How to Build and Manage Online ReviewsCustomers use online review sites to talk about your service, your products, or the experience of visiting your store. Today, the biggies are Google Places, Google Online Reviews, Citysearch and Yelp. On all three of these sites, you can “claim” your business, the first step in managing your online reviews. When you visit your business’s listing, there’ll be a link that lets you claim it, and then you can edit the information and respond to reviews.

Building Online Reviews

Not to overstate the obvious, but you want as many good reviews as possible on these sites. Fortunately, you can usually get stellar reviews from your customers without twisting any arms.

First, choose a main review site to use. There are dozens of consumer review sites, find out which of your business’s listings is appearing the most often in search engine results. Then, tell people about it and put the URL of this listing everywhere — on print materials, menus, your website, and more. This is a numbers game, because only a certain number will actually follow through.

If you want great reviews fast, try offering a discount or freebie for everybody who leaves a review. Make it a limited-time offer until you get the pile of good reviews you want so it doesn’t break the bank.

Online Reviews – Damage Control

Now, here comes the tricky part: What if somebody leaves a scathing review on one of these sites, and now everybody and their dog can find it with Google?

First of all, some of these sites will let you “flag as inappropriate” anything really bad. You can’t use this to make negative reviews disappear, but if there’s anything nasty or inaccurate, you can get it removed.

Otherwise, ask the reviewer follow-up questions. You actually can get valuable feedback from bad reviews. However, even if that negative reviewer is an idiot, you should publicly solicit more information from them, as it says to others who read the review, “Yeah, we messed up, but we want to know how we can improve.”

Keep Tabs on Your Reviews

Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts) will make it easy to keep tabs on new online reviews. Just enter your business’s name. Whenever that name shows up online, Google Alerts will notify you by email, and you can respond quickly and perform damage control, if necessary.