Customer review, Usability Evaluation, Feedback, Rating system isometric concept. Vector illustration

Marketing expert Neil Patel has sage advice for brands about the vital importance of online reviews and how to make the most of them. In this era when word-of-mouth via online reviews has come to trump good old-fashioned recommendations from friends and family, knowing exactly how to harness the power of online reviews and use them to your best advantage is critical to the growth and success of your brand.

So what, in Patel’s learned estimation, does grab a potential customer’s attention and make him more likely to choose your product or service?
It may not be what you think.

These days, companies are going so far as to hire freelancers to write glowing Amazon product reviews to boost their ratings and increase their appeal, making consumers understandably wary. Potential buyers are suspicious of products with too many vague, overly-enthusiastic reviews.

Since a mind-blowing 97% of consumers consult reviews before making purchasing decisions and 89% use these reviews as an important resource in making their final decisions, getting things right in the online review arena is essential to the health of any business.

To find out Neil Patel’s top tips for getting stellar online consumer reviews and building a great online reputation for your business, read on.

1. Leverage Social Proof to Win Prospective Customers

Social proof is the desired outcome of having a lot of reviews. When customers review your product and brand and share about it on their social networks—like Twitter, for example—it helps you control what people see when people search for you on Google. It also helps drive traffic to your site.

The testimonials of friends and acquaintances—and even strangers—inspire trust in prospective customers, particularly if the reviews are detailed. For instance, if your product is a dietary supplement, then you’d do well to encourage specific, benefits-focused testimonials, like “after one week my skin began to clear,” or “within 3 days I was sleeping through the night.”

By helping the general public to feel like your company is trusted and appreciated by its customers, you’re making it easier for them to feel like it’s safe to do business with you. And yes, there are plenty of positive reviews for Patel’s own brand, so he clearly knows how to do this well.

2. Train Your Team to Ask for Customer Reviews

Train your team to throw in a call-to-action at the end of their more positive customer interactions. Sending messages like “Thank you! Please consider reviewing us on Facebook” is a great way to secure some of the most positive and authentically detailed reviews you can get.

The old recommendation that “If you want something, ask for it” is well-applied here.

And don’t forget about reviews for your employer brand as well. Loyal employees who feel appreciated tend to be very invested in your success and can be some of your greatest advocates.

3. Position Your Brand to Get Reviews on Influential Sites

Think about the platforms where people are most likely to find content about you, and it’s obvious that you need to be reviewed on Google Business, Facebook, Amazon and Yelp. The reasons why your business wouldn’t be receiving reviews for your product or service on these sites are super easy to fix – either you’re not on these sites at all, or the reviewing process is too laborious, that is, it takes more than one click and some typing.

Visibility and accessibility are key, so first make your presence on these sites a priority. On Facebook be sure to allow reviews, since you can choose whether to enable them or not. On Yelp, it’s not possible to ask directly for reviews, but you are allowed to ask your customers to “Look us up on Yelp,” at which time they may just decide to leave a review. On Google, it’s a simply matter of setting up your free listing and verifying with Google that you are the business owner.

After you’ve established a presence on these sites—Yelp aside—it is perfectly legit to ask your loyal customers to show your business some love in the form of a glowing review.

4. Excellent Reviews Are Essential

Though this point may seem painfully obvious, it needs to be included. Good reviews are, of course, a must.

A fantastic product is just the beginning. You need attentive customer service, too. These are just the basics of drawing repeat business that spreads through evangelism. But to parlay it all into reviews, at the moment when you’ve got your client feeling the love most powerfully, hit them with a small CTA as part of your last transactional message, saying something to the effect of, “Your story is valuable—please consider sharing your testimonial on Facebook.”

This will easily encourage loyal customers to wax enthusiastic about their experiences online, in full view of future prospects.

5.  But Negative Reviews Are Essential, Too

What makes negative online reviews a key factor in driving sales is a simple fact that people want to know what the absolute worst-case scenario is surrounding any product or service before they buy. If the worst is not so bad in their estimation, then they will be more likely to take the plunge.

For example, if a beach umbrella-chair combo receives numerous reviews complaining that people found it difficult to figure out how to fold up the chair after use, then the flaw is relatively easy to work around and not directly tied to the quality of the product. If most negative reviews had complained that the chair was uncomfortable or of poor quality, this would more likely be a deal breaker when it comes down to deciding whether to purchase.

Once consumers are able to learn the trick of refolding the chair, it becomes a great bargain and fulfills everything on the beach chair checklist. Mostly good reviews intermingled here and there with a few cautions and recommendations feels more real as it builds trust with potential purchasers of your product.

6. Respond Gracefully to Negative Reviews

This bit of counsel calls to mind the example of Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona, the subject of a particularly infamous episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. The owners, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, became known for their defensive responses to negative reviews on Yelp. Here’s one that also serves as a textbook—if wildly exaggerated—example of what not to do:

Moving on to the ‘Store bought Dough’ Comment. PLEASE!! My dough is made fresh every day from 100% organic ingredients. Perhaps your palate is not sophisticated enough to tell the difference. As for you having the Patio all to yourself unless you have been living on another PLANET it is summertime in ARIZONA MORON!!! Only TRAMPS and LOSERS want to sit outside in 110 temperatures!!!!

Yes, the owners’ very public inability to deal with criticism effectively, to say the least, eventually led to the downfall of their business. Patel points out that responding well can often cause a customer to revise their opinion of your brand and update a less-than-stellar review to a glowing one based on customer service alone.

The lesson here: Don’t defend yourself in any way. Just graciously offer your apologies and offer to set things right, at the customer’s convenience. Any kind of incensed rebuttal is suicide for even well-established brands.

Neglect Online Reviews at Your Own Peril

Consumers these days get most of their purchasing information from online reviews. These reviews are vital to the acquisition of new business.

A survey by Invesp found that consumers are willing to spend 31% more on brands that get rave reviews.

So take Neil Patel’s excellent advice and make leveraging online reviews a priority for your business.