This post was originally written by Lesley Latham.

After four days of little sleep and much learning about SEO, SEM, and everything in between at SMX West in San Jose (a search marketing conference), I feel like I just went back to college. I was happy that there was no final exam, but I am going to treat this blog post as my final anyway. Feel free grade the usefulness of my post.

The testing subject?

Online Customer Reviews

Customer reviews are unfiltered comments and scores that renters (and prospective renters) can post about your business on the web, in places like Google Maps, Google HotPot, CitySearch, Yelp, etc. Many of these platforms also syndicate reviews from other websites; consequently, you may see the same review of your self storage business on multiple review sites.

Customer reviews are important to SEO and prospects alike. Google and other search engines now take reviews into account as a ranking factor, and potential customers rely on them for advice before picking up the phone. That’s why they are becoming a hotter topic in web marketing circles. Unfortunately, along with heavy dialogue comes confusion and misinformation, kind of like a game of “SEO telephone.”

In an effort to rise above the noise I’ll try to make my answers simple, by summarizing my SMX-freshened knowledge via three basic categories: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. (Plus, I think it makes for a fun blog title.)

The Bad: No Reviews

Unfortunately, leaving a review is not always an open and shut task. Sometimes self storage customers have to sign in or create an account. For busy or spam-wary people, that’s jumping through hoops. So make it worth their while.

You might offer a coupon for any customer that goes to the trouble of leaving a review. Then, interact with your customers afterward. If they give you a good score, respond with a big “thank you” or an invitation to “come see us again!” If they give you a bad score, openly help them into a more positive perspective. It will show future shoppers that customer service is how you roll.

Want to get creative? Try using QR Codes that your customers can scan with their smart phones, leading them to a website where they can pen a review.

The Ugly: One Type of Review

Business owners typically assume that a bad review will hurt business; thus they push for 5-star scores across the board. Don’t do it. The occasional, less favorable review will enhance the credibility of any sparkling review pool. Search engines and customers alike trust favorable median feedback more than they trust perfect feedback, because perfect feedback appears fake or manipulated.

However, be sure to respond to bad reviews quickly. Make a transparent effort to get to the bottom of the customer’s poor experience. Assuming the customer is reasonable and not some storage renter psychopath, offer him/her an incentive to visit your business again and improve the opinion.

The Good: A Balance

Ideally, your facility’s review pool will include five-star reviews down to a few three-and even two-star reviews, and include some friendly responses from the business operator or manager. Overall, they should be unique and authentic.

The sheer volume of reviews is not as important as it used to be, but it definitely helps. If you have a large number of quality reviews for your facility, you should notice better website rankings in search results and more direct web traffic from the review sites. If your customers include keywords in their reviews, those are worth their weight in rental discounts, trust me.

With reviews and review sites becoming more popular with human users, and with major search engines paying attention, I say it’s time for you to jump on the bandwagon.

So whaddya think, do I get an A? If you want to learn how to leave a Google Maps review, visit our reviews tutorial.

Customer reviews are important to SEO and customers alike. That’s why they are becoming a hotter topic in web marketing circles. Unfortunately, along with heavy discussion comes confusion and misinformation, kind of like a game of “SEO telephone.”