What if the opinion of every customer you have ever had was instantly available for your review? Or, what if everyone, including new potential customers had access to these opinions? Essentially, they do. The increasing importance and proliferation of review sites has made reviews powerful tools for consumers. Reviews could be powerful for a business too, or it could be a pretty scary concept.

Sites like Yelp, Google Reviews and Trip Advisor provide reviews of consumer services like restaurants, hotels and tours. This soapbox for consumers amplifies the footprint of a business’ performance. If a business performs poorly everyone will have that information at their fingertips. However, the opposite is also true. If your business provides a valuable service, this is a way for customers to find you.

For business owners like Captain Jim Maya of Maya’s Westside Charters, these platforms are great. Captain Maya’s success is a shining example of what a good reputation can do for a business. Captain Maya has earned a 96% rating on Trip Advisor from more than 50 reviews. His services earn praise and rave reviews from customers. In turn, new customers seek out Maya’s Westside Charters because of its reputation.

When things are going well it provides a supply of new customers, and simplifies business operations by closely linking success to customer satisfaction. Alternatively, if a business is getting negative responses on review sites it can be very damaging. Many savvy consumers visit review sites to vet a service before they buy. Get too many negative reviews and a business will scare away these savvy consumers.

Although a consumer seeking out reviews is just the tip of the iceberg. The search giant, Google, has taken a liking to reviews. In June 2011, Google reached more than 80% of the search engine market share. With Google’s size and affinity for reviews, it is becoming less and less likely that someone will be able to find a business on the web without getting a glimpse of reviews and consumer feedback.

Popular review sites rank very highly in Google, meaning content on these sites that is related to a business will likely be included in search results, maybe even more prominently than the business itself.

You also won’t be able to get directions from Google Maps without catching wind of the business’ reputation. Google displays information from prominent review sites on the business’ Maps listing.

The new Google Related tool is another way that Google incorporates consumer feedback into web browsing. A small toolbar at the bottom of every website pops up which includes what Google has deemed to be the most relevant results. Since Google loves reviews they will put these in the related toolbar. For a business with negative reviews or a bad reputation these opinions will be displayed while visitors browse their site.

With the growing prominence of consumer opinions on the web it is important to take a proactive approach to your business’ reputation. This means monitoring your reputation on a regular basis and actively cultivating a positive reputation online.

Captain Jim Maya is a client of CeSI. In addition to our regular internet marketing services that we provide for him, we do online reputation monitoring. We receive updates whenever something new is published about Maya’s Westside Charters. The most recent updates included: “The Perfect Whale Watching Trip!!!”, “Great whale watching experience!” and “Could not have been better!” It is fun for us to get updates like this and see a client doing well.

If a client were to ever receive a bad review, maybe a fraudulent one from a competitor, then we would catch it early. In this event we would notify the client, contact the review site and let the client know what more they can be doing to correct the problem.

If you want more information regarding how to protect your business’ hard earned image, email kevin@4cesi.com or phone 206-244-9092.