When Good Doctors Get Negative Online Reviews

Negative online reviews are often what happens to good doctors when “The operation was a success but the patient died.”

It’s a classic old medical joke about the so-called “Harvard death”.

But in an era of ubiquitous online reviews, it’s not so funny when a doctor or other health care provider does all they can, yet still achieves a less than satisfactory outcome and is left facing the wrath of an outraged Yelper.

Or maybe it was just slow WiFi or old magazines in the waiting room that drew the online ire.

A lot of very good doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals are struggling to adapt to a new reality where patients turn to RateMD, Yelp, Vitals, and similar sites to review and rate their caregivers as if they were restaurants.

Yelp Healthcare Provider Reviews

And those reviews do matter.

Research by Thomson Reuters FindLaw reveals that 59% percent of people report using online reviews when choosing a professional service provider such as a lawyer or doctor. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of Millennials and half (49%) of Baby Boomers have used consumer reviews of professional services.

When it comes to online reviews, it’s a confirmed diagnosis of “We have some good news and some bad news.”

Fighting Negative Online Reviews Can Yield Negative Real Life Outcomes

When a caregiver has an online presence, negative comments inevitably pop up, as they will in any type of review stream, and some understandably outraged and frustrated professionals wade into the online fray. But publicly responding to negative reviews can lead healthcare providers onto thin ice.

It’s sad to see a highly educated professional reduced to arguing on the Internet. Worse yet, responding in this way brings a risk of violating HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations that protect the privacy and security of patient medical information.

When a patient blamed a Washington State dentist for the loss of a tooth, the dentist fired back with “Due to your clenching and grinding habit, this is not the first molar tooth you have lost due to a fractured root.”

A chiropractor in California answered a mother’s claim that her daughter had received a false diagnosis of scoliosis by reminding her that “You brought your daughter in for the exam in early March 2014. The exam identified one or more of the signs I mentioned above for scoliosis. I absolutely recommended an x-ray to determine if this condition existed; this x-ray was at no additional cost to you.”

While arguably fair, responding like this is a tactic to be avoided. An examination of more than 1.7 million Yelp reviews by the non-profit public interest investigative journalism firm ProPublica revealed over 3,500 1-star reviews that mentioned HIPAA or privacy. In many cases, provider responses to complaints about care evolved into disputes over patient privacy.

The end result can be a HIPAA violation investigation by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.

Other efforts to counter the effect of negative reviews are neither productive nor satisfying and also carry the potential for doing more harm than good.

A Seattle doctor ended up suing a woman after she wrote a dramatic Yelp posting claiming she almost died from a blood clot in the leg when her skiing knee injury was misdiagnosed in a Bellevue, WA emergency room. There is some precedent for businesses or service providers prevailing in lawsuits against posters of false and defamatory online reviews. However, as in most doctor versus patient lawsuits, the Seattle case was dismissed. But not before the doctor was dragged into far more financial damage and negative exposure than would have been caused by the original review.

Medice, Cura Te Ipsum

Physician, heal thyself. Doctors are especially vulnerable to negative online reviews. They do not serve customers or consumers. Doctors take care of patients, and are bound by oath to do the best they can to preserve and protect their patients’ health.

Even good doctors often need to do things that can make people unhappy.

Doctors may have to tell people they are too fat, point out poor lifestyle choices, or refuse to prescribe patients the narcotic pain killers they want. All healthcare professionals regularly deal with complicated situations that are difficult for patients to understand and comment accurately on. Caregivers also face the ever-present potential for unfortunate outcomes that are beyond their control.

At the same time, HIPAA restrictions, ethical concerns, and professional standards limit the ability of healthcare professionals to respond to online reviewers.

Nevertheless, as a recent article in Medscape points out, “Today’s Yelpification of doctors and healthcare is here to stay. Websites are proliferating like bacterial spores, enabling anyone—whether you’re a patient or not—to review doctors.”


The Medscape article has an interesting take on the three common types of negative online reviews received by physicians:

  1. “Crazy person”: The review is overly sensitive, over-reactive, and unrealistic, but could influence people.
  2. “Medical competence”: The reviewer complains about a misdiagnosis or medical error, casts doubt on the physician’s medical competence, or believes that he or she did not get the right tests or medication.
  3. “Nuts and bolts”: The review runs the gamut from office décor, staff attentiveness, doctor lateness, bad coffee, loud music, lack of WiFi, outdated magazines, cleanliness of the bathrooms, and more.

A constructive way to approach this list is to think of it as a list of symptoms. When viewed this way, only one of the three review types indicates the possibility of a serious and difficult malady.

Number 1 is a statistical effect that arises from the doctor having contact with the public at large. Any business with a review stream can and usually does suffer from it. The best treatment is to leave this type of review alone. Simply keep it covered with a far greater number of positive reviews.

Number 3 is caused by aspects of the caregiver/patient relationship that are easily controlled by the provider. It is not too difficult to manage the customer service side of healthcare. Look to the efficiency and professionalism of office staff, user-friendliness of appointment management systems and wait times, upkeep of facilities and equipment, and so forth. Putting some effort in here could pay significant dividends on relatively minor investment. In fact, according to Aaron Schur, senior director of litigation at Yelp, most reviews of doctors and dentists don’t concern the actual care delivered. People tend to complain about bedside manner, wait times, office staff, or billing procedures.

Number 4 arises from factors beyond the scope of this generalist overview. It may be an indicator of the layman’s view of proceedings that most patients hold. However, they comprise part of a trend, the ethical healthcare professional should view complaints of this sort as a call for careful reflection on practice.

Good Doctors Use a Minimally Invasive Approach to Handling Negative Reviews

Good doctors encourage their patients to write reviews.

