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To cultivate and grow your business, be intentional about watching and responding to online reviews. — Getty Images/picture

Online reviews matter. They can drive business to your website and your storefront. They can help you build a brand, inform you of your customers’ experiences and educate you on ways to improve your product or service. That’s why getting reviews should not be a passive experience but rather something you intentionally participate in.

To help you embrace customer reviews wisely, here are a few tips:

  • Prioritize Google. Customers looking for reviews of your business are likely to check Google first. More consumers rely on Google for reviews than any other source. Since you likely won’t have time to keep up with every review site, prioritize Google reviews. (Supporting tip: Be sure to claim your Google My Business listing.)
  • Don’t fear negative reviews. Believe it or not, having a negative review or two legitimizes your business in the eyes of some potential customers. Nobody’s perfect all the time, so companies that only have positive reviews may appear to be feeding the review sites. Just be sure to respond appropriately to negative reviews, as savvy consumers gain further insight into your business based on that response.
  • Solicit reviews from happy customers. A lack of reviews hurts your SEO. So while you may hesitate to ask customers to take the time to write a review and you may fear a bad review, you really do need reviews. Nearly 10% of Google’s search engine algorithm is based on online reviews—without them, you can fall below your competition in online searches.

[Read: 3 Things You Need to Know About Online Reviews in 2019]

How to manage online reviews

Being proactive in managing your online reviews can have a big impact on your brand and your business growth. Consider these three actions to achieve this:

  • Become aware. Your first step is to discover where you’re reviewed and what your customers are saying. Make sure you claim your business profile on review sites.
  • Respond appropriately. You’ll likely see positive and negative reviews. Both can be legitimate and help you understand your business and customers better. Taking time to respond to both types of reviews will communicate a lot about you to potential customers.
  • Create a rhythm for monitoring and responding. When you first find out where you’ve been reviewed, you may have to catch up and respond to at least the most recent posts. After that, you can create more of a rhythm in your week for ongoing monitoring and responding. Part of managing your reviews is to regularly ask satisfied customers to post their review of your business.

[Read: A Complete Guide to Managing Online Reviews]

Negative reviews can provide valuable information about genuine issues that you may need to address so your business can thrive.

How to deal with bad reviews

While you may dread a bad review, you can turn it to your advantage. Follow these steps to create a positive impression of your business:

  • Always respond. It’s important to demonstrate to potential customers that each customer matters and that you empathize with a reviewer regardless of their complaint. Even if you feel you’ve done no wrong, you can genuinely care that a customer is upset.
  • Do not delete. Rather than deleting a particularly harsh review, ask the reviewer to follow up directly with you so you can address their concerns. This removes the dialogue from the public forum but shows your willingness to respond to complaints.
  • Learn from patterns. Negative reviews can provide valuable information about genuine issues that you may need to address so your business can thrive. See if there are any common complaints among reviewers and assess how you might address these.
  • Follow up. Check back in with a customer who posted a negative review to ensure their issue was resolved. If it was, consider asking them to update their review.

[Read: Top 4 Tips for Handling a Bad Business Review]

How to encourage positive reviews

Of course, you really do want positive reviews. While you can’t tell a customer what to write, you can influence the reviews of your product, service or business in a few ways:

  • Deliver a great product or service. The best way to get gushing reviews is to earn them. When you provide customers with a terrific product or service and back it up with outstanding customer service, that’s likely to be reflected in your reviews. You can improve your chances of getting these reviews by proactively asking your customers to share their experience with your business online.
  • Use SMS messages to request reviews. Customers with good intentions to review your business may forget to do so in the hustle and bustle of life. Sending a message right to their phones with a link to a review site can be a helpful reminder. It’s also wise to include a way for them to contact you with questions or for assistance following their purchase.
  • Leverage influencers. Influencers are becoming an important ingredient in a company’s marketing mix. These are people who have an audience that listens to their opinions. Find an influencer in your niche and offer your product or service free of charge if they’ll share their honest review with their followers. If appropriate, you may choose to offer monetary compensation for their time to review your business.

[Read: 3 Expert Strategies to Encourage Positive Customer Reviews]

Today’s consumers value what others say about your company. If you embrace this and properly solicit, manage and respond to online reviews, you can build a reputation that grows your business.

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.

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