Making the Most of Local Review Web Sites

Here at Mackerel Towers, we’re big fans of a number of review-based web sites. We use them to aid our own choices and to aid our clients in making the most of the opportunities out there for locally-based promotion and in upping their search engine optimisation efforts.

One of the key considerations we espouse is maintaining a profile rather than simply setting it up. Why? Because then you’ll know what people are saying and be able to respond accordingly. However, problems can arise from time-to-time, as a recently settled lawsuit involving a review posted on Yelp.com about a Chiropractor in San Francisco. So, what should you be aware of, how can you make the best of it and what should you do when something goes wrong?


Some Background
By way of background, it’s worth looking at what happened with the Yelp Lawsuit: a customer of a Chiropractor in the USA placed a review on Yelp.com, making allegations about the practitioner he had visited. The review was made public and came to the attention of the Chiropractor, who considered it defamatory and sued.

Yelp has just recently launched in the UK, going head-to-head with a host of other sites like Qype.co.uk, TripAdvisor and BrownBook (amongst a number of others) which are becoming busier and more popular by the day.

The Yelp case has just been settled – out of court – so we won’t ever know the agreement they reached, but the stance of the two parties’ lawyers tells us something about the challenge review sites pose by asking an intriguing question: is a review an opinion or a statement of fact? If it’s the former, then in the USA it’s constitionally protected; if it’s a fact, then it’s potentially libellous. Whilst the legal implications on this site of the pond may be different to those over there (of course we’d always advise consulting a lawyer if you’re in any doubt!), the practical implications are universal.

So, how can you as a web site owner take advantage of the situation and deal with the problems that may arise? Are you scared of the potential negative publicity you might face? We’d recommend following our guidelines on dealing with Review Web Sites:

1. Take a Proactive Approach
The first thing you must do is claim the listing with whichever site you’re looking at. The method for this varies from site to site but in most cases it’s a fairly quick, if a little fiddly, thing to do.

Secondly, you should furnish the listing as best you can. Add a good, honest and positive description of your business; add some photos; add whatever else the site lets you. Afterall, it’s another window onto your company and you want to look your best, don’t you?!

Thirdly, you’ll need to drum up some reviews – the best way to do this is to contact a few happy customers and ask if they’d mind writing one for you. You’re best to explain what the site is about, why you’re asking them to do it and how they should go about it.

Remember – the chances are, the more positive reviews you have, the higher up you’ll rank not only when someone does a search directly on the review site but also in main search engine ranking pages.

2. Provide Open Channels for Communication
If you make it easy for people to get in touch with you, then you make it easy to find out about problems before they get too serious.

In addition to making contact details on your web site clear, take care to include them clearly on your invoices, letters and emails. Most importantly, encourage people to get in touch.

3. Mop Up Problems Before They Hit the Web
Whatever business you’re in, and however well you satisfy your customers, it’s inevitable that problems, perhaps completely outwith your control, will arise from time to time. Our strong advice is to mop these problems up and deal with them completely before a customer has a chance to vent their frustration on the web.

During a transaction, or immediately afterwards, encourage customers to tell you how things are going. Ask them what else you can do to help. Are there any little niggles you can take care of? Chances are they’ll let you know and you can sort them out there and then.

4. Be Open and Honest
If you make a mistake, let the customer know and at the same time let them know what you’re doing to fix it. If you can keep the customer on-side even during a difficult time, then the chances are they won’t go spouting off as soon as you’re out of ear-shot. There’s even a chance they’ll praise you for the speed and efficiency with which you sort something out.

5. Don’t Worry About the Crazies
With a little luck, you won’t ever need to worry about it, but in case you find yourself on the receiving end of an inaccurate, misleading or exaggerated review written by that frankly infuriating customer you had a few weeks ago, don’t be too concerned.

Some sites will provide you as the business owner with the ability to respond to a customer’s review, so you can balance things out. For example, if other customers knew that the person who made ridiculous statements about the cleanliness of your hotel also made off with two pillows and half the towels, they might take the review with a pinch of salt.

Likewise, as humans we’re fairly capable of filtering out the overly bad or overly good reviews to make a balanced assessment of how good a restaurant, shop or guest house actually is.

6. Don’t be Daft
Please don’t write your own review, really, don’t do it, even if it seems like a good idea at the time, it’s really not, in fact it’s a terrible idea and you’ll be found out sooner or later. You’ll probably find rotten fruit coming your way at high speed as disgruntled customers convey their anger.

Need Some Help?
If you need help or advice on claiming, setting up or managing your organisation’s listings, we can help. We can take care of everything for you, and ensure your listings are as smart as they can be.

Get in touch with us on 0845 224 7428 or drop us an email at hello@mackerelmedia.co.uk