The vast majority of the reviews patients post about their doctors constitute positive public accolades. Reviews also provide good doctors with useful feedback on what is being done right with the practice and what might need some adjustments. The wisdom of the crowd, accumulating over time, is far more credible than any single individual response. Finally, attempts to restrict patients’ freedom to post online reviews are unethical and possibly illegal.

As for the negative reviews that will almost surely appear, a web search quickly uncovers numerous articles that recommend supposedly effective ways to respond. You can find them on reputation management company websites and even on health care specialist sites.

However, a more rigorous analysis supports maintaining professional objectivity and engaging the sources of negative online reviews in a systematic fashion offline, impersonally, and supported by legal advocacy if necessary.

Avoid joining websites to respond to reviews – subscribing to such services may involve agreeing to a legally enforceable contract and/or waiving your rights to sue for defamation or take other courses of action. In any case, resist the urge to engage in defensive online arguments that are undignified often serve only to amplify the reviewer’s complaint.

Lawsuits should only be considered in extremis and in very clear-cut cases of defamation. Litigation takes years, draws increased negative attention, and in the case of doctor vs. patient suits, comes with an increasing body of precedent for failure to favor the plaintiff.

Embrace proactive rather than reactive responses to negative online reviews. Use websites, blogs, and social media sites to disseminate positive information about yourself and your practice. Combine this method with campaigns designed to boost your positive review stream until it buries any negative comments that show up on search engine results pages.

Work to let patients know they are heard and try to keep things in-house by establishing internal complaint/grievance procedures. Make feedback forms available and distribute surveys to provide forums where patients can immediately express their opinions. This may steer them away from posting negative reactions online.

When issues do come up, address the situation directly and compassionately. This has the potential to convert a negative review into a positive effect on your practice by improving your standing with patients. Patients may also edit or delete a negative review when they know their concerns have been heard.

Good Doctors Use Online Reviews to Promote Their Practices

In a recent New England Journal of Medicine article, Vivian Lee, MBA, MD, PhD notes that patient reviews are a source of valuable performance feedback that can help clinicians learn and improve. Reviews are data, and when physicians accept the validity of the data and become receptive to performance feedback, a culture of learning and patient-centeredness is facilitated for the practice.

When the correct strategies are employed, negative reviews can be greatly reduced. The few remaining can be used to produce nearly as much value as positive comments.

Busy healthcare providers seeking to leverage the full power of a strong online review stream will find it far more convenient and efficient to deploy professional review management tools. This is the best way to stay on top of reviews across all of the important review websites while maintaining strong communication links with patients and remaining at a distance from stressful and potentially risky interactions over negative online reviews. It’s the remedy good doctors choose when dealing with negative online reviews.

Want More Great Customer Reviews? Just Ask.

Face-to-face requests get great customer reviews.

If you want something, just ask nicely. Did your mom ever say that? Well, it also works for getting more great customer reviews.

We often tend to rely on email campaigns when looking to boost our review streams. Email is very convenient, and even fairly effective if done right.

However, research indicates that you only have to make six face-to-face requests to equal the results of a 200-address email blast. People tend to overestimate the compliance they can get by making a request via email. At the same time, they underestimate their ability to get people to comply with direct face-to-face requests.

When asking people for a review by email, you need to get them to click on a link in the message. The problem is people do not trust emails from strangers and nowadays nearly everyone knows to avoid clicking on links in emails even if they are from trusted sources. That’s if people open your email in the first place.

Great customer reviews strangers image.

There are a lot of variables at work with email. But a face-to-face request is direct and produces a better response than email no matter who the request is made to – friends, family, or strangers.

There are No Shortcuts to Great Customer Reviews

Great customer reviews are critical to success in today’s market.

Great customer reviews influence consumer decisions.

It’s a simple fact of business life. Even though technology has made it easier for us to know a lot about our customers as a group and individually, successfully engaging with them still calls for personal contact. The emotional connection is what matters most and you just don’t get that with email.

Sure, reaching out to someone by email is far more convenient. More comfortable too, because it takes a lot of the fear of rejection out of the equation. But when you are looking for more good online reviews from your customers, taking the shortcut of text communication means you are adopting an inferior strategy.

Great customer reviews string and cans phone.

Face-to-face requests are simply the most productive way to ask for customer reviews. This is especially true in situations where a business owner or associate spends significant time with the customer, as when making a sale or handling service needs. At the close of the sale or conclusion of the service, the time is ripe to request a review.

Am I Allowed to Ask for Customer Reviews?

It’s OK to ask customers to leave reviews on Google. In fact, Google’s guidelines recommend reminding customers to leave reviews.

Things are different at Yelp. While simply asking for reviews is not a violation of Yelp’s terms of service, they go to some lengths to discourage the practice. Yelp uses software to filter reviews for inclusion in their recommended review lists. The software is tuned to target solicited reviews and pass over them.

Great customer reviews Yelp badge image.

The bottom line is: you can ask for Yelp reviews but it would be wise to tread lightly. Think about making the request via on-site signage or print materials like business cards, thank you notes, or invoices that are essentially passed to the customer by hand.

The overall lesson here is to carefully check the terms of service for any review sites you wish to appear on.

How Do I Go About Asking for Customer Reviews?

As long as your business offers some opportunities for customer contact, it should be fairly easy to find chances to request reviews. Here are a few strategies that can improve your success rate.

Great customer reviews interaction image.

Say the right thing. Think about language. Of course we know that the way we ask for something has a direct effect on whether we get it or not. Words have a lot of power. Consider the difference between “Would you please leave us a review on Google?” and “We would like to invite you to leave us some online feedback on Yelp.” It’s natural to be little happier upon receiving an invitation than when getting a request and “Feedback” is a neutral word that avoids the good or bad connotation associated with “review”. Note that the construction of effective requests is complicated and important enough to deserve some time spent on planning and training.

