Many online marketing techniques work great until everybody starts using them — then they don't work so well anymore. Online reviews are beginning to fall into this category. Over the last few years, lots of food truck operators have been working overtime to elicit positive online reviews, to help their local search engine optimization and other marketing campaigns.
But review sites and Google are cracking down on online reviews, as abuses threaten to make people leery of trusting them. Food truck operators should understand the rules of the various review websites to stay out of trouble.
Yelp warns users about reviews
Yelp's stated policy states point-blank that companies should not ask for reviews. Companies that violate the rules could see a reduction in their Yelp rating, which would definitely compromise brand image and lead generation. Even common practices such as customer surveys run afoul of Yelp's rules, so be careful.
A practice even more risky is paying for or otherwise incenting positive reviews. Obviously, the possibility that a review might have been paid for would make Yelp users suspicious of not just the company being reviewed, but of Yelp as a whole.
Google My Business?
Companies with local SEO campaigns almost always target Google My Business for online reviews, since Google's search engine puts a lot of weight on GMB reviews. Study GMB review policies before you get carried away, however. You'll notice that Google discourages the use of reviews in advertising, which is a common practice, as well as reviews from employees, and, of course, paid reviews.
Focus on earning your reviews
What Yelp, GMB and all online review sites are after is unbiased, authentic reviews their users can trust. While encouraging satisfied customers to share their positive experience is natural enough, it is best done informally, without pressure, without bait and without excess.
The best way for food truck operators to build positive online reviews is to provide great food and great service. When customers love what they eat and are hungry for more, good reviews and referrals will pile up naturally.
Image courtesy of Straight North.
Brad Shorr is director of content strategy at Straight North, an SEO agency in Chicago serving small and mid-size companies.www