We (and the internet for the past half a decade) have already spent some time convincing you of the importance of acquiring online reviews for your business. So let's just assume you're sold on the benefits of having a bunch of people tout how awesome you are on the web.
That being said, I don't think it's safe to assume we all know exactly where in the wide world of the web we can point those well-wishers when they want to sing your praises. I mean, we might all be able to rattle off one or two sites ("Yelp! and I think somehow you can do it on Google, right?"), but we don't exactly have a laundry list of options at our disposal.
Until today. Dun dun dunnn!!! Here we go, guys. Everywhere on the internet you can get online reviews. So now you can ... you know ... go get 'em.
Note: Every industry has niche sites, too. For instance, those in the restaurant industry may want to be on UrbanSpoon. This blog post won't get into sites that are specific to one industry, but it will provide review sites that apply to businesses in almost any industry.
The Usual Suspects
These are the review sites you've probably heard of, but may have lolly-gagged to get on. If you want to give your business a quick online reputation audit, checking out how your business fares on these sites (and setting up profiles if you haven't already) is a great place to start.
Geared toward service-based businesses, Angie's List is a "higher end" review site, because users actually have to pay for membership. But you get what you pay for, because the reviews, given on an A-F scale, are typically very well-thought out -- not a lot of that ranting and raving that's more common on free review sites. The reviews cannot be anonymous, which helps cut down on fake or misrepresentative reviews, and companies are allowed to respond to the reviews posted about them, too. Set up a free account with them, and then encourage your customers who are on Angie's List to leave reviews there ... because members are the only ones allowed to do it!
Yelp! is a free review site that lets consumers rate businesses on a 5-star scale. Any business can set up a profile on Yelp! for free, and any user can set up their own free profile to review a business. You're free to respond to reviewers, too, but I recommend taking a balanced and polite approach to any negative reviews you receive, as Yelpers are in a pretty tight-knit community.
Yelp! has also come under fire over the past four years for some slightly shady practices, like incentivizing businesses to advertise with them in exchange for gaming the search results for their business ("pay us money and we'll push bad reviews down!"), so savvier consumers have learned to look at Yelp! reviews as a whole and with the reviewer's clout in mind, instead of getting turned off by a business because of one bad listing. That being said, it's still to your benefit to get a constant stream of positive online reviews coming to your business' Yelp! account so happy customers are always at the top of your review feed, especially is you're a location-based business; Yelp! profile information contains things like store hours and location information, so your profile will often turn up when people Google your business.
You may know it as Google Local. Or Google Places. Maybe you just call it Google Reviews. Or, if you're ridiculously up to date on Google's bevies of updates, you might know it as its current name, Google+ 'Local.' But those reviews that show up when you conduct a Google search for a business? Yeah, those things, are on this list in a big way.
If you have a page under Google+ Local, anyone can leave a review for your business. Because Google+ has resulted in a lot of changes to the way Google's search results look, here's a screenshot of what you'd see if you searched for your business in Google's search engine, the location of your Google reviews called out in the orange box:
Sometimes the reviews may be featured in the main search results, too, and not to the right as you see here.
If you click into "Read more info," you'll go to the 'Local' tab of the business' Google+ Page, where more reviews can be seen and posted. Because this is a restaurant, you also see Zagat review information here ... that's obviously only relevant for, well, restaurants. You may also notice a score next to your business. Here's a handy little guide to just what those numbers mean:
Yahoo! Local Listings
Similar to Google+ Local reviews, Yahoo! Local reviews let users post reviews of businesses with a 5-star rating system. Here's what the results might look like:
According to The Marketing Zen Group, Yahoo! still receives about 13.5% of search engine share. So while you might not want to invest time figuring out the intricacies of Yahoo!'s algorithm, obtaining some favorable reviews on the Yahoo! Local Listings sure couldn't hurt for that 13.5%!
Another local, user-generated review site, Insider Pages, lets anyone share reviews of local businesses for free. They've been at it since 2004, so they've amassed millions of viewers over the years -- plus their results get indexed in the SERPs. That is to say that even if your target audience isn't using Insider Pages to find and compare businesses, they may still stumble upon an Insider Pages review in the SERPs. Their reviews also work off of a 5-star rating system.
