The 5 online review sites you could be using to your advantage

As every small business owner knows, your customers can be your biggest advocates - or your worst detractors. While word of mouth is still an incredibly powerful tool, these days, many customers turn to online review sites to share their thoughts and opinions.

We’ve rounded up the five online review sites you can’t afford to ignore and explain how your business can make the most of them.

Yelp

If your business isn’t listed on Yelp, you’re missing out on some serious potential. It’s one of the biggest customer review websites around, with an average of 170 million users per month leaving 148 million reviews.

More than that, a listing on Yelp has been known to help businesses perform better in search rankings, making it easier for people to discover your business in the first place. They also offer downloadable ‘find us on Yelp’ banners for you to add to your own website, making it easier for customers to leave reviews.

Importantly, Yelp doesn’t let you respond to reviews, positive or negative, if you haven’t registered your business with them and set up your profile. So whether you want to say thank you, apologise, or leave a sassy comment (have a serious think about your customer base before you opt for the last one), you’ll need an account with Yelp before you can do so.

Google

Google is an incredibly powerful tool for small businesses, but while you may have filled in your location, opening hours and website on Google My Business, you shouldn’t forget that it’s also somewhere customers leave reviews.

One of the most important parts of Google reviews is that your average star rating from Google, along with a link through to the written reviews, can appear on the right hand side of Google’s search page when someone looks up your business. As prospective customers can see what others think of you without even having to leave the search results page, it’s important you curate your Google reviews.

As with Yelp, you’ll need to verify your Google My Business page before you can respond to reviews.

Facebook

In this day and age, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t have a Facebook account, whether they’re 16 or 60. There are over 34 million Facebook users in the UK alone, but for small businesses, Facebook works rather differently to other review sites.

As a social media platform, Facebook allows you to have a dialogue with your customers the way other review sites don’t. As well as simply responding to reviews from your Facebook business page, you can engage with customers more organically and on a more regular basis.

Facebook also launched its recommendation feature at the end of last year, allowing users to ask their friends for suggestions in their area, whether it’s a restaurant in a new city or a trusted local cleaner. While it’s hard to use this feature directly as a small business owner, building up a loyal customer following through Facebook may see your business more likely to be recommended using this feature.

TripAdvisor

If you don’t run a restaurant, it can be easy to dismiss TripAdvisor as a review site to happily ignore. But any small business providing hospitality, entertainment or other customer experiences should make their TripAdvisor listing a top priority.

270 users post to TripAdvisor every minute, and for many it’s become synonymous with holiday or outing planning. While last year’s Vice article shows the site can be tricked, it also shows how incredibly powerful it can be if you know how to curate your page.

Yell.com

With the Yellow Pages due to stop printing in less than a year, many small businesses are being forced to shift their listings online. But they’re not the only ones who’re going to have to change their behaviour - customers are too.

For those who have used the Yellow Pages during the half-century it was in print, its online equivilant may be the first place they look when it’s finally discontinued. This means that small businesses have the perfect opportunity to create a yell.com profile - and start building up some positive reviews - ahead of the switch.

How does your business tackle online reviews? Let us know in the comments below.

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