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The importance of online reviews for today’s small businesses – Petoskey News-Review

The following column was written by Tracey Dryovage, vice president for commercial lending with First Community Bank in Petoskey and a volunteer business mentor with SCORE’s Tip of the Mitt chapter.

What is the first thing you do when searching for a business or researching a restaurant, service provider, retail store? Most people “Google” it! Why are we talking about this today? We have all heard about Google and most businesses today are on Google, and have signed up for Google My Business … but do you have any Google Reviews?? Have you looked at them lately?! As a small business owner, you probably know how important it is to have a good reputation and how great it is to have someone come to your business based on a referral. Google is increasingly, if not already, the standard for researching businesses, which means making sure you are getting Google reviews, reading them and responding to them is important for so many reasons.

1) The more good reviews you have helps with your SEO (search engine optimization). It has the potential to rank your business higher on Google. Google will push businesses with higher numbers of good ratings closer to the top of the search page.

2) Good reviews will lead to more customers. Some research shows that over 90% of consumers read on-line reviews to determine if a business is good or bad. Over 80% of people trust on-line reviews and over 75% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a business more.

3) The more good reviews you have can lead to additional clicks on your website. This is important so that consumers can learn more about your business and determine of it is a fit for what they are searching for.

So, what can you do to improve your Google presence? First, you need to make sure you have signed up for Google My Business, which gets you your official business profile. If you haven’t signed up for the Google My Business profile, makes sure you do that soon. It is a free tool that allows you to manage and optimize your business profile. Here are some tips to optimize your Google reviews:

1) Ask your customers to rate you on Google. Let your customers know their review is important to helping you build and promote your business.

2) Make it easy. You can provide a link via text, email, on your website and even ask for reviews on invoices you may send. You can find your link on your Google My Business Page.

3) RESPOND to all reviews. Good or bad. Most importantly, if you have a less-than-stellar review, don’t ignore it. Offer a solution or explanation. A smart response can rebuild a customer’s trust in your business.

Yes, as a small business owner you wear many hats … and with the online world, it seems like this is just one more thing you need to add to your endless list of things to do. However, we all know the importance of your reputation. Having a good business reputation is what is going to lead people to either buy from you, use your services, and even refer you to others! After all, isn’t that what you are in business for?

Need help or advice? SCORE has some great workshops you can take online, and you can download transcripts of past seminars to read also. Go to and type Google Reviews in the search box. There is a ton of information on their website. If you find that you just don’t have enough time or need professional help, there are some really great companies out there that specialize in social media management that you can contact.

To request SCORE’s free and confidential mentoring service for small business, call (231) 347-4150 in the Petoskey area or (989) 731-0287 in the Gaylord area.