thumbsupReviews have become the Holy Grail when it comes to marketing.  Great reviews, legitimately curated and published, can boost a business in not only local search, but in visibility in search engines along with word of mouth and brand identification.

In the last few weeks I’ve received some interesting emails from folks who are looking to use online review services to help them obtain reviews and display them on their website.  On the surface, these “systems” sound amazing – just plug in a customer name and email and the “system” solicits the review and publishes them on the business’ profile on the review company’s website.  You can easily embed those reviews on your website with a small piece of code.

Simple, eh?

There are a few words in the paragraph above that should be red flags to anyone serious about local search and using online reviews to attract customers.  I’ll help you out, here they are…. “system”  “embed” “published on your profile”

Not all review services are equal. 

As a marketer, an avid proponent of online reviews – I’ve been presented with a wide variety of these services and have determined that quite a few of them fall short.  Here is what you need to know about your online reviews…

  1.  They’re yours
  2. They should benefit YOU more than any one else

 When shopping for a review service, here are a few things to check:

  • Are the reviews actually published on your own website?  Look at a site where the service is in action – right click your mouse and “view source.”  Search through the code for actual text from a review that displays on the live page.  If you cant find the text, that’s likely because it’s displayed by a script or in a frame.  Frames & scripts= bad.
  • Are the reviews being published on another website?  Your reviews are YOURS, don’t let another site benefit from their existence by republishing them, or publishing them first.  This diminishes the return you’ll get on the service because the search engines will likely consider them duplicate content
  • Is the service/system worth the return?  You may decide that the ease of use in the service is worth not having reviews published on your website – or not having them exclusively displayed on your website.  I cant really think of a scenario where this might happen, but I’m a purist and I want my reviews to be MY CONTENT.

TL:DR

So you need some guidance – here it is.  Mary and I really like GetFiveStars.  (We use the service, but pay for it – this is not a paid endorsement) You own your reviews and can publish them on your website using a WordPress plugin (if you don’t have WordPress it’s a bit trickier as it uses scripts – but they improve every day.) The reviews are marked up with Schema.org vocabulary making it even easier for search engines to understand what the reviews are.  If you know of another system that lets you own and publish your own reviews, let me know in the comments below.

The few I’ve looked at recently that do NOT let you exclusively publish your own reviews are DemandForce, RateADentist and WeddingWire.  I’d stay away from those if you’re looking to receive the full benefit from online reviews published on your website.

Online Review Services – Are YOU Benefitting?
Carrie Hill
Carrie has been working in SEO and Online Marketing for over 7 years - she brings a passion for search and a desire to know more to every project she participates in. Carrie is a noted speaker and writer about a variety of topics, including Schema protocols, Google Analytics, Social Media and more. When she's not digging heavily into search & online marketing issues - you can find Carrie in her kitchen or her garden - or possibly sitting on the front porch with a cup of tea and her 4 dogs.

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