You may not check your business's online reviews and ratings, but you would be very remiss to ignore them or not take them seriously. The reason for this is simple: not only do your customers overwhelmingly factor online reviews into their decisions, but the limited control you do have over your business's online reviews can really make or break your business.

This guide will explore exactly how important online reviews are to your business and why, as well as what you can do to ensure your company is presented in the best possible light online.

Customers Take Online Reviews into Account

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, anywhere between 51 and 90 percent of customers report reading and trusting online reviews. To put it simply, that is an overwhelming majority of the market. So if your business has bad reviews, customers will be less inclined to take a chance on you, whereas if you have glowing reviews, customers will be interested.

While your business should always be providing top-notch service to loyal, existing customers, who are less likely to break off a successful relationship with you due to poor online reviews, bad online reviews can and do make it much harder for your business to attract new customers.

Get Online Reviews in the First Place

Your business might just be getting started or doesn't particularly cater to an Internet-savvy crowd. But while better than a bunch of negative ratings, no ratings at all can also make customers suspicious. Whatever the case, if you don't have any online reviews, you should do what you can to get some.

The most common methods that work include simply requesting online reviews from customers after your service or product has been delivered, or giving away free product in exchange for honest reviews. Inform existing customers that you've recently been listed or listed yourselves on popular platforms and ask them for a review.

You Can Respond to Online Reviews

Some of the major platforms that allow user reviews also allow the company to post a response to those reviews. This can be a critically important arrow in your quiver when confronted with a negative review, and the way your business handles the situation is telling to customers in and of itself.

Just like when dealing with an upset customer in-person or over the phone, you never want to dismiss their concerns. When responding to a negative review, give a personal reply and/or explanation and let them know they can contact you to correct the problem. Promise to not only look into their problem, but take action to fix whatever was the cause of the problem in the first place.

Always follow through. Take into consideration any feedback you receive from your customers and use it to make changes to better your business. Additionally, while most platforms will not remove reviews, there are cases where it would not be out of line to request deletion of particularly inflammatory reviews.

Pay Attention to Google

Google is important to take into consideration in particular for a number of reasons. They are the largest and most frequently used search engine and map people use when searching for a business, they host reviews which are displayed right next to your company's information and their social media platform, Google Plus, is deeply ingrained in and tied to the Google search engine.

Take, for example, ACN Inc. and the reviews for ACN that are displayed on Google when you open up their location information on Google Maps. Google Plus is simply a great way to generate interest in your business through content, and when a customer checks out your business and sees reviews, those reviews are going to have an impact.

Online reviews can really be the life or death of a business, whether your business operates primarily online or locally. With more and more people using the Internet to find what they're looking for, paying attention to and controlling your online reviews to the best of your ability is now simply paramount.

Author's Bio: 

Anica is a professional content and copywriter from San Francisco, California. She loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she's used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.