Most Common Online Review Questions Answered (Updated)

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Online reviews are an important part of a company’s online reputation. They prove credibility to potential clients, send an authority signal to Google, and amplify your SEO efforts. Although establishing quality online reviews is recommended, it is important to note that there are guidelines for obtaining, responding to, and handling business reviews overall. Since this process can be confusing, we have outlined some common questions below along with the best way to address them.

1. How do I get reviews for my business?

There are many ways including physically asking, e-mailing a request, or naturally accumulating reviews by providing excellent service. Most review sites advise against asking clients directly for a review since they want to ensure all reviews are authentic. However, encouraging satisfied clients to post a review can be tactfully done, by providing your clients with a link to the review sites where you have a listing. You can send a thank you e-mail and include a request to share their feedback by submitting a review online about their experience. There are various ways to prompt reviews such as creating a section on your website, listing the various company profiles that accept reviews within an e-mail, or by using a review service such as GradeUs. The chosen method will depend on what works best for your business.

2. Can I pay someone to review my business online?

Paying for reviews is possible, but it is not recommended. To abide by most review site guidelines, a review must only be left by actual clients or those who had a personal experience with a company. Paying for reviews is not only breaking these rules, but is also an unethical practice. Additionally, it may not be very helpful in the end since most review sites (specifically Google and Yelp) have their own methods to determine if a review is fake and either remove it or filter it out to make it less prominent. Your time and money is better spent providing the best possible service and focusing on earning real reviews for your business.

3. Does it matter what websites my clients use to submit a review?

We recommend accumulating reviews on multiple review sites to expand your overall online presence. However, there are networks that are more popular and authoritative than others. Ideally, businesses should earn reviews on these sites first and then move on and expand from there to lesser known review sites. Our recommended sites to start with are:

  • Google: If you are a local business, Google is the number one recommended place to garner reviews. These reviews are the most prominent in Google search and can sometimes be a deciding factor a user considers when choosing which company to click on within search.
  • Facebook: Many people go to social networks to recommend places to their friends and family which is why Facebook is another important place to collect reviews. LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram don’t have a review feature, so Facebook is the solution for feedback on social media.
  • Yelp: Although Yelp is a very popular outlet many people go to, especially for restaurants, they are known for filtering most of your reviews. Individual users who review a business, usually have their reviews filtered and showed less prominently unless they are active on Yelp. Since the average client is not usually an avid Yelp user, this can pose a problem. Reviews on Yelp are helpful, but won’t have much weight if they get filtered out. Keep this issue in mind and don’t waste too much effort if most of your reviews don’t seem to get publicly posted.
  • BBB: The Better Business Bureau is a common place for potential clients to visit when they want to get an idea if a business provides satisfactory service and has ethical practices. However, not every business is automatically included on BBB and may even require payment before your business can be added. If you do have a listing, this is another top spot to get reviews.
  • Other industry specific sites: The above sites all generally apply to most businesses. However, there are niche specific sites that apply to each industry. For example, if you are a lawyer, you should get reviews on Avvo.com and martindale.com. If you are a doctor you should get reviewed on healthgrades.com. You can find these sites by performing generic Google searches within your industry (such as personal injury lawyer or veterinarian) and see which directories appear within the first page of results.

4. Can I delete a bad review my business receives online?

Most likely not, but it will depend on what review site you want to delete the review from. Any of the major sites like Google, Facebook or Yelp do not allow you to delete reviews. It is possible a lesser known site has this capability, but it would be rare. If business owners could delete reviews they would remove any negative review that was posted. This would provide biased and skewed information and would not be fair to consumers who want to see what people truly feel about the business. However, most review sites provide some type of recourse to business owners and may allow them to either respond to reviews and/or report reviews that are spam or false. Keep in mind reporting a review does not always mean it will get removed. It is ultimately up to each individual review site to determine if they wish to keep or delete the reported review. Facebook does have a workaround option where you can turn off reviews completely. This will prevent all reviews (even positive ones) from displaying and no one will be able to add a new recommendation.

