The Ultimate Guide to Collecting and Managing Business Reviews to Increase Sales

If you’ve been avoiding review sites, it’s time to step into the limelight, my friend. Whether you’re the best developer in town or an agency that produces outstanding work on time and under budget, business reviews can allow you to build a public reputation that will increase your sales and referrals.

“But what if I get negative reviews?” you say. Alas, negative reviews are a part of review life, but you can minimize their impact with the right approach. You’ll get a lot more benefits from company reviews, such as an SEO boost, targeted leads, social proof and a warm “aw shucks” feeling that will keep you going on your tough days.

In this post, I’m going to explain why reviews not only matter, but with voice searches becoming a thing, they’re becoming increasingly important. We’re going to dive deep into company reviews, including, how to ask for a review, how to manage them, responding to negative reviews and the best online review sites.

Why Your Business Needs Reviews

It’s never too early to begin asking your clients for feedback. You don’t need to have a certain amount of revenue or clients or a “real” office or whatever. All you need is to be committed to your growth, because the process is by no means easy, but if you can handle the truth, then you can really handle anything.

Fail Faster

As a business owner, you probably have a list of questions you’re trying to figure out so you can grow, such as:

  • What’s your most popular service or product and why?
  • Who on your team leaves the biggest impression, positive or negative, on your clients? Is this person doing a good job?
  • How do you shape your existing products and services to fit your clients’ needs better and get more sales?
Screenshot of Google Analytics Audience Overview
Analytics don’t always reveal the whole story

Rather than going through a process of trial and error to find the answers, you can combine the insights you get from business reviews with your sales data and analytics. You’ll be able to improve much much faster, because you’re not wasting time figuring out what the problem is.

What is Social Proof

Social proof is what you look for when you’re uncertain of what to do, so you look to see what others are doing. Social proof is a type of social conformity, but it isn’t driven by a need to fit in.

Screenshot of tweets about the WhiP newsletter
Social proof in action, sign up for the WhiP, all the cool kids are doing it

Social proof asks “where is everyone else placing their chips?” If there’s a big pile in one place, people assume there’s probably a good reason, so more people will place their chips there, which will attract more chips and more chips like a magnet.

Once you have this powerful people magnet, you can use it to convince people to take a chance on your business.

  • You can use your reviews on social media channels so you don’t have to come up with as many posts. Just think, no more humblebragging about yourself.
  • Use your best reviews on landing pages or your home page. Let your clients be your copywriters.
  • Give your marketing campaigns some OOMPH! Your potential customers will be most impressed with you and treat you like the rock star you are.
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SEO

Yotpo surveyed the increase of organic page visits for 30,000 businesses over 9 months to see how company reviews affect SEO. During that time organic page visits increased from around 5,500 to 8,000, an increase of about 50%.

Google Business Reviews will also help your business beat out the competition in side by side comparisons, since businesses with more reviews tend to rank higher.

With an ongoing stream of reviews on review sites, Google will have a fresh batches of keywords to associate your business with, including a lot of long tail keywords that your customers will come up with for you when they describe your business in their reviews. Long phrases are also increasingly important to voice searches since people tend to talk more than they type.

Inspiration

Some reviews will make your day. Some will stay with you longer and keep you going on those tough days. Sure, you just create websites, but you won’t know the impact you’re making if you don’t ask.

The site you built could have turned around a business and thereby saved a marriage. You could have created the blog that allowed someone to quit their job and do what they love. You could have built a product or service that gave someone extra time so they could finally make it to their kid’s baseball game.

You’re going to “have something in your eye” a lot. Print them out and put them up to motivate your team.

At one company I worked for, we used to read them aloud during team meetings. Everyone would leave the meeting with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation.

Screenshot of a WPMU DEV review
Imagine having a bad day and then seeing this

Leave Us a Review Pretty Please

Have I convinced you to give reviews a shot? Great!

Before you create that shiny new Yelp page, you need a plan and process in place for managing reviews.

Properly handling reviews will determine whether or not you can use them effectively as a tool or if you’re going to have a raging disaster that leaves a sick burn. Coming up with a plan will also allow you to process reviews much more quickly.

At one point, I personally collected and managed over 150 reviews across a variety of sites within the span of a year and a half, and I did this in about 30 minutes a week or less. This included finding new reviews, adding the review to a spreadsheet, writing a response, announcing it to the team and adding it to a queue to go out on social media.

Managing reviews doesn’t have to be an huge time-sucking ordeal. Let’s go over what your review management plan has to address.

How will you collect reviews on an ongoing basis?