Set the lineup. Now pick the best people to make the requests. Think about where the customer touch points are at your business. Who has the most contact and builds the deepest relationships with customers? Or who at least talks with or greets customers on a daily basis? They should probably be the ones asking for reviews.

Make small talk. When possible, engage customers in conversation. Answer their questions and enhance the customer experience. Show them that they are important by asking for feedback about a product, or about their experience with your business in general. This process can lead to openings for requesting a review.

Meeting the Masses

How does asking for reviews face-to-face scale to thousands of customers? It can, but you have to get creative. No matter how much traffic it has, any business that operates from a brick and mortar location will offer some openings for at least semi-personal interaction with customers.

Great customer reviews group presentation image.

Put it in writing. Making a request on paper that is handed to the customer is an easy way to go. You have probably noticed that many huge national operations have been doing this for a while. A printed review request often appears on a receipt, many times together with a coupon or some kind of freebie. It’s a simple step further to have the cashier or other staff member amplify the request verbally while handing the receipt to the customer.

Use the phone. If providing customer support by phone is a significant function at your business, it should be easy to find opportunities to fit in review requests. Just be careful to choose the right people to ask. Catch the ones who express gratitude at having their problem solved or needs met. Skip the ones who have just experienced a long hold or struggled through a difficult problem.

Leverage numbers. Use strategies tuned to the nature of your business and customer base to gather people together in one place so a request can be made to the group. Give informational presentations. Hold special events like product demonstrations and “How to” seminars. Invite your best customers to participate in focus group sessions or similar activities as a way to make contact for presenting review requests while at the same time gathering valuable business intelligence. Ideas like this may seem impractical at first glance, but can actually work well when done correctly. You may want to investigate what other companies are doing along these lines.

What if I Never Talk to Anyone?

Of course, there are many modern businesses where customers take care of most needs via a website. Outside of any opportunities offered by phone support operations, direct interaction with customers is minimal or even non-existent, leaving no chance at all to make face-to-face review requests.

Things look grim considering the unfortunate fact that negative experiences outweigh positive ones as memorable, motivating factors in human psychology. In terms of online reviews, if you are not there to ask, you might get reviews only when people are unhappy about something.

Great customer reviews unhappy customers image.

How can businesses that operate mostly or completely online add that personal touch needed to get a stream of great customer reviews going?

Of course we can put custom URLs and widgets on our websites to make it convenient to post reviews in key places. Now think about including a brief video message nearby. Thank customers for their patronage and ask for a review. Maybe include some interesting information about your company, a new product, or upcoming sales events.

Don’t be discouraged if email is absolutely your only option. Although it is less effective than face-to-face requests, email does work. Think about some of the things you have learned about making requests in person and adapt them to make your email campaign more effective.

Consider automated email follow ups that arrive shortly after the customer has interacted with your business.

Personalize email requests as much as possible. Start with a reminder of the customer’s latest visit or purchase. Use their name if appropriate.

Refine the language used in the email. Make the customer feel important and show your appreciation. Frame the review as an opportunity for them rather than an obligation to or favor for you.

Include a coupon or other small bonus as a thank you for their business, not as an incentive for leaving a review.

Master the Art of Getting Great Customer Reviews

Great customer reviews stars image.

Making face-to-face requests for reviews is more of an art than a science. Mastering it will ensure that a steady flow of great customer reviews appears on all the review sites that are important to your business.

The nice thing about this particular marketing strategy is that it should be relatively low cost. It will mainly involve some time, planning, and maybe a few tweaks to your current marketing and review generation initiatives. Just get the necessary setup done, then ask and you shall receive more great customer reviews of your business.





The Ultimate Guide to Getting More Reviews on Facebook

Getting more reviews on Facebook emoticon image.

Tap into the power of social media by getting more reviews on Facebook.

Wait… Facebook is not even a review site. So why is getting more reviews on Facebook important?

It’s true. When Facebook launched in 2004, it was a sort of online college yearbook. It had a few student users, and consumer reviews were not on the radar at all.

But now, as the world’s largest social networking site, Facebook has morphed into a cultural phenomenon with incredible global impact. The site has over 1.3 billion daily active users and has claimed the number 2 position behind Google in terms of traffic volume.

In the US, most people who use the Internet also use Facebook. This means that almost any business can benefit from having a positive presence on this undisputed leader among social networking sites. Successful marketing in the 21st century means getting more reviews on Facebook than your competitors.

Facebook connects customers with businesses.

Because well over 80% of all Facebook users fall in the key consumer demographic of 18-49 years of age, the importance of creating and properly leveraging a Facebook Business Page cannot be overstated. Running an effective Facebook marketing strategy is crucial, particularly for small businesses operating in competitive local environments.

In fact, Facebook is already used by more than 65 million businesses as a way to connect with customers. Of course Facebook is a great place to put up information about your company and conduct general customer engagement and outreach campaigns. But you can also produce solid ROMI by using Facebook as a place to generate and display customer reviews.

Getting more reviews on Facebook user demographics graphic.

Revving up a social media search engine.

The affordances offered by Facebook have expanded nearly as quickly as the site’s user base. It is now a platform that goes far beyond hosting personal profile pages.

Many people see Facebook as an important means of connecting with the world, and one of their most common uses for the site is as a search engine.  In a 2016 survey, 8,000 consumers in 12 major cities across the US were asked about their daily use of digital resources. The research revealed that 44% of those who used technology to find information on local businesses during the one-week study period relied on a social network site as their search tool.

Since that time, Facebook has offered a steadily improving set of search capabilities. The site deploys proprietary technology that incorporates social media data into local search to return rich, personalized results that rival anything Google can offer.

Getting more reviews on Facebook search results image.

Why getting more reviews on Facebook matters.

