Reviews from customers must be seen as an important part of the overall content strategy for any business, particularly local businesses. The fact that prospects have begun to expect to find reviews and rely heavily on those reviews when making buying decisions combined with the data that suggests search engines seem to be using reviews as a major component in local rankings, requires a major mind shift when it comes to addressing the category of reviews.
It’s no longer enough to sit back and hope you get some nice reviews from all those happy customers. In today’s increasingly competitive local search environment, you’ve got to make reviews a significant piece of your content strategy and build processes to make sure your business is focused on leveraging every review you can acquire.
It may seem like I’m being a bit overly dramatic here, but the reason I believe this is going to take a mind shift is that it’s also going to take some work, but right now the organizations that are working this angle hard are winning.
Here’s a mini case study to help illustrate this point: (This story is courtesy of Postling)
Dr. Justin Bazan of Park Slope Eye in Brooklyn has embraced social media and review sites with enthusiasm and it appears to be paying off. Park Slope Eye has over 100 positive reviews on Yelp and is approaching that number on Google Maps as well. Do a Google search for Brooklyn Optometrist and Park Slope Eye come up number one in the local listing.
According to Bazan reviews are so important that they justify the extra work that may come with embracing the tactic. For example, Yelp has a review filter that holds reviews from people that don’t appear to be very active or have a level of credibility on Yelp. This filter is one of Yelp’s tools to keep people from gaming the system with fabricated reviews or reviews generated though campaigns. (The filter isn’t perfect, but it’s there.)
Credibility, in Yelp’s definition, evolves from the level of activity from the Yelper (ie. the level of engagement of the review, and a few other factors like how complete their profile is)
Since Park Slope was putting so much emphasis on reviews on Yelp, they were receiving them, but many were getting stuck in Yelp’s review filter and, while Buzan could see them in his account, they were not available publicly, so he added this step to his process.
“To get reviews out of the filter I went into my filtered reviews and pulled up the reviewer’s individual review of Park Slope Eye. I began to engage that review and reviewer. I sent the reviewer a compliment, a message, and voted the review as useful, funny, or cool depending on the context. I did that for all of the reviews. Lastly, I added them as a friend, which you can do as a business owner. After doing all of this the review was taken out of the filter and is publicly accessible.”
Okay, now understand that in order to get the kinds of reviews they get, they’re doing a few other things right, but this is a great example of how a local business, doing great things, can get great results for very little money using a customer content strategy and social media tools.
In fact, their own website is totally downplayed and somewhat ineffective (except I dig the Dave Brubeck music), but it doesn’t really matter because in their particular case, the reviews from Yelp and Google rise to the top when someone does a search, local or otherwise. (They even point to their Yelp page as their website in their Google Place page and on Facebook)
This kind of engagement around reviews and taking their creation on as a content strategy is the kind of grass roots marketing that every local business must embrace.