How to Get Reviews For Your Website

Reviews are an extremely powerful asset for many websites. They can provide a continual stream of fresh, new, and unique content that is good for the users, which is ultimately what everyone wants. However, there are some upsides and downsides to reviews, and there is the big hurdle of figuring out how to get reviews and integrate them. In this post, we’ll take a look at these different aspects.

the hardest part of reviews isn’t the technical aspects; it’s getting reviews in the first place…

The biggest and best reason for wanting to add reviews to your website is that you will have new content added to your website regularly that has useful information searchers are looking for. That said, reviews do have some issues. Anytime you deal with UGC (user generated content), you expose yourself to a new set of problems (see the Joys and Woes of User Generated Content by Vanessa Fox). First off, you should have a review policy that stipulates what languages you will accept, acceptable language and terminology, minimum lengths, maximum number of reviews, and so on. I wouldn’t try to make them iron clad laws, but I would set some general best practices that allow you some editorial wiggle room. I know a lot of sites that have little to no moderation and only delete for explicit language or slander/defamation; personally, I like to use a bit more editorial control and give editors the ability to clean up grammar and spelling. That said, there is a difference between changing “goood” to “good” and “goood” to “great.” Changing the intent of someone’s review is bad mojo and may have legal consequences, so tread lightly. That said, I think moderation is important. No matter how tight you make your review policy, someone will find a loophole and submit something that should never be published. You ultimately want editorial control to filter out the trolls and shills.

One thing that I don’t think is a good practice is filtering out reviews that don’t work to your benefit. Let’s say you sell two competing products, and one makes you considerably more affiliate income per unit sold. There will be the temptation to moderate reviews so that the one that makes you more money has none or very few bad reviews. This, my friend, is the path to the dark side. Don’t go there. Once people stop trusting your site, it’s over. Additionally, you should know Google recently filed a patent about detecting fake reviews (see How Google Might Choose High Quality Reviews to Display for Products and Businesses). It’s worth being aware of.

Whatever CMS you are using, chances are good that there are one or more review plugins or modules available. I recently reviewed WP Review Site Plugin and MyReview Plugin for WordPress and ultimately chose MyReviewPlugin. You can read the reviews but, in the end, it was admin features that were the deciding issue. You want to make sure that, whatever solution you choose, the output is compatible with Google’s rich snippet program. Once you have reviews for all your products or nearly all your products, submit your website for inclusion.

IMHO, the hardest part of reviews isn’t the technical aspects. It’s getting reviews in the first place. It’s a huge catch 22 situation: no one submits reviews until you have reviews. So here are some ideas about getting the process started.

Self Reviews

The best way to get honest reviews is to use the products or services yourself and write the reviews. Unless you have a connection who gets you review units or you get comped services, this can be very expensive. An example of this is GoVisitHawaii.com, which is run by Sheila Beal. She drags Andy Beal along, and they actually stay in different hotels in Hawaii and write up reviews (see
Review: Westin Princeville ResortReview of Kauai Marriott Resort and Review: Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa). Yeah, visiting Hawaii on a regular basis is a tough gig, but somebody has to do it ;-). One big advantage of this approach is that you can build a huge database of images (see how to build links with images). Look at the pictures and reviews on Travelocity and then look at those on Oyster; there simply is no comparison between the two.

Review Contests

Looking to get the ball rolling with user submitted reviews? Try a contest. To be clear here, the one thing you want to avoid is the appearance of incentivizing false positive or negative reviews. What you want to do is enter everyone who submits a review, whether positive or negative, that meets your editorial standards, into a contest. If you go this route, you will probably need to run the contest for a few months, so plan on a sustainable prize distribution, like an American Express gift card. If don’t have an established audience or social media presence you will need to “push” the contest on services like Twitter or even take out Facebook ads. Try to convert people who submit reviews to Facebook fans, Twitter followers, or add them to your mailing list.

Rewritten Reviews

This tactic can be summed up as “fake it till ya make it.” Basically, you are going to use reviews from other services and have people rewrite them and submit them to your website. If you keep the tone of the review the same but just rewrite them, it’s wrong but just a little wrong. If you write the reviews to achieve your own goals (I’ll let you work out why you would want to do that yourself), it’s a whole lot of wrong going on. Ideally, though, this is a short term strategy. Once you get enough real reviews, you should go back and delete the ones you influenced. I’m not going to be naive and tell you this doesn’t happen or that I’ve never done it, but use it sparingly and for as short a time period as possible.

So what are the takeaways from this post on How to Get Reviews For Your Website

  • Look for ways to ad reviews to your website.
  • Add your own editor reviews.
  • Encourage users to submit new reviews on a regular basis through contests or other means.
  • As a last resort, have reviews created for you to get critical mass.
  • Make sure your reviews are formatted to meet Google’s rich snippet specifications.
  • Apply for inclusion into the rich snippet program.
  • Make sure you are getting new reviews on a regular basis.

photo credit:  Photospin

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