Put online review sites to work for you - Pro Construction Guide
Put online review sites to work for you

Put online review sites to work for you

Online review sites

Online review sites are the new source for word-of-mouth advertising, with consumers sharing their experiences over review sites and social networks.

Some contractors are so afraid of the potential damage caused by a negative review, they avoid them completely, while others have successfully embraced online reviews to win more business.

So just how important are online review sites to contractors today? According to Matt Kurcher, vice president of customer service for HomeAdvisor, nine out of 10 homeowners research businesses online before hiring someone.

A 2015 study from BrightLocal revealed 92 percent of consumers regularly or occasionally read online reviews about local businesses and 16 percent said they’d read reviews to find tradesmen – up from 7 percent in 2014.

When online reviews are shorter, more reviews matter.Through research conducted over several years, BrightLocal believes consumers have grown more accustomed to reading reviews, and have expanded their search for reviews beyond restaurants to other types of businesses.

With the number of places consumers can find or leave reviews growing, the importance of reviews is only going to increase. Reviews are posted to search engines and social media sites such as Google+, Bing, Yahoo Local and Facebook; general review sites, such as Yelp and the Better Business Bureau; and dedicated home services websites, such as Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and Thumbtack.

Research shows contractors with a good number of positive reviews and overall high ratings are reaping the rewards. Even if you don’t have a website, through these third-party sites you can have an online presence.

“Pros with at least three reviews are three times more likely to win jobs,” says Home Advisor’s Kurcher.

A 2015 Northwestern/PowerReviews Research study found the ideal number of reviews depends on the length of the reviews themselves. When online reviews are shorter, more reviews matter.

When reviews are longer, however, the number of reviews has a less significant impact. Despite criticism of review sites by Consumer Reports and others, consumers still have a fair degree of trust in them. In a BrightLocal Study, 68 percent of respondents said “positive reviews make me trust a business more.”

The Northwestern study also found that the number of stars given in a review has little effect on purchase decisions when the rating is between 1 and about 3 stars. But when the star rating surpasses 3, so does the likelihood of a purchase. Similarly, only 14 percent of respondents in the BrightLocal study would consider using a business with a one or 2-star rating.

Some negative reviews are expected and perfect 5-star ratings aren’t as trusted. The Northwestern study found purchase likelihood peaks when the star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 and starts to drop as the star rating approaches 5.

The researchers concluded negative reviews are important in establishing authenticity. That’s why responding to negative reviews and sharing your side of the story is very important. It’s your opportunity to explain what went wrong and list your efforts to resolve the customer’s problems. Your response could also explain why the customer was not a good fit for your business. Customers want to see how a company handles complaints.

How to get online reviews

Getting customer reviews isn’t easy, but it’s probably not going to happen with enough frequency if you don’t have a clear strategy. You have to be careful because while some sites don’t mind if you ask for reviews, other sites such as Yelp, strictly forbid it.

At Yelp, they believe asking customers to write reviews creates a positive bias for the business. Overly positive reviews, even when legitimate, are sometimes excluded from Yelp, which can be very frustrating for business owners.

Home Advisor’s Kurcher takes the opposite view. “As a contractor you should be aggressive in gathering ratings. They are really critical to being successful in today’s world.”

One thing most sites agree on: Offering incentives for reviews is not a good idea and it’s prohibited by Google+. Saying thank you is encouraged.

One way to evaluate where to list your business is to search for your business name, as well as for keywords you think your prospects may be using. Review sites that are displayed most prominently for your searches are probably the ones to focus on.

Claim your business page on sites such as Google+ local, Yelp and other sites where business listings are free. HomeAdvisor and Thumbtack are lead generation sites for contractors who pay to be listed (and you may need to meet certain requirements). Businesses have no control over getting on Angie’s List. A contractor must be rated by an Angie’s List member before they are included on the site.

Getting online reviews

Letting customers know the importance of reviews to your business will increase the chances of a customer providing a review. Ask for honest feedback from everyone, not just customers you think are happy.

Make it as easy as possible for the customer to leave a review. The more sites you are on, the more likely customers will find a site they are familiar with. Include a card with your final invoice and include all the places where customers can leave a review. If a customer has a Gmail account, you could ask them to leave a review on Google+.

Timing is key to getting a good quality review. Right after the job is complete customers will be able to provide the most detailed reviews. Ideally reviews should come in gradually, and on an on-going basis. However, if too many reviews are submitted in a short time frame, they are likely to be flagged as spam.

Another idea is to have a dedicated page on your website for soliciting online reviews. Customers could submit a review right on your website, or get linked to a site where they can leave a review. Promote the places you can be found online in all your marketing materials.

Monitoring reviews on online review sites

“One of the things we recommend is that companies make the time to monitor their online reviews,” says Cheryl Reed, director of external communications for Angie’s List. “We want you to participate because members love it.”

