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Reviews are an important part of your business and bottom line. We've already established the impact that reviews have on your business in our previous blog post: HVAC / Plumbing: Importance of Online Reviews for HVAC / Plumbing Industries. If you want to start taking action to build your online review presence, you can start by implementing a review strategy. Three things you can do to get started to increase reviews are: setup and claim your profiles, ask for reviews, and integrate reviews into your existing marketing efforts.

Step 1 - Setup and claim your listings and profiles

Whether you have control over your listings or not, there will always be a way for customers to leave a review if they want to. So taking control of your listings is recommended to get started with your review management and generation efforts.

There are hundreds of directories and websites online where your customer can leave you reviews. We recommend setting up and claiming sites 2 to 3 popular directories known in your geographic region. Popular review sites and directories include Google+ and Yelp.

Once you've determined what listings would best increase your visibility, the next step is to make sure the listings are claimed and verified. This will ensure accurate and consistent business details on the listing of your choice and will allow you to setup email alerts and notifications.

Step 2 – Asking for reviews

Now that you’re setup with the listings and directories you want, the reviews will just come flowing in. Right? Wrong! Online review generation is not a set-it-and-forget-it strategy.

Asking customers to review your business is a much debated practice. Some say that it isn't ethical to ask for reviews and even suggest that it could be perceived as a form of solicitation. Others suggest that asking does not hurt and you won’t know if you don’t try.

When you receive a compliment or a kudos from a customer in-person, over the phone, or by email, this is a perfect time to ask that happy customer to share their feedback on one of your online review sites.

Don’t offer an incentive or discount for people to “Leave a 5-star Review.” Incentives and discounts can be perceived as an unethical practice and violates the Terms of Service on many directories. If you are caught incentivizing users to harvest reviews, those 5 star reviews may be taken away in addition to other repercussions.

Step 3 – Integrate reviews into your existing marketing efforts and strategies

Integrate reviews into your existing marketing efforts and strategies to reinforce your review strategy. Adding more opportunities for your customers to find and see your reviews, will provide opportunities for clients to review your business at the listing or directory of their choice. Below are just a couple of examples where you can integrate reviews.

On your website: Placing a link or banner to the listings or directories you are active on can make it easier for customers to find where to read and write reviews for your business.

Email signatures: Do you send emails to your customers, either directly or through an email list? Place the links for your review sites with a simple note such as, “We appreciate your feedback,” or “Your feedback helps us to better serve you.” Inserting a call to action within the links will maximize your customer feedback rate and help to increase review generation.

When your business is ready to start implementing reviews as a part of your marketing strategy, the steps above are a good place to begin.

What has your experience been with reviews for your business? Please share in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you.