According to Mashable, almost 50% of American consumers are more likely to buy a product or service from a business that has a positive review online. Unfortunately, far too many small business owners don’t actually monitor what their customers are saying about them on the web. Negative reviews, especially ones that aren’t acknowledged, can lead to a business closing its doors for good. Business owners should be both responding to negative reviews and advertising positive ones.

Why Are Online Reviews So Important?

People tend to take the opinions of others not-so-lightly, even if they don’t know the person writing the review. The assumption is that if someone else had a bad experience, they will too. Even worse is if several people had the same negative experience – the odds are in your favor that you’ll be disappointed as well! Here are a few ways to manage your online reviews:

1. Make it easy to monitor popular review sites by signing up for Google Alerts, which is a free service. You can also sign up with a reputation management service, which will monitor any and all mentions of your business throughout the Internet. Certain review websites will also send you an e-mail whenever new reviews of your business are added.

2. Unfortunately, people are only encouraged to post reviews when they’ve had a bad experience, not a good one. You can, however, personally request that your satisfied customers review you online. To encourage them to logon and say something nice about your business, offer a freebie or a discount on their next order. Make it easy for them, too – sign up for a service that will automatically e-mail your customer and request that they submit a review.

3. There’s no rule that says you can’t promote your good reputation online. You should be your own best advertising! Once you have a few good reviews, put a link on your website and social media profiles so that visitors can read them. You can also link to your reviews in newsletters and other types of online promotions.

4. Whatever you do, don’t ignore a review, whether it’s a good one or a bad one. Set up a personal policy for responding to reviews and stick to it. If you come across a negative review, it’s important to quickly respond to it, preferably via a private message. This isn’t always possible, unfortunately, because some reviewers won’t leave their personal information or contact information on the review. When you get a negative review, acknowledge that they’re dissatisfied, explain how you are going to resolve the problem and ask them to come back to your business. You’ll want to offer something that will encourage them to return, like a major discount or something for free. If you run a large company or are in charge of a few employees, you can designate someone to handle this task for you. Make sure to choose someone you trust, who is patient and who has strong communication skills.

5. Regularly review tips for managing your online reputation. There are plenty of websites dedicated to helping you keep your online rep squeaky clean, like There are tons of tricks of the trade when it comes to putting your best virtual foot forward.

6. Make sure that if there is a bona fide problem with your business that seems to be disappointing customers over and over, that you fix the problem immediately.

Let’s Say the Worst Happens!

If you receive a negative review that you appropriately respond to in a timely manner, there’s no guarantee that the customer is going to forgive, forget or even acknowledge your response. This is normal! What do you do, though, if a dissatisfied customer won’t let you make it up to them? You can publish a public apology or response. That way, even if you’ve lost a customer, others will see that you do in fact handle issues like this well.