This is the most important part of your review strategy. Collecting reviews is not a one-time business activity. You don’t just ask a couple clients for a review when you set up your page and then forget about it. You need to ask as many clients as possible on an ongoing basis and make it easy for them to leave you a review.

screenshot of Smush reviews on WordPress.org
Smush the competition with your reviews

You can automate this process by:

  • Adding a trigger in your CRM
  • Using a webform that triggers a text message and email in Zapier
  • Triggering an email when the client project reaches a done status in Trello or other Kanban board
  • Have your plugin ask for a review automatically

Collecting reviews is a numbers game. You need a steady stream of positive reviews to neutralize the negative reviews. Of course, unsatisfied clients are going to go out of their way to slam you online, but if there’s hundreds or thousands of glowing 5-star reviews, they’ll be a drop in the bucket and won’t make much of a dent.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how many people will leave you warm and positive reviews when you start asking.

WPMU DEV’s Smush plugin has over 4,100 reviews on WordPress.org, with an average of 4.8 out of 5 stars. Pretty incredible right? We ask for reviews automatically on all of our free plugins.

When it comes to reviews, the best defense is not to hide in the shadows and avoid review sites. Potential clients will view that as suspicious. You also don’t want to ask your employees and friends to leave you fake reviews.

Negative reviews are not as detrimental as you’d think. A study by the Harvard Business School found that consumers bought more from businesses that had a greater number of reviews rather than a small number of impeccable reviews.

Your clients are looking at the big picture your reviews paint. If you only have good reviews and they are all hyper enthusiastic, that looks fishy. Plus, neutral and negative reviews with honest insight, will help people determine if what you offer is right for them, so you’ll get more web design clients who are a better fit.

How will you discover new reviews in a timely manner?

Most review sites will send you an email notification to alert you of new reviews once you claim your page. Keep an eye on these for anything that is urgent and needs to be addressed immediately. You don’t want to leave a bad review to fester. For the most part, most reviews won’t be urgent so you can safely batch process them about once a week.

Some review sites don’t send an email, so you’ll have to remind yourself to check them for new reviews during your weekly review roundup.

Screenshot of Google Alerts Settings
Stalk yourself with Google Alerts

To make sure nothing is getting through the cracks, I recommend setting up a Google Alert as a review checker.

Go to Google.com/alerts and enter the name of your company. Open up the options to specify how often you want to receive an alert and to set “how many” to “all results” so you get everything.

Who will process reviews?

Teams and agencies, I’m talking to you. Who is going to be your designated review checker?

Who will be responsible for finding reviews? Who will be responsible for responding to reviews? If there is a problem, does that person have the authority and resources to take resolve the issue?

Reviews are not exactly something you want to delegate to an intern. Chances are multiple people will be involved, so make sure everyone is on the same page.

How will you keep track of reviews?

Speaking of getting everyone on the same page, you should collect all your reviews in one place, like I did in this Airtable.

Screenshot of Reviews Airtable
Select the Main View in the Feedback Section to see the table for reeviews

As you can see above, I have columns for keeping track of tasks related to reviews, such as if a review has been posted to social media or if an issue mentioned in a negative review has been resolved. This will allow everyone involved to see what needs to be done.

You’ll want to keep track of employees mentioned in reviews so you can reward employees who are mentioned over and over in positive reviews.

Say Thank You

Are you going to send a thank you card in the mail? Write up a nice email? Or just thank them in the response to their review?

Come up with a template or go buy some thank you cards so you’ll be ready. By the way, a thank you card is a great excuse to send along some business cards so they can pass them out to referrals.

Responding to Negative Reviews

First off, it’s only a matter of time before someone tells you how much you suck and gives you one star review. When this happens, and it happens to EVERYONE, you need to remain calm.

Handling a bad review is a lot like trying to keep a bomb from going off in a public place. Your business has been taken hostage, so trying to win a public argument will only result in more collateral damage.

Do not try to protect your ego and attack the reviewer. Instead, you need to diffuse the situation and have an honest discussion offline. When you reach out, acknowledge that you listened to your feedback and want to correct the situation. You don’t want to place the blame on them or make excuses.

Screenshot of review response
How to handle feedback like a class act

You are a professional, after all, and how you respond to the review will matter just as much, if not more than what the initial review said. You need to come across as decent and reasonable, especially if the initial bad review is rude.

Take a look at this response:

Thank you for your feedback. While we pride ourselves on our ______, I’m sorry to see that we let you down. I’m going to reach out to you directly, since I already have your contact information, to see if there is anything we can do to make the situation right.

