As a small to medium business owner, you’re likely well aware of the influence of user generated review sites like Yelp and Google. Oftentimes all it takes is one or two angry customers to bring down your overall star rating and turn potential customers away from your door. It’s frustrating to deal with those outliers, so much so that the urge to bolster your company’s online reputation with solicited reviews may be quite tempting indeed. But as the recent crackdown on false reviews to the tune of $350,000 in fees for business owners made clear, it’s simply not worth it to pay for reviews or bribe customers. Instead, you’ve got to generate your content the old-fashioned way, but hiring writers can definitely help in this process.
Don’t Ask, Do Respond
In the investigation of fraudulent reviews, more than 19 firms were found guilty of a variety of practices. Some business bribed current customers to give a positive review, offering free goodies, or in at least one case, a $50 gift certificate. While this seems clearly unethical, it turns out that even asking for reviews at all goes against Yelp’s official policy. Instead of requesting reviews, you should be naturally integrating links to any sites where reviews of your company appear, as well as posting stickers or badges near the register of your brick-and-mortar business. You can also use the platform of review sites to actively respond to customer complaints as opposed to creating false reviews to combat them. It’s important to strike the right tone and stay solution oriented; never post when your feelings are running high. If you have a trusted, consistent copywriter you work with to write blog posts and other marketing copy, you might consider outsourcing the work of responding to customer complaints to ensure you come across as friendly, professional, and articulate. Just be sure to give the writer all the information they need about what you’re actually doing to address the stated issue.
Fight Fire With…Authentic Content
Another way to combat negative feedback without stooping to hire writers to write fake reviews is to instead invest your content writing budget into better material for your company’s website, blog, and social media pages. If a potential customer sees a few negative reviews and then visits a thinly developed site with outdated content, you almost certainly won’t see that customer walk through your doors. But if you’ve got a clear, content-rich, engaging online presence, a future customer might think twice about some hothead’s rant, and you’ll come out looking like the prepared, savvy business owner you are.
Caitlin C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.