Remember that $2 phone cover you bought on Amazon last week? How many reviews that people left about the seller and the product did you read before pressing the “proceed to cart” button? Quite a few, we believe. We live and breathe these user reviews, because they are seemingly the most authentic information we find in a world (wide web) full of promotive content.
Now think of this – if you read so many reviews before spending $2, how much time and effort do you think your clients (and potential clients) are spending on reading reviews about you and your product/service online? This is why you must absolutely be in control and up to speed about the UGRs (user generated reviews, for those who don’t know the term) you and your brand are receiving.
Can’t spell UGR without you
First of all, let’s define what a UGR (user generated review) is. We’re talking about a subcategory of user generated content here, which means that the end goal here is to “disseminate information about online products or the firms that market them and criticize them in the form of a review” according to Wikipedia. What makes UGRs special, though, is that this type of content is created with a purpose of sharing the user’s impressions of you and what you have to offer – as an existing (or past) customer to a future potential one.
UGRs are seen as a trustworthy source of information because, in their nature, they are not “paid” content (though you never know) and come from real people who have experienced good or bad services/products. Since these reviews are very specific, you will find them on various ecommerce platforms, such as Ebay or Amazon, and on dedicated product/service review platforms. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones that you can’t afford not to be aware of:
Trustpilot is by far the most popular and dominant UGR website today, with approximately a million reviews each month. It features different versions for different countries and regions, so if your brand is distributed, you need to be aware of that.
Below, you can find examples of how a good Trustpilot page should look, as opposed to one that is not monitored enough. Note the general score, as well as the balance between ‘good’ (4-5 star) and ‘bad’ (1-2 star) reviews on both examples.
Asking your loyal clients to review and make sure to give a good service and products is a good way to get an excellent score on Trustpilot, but that’s not always enough as each platform has its own rules on how it ranks and how to deal with it.
Another interesting feature of Trustpilot is its TrustScore. This is basically an overall ‘grade’ that Trustpilot displays about your brand. You can read more about it at Trustpilot’s official website, but the key points you need to know are:
- New reviews are given more weight in the overall calculation
- The more frequently you receive reviews, the more accurate your TrustScore is.
- Brands with less than 10,000 reviews have their TrustScore updated after each new review. Other brands have it updated once a day.
- The TrustScore is based on an average rating of all of your reviews, but don’t worry. Trustpilot knows that many people go ‘black-or-white’ here, opting either for a 5 or a 1. Its formula automatically brings the TrustScore closer to average and that is especially helpful when you are new to Trustpilot and still have a relatively small amount of reviews displayed.
The platform gives businesses the ability to claim their profile once doing so you can:
- Respond to reviews
- Manage your reviews stream
- Report reviews that violate the website’s policies (such as fake reviews, reviews that incite violence, reviews that include racist comments, etc.).
Here’s an example of a review that is clearly a fake one, as it promotes a different business, and can be removed.
Having said that, the best way to avoid bad reviews on your Trustpilot page is to constantly monitor it and respond accordingly. Removing bad reviews is your top option, if that is possible, but in some cases in which that is not possible, it’s recommended to respond to negative reviews. That is also something you need to know when and how to do right. Take a look at the response below for example:
All in all Trustpilot is a platform with great potential, mainly because it is one of the most popular review tools out there today. If you know how to manage it right, it can give your business a boost that you won’t get with paid campaigns.
Having said that, managing your Trustpilot profile is absolutely free of charge, but you do have the option to purchase one of their “premium” accounts on a monthly payment basis. This comes with features such as enhanced analytics, Trustpilot widgets on your website, the ability to invite more people to publish good reviews and even add the rating to your Google ads campaign. We won’t go into detail about it here, but we recommend that you try the free version, usually it satisfies all the needs of a business (especially if your business is relatively small).
Very similar to Trustpilot, this California-based startup, Sitejabber, is more focused on online businesses – which means it might be more relevant to you. Also, this platform lets you export comments and display them on your website or social media pages, as well as embed other UGC directly on your Sitejabber page. For this, of course, you have to claim your Sitejabber account, but this process is not a complex one.
Another important thing to note with Sitejabber is the fact that it displays your “top positive review” & “top critical review”, and it appears smack on top of your brand’s page. This might be a serious headache for you, since this can give very prominent exposure to someone who has very, very bad things to say about you. You have the option of responding to all reviews, and it might be a wise idea to respond to the ones that appear on top to show that your brand takes its customers seriously.
Also, just like the Trustpilot platform, Sitejabber also offers claiming and managing options, although they are far more limited than Trustpilot’s.
There are a whole lot of other, smaller review platforms that you should keep an eye on. One example is Hellopeter, which is a very popular review platform in South Africa (but is also relevant outside of it). Clutch.co, on the other hand, focuses more on service providers in the digital field and differentiates itself from Glassdoor, which is more for job seekers (so if you’re looking to hire quality employees, you need your profile on that platform to be appealing). Remember: If you want to take advantage of what these platforms have to offer, make sure that their essence suits your business goals in terms of target audience and mechanism.
REVIEWS.io is a good example of a UGR platform which caters to e-commerce websites. The platform lets the business automatically send clients a request to post a review after an online purchase. REVIEWS.io is also Google-certified, as are many other popular platforms we discuss here, which means that you will sometimes see a business’ reviews.io score adjacent to its advertisements. Here, you can find a full list of Google-certified review portals, which are worth putting an emphasis on for this reason.
