The SMB awareness of online reviews and their impact is such that savvy small businesses are now fretting about how to get more of them and increase the likelihood that they’re good ones at that. However review solicitation is a practice that Yelp frowns up and will punish and Google has given mixed signals about, at least as it pertains to testimonials (which are almost always solicited).
Google was scraping testimonials from SMB websites and including them in Place Pages but, as Mike Blumenthal recently reported, that practice may or may not be still going on. Google appears a bit uncertain about how to handle it because of potential credibility issues.
Recently I was speaking to an acupuncturist friend and he was lamenting the lack of reviews for him on Google and Yelp but saying he was uncomfortable asking his clients to review him. Another friend whose wife is a hair stylist was telling me his wife has two reviews on Google: one great and one highly negative. He was concerned about how to handle the negative review and how to get more reviews overall.
These are two anecdotes but they reflect that SMBs are increasingly focused on their online reputations. By contrast, here’s what Yelp recently said in one of its online missives to SMB members:
Ultimately Yelp is correct; the best social media strategy is great customer service. But many SMBs want faster results and understandably want to take greater control of the process.
Accordingly Yelp may be increasingly “swimming upstream” when it comes to SMB attitudes about reviews. Many SMBs will solicit them and even reward them — in the same way that often one sees this kind of thing: “$2 off if you Like us on Facebook.”
Beyond this, SMBs continue to monitor their online reputations (those that do) the “old fashioned way” by conducting vanity searches, visiting selected sites (e.g., Yelp) or using “alerts.” Indeed, a majority of SMBs, according to survey data we just pulled from the field (n=8,500 SMBs), don’t know about or use the formal reputation monitoring products in the market:
- Vendasta’s StepRep
Among SMBs responding to the question “How do you monitor online discussion or reviews of your business?” 26% of respondents said “Google Alerts,” 15% said Yelp and 42% said “none of the above.” The remaining 17% were almost evenly distributed across the range of products mentioned above.