When people search online for information about a product or service, they view the comments and discussions on social media sites like Facebook as 21st century word-of-mouth. Online reviews are used to evaluate businesses, and a majority of consumers report that positive reviews give them more trust in a business.

In fact, today’s consumers trust online reviews just as much as they would trust a personal recommendation.

Getting more reviews on Facebook online reviews vs. personal recommendations graphic.

Even though it did not start out as a review site, Facebook is quickly gaining ground toward becoming one of the most popular places to find and post business reviews. The BrightLocal 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey shows that Facebook now ties review specialty site Yelp as a trusted source for business reviews.

Most consumers who use Facebook to look for information about businesses already have a profile page and are comfortable with the interface. Therefore, it is simple for them to navigate to a business page or use the check in function to leave an online review.

Getting more reviews on Facebook trusted review sites graphic.

Social media is having an increasingly powerful influence on the way consumers locate and choose local businesses to serve their needs. Your business’s social media presence and associated comments, reviews, and ratings make all the difference when it comes to standing out from the competition.

Getting more Facebook reviews decision to use a business graphic.

As the leading social network site, Facebook must be the focus of a significant share of your online marketing efforts. You need to prioritize the generation and management of a solid stream of positive Facebook ratings and reviews. Here’s how to get started on getting more reviews on Facebook for your business.

Strategies for getting more reviews on Facebook.

For the purpose of this brief guide, we are going to assume that your company already has a Facebook Business Page. If that is indeed the case, you also need to ensure that reviews are enabled on your Business Page.

If you have a public address listed on your business page, reviews should be automatically enabled. Look on the left side of the page. If reviews are not listed, go into Settings and look under the General tab. Scroll to the Reviews section and make sure reviews are allowed. With basic setup taken care of, let’s look at some specific strategies for getting more reviews on Facebook.

Getting more reviews on Facebook My Business page screenshot image.

Just ask. Simple, right? You would be surprised how many people overlook this. There are many different ways to put forward requests for Facebook reviews of your business. They range from simple and straightforward to creative, with variation according to the type of business or service in question.

The most obvious way is to ask customers person-to-person if they would be willing to post reviews of your business on Facebook. If you provide the type of service where you regularly interface with customers or clients, finding an opportunity to ask should be easy.

In other cases, you may have to make arrangements that allow you some customer contact time, or train your managers and/or employees how and when to ask. Anyone who deals directly with clients should be trained in ways to ask for Facebook reviews, and made aware of the importance of maintaining a solid review stream. You should also consider ways of incentivizing employees to ask for reviews.

Another common strategy is to use digital and print media to run request campaigns. Along with organizing dedicated email campaigns, include requests and links in blog posts and other online communications, in email signatures, and as part of online forms. Take full advantage of badges and plugins like the Facebook Reviews WordPress plugin wherever possible.

Getting more reviews on Facebook review us badge image.

Make sure to include direct, concise Call to Actions that let your customers know exactly what you are asking for. Display past reviews and other user-generated content along with a CTA that encourages customers to leave a review. Also make sure to have print signage at key locations around your place of business, and put reminder notes on bills, invoices, business cards and other customer-facing printed materials.

Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to ask. Most customers react positively to a show of genuine interest in their feedback.

Ask customers to check in. If you run a location-based business, you can encourage customers to use the Facebook Check In feature. A check in is easier to request than a review, and it is a way to avoid any problems in areas where regulations may prohibit requesting or incentivizing reviews. Users check in on their own to share places and things that they enjoy, but it never hurts to remind customers to check in with verbal requests, signage, or incentives like discount coupons, upgrades, or small gifts.

Checking in is done by clicking What’s on your mind? at the top of the News Feed or Profile Page and clicking  to select or search for a nearby location. Geo-tagging is then used to share a location tag with the user’s post. Users can tag friends, set a date for the story, add photos and emoticons, and choose an audience for the post. In a day or two, Facebook will place a review request in the user’s feed based on their check-in.

Getting more reviews on Facebook Check In badge image.

Make the most of customer-centric media. Facebook users look for personal, non-commercial experiences on the site. As consumers, they relate to and trust the experiences of past customers and easily distinguish between staged ad content and genuine, candid, user-generated material.

Facebook research reveals that click-through rate increases by 300% when user-generated content is included in Facebook ads, and cost-per-click and cost-per-acquisition costs are lowered by 50%. So, while text reviews are effective, don’t overlook the fact that a majority of consumers report that visual content in the form of authentic customer photos and videos is the most influential factor when it comes to purchase decisions. A core component of your Facebook review generation campaign should be the implementation of strategies aimed at collecting and leveraging customer-generated media.

Be responsive. In addition to their value as a marketing tool, reviews offer you a great opportunity to interact with your customers. Respond to as many reviews as you can. A sincere thank you is nice but at least give a Like to every review. Use the information in reviews to learn what you are doing right and what could use some improvement.

If customers report having negative experiences, you should get in touch with them and make efforts to put things right. And never delete negative reviews. If you do and anyone notices, the result could be a perception of dishonesty and lack of transparency. It’s far better to apologize for what went wrong and address the issue. If a solution is impossible, ask the customer to contact you via private message or email. Then you might have a chance to work something out beyond the public view. You should be able to minimize damage at the very least, but when done correctly, your response to a negative review can work as positive PR.

Get some help. It takes time and effort to learn how to promote Facebook reviews. You might want to consider bringing in some specialized expertise and time-saving tools to help you build and manage an effective Facebook review generation campaign for your company. If you are investing in the development of a productive online presence for your business, there is no reason to neglect this aspect, because the statistics show that it will likely produce the strongest ROMI of any marketing tactic.