Did you know that 33% of negative reviews on Yelp upgrade their review when you take the time to respond to the upset customer within 24 hours? Keep this in mind when you reach out the customer directly. You can still turn the situation around.

When you reach out directly, remind them that you’re on their team and that you truly want to help. Let them vent and connect with them on a person-to-person level. Then, work with them to correct the situation.

Like I mentioned earlier, businesses with a mix of positive and negative reviews get more pageviews on Yelp than businesses with only positive reviews.

Online Review Sites

Where you collect company reviews will depend on the area you cover. For developers and agencies who only like to work with people face-to-face, you’re going to want to focus on building up reviews in local directories, like the Yellow Pages and Google Business Listings.

Agencies or developers who don’t like to limit themselves to a geographic location can focus on global reviews like the ones found on Facebook.

When you begin creating profiles pages for your business, fill them out completely. Add photos, business hours, contact information, etc. so they’ll be a valuable resource for people looking for someone with your very particular set of skills. Skills you have acquired over a very long career ;)

Screenshot of WPMU DEV reviews on Facebook
You like me, you really like me

Facebook Business Reviews

For review newbies, I recommend starting with Facebook Business Reviews because there is a setting on your business page to hide all reviews. Removing reviews will also eliminate the ability to check in but since so many web developers usually work from home, then who cares, right? Get Reviews on Facebook by creating your own page and then asking clients to leave you a review.

Google Business Reviews

I found that asking someone to leave a review on your Google Business Listing works best via text message. Since your client is probably already signed in to their Google account on their phone, they’ll be able to leave a review quickly and easily. If they’re not signed in, they have to do that first and that’s too much for some people.

Yelp

Here’s the secret to how to get Yelp Reviews, only ask your clients who are active on Yelp. If your client creates a Yelp account just to leave you a review, Yelp will put it in a separate section for reviews that they don’t recommend. They’ll only display reviews from Yelp accounts with previous activity.

BBB

The Better Business Bureau is the original Yelp, so although they do things the old-fashioned way, there’s a lot of older folks who really respect businesses with an A+ rating on the BBB. I would start a profile on the BBB if your clients are Baby Boomers or older, because the process of responding and settling disputes is more formal so it takes more time and energy.

Screenshot of Hustle plugin on WordPress.org
Do the Hustle

WordPress.org

Plugin developers, you should direct people using your plugin to leave you a review on WordPress.org. Same for you theme developers, don’t forget to ask people to review your themes wherever you’re selling them.

Your Own Site

Sell your services as bundles on your site? You have the most control on your own site, so that’s also a great place to get started. You might already have some emails lavishing praise on you from your clients. Ask them if you can publish them on your site. Here’s how to add reviews to your site.

How to Ask for a Review

You want to ask for reviews AND referrals when you notify your client that his or her project is complete. The sooner the better, because they’re project is still in the forefront of their mind and they’re excited about what you’ve created for them.

Create an email template and include links to one or two reviews sites that you’re directing traffic to. You can do this via text message also. Here’s an example of how to ask for a review:

Congratulations! Your site is now ready.

It was a pleasure putting together this site for you and we wish you so much success in all your endeavors. We appreciate your business and we’re always here to help you with questions or anything else you may need in the future.

Would you mind doing us a favor and leaving us a quick review on our Google Business Page and on Yelp? This helps us earn the trust of new clients who would benefit from our services.

We go above and beyond for clients who are referred to us and we show our gratitude to you by sending you a token of appreciation. If there is someone who you think needs our services, we’d be tremendously grateful if you would introduce us.

I’d like to personally thank you for your support and we hope to work with you again in the future.

As I mentioned earlier, you want to automate this process as much as possible so you can collect as many good reviews as you can.

Let’s Review

Look, I get it, reviews can leave you feeling exposed and it can be awkward to ask, so it’s easier to just avoid the whole thing. We all wonder if we secretly suck and no one has told us yet.

I’m here to tell you that once you start, you’ll wish you’d done it sooner because most people will have wonderful things to say about you, the sites you build and what you’ve helped them accomplish. In a lot of ways, opening a channel for reviews is a lot like opening up a blog for comments. You’ll have valuable conversations that will give you new insights. Even the challenging reviews have a bright side.

Once you get a system going, reviews take care of themselves. I’ve personally seen businesses with only negative reviews, start asking all their clients for reviews and within a year and a half, become the #1 service provider in their area. That’s how powerful reviews can be.

You’ll be raising your rates in no time.

Felicia
I want to hear from you now. Are you using reviews to get more WordPress clients? What is the best thing a client has ever said about you?