Online reviews are a must for any business. Not only do these consumer evaluations deliver key insights into what customers think of your business, but online reviews also provide an excellent opportunity to attract even more customers, appear higher on search engine results and manage your reputation. Furthermore, online reviews can be a powerful tool to showcase both your business and its values to visitors. But just because a business exists doesn't mean it will automatically have reviews online. Here are five of the most influential online review websites your small business needs to join right now.
If your business isn't on Yelp, you're missing out. Yelp is the king of customer review websites, boasting an average of 132 million users per month. Businesses that are listed on Yelp skyrocket on search result rankings, and the service also offers a free suite of tools to help businesses maximize reach, connect with customers and manage reputations.
Why Yelp: Yelp gives businesses a voice and lets them turn negative reviews into profitable opportunities. Let's say a customer leaves horrible feedback and gives your business 1 or 2 stars. Instead of stressing over the review, what the customer said or whether any of it is true, Yelp lets you quickly remedy the situation by allowing you to publicly or privately reply to the reviewer. This presents the perfect chance to provide excellent customer service and show that reviewer and other visitors that your business is all about customer satisfaction. [How to Get the Most Out of Online Reviews]
Other features: In addition to letting you reply to reviews, Yelp also offers several ways to turn reviewers and page visitors into loyal, paying customers. Features include page-view tracking, Yelp Deals, mobile check-ins and the ability to personalize your page with photos (which customers can also upload), business hours, contact details and other information.
Get started: Claim your business to get a free business account.
2. Google+ Local
Once upon a time, there was Google Places and there was Google+ Business. Now combined into a single platform called Google+ Local, the resulting site makes it easier than ever for customers to find local businesses and trusted reviews straight from Google search results.
Why Google+ Local: If you want to be found, Google+ Local is the place to be. First, this free service offers premiere Web search real estate by placing your business listing on top of search results, which gives customers instant access to reviews and comparisons to similar businesses. Google+ Local is also a social platform that lets customers review your business and recommend it to friends and followers.
Other features: Google+ Local integrates your business's online presence across all Google properties — your Google+ business page, Google Search, Google Maps and more — providing a comprehensive resource for customers to discover, contact and read reviews about your business. It also gives businesses complete control over how their business appears on reviews and other Google properties. This includes everything from content on Google+ business pages to key information like the company's address, phone number and hours of operation.
3. Angie's List
Are you a service-based business? If so, Angie's List is the place for you. Here, more than 2 million customers review and recommend all types of local businesses, from contractors to doctors, realtors, accountants, repair shops, cleaners and hundreds of other service providers. Customers typically leave very detailed reviews and grade businesses on an A-F scale.
Why Angie's List: Angie's List is one of the most trusted service-based review websites, primarily because customers are financially invested in the legitimacy of reviews. Users pay for a membership to read and write reviews, so it's not a rant and rave free-for-all. This paid model also prevents any anonymous or fake reviews or referrals. Like Yelp, Angie's List also lets businesses communicate with customers by responding to reviews and fixing any issues.
Other features: Angie's List can also help you market your business with its advertising program. Only available to highly rated businesses with grades of A or B, this program lets businesses advertise discounts across Angie's List properties, such as its website, mobile app and magazine.
Get started: Register at the Angie's List Business Center and claim your business profile.
4. Yahoo! Local
Need a higher ranking on Yahoo! search results? Try Yahoo! Local. Similar to Google+ Local, Yahoo! Local showcases your business and its reviews on top of search results. Reviews are based on a 5-star rating system and show both reviews on Yahoo! Local itself and those from around the Web.
Why Yahoo! Local: Think of Yahoo! Local as a single-platform version of Google+ Local. Although the service doesn't integrate your business with other Yahoo! properties like Google+ Local does with Google properties, it does give your business its own listing and business page where reviews appear. With this potentially high-traffic landing page, Yahoo! Local presents an opportunity to turn viewers into paying customers. Not only can you control how your business looks by adding photos, a tagline and an about section, but you can also list rates and offer online deals and other exclusive promotions right on your profile.
Other features: Yahoo! Local offers three types of plans: a free plan, which includes one listing and a basic profile with a company description, hours of operation and contact information; the Enhanced Listing plan ($9.95 per month), which includes 10 photos, reporting capabilities and other advanced features; and Yahoo! LocalWorks ($29.95 per month), which gives you premium features like reputation details, average ratings, business insights and automatic listing to more than 40 local directories for maximum reach across search engines.
Get started: Choose a plan and register your business.
Do you own a restaurant, café, bakery or any other type of food establishment? If so, your business needs to be on OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation service that also features customer reviews.
Why OpenTable: OpenTable is all about convenience. Diners don't have to sift through pages of Web search results and visit dozens of review sites just to find a place to eat; with OpenTable, they can find local restaurants, book reservations and read reviews, all in one place. And because it's strictly a food-oriented website, OpenTable uses a 5-star rating system based on the following metrics: food quality, ambience and service. Diners can also rate noise levels and review other aspects of the dining experience, such as décor and special features the establishment has to offer.
Other features: OpenTable aims to help businesses fill tables and turn casual diners into regulars. In addition to reviews, it offers an electronic reservations book that streamlines reservations for everyone on your staff and lets customers book reservations from several channels, such as the OpenTable website or mobile app, as well as your Facebook page or Twitter account. OpenTable's restaurant management software also offers an effective email marketing system that claims to have a 60 percent click-through rate. It works by targeting customers based on their dining preferences.
Get started: Contact OpenTable or complete this form.
Originally published on Business News Daily