There are over two million words in the 750 plus articles on this blog - and every single one of them relates to reviews and review management - so here is a simple checklist for your business (for more detail you can always interrogate the blog by entering whatever specifically interests you into the search box - above left, and you can also always call and speak to one of us!).
After each of these 10 points we have added a link to the most relevant article - again: feel free to read as much as you like or just pick up the phone and speak to us.
1. Don't be sold a solution: there are several review companies out there with large PE/VC-backed salesforces that will promise you the earth. Research the market thoroughly before you decide on the right solution for your business.
2. Own your own reviews: apart from the fact that data is so valuable these days, and you don't want to be giving that to someone else unless there's no alternative, you want to be able to vary your review solution as the years pass without losing those reviews you have already accumulated.
3. Distinguish between product and service review solutions at outset: product reviews are rarely read, they simply provide the fuel for the all-important review score that you see next to virtually every product on an e-commerce website these days. The content is therefore pretty well immaterial, as long as the overall score is over 4 out of 5. Service reviews, however, are read, and in some detail, almost always 'worst' first. If you are a service business the following point - 4. - is vital.
4. If you are in a service business or one of the professions your review solution must incorporate moderation: a single factually incorrect or misleading (or even plain 'unfair') review can, if published on Google, literally stop the phones ringing. Over the years we have seen this happen so often we have lost count. For the same reason solutions that incorporate a feed direct from Google are extremely high risk. Only a moderated review solution can ensure against reputational damage in the long term.
5. You need to display your own reviews on your website: apart from the blindingly obvious reason that customers like to see and read reviews there, Google gives you credit for doing so in SEO; you may be wondering why some of your competitors rank higher in search - if they host their own reviews (not those from review sites or Google) that will almost certainly be a contributing factor.
6. Respond to reviews, wherever they may be: if you don't consumers will make all sorts of assumptions: that the negative reviewer is correct and their assertions are unanswerable is just one; that you simply don't care is another. If a customer has taken the trouble to compliment your business online a simple response thanking them is all that is needed.
7. Dont expect Rome to be built in a day: once you have a solution on board you should adopt realistic targets for reviews on your own website and reviews on whatever external platform you have chosen (after careful consideration and comparison with the alternatives). Remember: four reviews a month equates to fifty reviews a year; three years at that rate equates to 150 reviews. Mind you, we have seen clients accumulate those numbers in much shorter timescales; where there is a will there is a way.
8. Don't sacrifice quality in the quest for volume: it is tempting to adopt all kinds of mechanisms to generate the maximum flow of reviews. In our extensive experience the only one that produces quality reviews in terms of content is email backed by personal contact; expecting email alone - or worse still, text or other kinds of media - to do the job is unrealistic and will only lead to disappointment and/or low quality one-liner reviews full of typographical and grammatical errors.
9. Don't break the law: every business we meet usually is, intentionally or unwittingly. UK law categorically states that businesses that invite reviews must allow all their customers to write a review at whatever time they choose. Let us be clear on this important point: hand picking happy customers to write reviews is illegal; only inviting customers to write a review at a time chosen by the business is illegal. Having a moderated review solution - see point 4 above - protects your business from inaccurate and misleading reviews and ensures compliance with UK law, so no excuses there.
10. Google won't attempt to sell you their reviews solution: but it is invariably the best one - alongside an independent hosting and moderation solution for your own website.
That's it. Follow these ten points and you won't go far wrong; ignore any one of them and your business will almost certainly suffer, now and in the future.