Take a look at an easy-to-use software tool suite like Capture Review to see how simple it can be to monitor and manage your review stream. The right tools will let you maximize your Facebook review generation efforts. You can also improve the results you get on Google, Yelp, and other key review sites. Most importantly, you will have a chance to minimize the damage that customers with complaints might cause.

Start getting more reviews on Facebook and generate buzz for your business.

The social media revolution is here to stay, and no online marketing strategy can be fully successful if it ignores the power of Facebook. In the realm of local search, all indications are signaling that Facebook will soon rival Google. Build a steady stream of great Facebook ratings and reviews for your business and it will quickly result in a similar stream of customers to your door. Take steps to put your business ahead of the game now by putting together an effective strategy for getting more reviews on Facebook.

The Ultimate Guide to Getting More Reviews on Google

What can getting more reviews on Google do for my business?

If you think getting more reviews on Google is not important for your business, it’s time to think again.

Go ahead, Google your business – that’s what your potential customers are doing. According to the BrightLocal 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey, 97% of consumers searched for local businesses on the Internet in 2017. This includes 12% who ran searches on a daily basis and 54% who searched for a business online at least once a month.

Consumers trust online reviews.

Almost every consumer uses the Internet to look for local businesses. Because consumers use the information they find online to help them decide where to go and what to buy, positive online reviews that differentiate your business from the competition are critically important.

In fact, 93% of the people who responded to the BrightLocal survey said they used local reviews as a way to evaluate businesses, and 68% reported that positive reviews influenced their decision about which business to use.

Getting more reviews on Google influence graphic.

Consumers want to be able to trust a business, and 73% said that positive reviews make them trust a business more. The old-fashioned word-of-mouth referrals that people have always relied on to help them identify trusted local businesses have gone digital. Now, a majority of consumers trust online reviews just as much as they would trust a personal recommendation. This is why getting more reviews on Google can support your business success.

Getting more reviews on Google personal recommendation image.

Where do people go to find local business reviews?

When asked which source they depended on most for reviews, 16% of consumers said they liked to look for reviews on Google. This places the search engine giant in third place behind Facebook and Yelp, popular sites tied for the lead with 20% each.

Getting more reviews on Google reviews sites graphic.

This is a pretty strong ranking considering that Google did not launch its local search feature until 2012. It is a newcomer compared to Yelp, which has been hosting reviews since 2004. And of course no website has more penetration into people’s lives than Facebook with its massive 85 million plus in monthly US traffic. But Google has an increasingly dominant online presence and is predicted to eventually overtake Yelp as the most popular source for consumer reviews.

And unlike Yelp, Google encourages business owners to ask customers for reviews. It also offers the support and tools that business owners need to efficiently gather and respond to customer reviews. More importantly, reviews posted on Google are directly linked to the site’s search engine function and have positive effects on local SEO and search rankings.

The fate of your business is written in the stars.

Getting more reviews on Google written in stars image.

Consumers might Google your business name and see the full listing that opens in the right-hand panel on the results page. Or your company may appear in key word search results. Either way, the first thing a potential patron sees is your business name, a star rating, and the number of Google reviews your business has.

Getting more reviews on Google name search screenshot image.

It is critical to ensure that your business name, address, and phone number (NAP information) are correct. After that, star rating and review count are the most important items to pay attention to. It might be surprising to hear that the actual content of reviews seems to be losing importance for consumers. In 2016, review content was ranked second in importance behind star rating. In 2017, it dropped to 4th place, after star rating, review quantity, and review recency.

Getting more reviews on Google important part of reviews graphic.

Although star rating is the most important factor to most consumers, the number of reviews is also very influential. The typical consumer wants to see 34 reviews before they are willing to trust the star rating, and 16% of people want to see 50 or more reviews.

It is not clear why consumers are putting less emphasis on the opinions expressed in reviews. Maybe people have no time to read full reviews, or don’t feel like reading them on a small mobile phone screen. Whatever the reason, one thing is very clear: high star ratings and review counts will drive traffic to your local business.

OK, how do I go about getting more reviews on Google?

Of course the first step is building a reputation management strategy and attending to the technical chores of setting up and managing a review pipeline. But for now let’s skip the nuts and bolts stuff and start with two general but very important pieces of advice.

The first thing to do is follow the commonsense rule that every business should live by: Deliver unparalleled service and an outstanding customer experience. Of course this is what anyone aiming to run a successful business should be doing already. Generating good word-of-mouth and referral chains has always been key to local business profitability.

However, we now live in a time when anyone who walks through your door can instantly publish their opinion of your products and services to thousands of other consumers. That is why ongoing, consistent dedication to excellence in all aspects of your operation is an absolute requirement for success in today’s market.

You also need to be willing to interact with and respond to customers beyond the shop doors and outside of business hours. Add in a firm desire to make things right when mistakes and lapses result in negative customer experiences, and you have what it takes to run a business in the Internet age.

Getting more reviews on Google handshake image.`

The next thing to take on board is the fact that there are no shortcuts to establishing solid star ratings and a collection of great Google reviews. Forget about any sort of dishonesty or cheating. Fake reviews are something that nearly everyone is now aware of, with 79% of consumers reporting having seen one or more in the past year, and 70% saying that they sometimes or always find it easy to spot a fake review.

Getting more reviews on Google fake reviews graphic.

On top of that, Google has filters that are capable of detecting unnatural reviews. The algorithms involved are secret, but patterns of wording, pace of postings, history of the reviewers, and IP address information are all likely candidates for analysis.

Even if they don’t get tossed out by the Google spam filter or result in you being dragged into court, fake Google reviews can do a lot of harm to your business. This is true whether they are negative ratings placed by people trying to do damage or paid-for-reviews intended to make you look better. It is far better to simply manage your review acquisition process with an eye towards producing positive results while at the same time monitoring the review stream in readiness to deploy damage control strategies when necessary.

