We spend all our time online writing and reading advice about how we can and do help ourselves, and our businesses. How to get more traffic, attract customers, outmatch the competition, and generally help ourselves succeed.
There are few things more consequential for small and locally-oriented businesses than getting good reviews online. This doesn’t just apply to restaurants—thanks to aggregators like Angie’s List and Yelp!, every niche has a site (or several) that send strong signals to Google—and, by extension, potential customers—about the quality of a business.
We all have our favorites: your go-to mechanic, your habit-forming coffee shop, your preferred butcher, baker, sandwich-maker. But have you left reviews for all these favorite mainstays?
Not all businesses have the budget or resources to do a lot of effective marketing—much less SEO. But for those who depend on local, physical locations for most of their business, the science of search engines works a little different than for large companies who generate more leads online than in person.
Central to their survival is getting loyal (and new) customers to leave reviews, and not just by word of mouth or on Facebook.
Think of it as the modern, SEO version of paying it forward: if you get in the habit of showing appreciation for the businesses and entrepreneurs in your community by leaving positive reviews online, that goodwill makes a positive difference for them, a sort of indirect thank-you that can actually help their bottom lines.
And if altruism is asking too much, consider that the more people there are who make a habit of leaving reviews for their favorite companies online, the better your own chances are of being on the receiving end of that virtual goodwill.
People have a tendency to keep quiet when satisfied, and latch onto bad experiences; this human habit gets magnified online through the power of reviews. In turn, it increases the chances of perfectly viable businesses losing face online due to a few incorrigible reviewers who just can’t be pleased. No line of business is without its bad eggs, or difficult customers; why should they have the power to smear a good company just by going online?
To paraphrase Edmund Burke, all that is necessary for bad reviews to tank a website is for positive reviewers to say nothing.
In the end, how can you expect your own customers and clients to spread positive word of mouth if you don’t do the same for the places you patronize? Likewise, what chance do you stand of converting your great customer service and company values into SEO value without a few generous online reviewers? If they can do it, so can you.
Online reviews are a necessary component of a well-rounded marketing plan. For those with limited resources, it may be the central prong—and the one they have the least control over.
Help out the good guys by leaving winning reviews. These days, word of mouth is more powerful when you put it online for the record—not just social media, but review sites. Whether you open one account or make the rounds, it is one of the best favors you can do to support the places you keep coming back to.
And maybe, that commitment to positivity will come back to you, too.