How to Manage Your Small Business Reviews

Just about every review site has a mobile app and many small business owners have a love/hate relationship with these apps.  On one hand, a slew of negative reviews could wreck a budding entrepreneur’s vision.  On the other hand, well-placed positive reviews could sway a potential client and gain their trust.  Online reviews are a big part of any small business’s web presence, and can require careful, attentive management.  This task is made more difficult when online review sites don’t play nicely with each other, causing headaches for even the most tech-savvy owners.

Take my sister, for example.  She just started her own small photography business, and of course wants to generate good initial buzz.  So, several of her happy clients offered to post positive reviews to get her off on the right foot.  Pre-July 2011, this was simple – Google embedded reviews from other review sites (Yelp, Trip Advisor, Yahoo! Reviews etc) directly on a business’s “Google Places” page.  So, she could just smile, thank her customers for their help, and let them review on any site they wished – no muss, no fuss.  Post-July 2011, however, Google stripped out all reviews from other sites, leaving only reviews left by Google users.  

Satisfied customers willing to leave good reviews now had to pick where to leave them, and my sister was at a loss for which sites to recommend.  Reviews on Google Places helped her page ranking through organic Google searches, but Yelp! is the more popular and frequented reviews site.   Effectively what happened is, she woke up one day and all of her positive buzz was just gone.  “Sure” my sister said, “A user’s go-to place for reviews might be Google Places in 3, 5 or even 10 years. But, as much as I will need customers in 10 years, I also need customers tomorrow.”

One solution she found was to just ask customers to leave reviews on both, or let them pick which site to use. Her better solution was to have customers leave reviews on Yelp! and link to it in her Google Places page description.  But in the end, I think my sister said it best : “you know what he best solution would be?  If Google and Yelp! played nicely and just shared reviews like they used to.”  Food for thought: don’t hinge your marketing strategy on outside biz-dev deals, or you might get burned.  How is your small business handling the proliferation of mobile review apps?  Let us know in the comments.