Here are the nuts and bolts of getting more reviews on Google.

Now that we have laid the groundwork for a solid Google review acquisition campaign, here are a few tips to get you started on collecting more 5-star Google reviews for your business.

Read the instructions. Start at the source with the information available in Google’s My Business Help section. Google wants things done a certain way when it comes to business reviews. Even if you are already getting Google reviews for your business, a refresher on their policies never hurts. By making sure that you and anyone else in your company who is involved in asking customers for reviews understand the rules, you will save time and headaches later. It is also a good idea to learn the rules that reviewers have to follow by checking out Google’s guide to writing reviews.

Set up a My Business account. A My Business account lets you manage your business listing and the information that potential customers see when searching with Google. You can control the way your business appears in Google Maps and search results, and learn a little bit about Google’s viewpoints on SEO and improving search rankings. Having an account also gets your business verified by Google. This makes it twice as likely to be trusted by Google users. Most importantly, an account lets you collect and respond to customer reviews. And since an account is free anyway, why not?

Getting more reviews on Google My Business screenshot image.

Ask your customers. Most customers react positively to a show of genuine interest in their feedback. There are many ways to ask. Try window stickers and cashier desk placards. You can also put reminder notes on the bottom of bills, invoices, and business cards, and include requests with links in email signatures. Use badges and widgets on your company websites. Also be sure that everyone who deals directly with clients is trained to request Google reviews and realizes the importance of maintaining a solid review stream.

Make it easy. Make sure that posting Google reviews is quick and easy for your customers. Personalized reminder emails with links, buttons on your website landing page, reminders on your company voice mail greeting, and links from your business’s social media sites are all good options. Don’t forget to include simple instructions where appropriate. You could have printed copies available at the front desk, create a blog post, or print a few lines on the back of business cards.

Getting more reviews on Google badge image.

Be responsive. It goes without saying that reviews are not a one-way street. Customer reviews offer you an opportunity to engage with your market. Find out what people like and what you could be doing better. Listen to people who have had a bad experience and make sincere efforts to set things right. And remember to always thank your customers for their feedback.

Get Some Help. You can save time and money by getting in touch with professionals who have the tools and expertise needed to put a highly effective reputation management program in place for you. Managing your review stream is an essential component of maintaining a productive online presence, and it is a good place to get strong marketing ROI.

Consider getting set up with a user-friendly software package like Capture Review  that lets you generate, monitor, and manage your reviews on Google and on all the other sites that matter. With the right tools, you can collect and display your best Google reviews on company websites and social media profiles. More importantly, you will be able to identify and respond to unhappy reviewers before they make public posts.

Reach for the stars on Google.

Already one of the big three consumer review sites, Google is gaining ground on first place every day. You cannot afford to overlook this Internet giant. Now that you know the basics of a sound Google review generation strategy, put the knowledge to work for your business. Getting more 5-star Google reviews should be a primary objective of your overall marketing program. If you put together an effective approach to getting more reviews on Google and leveraging them to benefit your business, you will see results in a few short weeks.

The Ultimate Guide to Getting More Yelp Reviews

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Getting more Yelp reviews can make or break your business.

Yelp is the 800-pound gorilla in the crowd-source review room. Love it or hate it, business owners have to acknowledge Yelp because good Yelp reviews are critical to the success of almost any enterprise.

Getting more Yelp reviews gorilla image.

Former PayPal employees Jeremy Stoppelman and Russel Simmons launched Yelp in 2004 as an email-based referral network. Since then, Yelp has become ubiquitous across the world as the go-to site for useful crowd-sourced local business reviews. Yelp is active in all major US metropolitan areas, has a presence in over 30 markets outside the United States, and appears in 15 languages.

The web traffic analytics service Alexa Internet ranks Yelp’s original site Yelp.com at 40 in the US and 219 worldwide. Yelp was once an acquisition target of search giant Google, and is still the subject of near-endless commentary and controversy. Yelp has proven to be one of the truly transformative cultural phenomena of the Web 2.0 age.

Yelp reviews around the world stats graphic.

Users search Yelp by entering key words relevant to the goods or services they are looking for. They can also look up companies by name. Either way, Yelp offers immediate access to standard directory information for all businesses in the search results as well as any star ratings and feedback comments that Yelping customers have contributed. Yelp user statistics clearly show how influential the service has become. The website and mobile app draw over 188 million unique visitors every month.There is no question that many of your potential customers use Yelp.

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The fact that 79% of all searches are carried out via mobile devices indicates that users often access Yelp while actively shopping. They base spending decisions on selections from the more than 142 million Yelp reviews that have been posted online.

Total Yelp reviews as of December 2017 graphic.

What is a Yelper?

Millions of consumers every day go to Yelp.com or use the Yelp mobile app to get directory information and check business ratings and Yelp reviews. Yelpers are a user subset comprised of those with Yelp profiles that allow them to sign in to publish their own ratings and reviews of almost any type of business or service you can imagine.

After they visit a business or even while still at the place, Yelpers can give real-time feedback and join in discussions with other Yelpers about what they like, what they don’t like, and what should be changed or done differently. Most of the people who read what the Yelpers post fall into the prime spending age demographic of 18-54 and are highly educated, upper-income individuals. Any business owner who hopes to be successful should certainly be paying attention to what the Yelpers have to say.

Yelp reviews US demographics of Yelp users graphic.

Can Yelp reviews really affect my business?

In fact, research shows that Yelp reviews can have profound effects on a business. Reviews are a type of Internet content known as user-generated media. They are classified as electronic word-of-mouth information: person-to-person communication in which the receiver perceives the communicator as representing a non-commercial source of information concerning a brand, product, service or provider. People are inclined to trust word-of-mouth, and researchers have found that customers tend to believe reviews they read.

