While UGC and Reviews can often be a mixed blessing, as long as Google continues to reward rich snippets with enhanced visual listings, it’s probably a good idea to try to make reviews part of your website strategy.For those of you who haven’t seen rich snippets and reviews in action, here’s a sample of what they currently look like
To qualify for this program you have to have reviews, format your data using microformats, and submit your website for inclusion in the rich snippet program. While it may change in the future, currently you need to have site level approval, so let’s clear the hardest hurdle: getting the review data.
Your first and best source for reviews should be your existing customer base. Contact your most recent customers and ask them to provide a review about their last sale with you. While some may provide you with the information right off the bat, most people will need an incentive to spend the time sending you a review. My suggestion is to offer a future discount to everyone who sends you a review. Or put everyone who sends you a review into a contest for a larger prize (check your local laws before getting involved in any contests). Going forward, you should make soliciting reviews part of the order process. First they get an order confirmation, then a shipping confirmation, then a review request.
This works perfectly fine if you have customer data, but what if you’re an affiliate? Affiliates don’t have that information, so what do you do? You’ll have to get creative and think out of the box. Look for reviews on Kitchen Aid Mixers. Take out an adwords ad on Kitchen Aid Mixer attachments or extras looking for reviews. Your approach might look something like this …
You could take out reviews on Kitchen Aid Mixers but it would probably be cost prohibitive. Don’t limit yourself just to Adwords: take advantage of systems that invade people’s privacy … er … offer really good targeting like Facebook.
Another suggestion would be to use forums. Looking for Disney Hotel Reviews? Inquire on any of the popular Disney forums about taking out an ad. There are plenty of people who could be easily incentivized to share extremely in depth reviews. You could also use social media services like Twitter with intelligent searches. Want to know how people feel about iPad games–here you go. You’ll have to filter for quality, but asking someone if you can re-use their tweet as a review is pretty painless. If you’re running a local geo based website, you can try going old school and take out an ad in your local newspaper. Again, you’ll be a lot more successful if you provide some sort of incentive to get people to give you what you want.
I’m not going to be naive and tell you there’s no such thing as fake reviews because we know that’s not true. That said, if it’s a practice you are going to engage in, do so with caution: the laws are pretty fuzzy and those fake reviews could come back to haunt you down the future. The real hurdle is getting that initial critical mass of reviews to jump start the process. Once you clear that hurdle, it becomes a lot easier