Online business reviews have become the cornerstone of consumer decision-making. A recent study revealed that 90% of consumers agree that a positive online review will influence their buying decision, and 86% said the same about negative reviews. Positive and plentiful reviews have also been proven to build trust in a brand and boost local SEO.

It’s important not to shy away from the review process in fear that you’ll receive a negative review. You can’t make a bad review disappear, so the best way to combat it is to overshadow it with positive reviews.

The bottomline: encourage happy customers to write reviews, here’s how:

1. Just Ask – Experts in business development and marketing agree that it’s completely appropriate to ask for a review outright. Be upfront, and ask soon; a great time to ask for a review is right after you complete the sale or project for your client (when the excitement of a job well done is still lingering).

2. Make It Easy – Not everyone you ask for a review from will actually follow through, even those with the best intentions, but a great way to increase the odds is to make it easy for them. Have your business profiles already set up on major review sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, Google My Business, Trustpilot, etc. Depending on your brand, the most fitting review channels will vary.

3. Provide Samples – It can also be helpful to create a sample testimonial that customers can use as a model. Providing links to these samples, or online forms to fill out on your website is another great way to make the process quick and simple for customers.

4. Offer Incentives – Offering incentives for reviews is a fun and worthwhile deal for many businesses. Giving out business-relevant incentives such as percentage off coupons, free gifts, or promotional pieces can be great motivators for customers. To generate a mass of reviews quickly, try holding a contest. Set an allotted period of time where anyone who writes a review will be entered to win a larger item like an iPad or gift card.

5. Make it Routine – Have a plan for generating online reviews and stick to it! Including the link to review you online at the bottom of every email or business card is a great start, and making a point to ask for a review from every happy customer is imperative. Perhaps it works best for your business to hold monthly or weekly contests for reviewers – whatever works to get reviews, adopt it as part of your routine.

Remember, not every happy customer will go through the trouble of writing a review, so make the process quick and simple to increase the odds, and ask away! These reviews will help get your business’s name in front of customers since reviews have the power to boost local SEO performance. Along with local SEO benefits, online reviews allow prospective customers to get to know your business, and will trust you over your competitors that lack the social testimonials you have.