By Joe Dysart
Managing the World of Online Reviews
New Tools Ensure That Your Reputation Is Safeguarded
Managing the widespread proliferation of reviews online has become mission critical for nearly all businesses.
Businesses concerned about the havoc online reviews can wreak on their fortunes can take heart: The latest crop of online-review software solutions enables you to establish a powerful command center to monitor and influence your company’s reputation online.
Essentially, those best-of-breed dashboards enable you to keep tabs on every major review site on the web, see what’s being said about your company in real time, and respond lightning quick to those reviews—whether it’s to accept an accolade or to engage in critical damage control.
You’ll also be able to use many of those packages to create a reviews domain on your own website, cultivate reviews from your customers, and ensure that those reviews also get posted to the major review websites and on social media.
“We live in the consumer era, where influence has truly shifted from companies to consumers,” said Peter Mühlmann, CEO of Trustpilot (www.trustpilot.com), an online review-management solution.
Marc Ferrentino, chief strategy officer at Yext (www.yext.com), another online review-management solution, agreed: “Reviews are one of the most important signals consumers consider when choosing where to shop, eat, stay or do business.”
In fact, 85% of people searching the web for goods and services now trust online reviews as much as they do recommendations from family and friends, according to a 2017 study from BrightLocal (www.tinyurl.com/brightlocal-com-research-local). Moreover, reviews that are positive imbue trust in 73% of the people who read them, according to the study.
More ominously, BrightLocal found that a full 49% of review readers simply refuse to do business with a company that is rated below four out of five stars on review sites.
The good news for businesses looking to manage their reputations in the online review world is that it’s a buyer’s market. There are dozens of packages you can check out to determine which fits your business goals and style best. You’ll also be able to narrow the field considerably before you go that route by visiting business-oriented software review websites that feature authentic reviews of online review-management packages penned by other businesses.
Essentially, those sites offer a treasure trove of insights into the inner workings of all the major online review-management packages—their strengths and weaknesses, their quirks and perks, and whether or not a specific package is even worth your time.
The sites featuring rundowns on all the major packages include: Finances Online (www.financesonline.com), Capterra (www.capterra.com/reputation-management-software); G2 Crowd
(www.g2crowd.com/categories/online-reputation-management); Software Suggest (www.softwaresuggest.com/us/reputation-management-software); Software Advice (www.softwareadvice.com); and GetApp (www.getapp.com).
While different businesses have different needs, key features you’ll want to look for in any online review software management solution you buy include the following.
Real-Time Monitoring of All Major Review Websites: This is really job one of any decent package. A single negative review that goes viral can do significant damage to your company. So you’ll need real-time monitoring to ensure that you’re continuously aware of reviews being posted about your company in every major corner of the web. Review Trackers (www.reviewtrackers.com) is one of the many packages that offer this service.
A Reviews Domain on Your Website: Many packages, including Trustpilot (www.trustpilot.com), offer you the ability to create and manage a reviews domain on your website. That will help you offset unfair reviews that appear elsewhere.
Many online review experts recommend that you allow both positive and negative reviews about your company to appear in your reviews domain to establish the overall authenticity of the domain. But, of course, that’s a call each company needs to make for itself.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO): All the new content you’ll be continually generating with a new reviews domain on your website should automatically boost your company’s rank in search returns, since search engines reward sites publishing useful content. Some packages, such as Grade.us (www.grade.us/home), take this SEO boost a step further by ensuring that the format and rendering of each review you publish on your website is SEO-optimized.
Review Solicitation: Best-of-breed packages offer the ability to solicit reviews from your customers on your website via social media, email and smartphone text as well as at your call center and other key points of interactivity with your customers. Such review solicitation modules, like the one found in PowerReviews (www.powerreviews.com), also often enable you to auto-syndicate the reviews to the major review websites or to popular social-media networks.
Easy Video Posting: Given that video is becoming an ever more powerful selling tool on the web and social media, some packages make it easy for reviewers to post video along with their review.
Q&A Capability: Some package makers such as Turnto (www.turntonetworks.com) enable people to post questions on your reviews domain, which can be answered by a company spokesperson or another reviewer. Given that users of Amazon review tools have become accustomed to that capability, they may expect the same at your reviews domain.
Sort-by-Star Rating Tool: Most Amazon.com users have also grown accustomed to being able to auto-sort reviews for any given product based on star ratings. The reason is that five-star reviews are influential. But thorough shoppers also look at the three-star and lesser-star reviews to verify that the five-star reviews ring true. Many package makers “get” this preference and include a similar star-rating sorting tool with their solutions.
Customizable Reports: Most packages come with pre-designed reports and alert systems that you’ll come to rely on regularly. As you become more familiar with the package, you may want to be able to design your own custom reports. Many packages offer such solutions.
Monitoring of Competitor Reviews: Nearly as important as what’s being said about your company is what’s being said about your competitors. Some packages such as Review Push (www.reviewpush.com) include a feature that offers you powerful insights into online reviews detailing your competitors’ triumphs and stumbles.
Easy Integration With Other Business Apps: It’s always easier when your reviews package plays nice with other software you may be using, such as Salesforce, Magento, BigCommerce, Adobe Experience Manager, Hootsuite or Wordpress.
Mobile Friendly: In this day and age, you’d assume that any online reviews-management solution worth anything would be mobile friendly. Even so, you’ll want to thoroughly test your package’s ability to perform on smartphones and similar mobile devices before you buy.
Tight Facebook and Google Integration: Given that a significant percentage of reviews appear on Facebook and Google, some package makers such as Reputology (www.reputology.com) have made it easier to deal with those reviews by giving you the ability to reply to them directly from the package dashboard.
Artificial Intelligence (AI): While AI is only very recently making its way into online review packages, it’s worth taking a look at what’s available. For example, package maker Yotpo (www.yotpo.com) recently added AI-powered widgets to its solution. They pull up reviews featuring topics that are most important to the person reading your reviews.