Creating and managing your online business requires you to follow the same basic principals of any business - relying on sound Business Strategies. There are however, a few practices that differ or that just are unique to an online business. Here we share our views and experience with you to help you develop a more effective and profitable online business.

Building a Reputation Through Online Reviews

We have all seen them - those sincere testimonials from customers offering nothing but the highest praise for the owner of the business and their products. Well intentioned as they might be just how seriously do people take them these days? Fortunately people have become wiser and more astute and realise that the website owner can post anything they like - real or otherwise. There are however ways in which the context of what these testimonials set out to achieve can still be accomplished in a way that is more transparent and thus, received better by those reading them. Posting of reviews by your customers is an excellent way to offer up honest and transparent comment by your customers for others to read but only if this is done correctly.

Posting reviews has historically been associated with sites such as restaurants, cafes etc however we have seen this now extended to all sorts of businesses not just those in say the hospitality industry but also trade and professional services. Many people are also placing informal reviews on social media as comments posted, typically when complaining but with a growing tendency for positive comments as well. Whilst this is of value what we really are wanting is to have your customers leave reviews on the various social media platforms in the respective "review" sections such as found on Facebook, Yelp, Google+, Linkedin etc.

Where You Should Place Reviews

In looking for reviews you need to consider which platforms are going to best suite your business. For instance, a firm of Accountants would seek review primarily on LinkedIn (as personal recommendations for the individuals working within the firm) or on Google+ or Facebook for the firm as a whole yet a restaurant would primarily look to sites such as Yelp or UrbanSpoon as well as Facebook for reviews being left by customers.

There are also a growing number of independent review sites however, you need to examine these closely looking at how they individually establish the credibility of those able to post reviews. As with many aspects of the web, it is relatively easy to “fake it till you make it” and the practice of fake reviews being posted to certain sites is a growing problem.

Whilst similar to review websites, there are also services that will independently manage your reviews. These software services provide a full management system for capturing, managing and tracking your online reputation. If you want to know more search Google for “reputation management software” and you will many choices available of varying capability, price and functionality.

When looking for places to have customers leave reviews do not overlook your own website if possible. This can be achieved in a number of ways depending on what your real objective is; whether it be to capture and feature the reviews within your own site or whether you wish to list reviews left on other sites such as Yelp, Amazon, etc. Delivering on the latter will depend on the individual platform as not all offer the ability to post reviews within your own website.

How Should Your Reviews be Presented

The significance of collecting reviews via review services as opposed to having people leave them amongst comments on a social platform is that if done correctly, they can be featured in the search results listed by the various search engines. Depending on the platform they are placed on, these review results will be shown in different ways. One of the most powerful are those reviews left on your Google+ site as they will be featured in the block listing shown at the right side at the top of the results page in Google searches. Google not only shows the average score of your reviews but details of how many reviews have been left and even lists the most recent 2 or 3 reviews to be viewed. This can be very powerful material. There is also no doubt that the local search results are favoured if the site does have a Google+ listing with a good number of high rated reviews.

The other common sighting of reviews is in the organic search results, particularly when the search is for a brand or product. In these situations you will see the actual review posted shown as the search result including the average score result as well as that for the individual review.

In order to have your reviews be found and possibly presented in search results they do need to comply with certain standards and coding conventions laid down by Google which can be viewed in the Google Developers Documentation - Reviews. If your reviews do not comply with the markup standards set by Google they will not be seen as a valid review. You should also note that not all reviews found on the internet comply so be sure to check them out closely otherwise you may be wasting your time.

How to Get Google Reviews On Your Website

There is no simple answer to this and you will need to research the current techniques. As always when relying on 3rd party solutions and particularly social media platforms, they keep changing how they operate and what works this month may not work next. The classic example is capturing a Google+ review. Until recently you could use a link that would take anyone clicking on it directly to your reviews page and allow them to add a new review. With the latest change to Google+ interface, this no longer works and an alternate solution has to be used.

In so far as placing Google+ reviews in your website content (or reviews collected on any other website) you will need to investigate what particular options the platform offers or look for 3rd party solutions.

Our suggestion is to encourage people to leave a review on your website (using appropriate software to set these up correctly) and then encourage the user to similarly post a review on any of the 3rd party sites (such as Facebook, Yelp etc.). All of this can also be managed with 3rd party solutions such as BrightLocal, ReputationLoop or 5StarReviews.

Reviews Are Not For Everyone

As a final note of caution, there are a number of professions who are not permitted by their professional code of ethics to have reviews posted to the extent that they can be even held directly responsible for any such reviews posted. These professions include Dentists, Doctors, Financial Planners etc so make sure that no such similar rulings apply to your own profession before embarking on the path to capture of reviews.

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