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Positive reviews can go a long way for a business. Taking advantage of review sites will help you engage with customers, learn their wants and needs and address any issues. — Getty Images/andresr

Reviews are one of the first things potential customers turn to when deciding whether or not to give a business their patronage. Research shows that more than 90% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision; and up to 80% of people trust reviews as much as an influencer or personal recommendation.

Review sites like Angi (formerly Angie’s List) and Yelp can give your small business a big competitive advantage. But a bad review can also sink your sales. Here’s how to utilize review sites to bring in customers and boost profitability.

Respond to every review

Businesses that don’t respond to their online reviews come off as not caring about what their customers have to say. And businesses that don’t care about their customer, don’t succeed.

That said, not every review deserves to be hashed out in public. Negative reviews need to be handled with care. Validate the customer’s concern; and, for more complex issues, move the conversation to direct message or email.

If you’re facing someone trying to troll or provoke you, be sure to respond in neutral language. Let your employees know what the appropriate response to each situation should be, including when to escalate a potential problem to you. An established complaints policy can go a long way to managing your team’s public response to reviews.

Gain customer insights

Reviews can tell you a lot about how your business is performing and what your customers really want. Review site Trustpilot offers a tool called ‘tags’ to help you track specific variables across customer feedback. Small business owners can use their reviews on any site to understand insight such as:

  • Which employees are providing the best customer experience?
  • What locations are offering great service?
  • What are the stand-out products customers rave about?
  • What pain points are customers experiencing repeatedly?

Scan both complaints and positive reviews to get valuable feedback. The better you understand your customers’ needs, the better you can continue to grow your business and attract loyal fans.

Reviews can tell you a lot about how your business is performing and what your customers really want.

Share your best reviews

Don’t wait for potential customers to search for your greatest reviews. Take advantage of positive feedback by sharing your most enthusiastic public reviews on social media. According to research by Psychology Today, good reviews lead to more good reviews, and people look to others to learn what they should do. So, share a positive review to generate more positive feedback and advertise your business.

Boost your SEO ranking

Review sites aren’t just customer service tools. They’re also important for helping your business’s visibility. Customer feedback on sites like Google, Yahoo, Yelp, Facebook, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and Angie's List all contribute to your SEO ranking.

The Google algorithm looks for a combination of “high-quality, positive reviews,” your business’s responses to reviews and the number of reviews available across multiple review sites. These factors are used to determine where your business ranks in a local search.

[See more: 3 Key Facts About Customer Reviews.]

Take ownership of the reviews on your page and include your company’s information (location, hours, contact details) on every review site where your customers are active. This can work wonders for your marketing effort!

Differentiate yourself from the competition

Yelp, Facebook, and many other review sites offer a “From the Business” section, which is an opportunity for you to tell a unique story about your brand.

Remember, customers are coming to learn about your business, so this is a great opportunity to talk about what makes you different to a receptive audience. Are you using natural ingredients? Are you a family-owned business? Add photos of your storefront or interior to help customers get a feel for your shop, salon, or cafe. Think of a review site as just another opportunity to show what makes you special, and to allow your best customers to do the same.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Applications are open for the CO—100! Now is your chance to join an exclusive group of outstanding small businesses. Share your story with us — apply today.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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