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The Advantages of Reading Consumer Reviews

Rheingold’s Flowers (not their real name) asked me to improve their search engine ranking. I did a variety of Google searches for the business to see how they came up with different relevant keywords. Sometimes their site didn’t come up at all, but every time I searched sites like yelp.com dominated the list – usually coming up first. I took a look at their reviews on yelp.com, and they had 10 negative reviews! Ouch! And not very accurate, either…I would know, because I’m a client of this florist, and I also happen to know other people who use them and love them.

Concerned for my client,  consumer review I went to two other consumer review sites and looked at the reviews. The other two sites for this same clients have great reviews. Hmmm. I wondered whether one or two bad reviews had attracted more bad reviews. I even wondered if the same person might have posted all of the bad reviews. And, I noticed that most of the reviews didn’t focus on the main service (the floral arrangements themselves), but rather on fairly minor elements of customer service and store set-up.

You can see how Yelp.com could work against your business – even if you’re great at what you do. So it’s essential, if you own a local retail or service business that serves the general public, that you act pro-actively to make review sites your own.

In case you aren’t familiar with yelp.com, it allows consumers to set up a free account, and use that account to review local businesses. There are many sites like yelp.com, such as tribe.com (which focuses on nightlife), sanfrancisco.citysearch.com and oakland.com (which is a directory of businesses without reviews).

Coincidentally, Yelp.com has come up in many conversations I’ve had with business owners this month. I also know of businesses that are getting a lot of business from yelp.com. For example, a woman I spoke with at a networking function says she gets the bulk of her business (she applies permanent make-up) from yelp.com.

Seeing the new popularity of sites like yelp.com – and the dangers these sites can pose – makes me urge you to go see if yelp.com comes up when you Google yourself. Also, go directly to yelp.com and see if you are listed and how your listing has been handled. Explore the site by looking at listings for other businesses you know.

If yours is a consumer service or retail service, I recommend you sign up with yelp.com. Ask a colleague who is also a client of yours to list you…and write the first recommendation. Then you do the same for another colleague-client. Don’t exchange reviews…Instead use a circle of reviewers so everyone in your circle gets the initial review they need. Then ask a few clients if they’d review your business on yelp.com. It wouldn’t be ethical to pay them to do this, though you could certainly do them a nice favor a month or two later in appreciation.

You want to claim sites like Yelp.com as your own by having your long-term, true, blue clients write about you first. I also recommend that you Google yourself, your business and your keywords each month to see where and how you are listed.

Karen Nierlich ©2008 All Rights Reserved

Karen Nierlich, author, web copywriter, and web entrepreneur. Are you new to the Internet? Perhaps you are starting a post-career business? Create and launch your new business website with confidence and ease. Start receiving FREE help by signing up for Karen’s newsletter “Web Strategies

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