Yelp ratings certainly can affect your bottom line. Harvard Business School professor Michael Luca compared Yelp reviews of Seattle restaurants with their earnings as reported to the Washington State Department of Revenue. Dr. Luca found that a one-star increase in a restaurant’s Yelp rating was related to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue. Luca also discovered that customers rely on star ratings more than reviews when making decisions, and that Yelp helped independent restaurants gain market share against large chain operations.

Yelp reviews and reviewed businesses by category graphic.

So how do I get more 5-star Yelp reviews?

Most of the reviews on Yelp are pretty good, with 68% falling in the 4- or 5-star category. Customers also give businesses a “Recommended” rating 71% of the time. What this tells you is that the Yelpers who are going to be reviewing your business tend to be reasonable folks. They are often concerned with maintaining their own reputations for fairness and accuracy as reflected in their Yelp profiles. Although some very personal or extremely negative reviews do show up and tend to attract more attention than they deserve, reviewers are usually not out on any sort of vendetta against helpless business people.

It is fair to say that the most important strategy for achieving and maintaining a positive Yelp presence is simply doing the best you can to create satisfied, happy customers. This is just traditional common sense, but good customer service becomes more important than ever when almost everyone who walks through your door has the ability to publish their opinion to a huge audience within minutes. With this idea as a starting point, let’s take a look at a few strategic moves that can help boost your 5-star appeal on Yelp.

Make it easy for customers to create reviews. Let customers know that you are interested in getting their Yelp reviews. This can be as simple as using window stickers and cashier counter placards that refer to your Yelp profile. Including a Yelp badge or button on your business website and as part of your email signature makes submitting a review quick and easy. However, be careful about directly soliciting reviews in any form and never offer rewards for positive reviews. Both of these practices go against Yelp policies and promote undue influence by businesses on a review process that is meant to be neutral, natural, and honest.

Yelp reviews Yelp badge image.

Be responsive. Business owners can claim a Yelp profile that gives the ability to track Yelp traffic and respond to reviews. A mobile app makes it possible to keep in touch with customer response trends while away from the office. This ability to monitor and respond is an incredibly valuable tool that you must leverage to your advantage. Use it to identify ways to keep positive reviews coming in, and as your best defense when negative reviews pop up.

Even the most negative reviewers often soften their stance when they receive a quick response, an explanation of what went wrong, and an offer to make things right. In fact, a glance at Yelp will show many reviews that have been upgraded after some communication between the business owner and the unhappy patron. But don’t focus only on the negative. Respond to every review with thanks for the kind folks who took the time to help you promote your business. You might also want to look into the Yelp “Check-In” feature that encourages reviews and lets you offer discounts to your regular customers.

Yelp reviews Yelp business page screenshot image.

Don’t get personal. There have been cases where disputes between reviewers and business owners have led to harassment, physical altercations, and litigation. Never let things go down the wrong road when trying to work out a solution to a negative customer experience and the ensuing poor review. Always remain professional no matter how hurtful the review is, and though it is often difficult, remember that the customer is always right.

It is a good idea to delay response to any review that causes an emotional reaction, and that also gives you time to look into the situation. Find out what really happened to create the customer’s negative experience and formulate an appropriate response along with a strategy to turn things around to your advantage. Then get in touch with the customer, possibly via the Yelp private messaging feature, and work things out so that everyone wins. If that proves impossible, you can at least minimize the damage.

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Keep it honest. Fake reviews have always been a big issue on Yelp. Called “astroturfing”, the placement of many positive reviews by business owners or paid shills has been a problem since the earliest days of Yelp. In fact, a proprietary fake review filter was developed only two weeks after the Yelp site went online. Yelp’s fake review algorithm identifies about 25% of reviews as suspicious. There have been a number of sting operations and legal actions centered on the practice of review manipulation with the intent to bring positive or negative effects to a business. The potential harm of this type of review fraud far outweighs any possible benefit to your business, so do not even think about it.

Yelp reviews is it easy to spot fake reviews graphic.

Call in the professionals. With the importance of solid Yelp reviews now an established fact of business life, hiring online reputation management specialists has become a common practice among successful businesses of all sizes. Along with proper website development and SEO work, managing your review stream is an essential component of any sound strategy for establishing and maintaining a productive online presence. Companies like Capture Review can help you tackle that task with user-friendly software tools that make it easy to collect and manage reviews from multiple sites across the web.

This type of software allows business owners to track customer experience trends and pull good reviews aside for use in marketing campaigns. Another important benefit it provides is the capability to filter and respond to negative reviews before they go live on Yelp. Catching bad news before it goes up online is certainly simpler than going through the months-long process of getting Yelp to take down an extreme or unfair review.

If you are really serious about building a great online reputation for your business, calling in the pros is probably the quickest way to increase your count of 5-star Yelp reviews.

Let’s review Yelp reviews.

The relationship between Yelpers and businesses, particularly small independent operations, is complicated. Nobody (or business) is perfect. There will always be a few slip-ups that generate less-than-stellar Yelp reviews. And no matter what the situation, opening ourselves up to feedback from others is always a little scary. When our livelihood is on the line, it can be a lot scary.

But most of that fear comes from a sense of lacking control and being helpless. Taking proactive charge of the review stream generated by your customers will put you in control and move you out of that scary place. By knowing how Yelp works and understanding how to make it work for your business, you can accentuate the positive and (nearly) eliminate the negative when it comes to Yelp reviews.

Getting More Positive Online Reviews From Your Happy Customers


You know that online reviews are critical to making your service or product stand out from the rest. So you have an online customer review generation strategy in place:

Delivering excellent service and outstanding customer experiences are what your company is all about.

Your Facebook business page is up and running with reviews enabled. The Google My Business account and Yelp profile are dialed in.

