"User reviews and ratings are good value for the business because your customers do the marketing for you."

Word of mouth has long been one of the most powerful forms of advertising but the internet now provides a platform for your customers to broadcast their views.

However, many small businesses, and even some big ones, have a pronounced fear of online ratings and reviews, and it’s the fear of bad reviews that triggers the caution.

But there is a growing body of evidence that online ratings and reviews are extremely beneficial to businesses, even if they include customers saying bad things about your business.

So much so that 67% of Australian internet users read online reviews and 60% of consumers read up to five reviews before making a purchase decision, according to our recent Yellow Social Media Report.

All publicity is good publicity, right?

This old PR saying certainly rings true for businesses in the internet age, and it is largely thanks to local review and ratings sites.

And while a business may not have control over what customers write about them, it can certainly join and influence the conversation. 

There’s no denying that negative reviews are a risk, but they do give a business the chance to proactively and publicly address the complaint and turn an unhappy customer – and any onlookers – into a brand advocate.

Being found, free

User reviews and ratings present good value for the business because your customers do the marketing for you. A business does not pay to appear on a ratings and review site, and yet it can get scores of consumers talking about it.

This is especially valuable when it comes to generating local business. If a business is mentioned on a local review site and customers take the time to add their views, good or bad, it can raise the profile of the business among people who live or work in the area.

Harnessing the power of the crowd

According to online reputation management agency Reputation Changer, the power of online reviews is directly linked to revenue.

In an article posted on PRWeb, Reputation Changer said that, “studies have revealed that an enterprise’s score on Yelp! or on TripAdvisor is directly related to its profits. For example, a Harvard study found that a single star on Yelp.com translates to somewhere between 5 and 10 per cent revenue. Likewise, studies have revealed that star ratings on travel sites directly impact a hotel’s bookings”.

According to Reputation Changer, such is the prevalence of online reviews, all businesses need to understand and embrace them.

So, how can businesses do that? Here are four of the best review tools available for businesses of all types.

1. Yellow Pages® Ratings and Reviews

Yellow Pages® Ratings and Reviews allows site users to read ratings and reviews in relation to businesses listed on the site and post feedback, comments, responses, questions or other content (posts).

Reviews on your Business Profile Page will also enable word of mouth to work as a powerful advertising tool for Yellow Pages® business users, potentially leading to more business lead opportunities. 

2. TrueLocal

TrueLocal offers you different options to showcase your business to the right local audience. It's an online directory of Australian businesses with millions of people searching for products and services on it each month.

The ratings and reviews are a great marketing tool to win potential customers and also help businesses keep up-to-date with what people are saying. Get more info here.

3. Yelp!

Any business can set up a Yelp! profile for free, and consumers can jump online and rate businesses out of five. Businesses can respond to reviewers, known as Yelpers, and add business details to the profile. Get more info here.

4. Google+

With a Google+ Local page, anyone can leave a review of your business. The idea is for people to read reviews from people within their social circle. Sometimes, the reviews may pop up in main Google search results too. 

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