Staying Ahead of Online Reviews

Keeping up with online reviews can leave any business owner or tourism marketer feeling stressed.

While we can’t always control what’s posted online, we can at least be in a position to be aware they exist. Then we can decide whether or not to react.

Review sites allow any organization to easily claim their listing and set up email notifications. Key sites are YelpTripAdvisor and Google My Business. Once you’re the owner, be sure to spend some time updating your content, images and, when possible, incorporate videos. Yelp’s sales reps will tell you that videos drive customers especially when it comes to restaurants.

Unfortunately, Yelp seems to be frequented by complainers – individuals who didn’t voice a concern while they were at your establishment, using your service or visiting your destination. They’d prefer to air their dirty laundry online rather than reaching out to you directly. In some instances a comment could be legitimate but in others it’s only one side of the story. In all cases, if you’ve claimed your listing, you have a right to respond and provide perspective, taking the high road of course.

TripAdvisor is a great tool and a top resource for travel planners. Notifications can include guest comments and/or questions. Or select the option to receive analytic reports for your business, too. Acknowledging a positive review with a simple “thank you” goes a long way in letting reviewers know you care.

Online review sites, like TripAdvisor, encourage the use of their widgets (logos) on your website and in other marketing materials to promote feedback. If you’d like to pump up your ratings on one particular review site, consider showcasing that widget or link.

I find that Google My Business reviews provide a steady stream of email notifications. It’s easy for customers – regardless of device – to easily provide a 1-5 star rating, write a short review or post photos. For those who use Google as their search engine, the “Google reviews” or “Write a review” option appears automatically with Google Local Search and Google Maps results.

To take advantage, first you’ll need to claim your place-based Google My Business listing. What will display on Google about your business is referred to as the Google Pack. On a desktop computer the search results appear in the right-hand column. It will contain photos, a map, your company name, website address, reviews, basic information like a description, hours of operation and phone number, Q&As, social media profile logos and other sites people searched. With notifications, you’ll also be sent reminders to adjust your hours for upcoming holidays and be advised when questions are being asked about your business. Often those questions are already answered on your website; reviewers familiar with you will gladly respond and most answers are accurate.

With Google you probably won’t have time to reply to each review but an occasional comment goes a long way. The most important thing with these top three-review sites is to monitor the information being posted. The bad news is that unhappy guests will hit all three sites. So the worst of the worst may need to be responded to with identical comments.