5. What should I do if I receive a bad review?

If the review is by someone who actually had a true experience with your company, it is best to respond to it if the site allows. For example, Google allows you to reply to each review individually. If the review is pure spam, inappropriate or threatening in some way, it is best to report it to the specific review site. Your report will then get sent to their support team, get further evaluated and the final call to keep it or delete it will be determined by the specific site. Make sure to review the site’s policy for reporting reviews. In our experience, these sites will not delete a review simply because a business does not like or agree with it. Here is Google’s policy as an example. Also many sites don’t require the person who reviews the company to have actually hired them. Meaning if someone had a bad experience when they called your office and spoke to a rude receptionist, they generally have the right to leave a negative review for your business online even though they never used your services.

6. Should I respond to my online reviews? What do I say?

Yes, we highly recommend responding to all reviews, both negative and positive, if the site allows. When someone posts a negative review you should address their concerns and show them that their voice has been heard. If you can offer something back to make their experience a better one, this is a great time to mention this. If clients post a positive review, a response to thank them is always good practice. Think about what type of response you would like to see from a business if you were reading the reviews. Remember to always be professional.

7. Why does Google show a 4.8 overall rating for my business when all of my reviews are 5 stars?

Google doesn’t take the direct average of your reviews, but uses something similar to a Bayesian average. Google’s help page states:

We calculate an overall rating based on user ratings and a variety of other signals to ensure that the overall score best reflects the quality of the establishment.”

Therefore, if you have all 5 star reviews, but an overall lower rating, the best thing you can do is continue gaining more positive reviews in hopes the average will eventually increase to a full 5.0. Mike Blumenthal addresses this very well in a post he wrote a few years back and it still holds true.

8. Someone wrote a Google review for my business, but it’s not showing up. Why is that?

Google is known to filter reviews for multiple reasons. If a review violates their guidelines or they do not believe the review is authentic, it can be removed. Sometimes reviews never get published in the first place or Google may delete them later. We have an in-depth guide on why a Google review may be removed, and below is a list of potential reasons why a Google review may not to show up.

  • Too Recent: Sometimes reviews will take 2-7 days to appear, so it is possible it will go live at a later date. It’s best to wait it out before taking any further action.
  • Flagged As Spam: Google’s review filter has been very active within 2022. Many times it catches legitimate reviews and will not publish them. Sometimes users can delete their review and repost it to prompt it to go live. However, this is not guaranteed to work. Sometimes it can be due to the wording of the review such as bad grammar or if your business listing received too many reviews at within a short time period.
  • Google Account shadowbanned: Google may flag an entire account as suspicious and won’t allow that account to post any reviews. The only way to resolve this is to post the review from another account. Unfortunately there isn’t a way to see if Google is doing this. Google may see an account as suspicious if it is inactive, posting too many reviews at once, or doing anything against their guidelines.
  • User error: Many times clients may not understand how to post a review and it simply never got added. This could include their browser malfunctioning or posting to the wrong business listing. Giving them a call to walk them through the process may be a solution.

9. I have multiple office locations, do I need to get reviews for all of my offices?

In many cases, yes, but it depends on the website and if they allow reviews for every location. For local listing websites, such as Yelp, Yellowpages, and Google business listings, every local office should have its own listing. Each individual listing then has the opportunity to gain reviews. If you want your website to be relevant for all of the areas in which you are located in, gathering positive reviews for each office will assist in this end goal. There are some listings that may not be local specific, an example of this is Avvo. Profiles on Avvo are specific to each attorney, so in this case there isn’t an Avvo profile for every office, but instead one for every attorney at the firm.

10. Do reviews increase my website ranking and overall SEO of my website?

Yes, reviews can be very powerful. Multiple positive reviews helps prove to Google that your company has a good reputation and authority in your industry. If you are receiving numerous positive reviews, it is also more likely users will notice this within their Google search and be more willing to visit your website. An increase in website visits will help your SEO, an indirect benefit of positive reviews. If you create a testimonials page on your website highlighting all of your positive reviews, it could encourage those browsing to hire you and fill out your contact form, driving more conversions. This document from Google Support explains how relevance, distance, and prominence play a large role in local rankings and state “Prominence is also based on information that Google has about a business from across the web. Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.”  For these reasons and many more, having positive reviews can be very beneficial.

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