by Steve Marsh

Many small business owners have refused to use social review sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List in anger or protest. They may have heard negative things or personally had bad experiences.

These review sites have created a platform from which disgruntled consumers, and occasionally unethical competitors, are able to loudly express their frustrations and dissatisfaction about home service companies. This potential for negative press has not been welcomed by company owners.

Owners may have worked hard to encourage customer reviews only to find that glowing reviews were disqualified by these sites and placed in a “not recommended” section. As a result, these sites did not include the high ratings as a part of the company’s total rating score.

Some companies may have invested in paid advertising with these sites only to receive poor returns, which lead to regrets about signing extended contracts. Persistent and unwanted sales calls from social review site companies also may have frustrated the business owners and wasted a lot of valuable time.

Even with the many legitimate reasons to dislike social review sites, it is foolish to ignore them. Yelp and Angie’s List are powers that must be reckoned with. These sites impose a big influence over both home service companies and consumers. Attempting to ignore them can only make matters worse.

Why companies should care about social review sites

Usually the first question business owners ask of media is, “Will this particular way of putting my name out there generate new leads for me?” What is often overlooked, however, is the big role social review sites play in confirming the reputation of companies.

When a consumer gets a recommendation for a service company from a friend or professional, they will often go to these sites to confirm the reputation of the referred company. I personally use review sites more for this purpose than as an original source for starting my search. I have many times thought twice about referred companies that have poor reputations or little information in their profiles.

If for no other reason, all companies should manage their rankings and profiles on Yelp and Angie’s List to ensure they don’t lose good referrals that otherwise would have been theirs. It only requires a small investment in time to manage your image on these sites. Don’t let your personal dislike for this type of marketing cost you good customers.

What all companies should do

Claim your business

If you have been in business for a while, these sites already have you listed among your competitors. You may even already have reviews. It is easy to claim your site and then provide as much basic and accurate information as they ask for. Spend time reviewing your competitors’ company descriptions and write a compelling profile description that makes it clear who you want as customers and why your company is their best option.

Add quality photographs

This is a situation where a picture truly is worth a thousand words. If you want budget-minded shoppers, include lots of dramatic before and after photos. If you are after quality-minded consumers, show lots of pictures of you and your techs working in nice homes.

Respond to negative reviews

You should thoughtfully respond publicly to all negative reviews (you have this option). Ignore the fact that someone is ticked off with the service you provided. Your goal is to spin this review to your advantage. Express regret that this consumer had a bad experience and that your goal is to never let this happen. Thank the reviewer for taking the time to share his/her feelings.

If appropriate you can state that you fully stand behind your quality guarantee and that you would love to make it right for them. Explain the steps you have taken within the company to prevent this type of situation from happening again in the future.

Receive notifications

Adjust the settings within your company account to enable notifications to you whenever a review is posted or a message is sent to you.

Obtain good reviews

Seek out reviews from good customers who use these sites. Simply ask customers if they write reviews for sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List.  If your customer doesn’t have a history of writing reviews, you should not bother them any further for reviews.

Considering advertising

If you are thinking of advertising with Yelp or Angie’s List, it is important to understand that these are “winner-take-all” venues. Consumers coming to these sites are looking for companies with lots of high ranking reviews. If you have only three top-rated reviews, and there is a nearby competitor with 127 top-rated reviews, you don’t stand a chance. In many parts of the country, the dominating top companies have already been established. The top one or two companies will capture a lion’s share of the leads.

But for those in areas where company dominance has not yet been established, this could be a great opportunity to become that top company. Your objective would be to gain enough good reviews to get ranked in the first or second position. This requires you to actively seek positive reviews. For Yelp, this may not even require you to pay for their advertising. Angie’s List has recently changed their system so that you must be paying them to get any significant exposure.

I have a home service company client in the San Francisco Bay Area who invested the time and money to grab a top position with Yelp. Last month they received over 50 good leads from their Yelp page and have not paid anything to Yelp in over a year. They are now receiving a great return on their investment.

Paid advertising with Yelp and Angie’s List provides more and better exposure to their audiences. Contracts are generally required for this advertising, so consider whether you are willing to do what is necessary to obtain reviews to make this advertising pay off for you.

With Yelp, it is possible to profit without paying for their advertising. So, when analyzing your advertising investment return, be sure to compare it to the amount you would have made had you not advertised.

Pay attention

Yelp and Angie’s List are still growing in their influence over consumers’ selection of service companies. It doesn’t matter how you feel about these companies and this type of social media. They will have some influence over the success of your business.

Take the time to make sure your company is well portrayed on their websites. Failing to do so will only cost you money.

If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where no one company has yet established dominance in your service category, it could well be worth your time and money to push to become one of the top-ranked companies. The payoff can be significant.

Whether you can leverage the full power of social review sites to pull into the lead in the race between local service companies, or you simply take the time to fill out your profile with decent pictures and accurate information, you will see that engaging with these social review sites keeps you from being left in the dust.


Steve Marsh is a 40-year veteran of the carpet cleaning industry, an instructor and a Senior Carpet Inspector. He helps home-service companies quickly establish profitable clienteles and then progress to serving higher-quality customers. To help companies achieve these goals, Marsh created the step-by-step programs Single Truck Success and Be Competition Free. For more information, visit www.professional-carpet-cleaning-service.com.