Do you prioritize the importance of creating and implementing a strategy for your online business reviews? If so, you’re probably a big believer in the impact that reviews have on you business goal to win new customers… just like us over here at Volume Nine. So even if you aren’t paying attention to reviews about your business, you can almost guarantee that your customers are!
Why Do Online Reviews Matter? Why Are They So Important To My Business?
We often associate ‘Local’ business to online reviews, but most companies with products and services and an online presence receive reviews as well. Online product and service reviews have become a critical aspect of digital marketing for almost all businesses. Star ratings and reviews provide the social proof that consumers are looking for to help them make decisions confidently and efficiently.
Who Cares? Google Cares.
Industry experts consider reviews to be one of the top 5 Google ranking factors, probably because Google realizes these are seriously significant to consumers. And Google really cares about the users!
Who Cares? Consumers Care.
There is an abundance of research showing how potential customers read and respect online reviews. This research consistently proves that reviews are incredibly valuable to potential customers and that reviews are increasing in importance. Just take a look at these numbers from various consumer surveys…
- Star ratings are the #1 consumer factor for judging a business. I repeat, #1!
- 92% of consumers read reviews online, and more than 88% of online shoppers consider these reviews before even making their purchase
- 80% of people trust reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 50%+ of 18 to 34 year olds trust online reviews more than the opinions of family or friends (ouch!)
- 54% of people will visit the business’s website after reading positive reviews
- Only 5% do not consider customer reviews (vs 11% in 2015)
- 90% are influenced by positive online reviews and 86% were influenced by negative reviews
Show Me the Money!
The stats above make an obvious point… qualifying the value of consumer reviews must be taken into consideration as they affect organic traffic AND influence potential customer opinions and purchasing behavior. Basically, they cannot be avoided – those stars are like a beacon light in search engine results.
We all have to come to grips with the fact that online users place a tremendous value in other people’s opinions – it’s the new “word-of-mouth” marketing. More importantly to you, the way your business products and services are talked about online really does impact your bottom line.
Generating Positive Reviews
Generating positive online reviews is one of the most important tasks you can do for your business or brand. Your target audience is going to do their homework so it’s wise for marketers to give what they are reading a respectful amount of attention. Do it for your brand AND your potential customers.
A Proactive Plan to Gain Happy Customer Reviews
A rock-solid online reputation is an enormous accomplishment. Visitors that have come to your site through a positive review arrive suitably preconditioned for a subsequent purchase, taking a bulk of the effort off of your team to “convert” them.
Inspiring consumer trust in your business by encouraging a continual stream of consumer reviews is worth the time and effort. This isn’t something that should be done in a mad rush! You want to acquire reviews over months and years to build an exceptional, believable online reputation. Here are some ideas for implementing a review acquisition strategy to boost your reputation:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask happy customers and partners to leave public feedback about your product or services at purchase completion – in person, over the phone, or by email.
2. Create an incredibly easy path for them to write the review.
- Add review badges or widgets to your website with links to your review-site profiles. Use badges provided by the review site as they are considered third-party “trust” symbols by search engines.
- Put links to leave reviews in your email signature
- Include the request on the receipt/thank you page when a customer purchases a product or service online.
3. Be active on your business social profiles. People are less likely to write a review if there is nothing going on there.
4. Place review site signage in your place of business informing clientele where they can leave a review – or where to find reviews.
5. Include a message on receipts and invoices letting them know where they can write a review.
6. Provide an appropriate incentive for your customers to leave a review.
Notes of caution:
- Read each review-site guidelines to find their rules and regulations about topics like incentives and contests to stimulate the gathering of new reviews. Don’t get yourself in a pickle.
- Writing or paying a third party to post fake reviews for your own business is not advisable! Google is smart. They figure that stuff out.
- Getting a lot of reviews in a short amount of time can trip review site filters that result in deletion.
High Value Review “Inclusions”
We’re not recommending you tell people what to include in their review, but we will tell you that reviews including keywords (location, specific products and services, etc.) will affect search result rankings substantially for those keywords and their keyword variations.
