An accurate online review can be a great way for customers to spread the word about local businesses.
An accurate online review can be a great way for customers to spread the word about local businesses. (Metro)
Word-of-mouth has long been an ally of small business. Customers who have positive experiences with a small business often share those experiences with friends, family members and coworkers, and that word-of-mouth can help hardworking small businesses establish themselves in a community.

But reviews don't just benefit small businesses. Consumers are increasingly relying on online review sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor to help them make more informed decisions about where to spend their money. A glowing review can inspire men and women to try new neighborhood eateries or prove helpful as they search for contractors to work on their homes. All types of businesses have been reviewed online, and more and more reviews are being posted by the day. Such information can prove invaluable to prospective customers, but only when reviewers post accurate and detailed accounts of their experiences with a given business. The following are a few things to keep in mind when writing online reviews.

* Be accurate and detailed.
When writing an online review, it's important that men and women write reviews that are as accurate and detailed as possible. If a business left you with mixed feelings, share those feelings, explaining in detail just what you did and did not like about your experience. Businesses often read online reviews to see which aspects of their business are working and which might need some adjustments, so don't be afraid to share your honest opinions when composing a review.

* Don't write a mean-spirited review.
Though it's important to write an honest review, a mean-spirited review will only reflect negatively on its author. Steer clear of making personal and potentially insulting comments about staff members. Readers tend to consider mean-spirited reviews with a large grain of salt, and many even dismiss such reviews as personal vendettas written by irrational consumers or even competitors hoping to make the business look bad. In addition, the business itself will likely dismiss a mean-spirited review without addressing any of your legitimate concerns. If you had a bad experience, explain what went wrong but do so rationally and without malice.

* Don't write a novel.
Online reviews should be detailed but concise. Fellow consumers don't need to know what led you to a certain business, especially if it takes you 1,000 words to explain your journey. Share only those things you would want to know about a business if you were perusing an online review site, keeping your past experiences and long-winded explanations to yourself. Men and women who rely on online reviews tend to skip lengthy reviews, so don't waste your time writing a review that's overly wordy.

* Avoid offering alternatives.
The purpose of writing an online review is to review a given business and not to point potential readers in the direction of that business' competitors. Reviews that do the latter tend to read as though they were written by a competitor, which can make readers skeptical of the author's intentions. Readers don't click on a review about an Italian restaurant to learn about the new Indian restaurant around the corner, so avoid mentioning other businesses.

Online review sites often are great resources for consumers looking to patronize local businesses, and such resources are even more valuable when review writers take the time to compose careful, concise and accurate reviews.