In one way of looking at the world, the best way to ensure that your online reviews are good is to run your business effectively, ethically and sincerely — with considerable attention to customer service. Still, that doesn’t always work. There will be instances of irrational customers or bad days, etc.
Regardless every business — large or small — now needs to engage with its customers more actively and proactively. Gregg Stewart of TMP Directional Marketing has a nice column on some practical tips for SMBs (and others) on engaging with the online review process. There’s no real mystery or magic here just awareness and effort.
I’ve argued in the past that it may be more effective for some SMBs to participate on UGC sites and directories with reviews than to actually do any advertising (save video).
As more businesses figure all this out they will be soliciting positive reviews from customers (it’s happening now) to “juice” their results or reviews on selected popular or influential sites. (See this debate.) Thus the challenge for the publishers of those sites is to stay one step ahead so that their sites maintain perceived integrity and trust.
This is in a way a version of the Google algorithm cat-and-mouse game that some SEO types play.
In the recent SMB attitudes survey (8/07) conducted with AllBusiness.com, among those who were aware of online review sites, most (interestingly) had a positive view of the phenomenon: