If your company doesn't have an established reputation on popular online review sites, you could be missing out on valuable business opportunities. As Yelp reports, recent research from Nielsen found that 78 percent of customers use review sites to find local businesses, and 85 percent make a purchase within a week of visiting one of these sites. If you'd like to drive profits and increase your store traffic through review websites, there are a few steps you can take.

Getting Started

Your first step should be to set up a business page on popular review sites (if you don't have one already). Each site has its own process for setting up a page, but they are all fairly straightforward. For example, with Yelp, you can search to see if your business is already listed. If you find your business, you can apply to claim control of the page. If no page exists, you can submit a new one for your business. Yelp will use an authentication process to make sure you are in fact the owner. Once you have access to the page, you can post your business hours, address, photos and other information.

Managing Reviews

Collecting positive reviews is the key to getting more traffic through review websites, but you need to be careful with your approach. Some sites, like SpotOn, encourage you to reach out to your best customers for reviews, but Yelp takes the opposite approach. In fact, Yelp's software flags and removes reviews that it sees as inauthentic.

Instead, Yelp suggests that you display a Yelp sticker in your store and on your website to show customers that you have a page. You can encourage customers to check in on Yelp, but you can't go as far as to ask them to write something positive.

You should also monitor your Yelp account to make sure that none of your good reviews have been incorrectly filtered out (you can see this on your Yelp page). Yelp evaluates reviews based on reliability, quality and user activity, and occasionally it will filter out some of your best reviews. If this happens, you could reach out to the reviewer, thank them for their review, and let them know that their review is being hidden because they aren't very active on the site. You could go on to suggest that they add a photo to their profile or post more reviews to increase the likelihood of their reviews being displayed.

Attracting New Business

Review sites also offer you another opportunity to market your business. Your photos and description are your opportunities to show off the best parts of your business to people who are interested in what you have to offer. These websites also let you set up special promotions and coupons through your page. Most sites offer analytics, as well, so you can track whether your promotions increased your profits.

Managing Bad Reviews

From time to time, you will get negative feedback on review sites. When this happens, you should respond to the comment and apologize. You could also offer the negative reviewer a future discount in an effort to help resolve the situation. Smart handling of a negative comment shows that you are responsive to your customers.

Review sites are an effective way to build awareness through positive word of mouth. Make sure to take advantage of this valuable new form of marketing.

Tags: customer loyalty Customer Relationships