Online reviews have a huge influence on potential customers. Many customers research a business before they decide to visit it. This goes for every category of business from restaurants to doctors to auto repair shops. Your customers expect you to be online and for other customers to be reviewing your business.

The downfall of reviews is that most people don’t leave them, despite relying on them to make decisions. Usually, only irate customers or those customers infatuated with your company leave reviews. As a result, online reviews may not be accurate. Since it’s entirely possible for a business’s worst nightmare to come true: having an angry vindictive customer convince all their friends to give your business terrible reviews to drag your rating down.

There’s no foolproof way to counteract those with bad intentions. However, encouraging your customers to leave reviews across multiple review sites can have a positive impact.

The biggest players in the review game are Google, Facebook, and Yelp. While you want to get as many reviews as possible as quickly as possible, it’s important not to coerce your customers into giving reviews and to avoid purchasing reviews. One way to work on improving the number of reviews your business has is to focus on one site at a time.

You will probably want to start with Google. At some point during the decision process, most people go to Google first, which is why it’s an ideal place to start. To start getting Google reviews, you will want to create a Google My Business page. If you have a digital marketing agency, such as Larchwood Marketing, managing your online presence you should already have one.

Unlike some other review sites, Google allows you to directly ask for reviews. You just can’t force customers to give them in store, but there’s nothing stopping you from including a link to Google reviews in an email to those who have opted into your mailing list.

Facebook’s business guidelines are similar to Google’s, so you can apply the same strategy when you decided it’s time to shift focus.

The “other review sites” comment above was mostly directed at Yelp. Yelp doesn’t want you asking at all. If Yelp catches your company soliciting reviews, it will penalize you. The company even has a Consumer Alerts program for users to report businesses violating Yelp’s guidelines.

Regardless of how you decide to approach customer’s for reviews, it’s imperative to keep each sites guidelines in mind and to go about collecting reviews ethically. Caving into the desire to get a 5 star review by all means necessary will not work in the long run because it isn’t authentic and customers will catch on.