Incredibly similar to Insider Pages, Citysearch is a free, user-generated local review site that, again, operates via a 5-star rating system. While people may navigate to their local Citysearch site to check out your reviews and compare you with competitors, it's more likely a Citysearch review will pop up in a searcher's results in the SERPs. It'd look something like this:
Consumer Search also provides reviews and reports of products on a 5-star rating scale, but their approach to the process is pretty interesting. Instead of growing their own user base, they take reviews from the internet and print publications, analyze the reviews and the sources, and rank them for credibility. People can then come to the site to search for products and get a distillation of all the opinions floating around in the world on those products. They state that they "have the most respect for reviews that cover multiple competing products -- and when a reviewer can demonstrate testing. We also listen carefully to a reviewer who has tested many products, and then makes an assertion that the product he is reviewing today beats other products he has reviewed in the past." That seems to be a general way of telling us they don't listen to the rants and raves of lunatics, but rather consider the quality of the reviewer in their assessment. Other criteria they consider are:
- How up-to-date the review is
- How credible the reviewer's top picks are in relation to the top picks of other reviewers
- The reviewer's expertise
- How extensive and convincing the reviewer's methodological approach is compared to other reviewer's
Wicked Legit Review Sites
Then, there are some review sites that go beyond your average online review site, because of the amount of clout their names carry. Here are two sites you should consider establishing a great reputation with -- particularly if you're a service-based business, B2B, or your product or service carries a high asking price.
A nonprofit organization, consumerreports.org is an independent product testing organization that tests, rates, and recommends products based off their unbiased testing of those products. They have 7 million subscribers, accept no advertising, and pay for all products that they test. This is about as legitimate as it gets. As such, there's not much you can do here except, if you sell a product, make sure it's really, really good.
If nothing else, you could take this website as a lesson in excellent content creation. For each product they review, they provide the review criteria, product overviews, a buying guide, social sharing buttons -- it's all quite comprehensive and, well, helpful. Pretty much the key to great content, am I right?
Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Another nonprofit site, the BBB evaluates all types of businesses against a set of best practices for how businesses should treat the public. They don't directly recommend or endorse any businesses, products, or services; they simply provide the public with the information on their site about businesses, and whether they have met the BBB's accreditation standards. They will also review both accredited and non-accredited businesses.
As you can see, a business' profile listing on the BBB contains general overview information, like a short company bio and the company's accreditation status, a history of any complaints made about the business and whether they were resolved, customer reviews, and the BBB's A-F rating of the business.
Properties You Control(ish)
Online reviews exist on sites that aren't necessarily built just to publish online reviews. Some businesses use their social presence and website to encourage online reviews ... and some brands just get them unsolicited, for better or for worse. Here are some sites that, if you choose to (please, choose to) can serve as additional hubs for online reviews. And they're awesome, because they have enormous reach, and you have some -- if not entire -- control over these properties!
Did you know there's a place on Facebook for fans to leave recommendations of your business? There sure is ... it's named, aptly, Facebook Recommendations. It'll show up if you're viewing your timeline as 'Highlights' (you can change that under your cover photo if you're not):
Then you should see a box with recommendations on your Timeline -- though it's incredibly easy to breeze past is if you have an active Timeline. I mean, the recommendations kind of just look like any ol' post.
Actually, that's really what your entire Timeline is -- a bunch of reviews of your business. So if your Facebook Recommendations section isn't exactly hopping, that's alright. Just don't forget that your entire Facebook presence is a living, breathing recommendation engine every time someone posts on your wall or comments on your content!
You might know about the LinkedIn recommendation feature that lets one individual leave a recommendation for another -- that's good for your own personal marketing, no doubt. But businesses have some recourse of their own to gather reviews of their performance! When you visit a company page on LinkedIn, you should see a 'Products and Services' box in the right navigation. If you click into it, you'll see a company's user-generated reviews of that product or service! What's really cool is, not only can you have your product or service reviewed, but you can also get reviews of your content assets -- notice the last review in the preview below recommends one of our free ebooks, How to Generate Leads Using LinkedIn!
The ridiculously fast-paced nature of Twitter makes it seem like a weird place to try to accumulate reviews. But while users might not search for reviews on Twitter (unless you started some kind of review hashtag, perhaps), tweets are still indexed in search results. That means a user's tweet, whether complimentary or less-than, could pop up in the SERPs when someone's searching for reviews on your business.
Not only that -- there's things you can actively do with the positive tweets coming at you! For instance, recently at HubSpot we tested the element of social proof on conversions, attaching three tweets that gave positive reviews on an ebook we were promoting. Guess what happened? The CTA with the three tweets converted better than the CTA with no tweets! If you start to 'Favorite' tweets that could serve as positive reviews in the future, you just might find a place to reference or embed them that could come in handy in your marketing.
Finally, the one place where you have total and utter control -- your website is an excellent place to publicize reviews you receive (perhaps embed some of those tweets you favorited?) You could carve out a section of your website dedicated just to reviews and testimonials, and even include a form so happy customers can submit their reviews unsolicited. But if you're actively campaigning for positive online reviews and you encounter happy customers that want to leave you a positive review, but don't have accounts on sites like Yelp!, Angie's List, LinkedIn, or Google, it's handy to have a place on your website to publish their kind words. Consider adding testimonials to landing pages and product pages, too!
What other online review sites do you use, either as a marketer or consumer? Share your buried treasure with us!
Image credit: CollegeDegrees360