Let’s talk about Google Business Profile, Google Maps and Google Knowledge Graph.
Search your business’ name on Google. Do you see a box on the right? That’s your Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business). It displays all the data that Google has managed to gather about you, and yes, that includes reviews that Google encourages your clients to leave. It is possible to monitor that content as well, but that also begins with claiming your profile.
Why is this box so important? Well, first of all, because it is very prominent. It is one of the first things someone sees about your business when they Google it – and people might even not take your business seriously if you don’t have a box like that (because it means that you don’t really exist in the eyes of Google).
However, there’s more to it than that. When someone searches for your business on Google Maps, they will see that box too. Wouldn’t it be a shame if someone were to search for your store or branch, see your GBP with quite a few negative reviews and then change their mind? You definitely do not want that to happen, so you need to keep a close eye on what goes on in that box, by all means.
Opening your GBP is actually not such a complex process. If you search your business’ name on Google Maps and you don’t see a box like that yet, you have an option to open a new business. The process includes providing a few verification details and may take up to a few weeks, but, as you can see, it is definitely worth the hassle.
Note that you do not get confused with a Google Knowledge Graph. This is very similar at first glance, but does not provide much information that is relevant for businesses. Knowledge Graphs are more common for entities like famous people or big companies. They don’t contain details like your business address, contact information, opening hours and client reviews. Nevertheless, if you have one of these, it would also be a good idea to claim it and have some control over the data that appears there – and here’s how you can do that.
Who doesn’t read reviews on the Facebook pages of businesses? Most people, actually. That is because Facebook users tend to comment on Facebook pages and post their opinion on their own wall (especially if it is negative), rather than using the review section. However, it is still important to maintain your reputation there as well, including responding to existing reviews if needed and encouraging your satisfied clients to leave positive ones.
Okay, so what should you do?
Think you have no control over how your brand’s UGRs look? Think again. You have a certain degree of power over what appears on these review websites and platforms about you. The best way to guarantee good reviews is, obviously, to provide good service and quality products. However, there’s more that you can do with UGRs for your online reputation.
Step 1: Stay on top of things
If someone writes something about you, whether it be positive or negative, you want to know as soon as possible so you can respond accordingly. If it’s a positive review, thank them for it. Find out who they are so you can appreciate your thanks. Next time they order from you, you may wish to do something extra special for them. If it’s a bad review, find out what happened and make it up to them however best you can. If there’s no record of such a customer, get the review removed. It is recommended to have someone, your ORM or community manager, detected for this kind of work, as it seems easy, it is most certainly not..
Step 2: Understand that the medium is the message
It is a common practice today to encourage customers to leave good reviews online. If you decide to do so, remember to focus on the right platforms that correlate with your goals, which also means those who are prominent on search engines and are relevant to your business. Note that some of these review platforms are certified by Google to provide structured data such as “star” ratings on the Google search results page, this is what you should aim for.
Step 3: Stay in a state of content
While the number of good reviews (especially compared to bad ones) that are posted about you is very important, you should also pay attention to what’s written in them. A good UGR is one that is informative on one hand, but readable on the other. You want it to include positive impressions on different aspects of your product or service, but on the other hand, if the review is too long and doesn’t have some keywords in it, it’s a miss. Somewhere between 2-4 sentences and 2 KWs is usually adequate.
Also, remember that having your brand’s name in the review itself, and in the title if possible, is always a good idea with positive UGRs. Not only do you strengthen your brand’s name in the reader’s mind, it also helps SEO-wise.
Step 4: Stay in style
One more very important thing that you need to know. Most of the review platforms mentioned here have a mechanism that enables you to proactively invite clients to leave reviews about your business – and yes, they let you choose which clients you want to target. However, you need to make sure that even in this case, the review left is constructed adequately. In general, it is always a good idea to provide guidance for clients who are writing reviews for your business, and that is especially true in this case.
The golden rule is that if it seems too good to be true, it is counterproductive (and might even sometimes be removed). A UGR needs to seem like an authentic experience, otherwise people won’t believe it.
The review above for example seems credible. It is not too ‘good’ in a sense that it doesn’t try to sell. The language is simple and colloquial, and the main focus is the positive aspects of it. Negative thoughts are mentioned, but the overall vibe is ‘pro’ and not ‘con’. This is a kind of review that, in terms of style, can contribute to your reputation.
Naturally, you don’t want to dictate the review’s content to the client, but you can and should pinpoint them in the direction you wish, and even provide some recommendations. Don’t be shy, approach your clients and ask them to leave a review on one or more of these platforms. Some businesses even offer a discount or gift in return for a flattering review, and that is not a tactic you should feel uncomfortable with.
So, what’s the bottom line before you get started?
We bet your fingers are already itching and you can’t wait to start taking control of your UGRs online. So just to sum up, here are the main takeaways:
- User reviews online are a very important and meaningful tool these days. They can bring a whole lot of credibility to your online reputation, but can also cause a calamity.
- You need to be aware of the different platforms, their specifics, their audiences and their influence. Of course, you need to put an effort on each and every one of these websites, but choose your battles accordingly. Things like Google certifications and dominance on search engines are not factors you should ignore.
- You can and should control how your UGR profiles on different platforms look. You can and should take proactive steps to ensure that you gain enough control.
- Study these different platforms and the tools they offer, so you can take advantage of them optimally.
- As with all things internet-related, what’s in today might be out tomorrow. Be aware of changes in how these platforms operate.