than a full name if this is a concern, or even offer a checkbox that says “Keep my review private”. You are limited to only showing these on your website (you can’t cross-post them to Google, Yelp, etc.), but there’s one more trick.

Once you have these reviews, you can embed them into your website with code called “Review Schema”. This will allow your website to have stars next to it whenever people see it in a Google search.

5) When in doubt
If you are ever in doubt, default to Google reviews. Google is hands down the most prominent search engine and Google reviews are always the most prominent review platform. It will ensure maximum visibility both for customers who know your business name, as well as customers who are doing searches for your services.

How many to focus on?
Our recommendation is to pick one at a time and focus on it. It’s surprisingly hard to get happy customers to take the time to leave a review and you really want to get that top review site in shape. The only time you should mix up the review sites that you request reviews for is if your customers are so loyal that they flood the reviews in a short period of time as some review sites see this as a sign of spam.

What is the most effective way to request a review?
This is worth a blog post in itself, but the short answer is via text message. If you can get the review link in the hands of your customers, they are far more likely to actually leave a review.

Try out our solution! We are on the verge of releasing a free app for online business review that will allow your staff to easily send review links to customers via email or text message. If you’re interested in trying this out, go here to sign up for our beta.

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