Most review sites will allow you to respond to reviewers. This includes responding to both negative and positive reviews. Reed says people not only read the reviews for information on quality, but also read the narratives for information about other factors that may be important to them. These could include cost, quote accuracy, punctuality and responsiveness.

Some sites such as Yelp offer a private messaging feature. “Private messaging is a great way to work with a reviewer one on one to address concerns and try to mend any valid issues presented in the review,” says Corey Dane, manager of Local Business Outreach for Yelp.

With reviews for your business online, word of mouth will spread faster, and to more people than ever before. By taking care of your customers and following the review policies for each site, the good should far outweigh the bad.

Online review sites are not created equal. Following are what you can expect from the most popular review sites.


Google processes 3.5 billion searches per day; 67 percent of all searches on desktop and 94 percent of all searches on mobile/tablets. Anyone with a Google+ account (except employees and business owners) can place a review. Reviews are not anonymous. Google AdWords now allows reviews to appear as an ad extension.

  • How they vet fake reviews: Some are detected by spam filters; users can also notify Google of suspected fake reviews
  • Recourse for business owners: Can respond to reviewers and flag fake reviews
  • Cost: Free
  • Share on social media? Yes

Bing Places for Business

There are 29 million unique searchers on Bing and Yahoo (Bing powers Yahoo sites). Bing alone captures 16 percent of all searches. Bing pulls reviews from other online review sites such as Yelp. Ads are available for purchase.

  • How they vet fake reviews: Not applicable
  • Recourse for business owners: Not applicable
  • Cost: Free listing on Bing Places for business
  • Share on social media? Yes, through the original source

Yahoo Local

Yahoo captures 8 percent of all searches. Reviews are now coming from online review sites like Yelp, not Yahoo. Enhanced listings can be purchased through Aabaco.

  • How they vet fake reviews: Not applicable
  • Recourse for business owners: Not applicable
  • Cost: Free basic listing on Yahoo Local
  • Share on social media? Yes, through the original source


Yelp had 189 million mobile visitors and 79 million desktop visitors worldwide in third-quarter 2015. Home Services is the third highest reviewed category. Yelp reviews are also syndicated to Bing and Yahoo Local. Anyone can submit a review. Advertising is available on relevant search pages and business pages.

  • How they vet fake reviews: Yelp uses software to recommend reviews based on quality, reliability and user activity.
  • Recourse for business owners: Can flag the review pending investigation if fraud is suspected. Business can contact the reviewer through private messaging or post publicly.
  • Cost: Free
  • Share on social media? Yes


Facebook has 1.39 billion active users worldwide. Anyone logged into Facebook can submit a review. Guidelines require that the person review based on a personal experience with the business. Facebook ads are available.

  • How they vet fake reviews: Some are detected by spam filters; users can also notify Facebook of suspected fraudulent reviews.
  • Recourse for business owners: Can set up notifications for when a review is posted and respond if the user’s privacy notifications permit it. Businesses can choose whether or not to display ratings on their Facebook page.
  • Cost for review button: Free
  • Share on social media? Yes

Angie’s List

There are 3 million paid subscribers on Angie’s List. Members and non-members can read reviews, but only members can review. No anonymous reviews are allowed. Advertising in available in listings, magazine, and e-commerce opportunities, such as Big Deal, Lead-Feed, Snap-Fix.

  • How they vet fake reviews: Reviews are verified, members sign an agreement
  • Recourse for business owners: Can respond free of charge
  • Cost: Free, but must be reviewed by member
  • Share on social media? No

Better Business Bureau

Every month 7 million unique visitors visit the site and 13.7 million reviews are read each month. Anyone with a valid email address can submit a review. Paid opportunities include accreditation (cost based on number of employees) and advertising.

  • How they vet fake reviews: Reviews are forwarded to the business for verification
  • Recourse for business owners: Businesses can respond and/or challenge the review. If not verified by business, BBB seeks substantiation from customer
  • Cost: Free
  • Share on social media? Yes

Home Advisor

In the last 12 months, 32 million homeowners have used Home Advisor what makes this one of the most popular online review sites if you are in the home remodeling, repair and maintenance business. Reviews can be submitted by customers of a business or a homeowner who is a member of HomeAdvisor. Contractor pays a fee per lead. Businesses must have state licenses and business owner must pass criminal and sex offender background checks, as well as identity verification.

  • How they vet fake reviews: All ratings are verified by phone.
  • Recourse for business owners: Contractors can contest a review, and that review is then pulled from the site until fully investigated within 10 days
  • Cost: Pay per lead
  • Share on social media? Yes


Each day Trustpilot has 10,000 new visitors. Anyone with a valid email address or Facebook account can place reviews. Entry level participation is $399 per month and a 12-month commitment must be paid in advance.

  • How they vet fake reviews: A compliance team investigates fraudulent reviews
  • Recourse for business owners: Companies are allowed to publically respond to reviews, and report a review that violates policies
  • Cost: Free; provides 100 invitations per month
  • Share on social media? Yes

–By J. Costin





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