Prioritizing Your Review Efforts

Setting Priorities: Where Should Your Local Business Get Reviews?

When a local business owner first steps into the world of consumer reviews, it’s important to keep seven things in mind:

  1. Diversity is healthy. Given that reviews can sometimes get filtered out or lost, you never want to focus solely on a single platform. Getting reviews on multiple platforms is the key to helping your customers find and trust your business.

  2. Consumers point the way. The review platforms your customers use most are the ones where it will be most important for you to be active. If your business is brand new, look at where your local competitors are earning the most reviews — these are likely to be important platforms for your company, too.

  3. Rankings impact reputation. The review platforms that rank most highly in the SERPs for your business, your industry, and your geography are the ones many consumers will see first. This reality makes it especially important that you take an active role in responding to reviews on these highly visible sites.

  4. Reviews are not a race. Not only is it unnecessary to acquire large numbers of reviews quickly, it’s actually probably unwise. Search engines like Google can monitor review velocity, and if your business suddenly receives a deluge of reviews, this can appear spammy and lead to the review platform filtering those reviews out. It’s safer to acquire reviews at a moderate rate over time, month after month, year after year.

  5. Review platforms feed each other. For example, Yelp pushes reviews to both Bing and Yahoo, meaning sentiment you earn in one place is automatically distributed to others. Make sure you stay on top of reviews on the sites that feed data to others — you’ll want to make sure that you address any negative sentiments before they spread to other platforms.

  6. Reviews are part and parcel of many top citations. Far from being an afterthought or a separate concept, reviews are an integral part of many of your most authoritative local business listings/citations. A major listing that lacks reviews must be considered incomplete.

  7. Reviews are important to travelers, too. Just because a particular review platform may not be widely used in your own city, don’t overlook the fact that it may be very important to visitors from other cities. For example, Yelp may not be especially popular in Minneapolis, Minnesota, but if a hotel there wants guests from San Francisco to discover and trust their business, they’d better work towards having a presence on Yelp, which is huge in California. For more on the importance of reviews to travelers, please see Creating a Local SEO Welcome for New Neighbors and Travelers.  

Actionable Steps for Setting Your Priorities

Local SEO experts have published some helpful resources on the top review sites, and even guides to industry-specific review sites. Definitely make use of these publications, but as you’re getting started in the review management process, it’s smart to get a sense of the review landscape specific to your unique business. What you’ll want to do is to create a custom list of the review sites that matter most to your own customers and your own business. Here are some actionable steps for getting started in the review management process.

For the sake of an example, let’s pick a business at random to see how it would prioritize review acquisition and management efforts. Let’s pick Lupe Tortilla — a Tex-Mex restaurant chain with a location in the city of Sugar Land, Texas.

Step 1: Look up the business by its name and city in Google. 

Step 2: Assess and document the results. Obviously, the most eye-catching part of this page of results is the Google Knowledge panel on the right hand side. So the first step in setting up priorities is a no-brainer: the owner will definitely need to acquire and manage their Google reviews.

We also see some properties coming up that the business directly controls (like their own website and their Facebook page, both of which they’ll want to be sure are enriched with a healthy set of reviews). Then, we see some of the big review platforms, like Yelp and TripAdvisor (both very important for restaurants). Foursquare is a broader platform, but clearly a very visible one for this business. And finally, we see some industry-specific players, like Zagat (an entity which aggregates review sentiment for restaurants), Doordash (a food delivery enterprise which also features consumer ratings), and OpenTable (which books restaurant reservations and publishes diner reviews).

Go through the first few pages of Google results for this search on your desktop, and then switch over to your mobile device to see if anything else is coming up prominently in the mobile results that didn’t show up for your desktop search. Since nearly 60% of searches are now performed from mobile devices, don’t forget to check mobile SERPs, too!

Step 3: Now, do a broader search, like “Tex-Mex Restaurants Sugarland, TX.” Repeat the same process you went though in Step 2, but this time assessing and documenting any highly ranked website that features a review component.

In the restaurant industry, results for this type of search are apt to bring up some Top 10 lists (which you often can’t influence), but you may also discover valuable industry and local platforms where you’ll want to be sure your business is listed and earning reviews. You may want to dig a bit deeper with this search — it’s probably worth going at least 5 pages into the search results to find opportunities you may have overlooked.

It’s very likely that you will see overlap in these various searches. For example, Yelp is likely to come up for a majority of restaurant-related searches, letting you know just how important this platform is to your business.

Step 4: Next, search for your top local competitor. Go through the first 3 pages of search results and document every place their business is being reviewed. If your business is not on those platforms, it should be, because these sites are likely to be very active platforms for your customer base. While you’re on this step of the process, it’s a good idea to make a note of the number of reviews (or their ratings), and the sentiment behind those reviews, of your competitors on the various platforms. Their business may have lots of positive reviews on one highly visible site, but have a weaker review profile on another, pointing to opportunity for your business to swoop in and outshine the competition with your own stellar reviews.

Step 5: Finally, do a few creative searches to round out your documentation. For example “Tex-Mex restaurant reviews” might turn up industry-specific platforms, whereas “Tex-Mex restaurant reviews sugar land” could turn up geographically specific results. Add any platform to your documentation that looks like a good place to be listed, if it has a review component.

Pro Tip: Once you’re really into the swing of things with your reviews, don’t forget that social media is a treasure trove of customer sentiment. You’ll want to analyze where that sentiment is being shared in relation to your industry and geography and have an active presence there, too. Don’t forget about social media!

Now that you’ve got your list…

As a result of this exercise, you should have a list of the review platforms that are likely having the greatest impact on your business’s online reputation, and that are seen most often by consumers searching for the keywords through which you’re hoping to be found. You’re now ready to move onto creating a plan for acquiring reviews on your targeted platforms. Have at it!

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