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Online Reviews: The New Personal Recommendations

A 2016 survey showed that 84 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Online reviews have become an important marketing tool, especially for local businesses, replacing word-of-mouth reviews. With small- to medium-sized business, the sector most affected by online reviews is restaurants and cafes. So if your restaurant hasn’t learned to harness reviews by now, it’s time to start.

Feeling skeptical? No problem; we’ll go over the evidence that online reviews help create new customers and keep current customers. Then we’ll look at where to get those reviews and how to get them, building your online presence. Whether you feel your online presence is strong or weak, great online reviews are within your reach.

How Online Reviews Affect Revenue

As we’ve said before, an online review is just as effective as a recommendation from a friend when looking for a place to eat. In that same 2016, survey, 74 percent of consumers stated that positive reviews make them trust a local business more. And 50 percent of consumers surveyed said that reputation matters most when it comes to the restaurant business sector. Another 39 percent of people say positive customer reviews make them more likely to use a local business. That’s extra traffic you can’t afford to deny your restaurant. If a good review makes the difference in a customer going to Sons of Sicily or Giuseppe’s Little Italy, don’t you want to make certain you get that review for your restaurant?

Where to Get Reviews

We have established that online reviews are important to the local restaurant business sector. So, where are the best places to build your online review presence? 37 percent of consumers go directly to review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Foursquare to read reviews.  You can find more review sites to start taking advantage of here.

Not everyone makes it to a review site, though. In fact, the majority of consumers are using search engines to find online reviews for local restaurants. A whopping 63 percent of consumers say they use search engines such as Google and Bing to find online reviews for local businesses. So the most important thing as that you be aware of all the places where customers are posting about your food. Whether your customers focus on search engines or specific sites, watch those reviews and monitor your online presence.

How to Get Reviews for Your Restaurant

Since online reviews are so important to your small business, what is the best way get more reviews? The best place to start is by asking. TripAdvisor recommends that businesses encourage customer reviews. Yelp encourages restaurants to inform customers of their Yelp presence, and then let them post a positive review if one happened. Yelp and TripAdvisor don’t agree on how aggressive to be in asking for reviews, but it is clear that at least educating your customers is important.

There are a few options that restaurant owners can use to ask for reviews. These options differ in approach from aggressive to passive. One technique is to spread the word at your restaurant using signage and window clings. These signs should indicate sites where customers can leave reviews. Another technique is to send email reminders to diners to thank them for their visit and encourage them to review online. No matter how you ask for online reviews, be sure to make ethical decisions. Getting caught paying for reviews can be as damaging as negative reviews.

Embracing the New Wave of Marketing

Online reviews are one of the most powerful marketing tools your restaurant can use to attract and keep customers. The evidence is strong in favor of online reviews playing a big role in the revenue of your business. Start looking today at all the places your customers can review you, and start encouraging them to do so. Jump on the new wave of marketing and watch your restaurant thrive.

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