Online reviews have long been the ‘bad guy’ in salon marketing, with nearly every salon owner I meet reporting at least one tragedy with Yelp or another review site. So how did it become such an important part of the salon marketing mix?  Simple -existingand potential clients demanded it.

Traffic to online review sites has doubled over the past couple of years. People are relying on reviews more than ever to help them decide where to take their business. In fact, 72 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so it is time that we as an industry pay attention to some key review sites.

Google Places
Google is always one of the biggest tools when it comes to being found by new, prospective clients, so it weighs in as a heavy contenderfor online reviews as well. When people search Google for new businesses, Google Places listings appear before even the regular website results. This means if you invest time and effort into sculpting your Google Places listing and continuously encourage clients to post new reviews on the site, you’ll be supporting your search engine traffic in the process.

Yelp
It can be difficult to stay positive about Yelp, but it remains a thriving element of online review management. Yelp wasattracting more than 86 million web visits each month as of the end of 2012, so it is unlikely that this review powerhouse will be going away anytime soon.

Yahoo! Local
Similar to Google Places, Yahoo Local will help your search engine rankings.  Even though Yahoo represents just 13.5% of searches performed each month, it’s still better than nothing for filling out a free business listing.

CitySearch
Citysearch is one of the older business listing sites turned review engines.  The great thing about CitySearch is that it allows its reviews to be listed under Google’s reviews and it hosts awards for local businesses, which are always great to boast to your clients if you win.

Facebook
It might seem strange to have the web’s favorite social network on the list, but with the recent announcement of Facebook Graph Search, the network’s own search engine based on recommendations and content by friends, Facebook is getting into the review game.  Imagine typing ‘hair salon in Los Angeles’into the Facebook search bar and seeing all of the comments, pictures and check-ins from your L.A. friends at their local hair salons.  It’s coming, so it’s time to start considering Facebook as part of your review and local search strategy.

Other sites to consider:
-Yellowbook360
-MerchantCircle
-Insider Pages

Paul Tate is CEO of Shortcuts Smarter Business Technology, which provides intuitive online and offline support to salons and spas across the world, offering  solutions in nine languages to more than 12,000 clients in 46 countries. Shortcuts clients range from single-site businesses to multi-site chains.