Online Reviews: Why Should I Care?

Taking a vacation these days is precious. With demands on our time from work, home, and community, we want (and need!) the best trip possible. When my husband and I went to Mexico a few years ago, I spent hours on TripAdvisor reading reviews posted by average people.

Those reviews helped steer us to book at the resort we chose, which wasn’t cheap. When we got home, I couldn’t wait to write my own review! TripAdvisor’s site says they have over 50 million reviews on 85,000 establishments, with 23 reviews per minute being posted. Readers of the reviews are potential customers of every hotel or restaurant they investigate. A positive or negative review can literally change a buyer’s mind without any further research or information.


Another popular review site, Yelp, has had over 50 million unique visitors since it began in 2004. Yelp allows users to browse categories of businesses by city (pizza in Rockford, plumber in Kalamazoo) to read reviews and ratings of these establishments written by everyday consumers. The list for review sites is growing – Urbanspoon, Citysearch, Judy’s Book and DexKnows are just a few. As more and more people define “word of mouth” as what they read online, the popularity of these sites will continue to grow.

Because our time and resources are so precious, people are doing a lot more research before making buying decisions with a specific company by reading online reviews. Obviously reviews matter.

Why should I care? If you are a local business that provides a service or is in retail – food, personal care, medical, home maintenance, automotive, appliances, etc., you should care deeply. Potential customers are making buying decisions based on what other customers have written about your business. As a small business owner, having your finger on the pulse of how people feel about you is an excellent opportunity for insight on your company. Positive reviews let you know what you are doing well, and negative reviews uncover opportunities for you to improve.

My business is listed on a review site and I didn’t set that up. Review sites populate their business listings using third party data sources. This means a small business could be listed on a site and reviewed without the business owner’s knowledge. Likewise, many review sites include reviews that have been originally posted on another site.

Someone wrote a negative review about my business. What should I do? Always take the high road. Because review sites offer the opportunity for any business owner to respond to a review written on their business (after a few steps of claiming your listing), it is always best to acknowledge the complaint and offer a solution. Keep in mind that the reader of the review will see the whole interaction. I don’t know about you, but if a business owner responds promptly and professionally to a negative review online, I immediately feel more confident about doing business with them. It means they care enough to take the time to try to make it right no matter what the circumstances.

Bottom Line. If you’re a small business owner, set up a free Google alert that will monitor the Web for mentions and reviews of your business so you’ll know right away if positive or negative reviews are written about you. Don’t have time to do it right? Contact me to discuss ways we can partner to make sure you’re making the best impression online and ensure you’re always attracting new business.

Erin Jones is a business development partner for MINDSCAPE at Hanon McKendry