What’s the big deal about online reviews? I mean, yes I use them when I’m checking out a new restaurant. Yes, I read them when looking for a plumber to fix my leaky shower. And yes, I’m definitely reading reviews when shopping for a new phone, TV, book, laptop, microphone, or lawn mower.
Do you think business owners are reading reviews about YOUR office before making an appointment with you?
You can bet on it. Not only that, but the online search engines care about reviews just as much as your prospects do.
So, hoping you never get a bad one shouldn't be the only way you think about online reviews. Instead, follow the four steps listed here to intentionally generate positive online reviews.
Review sites rank very high in search.
That means that aside from your firm's main website, local listings sites are the most influential and powerful sources of new clients for service professionals. Especially for tax and accounting professionals, whose clients rely heavily upon "word of mouth."
This is the new "word of mouth."
The generation of positive online reviews has become yet another must-have on the digital marketing checklist for accounting professionals and business advisors, alongside every other industry out there.
And because it’s not a one-and-done kind of task, my agency has learned that the best way to tackle this SEO-boosting and prospect-converting enterprise is to bake it into your everyday routine. Let’s talk about how to make that happen...
1) Accept it.
You need online reviews. Period. It’s become regular practice for consumers to check a business’s reviews when shopping and comparing options for services. If a competitor has 165 mostly-positive reviews and you have 2, the outcome is easy to predict.
Google is also going to reward the 165 reviews with a listing that appears higher than yours in search results. Guess who is going to get the click.
So accept that you need them, and let’s move on to how to get them.
2) Understand the platforms.
On which review platforms should you focus your efforts? For accountants and business advisors like you, our research and experience show that Google My Business (GMB) is going to be the review engine that gets you the most results, from a traffic perspective. Traffic to your website, traffic to your phone and traffic to your office.
GMB reviews are just as much for your prospects as for your search visibility online. Having a strong review presence has been shown to increase website traffic by 360%. Numerous positive reviews will be rewarded both by leads and by Google.
After GMB, Facebook is the next most important platform for reviews for this industry.
3) The wrong way.
There is a wrong way and there is a right way to generate online reviews. Steer clear from anyone or any software that promises to "generate positive reviews" for you.
Really, you need to steer clear of any automated forms of review solicitation or aggregation of ANY kind.
We've had some high-level phone conversations with founding executives at Yelp, and one of the things we discussed was the proliferation of services that do this -- and why Yelp, Google, Facebook, et al are cracking down hard on this practice. Essentially, they want reviews to be an "organic" process, and it is a direct violation of their Terms Of Service to "bulk solicit for any kind of reviews. Consequences can be dire, even up to public shaming by the platforms.
We have seen businesses get ALL of their reviews and ratings eliminated by Google or Yelp because they were able to detect that all of the reviews came from one single IP address (in the office, for example), or were garnered via an automated "review builder" machine. (Incidentally, there are a few of these review-generation services in the tax and accounting industry, even now, and we strongly urge you to avoid them, as they violate the Terms of Service for multiple of the "Big Four" review sites.)
It’s now way too late in the game for that type of strategy. (Have I told you that online marketing is constantly changing?) The “robots” are catching on to the issue of fake reviews and those who are late adopters of the review generation tech are going to be hung out to dry -- and soon.
4) The right way.
Personally encourage your clients to post reviews. BUT, this is a tricky proposition because you can get into HOT WATER (with Yelp especially) for "soliciting reviews" by any automated or bulk means.
So, here are some of those baked-in practices you should be incorporating into your regular business routines:
- Link directly to your reviews listings in your email signature.
- In your automated post-appointment email sequences, mention your review sites and provide easy links for clients to click.
- Instruct your receptionist to invite happy clients to leave reviews during phone and in-person conversations.
- When a client tells you how much success they’re having because of your services, invite them to share that testimony in an online review.
The main point is that you have to be intentional about it. Be sincere, be direct and make it easy.
We’ve seen the benefits that a well-reviewed business receives in lead generation. It’s non-negotiable for good marketing practice. And it’s why we make review generation a regular part of the marketing systems we put in place for our clients.
Neglect this at your peril.