The review request campaign is in full swing. Links and buttons in every digital space you can find. Reminder cards and notes posted and printed everywhere. Everybody on staff trained in the best ways to ask customers to leave an online review of your business.

Then why aren’t the positive online reviews piling up? You know people are happy – they say so. And they come back again and again. They even say they will post a review.

But the reviews don’t come.

Wait a minute before banging your head against the wall. Check this out:

Why People Write Online Reviews

To help understand why customers don’t write reviews, let’s take a look at why they DO write them. You might be surprised to hear that most people post online reviews for unselfish reasons. Surveys show that helping other consumers make good decisions is “important” or “very important” to 90% of those who post reviews, and 79% say the same thing about posting reviews as a way of giving back in a time when people rely on consumer reviews.

People tend to be altruistic when writing reviews. If they had a positive experience, they want to give others the opportunity to enjoy it as well. They may also feel kindly toward the business and people who provided that experience, and want to thank and reward them.

Research also reveals that consumers are motivated to write online reviews when their experience with the business or product, whether positive or negative, reaches them on an emotional level. Customers who have had bad experiences will use reviews to vent their anger and frustration, especially if they feel personally slighted. In the same way, customers who have enjoyed exceptionally good experiences want to reward and support the company to help it succeed, particularly if the business is small and locally-owned. In both cases, it is the degree to which their experience provokes an emotional response that determines the likelihood of the consumer sitting down to write a review.

Customers Actually Enjoy Writing Online Reviews

Posting online reviews is a way for consumers to express themselves. Reviews are a public outlet for voicing opinions to peers and businesses in a way that makes reviewers feel empowered by taking the roles of benefactor and influencer. Knowing that consumers are generally positively inclined toward the idea of writing reviews, what do we do to get them to follow through? It’s actually simple – you have to find and remove the barriers that keep the majority of customers, happy or not, from offering feedback.

Barrier #1: Difficulty

You have to make it super-easy for people to post online reviews of your business. Provide one-click links in emails, widgets on your websites and social media profiles, and make sure that step-by-step instructions for posting are available. If you own a business like a restaurant or bar – any place customers spend significant time onsite – set things up so as to encourage and help them to leave reviews right then and there. For email campaigns, consider including fill-in-the-blank review templates that can be pasted in and completed in seconds. Remove the difficulty barrier by doing anything you can to simplify and streamline the review process

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Also be sure to keep all contact and location information for your business updated and correct on Facebook, Yelp, Google, and other review site profiles. This helps customers stay in touch with you.

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Barrier #2: Writer’s Block

Don’t force customers to compose their reviews from scratch.

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When you put a review site button or link in front of them, of course you are going to include a CTA – Call to Action. But go further than just a block of text that says “How was your visit today? Please leave us a review on… and tell us what you think.”

Include some guiding questions. That way, customers have a take-off point for their review and you get targeted, relevant, actionable feedback. For example:

  1. What did you like best about… [today’s visit, our product, your experience, etc.]
  2. What did you like least about… [today’s visit, our product, your experience, etc.]
  3. Tell us two improvements we should make.
  4. Would you recommend us to a friend? Why or why not?

Many people are not going to respond to each item, but others will go beyond the questions. In any case, having a question to answer removes the barrier and makes it easier to get started on a review.

Barrier #3: Customers are Too Happy

Remember what we said about people writing reviews when their experience with a business or product has a strong emotional impact? Unfortunately, good experiences tend to leave less of an impression than bad ones. When it comes to the human brain and emotions, bad is literally stronger than good. On a deep level, our brains perceive negative experiences as danger, priming the fight-or-flight response. Positive experiences produce a less extreme reaction in the form of relief, which is associated with lowering our guard and becoming less attentive. And we don’t forget bad experiences because the tendency to remember them more clearly, and for a longer time, is a definite survival advantage.


It’s counter-intuitive, but satisfaction and happiness can be barriers that block reviews, while unhappiness opens the review tap wide. The upside is that you are not likely to have to work to get negative reviews when things go wrong, and a negative review is still a review – you can turn it around to benefit your business. The downside is that you may need to remind happy customers to give you reviews.

This is where follow-up campaigns come in. Plan to reach out to your customers shortly after their visits, and be sure to keep records of the products or services you provide. It never hurts to remind them what you did for them. Follow-up outreach jumps over the barrier caused by blissful forgetfulness, and is one of the surest ways to get more positive online reviews for your business. To help keep yourself from forgetting this important step, you may want to consider using a review management tool to save time and ensure consistency by automating email follow-ups.

Barrier #4: Customers are Too Nice

Face it – real honesty is not one of our most valued social traits. We are trained to be nice all the time, to tell the white lie, to keep our mouths shut if we can’t say something positive. Especially in today’s climate of over-sensitivity to everything, even people who might like to give you a compliment would rather say nothing at all than risk having something taken the wrong way. This cuts us off from potential good reviews as well as from valuable constructive criticism.

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You actually need to create a “safe space” for your customers if you want them to open up to you. Be sure that people feel comfortable and respected when visiting your business. Create an atmosphere that communicates your value of transparency and honesty. Request all types of feedback from your customers, and when negative reviews come in, show that you are grateful for the chance to make things right and learn ways to make your business more successful. Build trust with your customers to break down the niceness barrier. You will earn their loyalty, and their forgiveness when it is needed.

Break Down the Barriers to Get More Online Reviews

A solid stream of positive online reviews is one of the most useful and effective marketing tools you can get, and review generation, when it’s done right, is a very cost-effective component of your overall marketing spend. It’s not hard to increase the effectiveness of your online review generation efforts once you know a little about the psychology behind online review posting behavior. Fine-tune your approach and your review management toolset, remove the barriers, and start getting more positive online reviews for your business.