Happy customers have the potential to be your brand’s biggest cheerleaders. Make sure that you are doing your part to let their voices be heard by leveraging reviews and recommendations as part of your marketing strategy.

The benefits of positive customer or product reviews are pretty obvious. They help you to build brand awareness and reputation. They can also heavily influence buying decisions for new customers who may be on the fence about a purchase. By giving them the ability to read reviews from other customers, it will build trust and give them peace of mind. Whenever possible, make the reviews feel more personal by using a photo of the reviewer (with their permission) or leveraging video testimonials.

We all feel better about making a decision when we know that others who made the same decision had a great experience. For example, whenever I find myself in an unfamiliar city and need to grab lunch, I go online and check out the reviews of local restaurants to determine where would be a good place to go. There are so many options to choose from so being able to learn from others’ experiences makes me feel confident I am going to make a good choice and have a delicious meal.

How Do Reviews Impact Your Search Rankings?

There are also SEO benefits to having reviews and recommendations on your website. Businesses that display Google Organic Star rankings next to them in search results are more likely to get clicks. There are a few different sources where those reviews will populate from but we’ll focus on the one you likely have the most control over – reviews on your website. In order to make sure that the reviews from your website are being included in search results, you need to make sure that you are using proper schema markup on your site.

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This can be done manually using the schema markup guidelines provided on Schema.org. For review schema, you can find the correct markup to use here. AggregateRating schema is used for displaying the average rating based on multiple reviews. You can also get more granular and use Local Business schema or Product schema markup to denote the type of review. Including this type of structured data within your pages helps search engines more quickly and accurately understand the type of content on your site so that it’s displayed prominently in search engine results.

Depending on your website’s platform, you may also be able to leverage third party plugins that insert this markup into your pages for you. WordPress gives you a lot of options like WP customer review and WP SEO Structured Data Schema. These options are great for non-techy types to get the correct structured data in place on their site without having to know how to write code.

One other handy tool to be aware of when it comes to structured data and schema is Google’s structured data testing tool. If you are not sure if you have the correct structure to your schema markup, you can copy and paste it into this tool and it will verify it for you. It gives you a preview and provides any errors or warnings.

How Should You Handle Negative Reviews?

While we all want positive reviews and recommendations, it’s not always realistic that everyone is going to be a fan. There is even some value in seeing an occasional neutral or negative review because it means the reviews are authentic. Although you cannot stop someone from leaving a negative review, you can control how you respond to the interaction and you might even have a chance to turn it around.

When someone takes the time to write a review for your business or product, it’s a good practice to acknowledge and reply to them – no matter the tone of the review. This is an important aspect of community building and community management. Replies should be unique, positive and brief.

If you receive a negative review and want to respond, don’t argue with the customer – no matter what. If possible, offer to reach out to them further to discuss the negative experience with them. By demonstrating how you address customer concerns and complaints in a positive manner, it shows other potential customers how much you value customer service.  Also, some review platforms will hold reviews for a week to give you the opportunity to turn the negative review into a positive review.

So…How do I get reviews?

The simplest way to get reviews is to ask. Start with your key customers who you feel confident you have a great relationship and ask if they would be willing to write a recommendation for your business or a review of your product. This will help you get started and likely you won’t have to worry about any surprises in terms of the type of review you receive. Then going forward, you should be incorporating asking for reviews and feedback into your daily customer service processes. You should always be encouraging customer feedback.

You may also want to try incentivizing customers to leave a review but giving them something in return. As long as you don’t tie the incentive into them leaving a positive review. For example, Wakefly offers free services for referring new clients.

Ultimately, you just need to keep a focus on it and remember to ask for reviews. Your happy customers will become an extension of your sales team and help you attract new business.