Online Reviews: Everything You Need to Know

Do you run a retail business? If so, chances are that you have had to make a lot of changes to your local marketing efforts in the past decade. What caused this shift in retail marketing? One word: the internet.

Before the internet came along, local shop owners brought new customers in the door in a variety of offline marketing ways. For instance, some of them held local contests or got involved with their local community in a way that put their business in front of potential customers. Some set up booths in fairs, while others sponsored little league teams or girl’s gymnastics teams.

Other forms of local marketing were sending coupons in the mail, putting physical flyers on the doors in the entire neighborhood, and running ads in the local Yellow Pages.

But local business owners who make use of these methods today aren’t likely getting many new customers. That’s because today’s shoppers use the internet to find local businesses, even when that business is right around the corner from them.

So, what’s the answer? Local business directories and reviews.

Here’s a quick 30-second video showing you how important they are:

What Are Local Business Directories?

Local business directories are a lot like the old school Yellow Pages. It’s a place where consumers can find local businesses in the town or city they live in. But unlike the Yellow Pages, people don’t have to lug around a heavy book or give up in frustration because the business they wanted to find didn’t think to run an ad in the book that year.

Oh, wait, that still happens.

Local Business Directories: What Not to Do

When a potential customer logs onto a local business directory like, can they find your business? And if they do, will they find your correct business name, address, phone number, or website?

You would be surprised at how many outdated local business listings there are. And what do you think happens when a potential customer finds incorrect information about your business?

Maybe they drive to the wrong location. Or perhaps they try to call you to find out what time you close and get a disconnected number. Or maybe they go to the website listed on your free business listing and it’s no longer there.

All of that adds up to one thing: lost customers.

Local Business Directories: What to Do

Now that you know what not to do, let’s take a look at how to effectively use local business directories to drive customers to your store, shop, or restaurant.

First, it’s important that all of the information on your free local business listing is updated and accurate. And don’t think that no information exists if you didn’t add it.

Local business directories index all of the available information about local businesses in an area and publish that online. And if the information is outdated, that’s what customers see.

So, your first step in the process is to go to a credible local business directory like and look for your business. Start by typing in your business’ name in the search bar on the directory. Then, once it comes up, look at the information provided. Does it list your proper business name? The correct address? Can customers reach you on the phone number that’s listed? What about your website address? Is it correct?

If the information is out of date or incorrect, claim the listing as the owner of the business. Then, change the information in the listing until it’s correct. And if you can add anything that will entice potential customers to visit your business, do so. For instance, if you own a local restaurant, write about some of your best selling dishes. Or if you run a bookshop, highlight an author signing or a sale you plan to run.

Once you’ve updated the information in your free local business listing, you won’t lose any more business because of bad information.

But you’re not finished.

That’s because setting up your free local business listing and making sure the information is correct is only the first step in using local business directories to market your business.

Next Step: Get Those Reviews

If you’ve bought anything in the past few years, you probably held off on your buying decision until you read a few online reviews. That’s what most people do. And consumers trust online reviews.

In fact, studies show that people trust online reviews more than they trust a personal recommendation from a close friend or family member. In other words, you need some online reviews to complete your local business listing. If you don’t have any, you won’t have that social proof that is so important in today’s local marketing strategies.

How to Get Online Reviews

You know you need online reviews to grow your business, but getting them can seem overwhelming. After all, don’t customers hate it when you ask them to leave a review for your business?

It turns out, they don’t. In fact, more studies show that people are more than willing to leave online reviews for local businesses if they’re asked. What does that mean for you? It means you have to start asking your customers to leave online reviews for your local business.

How to Ask for Online Reviews

Asking for online reviews can seem scary, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some great tips that will help you get plenty of online reviews. And once you have them, potential customers will feel more at ease when making the decision to shop at your store or eat at your restaurant.

End things with an ask

Every customer that comes to your store and buys something has to go through the checkout process. And this is the point in their shopping experience when they are happiest with your business. They’ve found the perfect product or ate a wonderful meal. And chances are, they’re feeling pretty charitable about it.

That’s why you see so many local business owners instructing their staff to ask every customer who goes through the checkout process to leave an online review. And if you make the process rewarding, they’ll be even more likely to leave a review.

For instance, you can hold a drawing for a prize once a month for everyone who leaves online reviews. Or you can offer anyone who leaves an online review a discount after it’s published.

Make it easy

Another great way to rack up a lot of online reviews is to make it easy for your customers to leave them. When you create your free local business listing, that listing will have a permanent address of the local business directory. Capture that URL and print it on all of your business promotional materials.

For instance, you can print the address on your business cards, the back of staff t-shirts or uniforms, on your stationery, invoices, and anything else you give to customers. You can also ask for an online review with a large sign hanging in your store or restaurant, and then be sure to include the URL. You’d be surprised at how many people will copy down the address and leave you a review.

Don’t be silent

Finally, when trying to build the number of online reviews of your local business, it’s important that you interact with the people who leave them. When someone leaves you a positive review, be sure to comment on it and thank them for their kind words. And when someone leaves a not so kind review, interact with them, too.

But don’t get defensive or be ugly to the bad reviewer.

Instead, acknowledge their point and pledge to fix whatever problem they would with your business. If it was a rude employee, promise to increase training and deal with that particular employee. If it was a bad meal, ask for specific feedback so you can improve your offerings.

The reason you should reply to bad reviewers is to accomplish two things. First, you should learn from the mistakes and work to improve them. If you don’t’ know about something that causes distress for customers, you can’t fix it.

Secondly, you should respond to bad reviews because potential customers are watching. And they want to know that you are a business owner who takes complaints seriously and works to improve the experience of your customers.

Do You Have a Free Local Business Listing?

If you haven’t already claimed your free local business listing at, what are you waiting for? Millions of customers go to local business directories every day and search for local businesses. In fact, people are probably searching for a business just like yours right now. What will they do when they can’t find your business? They’ll go to your competitor instead.

Don’t let that happen to you.

Head on over to right now and claim your free local business listing. Then, update the information and start asking your customers for reviews. It’s the best thing you can do to grow your local business in 2019 and beyond.

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