One of the most controversial areas of online marketing is that of business reviews and ratings. Companies intensely feel impact to their pride and their bottom line when they receive negative consumer reviews, and this consternation does little to reduce the desire of other companies to publish them like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, online yellow pages, and others. Google and Bing both display star rating values in search results as well, rendering average rating values highly visible, too.
I’ve been writing on business reviews management issues and presenting sessions on the subject at various conferences of late, and I’ve been involved in online reviews for many years. Members of my team at Verizon worked on the technical development of the online reviews system used by Superpages.com, for instance, and having this insider view of how large companies editorially manage reviews has been very useful in my consulting work where I assist businesses in developing ratings markup to appear in search results, help companies develop strategies to elicit more positive reviews for SEO value and promotional advantage, and in addressing negative online reputation aspects (see “10 Ideas: How To Fix A Damning Business Review“.
Argent Media works on many aspects of Online Reputation Management (“ORM”), including issues involving company reviews and ratings. Read on for details…
Common Reviews & Ratings Issues:
Businesses desire to improve ratings for SEO advantage. Earlier in Google algorithm history, business ratings values were likely not a ranking factor, as I outlined in an article on whether ratings affect local SEO. Since writing that, Google has modified is various user interface designs and also its algorithms, and today I can categorically state that ratings DO INDEED DIRECTLY AFFECT BUSINESS RANKINGS IN SEARCH RESULTS. Partly, this is due to Google enabling users to reorder or filter businesses based upon their rating values. But, the influence goes beyond just the numerical scores — text written in accompanying reviews may also impact keyword relevancy. Here at Argent Media, we are expert in ethical and reliable means of increasing reviews. (Importantly, it’s worthwhile to note that the government can fine businesses for deploying artificial reviews, since that is a type of fraud. Shill reviews are also directly against the terms and conditions of all reputable review sites and search engines, and it’s possible for businesses to get de-listed or penalized for engaging in this. We only recommend methods for building real reviews.)
Certain types of businesses, like doctors and lawyers, find it more challenging to get consumer reviews. Hotels, restaurants and entertainment businesses generally don’t have to try to build reviews — they come naturally. But, in other cases there are industry categories which people are traditionally hesitant to review publicly — but, there are techniques to overcome this!
Businesses are impacted by too many negative reviews. People are sometimes more motivated to post ratings and reviews when they have a negative experience. There are a number of ways to turn this around, as well as to displace negative reviews in search results so that more positive webpages can rank for company name searches.
False reviews can damage a business. The anonymity of the internet often is taken as license for unscrupulous people to perform a negative review campaign to attack a business. We’ve seen cases of extortion, insane people who were never customers, businesses actively engaged in harming their competition, and people seeking revenge for some reason or other. In some instances, our familiarity with the medium has enabled our agency to get false reviews removed entirely. In other cases, it’s necessary to simply dilute out the bad reviews with more good ones, or to optimize positive pages to push negative review sites out of visibility in Google and Bing.
Large companies with many chainstores find it difficult to manage online reviews at many locations. It’s challenging to get local store management trained in how to deal with online reviews at many locations, and it’s also challenging to keep tabs on reviews posted in many places. Here at Argent Media, we have some enterprise solutions we can offer, as well as online response services. For some brand names, we provide online customer relations via review sites and social media, and our methods can enable attention for large-scale monitoring and management.
Positive reviews are all filtered out of visibility. This is particularly an issue with Yelp, where their automated filtering system decides your positive reviews may be artificial, so they segregate them and suppress their visibility on your business page. We know some of the reasons this may happen, and can provide consulting in how to avoid the irritating sandbagging of your promotional efforts.
Thinly-veiled extortion sites damage your business from the outset, by the very nature of the review site’s name. Some of the common ones are: RipOff Report, Pissed Consumer, Complaints Board, and many others. I urge you to NEVER engage with these companies, because some of them will never take down negative materials, even with court orders establishing that the content is libel and defamation — and, simply having their website name appear with a page about your company paints you in a bad light before anyone even reads the contents. Non-intuitively, it’s also a fact that if you write a company response comment on these site’s pages, you’ll actually be helping the bad page rank better for your name searches in Google! Part of Google’s algorithm also assesses if there is fresh content and comments being added to pages as ongoing indicators of relative popularity. Likewise, clicking through to these pages from the search results is a further signal to search engines that the content is popular relative to other pages with fewer clicks! So, be careful and avoid even touching these types of sites.
Businesses frequently feel helpless and at the mercy of online reviews sites, and the issues around this can abruptly change a viable business into one that’s losing money. One truth is that doing nothing isn’t going to improve the situation, and in some cases it can actually result in a snowball effect of replicating negative sentiment among customers.
The elements involved in online reviews are complex — don’t despair and do nothing, and don’t try to do it yourself — let us explore if we can help you improve your situation so that you can focus on the core parts of your business. Your reputation is your business, and keeping it shiny is worth it!