Finding the Most Important Review Sites for Your Business Type
Your online business reputation has probably already begun without you! And the number and diversity of review sites continue to increase. To identify which review websites your clients and customers prefer, ask them! Or Google Analytics is a great resource:
- Google Analytics → Acquisition → All Traffic → Referrals
- For more detailed data, click the Referral “Source”
This is valuable insight to help you focus on the ones that will most likely produce positive results.
Other good opportunities include industry and city or area-specific review sites that you can add your business to and link to from your website when relevant. These provide great authority to search engines and users alike.
Claiming More Search Results Page Territory – Additional Opportunities
Does Google play the favorites game? We think so.
Certain sites consistently rank on page one for local searches (TripAdvisor, Yelp, YouTube, etc.). Take advantage of their popularity by making sure you’ve claimed and optimized your listing on these sites. That listing could rank just as well, or better than, your website in organic search results. And, there is a second opportunity here: Ranking well in these authoritative business directory search results, as those searches can also rank well in Google:
First, check the following review and rating sites to see if your business is listed:
***** Since Google is the most powerful, influential search engine, it is THE MOST IMPORTANT business listing you can claim, optimize, and receive reviews on!
Second, maximize the opportunity by:
- Claiming and verifying the page
- Optimizing the page (category, accurate and complete business information and website link, photos, etc.)
- Engaging with reviewers if you can, and asking for reviews on these sites
Third, implement structured data to get review “rich snippets” in search results:
Google displays review snippets with average Star Rating within search results. For example…
As mentioned earlier, there is a high correlation between positive star ratings on Google Reviews and higher click-through rates on search results pages, which supports increased rankings. Using markup on your site in the appropriate way(s) allows Googlebot to find valid reviews or ratings to show a “rich snippet” that includes stars and other summary info. Reviews apply to local businesses, movies, books, music and products.
Find more information about rich snippets and structured data:
- Directly from Google
- From Volume Nine’s very own structured data expert
- This MOZ article explains the concept practically and technically
Capitalize on Existing Reviews
Knowing what customers write about your business in online reviews will provide you with highly valuable insight. The information can be used to:
1) Research keywords – your customers have their own lingo for search phrases – use that! Add them to relevant pages on your site. These would also be great blog post content. You can also look at competitor reviews and do the same thing!
2) Augment relationships – by responding to positive and negative reviews.
Responding to positive reviews encourages satisfied users to return, with enthusiasm!
Responding to negative reviews with a concerned tone will show other readers and potential customers that you are listening, that you care about their concerns and want to address negative experiences. This may be challenging! Negative reviews hurt and can put us on the defensive, but the most effective response requires professionalism and humility. These articles provide some practical tips for responding to negative reviews –
- How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews in 6 Steps
- Why your clients need Reputation Management
- 6 Good Things About Negative Reviews
All of this conveys your commitment to customer satisfaction.
3) Showcase the reviews on your website or create a “Reviews” page – these can rank for “keyword + reviews” search terms all by themselves!
- Instead of only talking about yourself on your website, showcasing what others say about your business on a third party site is valuable to your visitors.
- Example – Embed Yelp Reviews directly from the business Yelp page. Yelp Embed Code Instructions:
- When you hover over a specific review, a menu appears on the left of the review
- Click on “Embed review”
- The Embedding Code will appear in a new box
- Add the code to the website page you’d like it on
NOTE: Any Yelp Review you add to your website may get filtered by the almighty Yelp. If this happens to a Review you’ve showcased, the review will still show on your site, but the stars will change from red to gray.
Many of us secretly wish online reviews would magically disappear, but since that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, we need to change our attitude toward them. They can be used as an effective marketing tool to powerfully influence potential customers.
Consider all of the advantages that a great online reputation provides – advantages that are universally available and basically at no cost. And, due to the influence reviews have on consumers, search engines are likely to continue being affectionate toward them. Google recently even started to provide reviews in native languages!
By following the outline above and treating online review management as one of the most important and obtainable digital marketing strategies in your control, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.
If you need help optimizing your social media or local business profiles, reach out to the Volume Nine team today!