Positive online reviews have become much more significant in the domain of local SEO, especially after Google’s Pigeon update shook up the priorities of local search results. As a result of the update, local review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor got a major ranking boost, and the quantity and quality of reviews for local businesses started directly impacting the ranks of those company’s webpages. In some cases, the Yelp entries for local businesses are ranking higher than the official business webpage!
As a result, local business owners must encourage more online reviews to increase their authority and rise in rank. Doing so can be difficult, however, since Yelp and similar services explicitly discourage business owners from soliciting reviews.
However, there are several unique strategies you can use to cultivate reviews on your local profiles:
Yelp’s official policy is that you should never ask your customers directly for a review, but you can direct people to your Yelp page. Include a note at the bottom of every receipt (or invoice) you send out with a Yelp logo and a link to your company’s profile. Of course, you can do this for other local review sites too, but Yelp is the most popular and the most powerful rank influencer for the time being. Simply showing customers the link will be enough to generate some extra attention and more reviews for your business.
This tactic crosses the line for local review sites like Yelp, but there’s nothing stopping you from offering a discount in exchange for an onsite review or a video review. Encourage your users to post reviews on their personal social media profiles, tagging your business, or to post genuine reviews of your products on your website. Don’t tell customers to post reviews on sites like Yelp, and don’t tell them to link back to you. Instead, your goal should be to make them want to post an honest review in whatever format they deem appropriate. This should help you avoid potential penalties of “bribing” users for reviews while still generating more interest in posting reviews.
If you send out a regular email blast with promotional offers or content, use the footer or the margins as another opportunity to remind your customers to post a review. If you’re pointing your customers to a local review site like Yelp, avoid asking directly for reviews. Instead, call attention to your presence on the platform, with a link pointing outward. Include compelling language that calls people to ask, such as “Have you found us on Yelp?” and make the logo of the directory in question a prominent feature.
If you’re looking for a jump start, ask your family and friends to post a handful of reviews. It toes the line of what is acceptable and what is not for local review sites, but as long as the reviews seem sincere, it shouldn’t be a problem. Then, ask your family and friends to spread the word to anyone they know who has used or has heard of the local business. With any luck, several of them will post reviews. Having several detailed reviews on your local business page can signal a level of authority to other site visitors, which in turn can generate even more reviews.
The goal here is not to enroll reviewers in a contest. Instead, it is to generate attention for your Yelp profile by using a contest or giveaway. Promote the contest as you normally would, encouraging your customers to engage, sign up, or whatever you usually do. On the promotional material explaining the contest, as well as in updates regarding the contest, take the time to mention your presence on Yelp. Contests and giveaways tend to attract a lot of attention, so using them as a platform to funnel users to your local directory profile is a solid strategy.
A personal touch is not out of place, especially for your oldest and most loyal customers. It’s a time-intensive strategy that won’t give you a massive influx of reviews, but the reviews you do get will be personal and detailed. Your oldest customers will be able to recount multiple specific instances of your company demonstrating its best work, and those sincere reviews will stand out even as your local profile starts to grow. Don’t be afraid to ask people for reviews as long as you do it sparingly, individually, and off the record.
This is an easy strategy to adopt, since Yelp (along with other directories) offers its brand assets for any business to use. Most businesses include a small Yelp badge on the footer of their website, but you can go a step further. Include a prominent Yelp logo, so long as it doesn’t displace your own, or include an entire page of your website that details your presence on external local sites. You can also include a link to your local profiles on your Contact page, which many people will use if they’re looking to give you feedback.
This is another easy strategy to execute. Once or twice a week, across the board on your social media profiles, call attention to the fact that you’re on Yelp and other local directories. Don’t ask for reviews directly, but let all your followers know that you appreciate feedback and that your profiles are available to the public. With occasional repetition, you’ll be able to attract more people to post reviews.
This is another way to take advantage of the fact that Yelp and similar local directories offer their brand assets to companies that use them. Print specific signs and stickers to include on the exits and waiting areas of your physical location, or include the Yelp logo on your signs. Just be sure to also include a link to your individual profile so your customers can find you easily.
Once your local profile starts to get some momentum, peruse it regularly for positive reviews. Analyze what made the experience great enough for them to find you online and write out a review—if you can replicate that experience for more customers, you’ll create an environment that encourages even more positive reviews.
Return to your profiles on local review pages often to check out all your reviews, not just the positive ones, and note areas for improvement. Use these as a tool to learn more about your customers and potential enhancements for your company, and take the time to respond to negative reviews with an apology or an explanation for the reviewer’s bad experience. Doing so will not only help you rise in rank on SERPs, it will also improve your brand’s reputation and strengthen your relationship with your customers.