How to look after your online reputation

Reputation, reputation, reputation - ensuring that everyone thinks well of your business has always been important. Now, in the age of social media, customers can share their experiences with your business instantly. If you don't reach the standard expected, you'll be called out. But it works both ways; if you go above and beyond, happy customers will spread the word. Don't underestimate the power your customers have to impact upon your business.

Katie Byrne is the Manager of Local Business Outreach at Yelp, the world’s largest consumer review site and local guide. Katie talks with local business owners on a daily basis to help understand their needs and advise on best practices for getting their business noticed online. We asked her a few questions about how you can look after your online reputation.


How to look after your online reputation - Yelp

Why is it important to think about your online reputation?

Your website and SEO efforts are no longer enough to control your online reputation. Consumer-generated content, such as review sites and blogs, affect your reputation too - because it’s crowd-sourced from the community, it’s more useful to the consumer. People are using review sites like Yelp more than ever because they want to hear from other consumers and get all the information they need to choose a business right there and then. These aren’t window shoppers either; TNS research highlighted that 99% of Yelp users make a purchase after using the site.


What’s the best way to leave a positive online footprint?

By joining the conversation about your business! Optimising your presence on Yelp and other review sites on a regular basis is key to getting in front of new customers and owning your reputation online. You can claim your business listing on Yelp for free and you get a whole host of free tools to help you market your business. Maximise your customer leads by ensuring it’s easy for customers to learn more or get in touch. Check that your phone number and website are listed and up to date. Yelp data shows that customers spend 2.5 times longer on business pages with photos than those without, so take the opportunity to upload photos that showcase what you do best.

The most powerful tool you have when building your online reputation is the ability to respond to reviews. Our single most important piece of advice is to join the conversation — it’s about your business, after all.


How can you encourage customers to leave positive reviews?

Customer service is key: Yelp research shows that Yelpers that mention 'good customer service’ are five times more likely to write a five-star review than a one-star review. There are lots of ways you can organically grow your reviews too. We say organically because we don’t recommend asking your customers for reviews. Solicited reviews can lead to bias in your listing, which isn’t helpful for consumers and means you’re less likely to be recommended by our automated recommendation software. I recommend letting your customers know you’re on Yelp rather than asking for reviews directly. There are lots of subtle ways you can do this - the most effective we have found is by using a Find Us On Yelp sticker in your window. You can request one here.


Another way to generate good reviews is to create a check-in offer using your free tools. These are offers designed by you to suit your business, and the benefits are two-fold. Firstly, you are rewarding loyalty from your repeat customers, and, secondly, you are attracting new ones who are searching for businesses like yours on Yelp. When a customer checks in to your business we prompt them to share their experience the next time they log on, which is another great way of growing your reviews organically.


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What’s the best way to deal with negative reviews?

The good news is that, more often than not, customers are taking the time to share their great experiences online. On Yelp 78% of all reviews are three-stars or higher. That being said, you will come across an unhappy customer at some point online, just as you would offline. I mentioned it earlier, but the most powerful thing you can do when you get a negative review is to respond. On Yelp, you can choose to respond publically or privately.

When you respond publically, you're not just addressing that single customer, but every single customer who is reading your reviews and choosing whether to do business with you or not. The way in which you respond to a review can make all the difference in how these potential customers perceive your business.

Reading a negative review about your business can be hard. It is important to be respectful in your response and try to shake off any emotions you may have. If you are responding to a review which describes a misunderstanding, then take the opportunity to respond publically and outline your business’ policies. Just remember to always be polite and craft a response you would be proud for others to hear.


How can you leverage good reviews and get the maximum impact from them?

Great question! There are lots of fun and free ways you can use online reviews as your marketing currency. You can share your favourite reviews straight to Facebook and Twitter and let your customers do the talking for you. This can be especially impactful for growing your audience on your social media channels as you can take the opportunity to thank the reviewer for the feedback, so their audience can see it too. Great businesses often incorporate reviews into their team meetings to recognise their staff for their hard work. I have seen everything from coffee shops writing their favourite review of the day on their chalkboard, to yoga studios printing them out and framing them in the changing rooms.

When you have a great reputation, there are also paid products you can use to connect with and reach new customers and maximise your return. When you invest in your business on Yelp, ads are placed on relevant search results and competitor’s business pages to give you the reach you need, and to help grow your leads.

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What if your reputation is lacklustre? Can this be fixed and how long might it take?

Yes! On Yelp you can have a voice, take control of your reputation, and engage with your customers. The most important thing to remember is that the same customer service policies should apply online as they do offline. Responding to your reviews demonstrates that you take customer service seriously in your business and also helps you connect with your customers. You can also optimise your profile for free by providing information such as business specialities, history of the business, and meet the business owner sections. This type of information helps consumers learn more about your business and, our internal data shows businesses with complete profiles get five times more customer leads!


Any other tips or Yelp features businesses might not know about?

Business owners are always surprised when I chat to them about the free tools on Yelp. You can claim your business profile, add photos, create check-in offers, and loads more without it costing you a penny.

Consumer reviews can provide such powerful insight into your business - without leaving your desk you can read what your customers are saying about their experience with you. I recently chatted with the patron and chef of The Table restaurant and I really liked his thinking on this subject. He described reviews as a barometer for your business, the only objective one you have — don’t worry about every single word, but do make sure you’re listening. If you can embrace them and really listen you can identify trends and get valuable feedback from your customers. And don’t forget - all this customer insight is available about your competitors too.


Questions? You can find me @yourbizonyelp or download our free guide for UK businesses: The Secret to Business Success with User Review Sites


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