Even before the Internet, people needed reassurance and confirmation that the object or service they were buying was the best choice. To do so, they would ask friends or family members for advice. Word-of-mouth was one of the best marketing channels out there, and, actually… it still is.
Thanks to the web, consumers now have access to a much wider cast of opinions and feedbacks. As a matter of fact, positive online reviews have the same benefits as real-life word-of-mouth: 91% of 18-34 years old trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
An online review strategy done right might have a bigger impact on your business than you would think. This article explains the effect of positive online reviews on businesses, how to increase your number of reviews and how to answer negative comments about your brand or your product. Let’s start.
Why are Customers Reviews so Important?
A great review management strategy will positively impact three main areas in your marketing strategy: search engine optimization, user experience, and ultimately, sales.
Online Reviews and Local SEO: A Love Story
Although the SEO world is often divided on what factors actually influence search engine rankings, most SEO experts will agree: online reviews are an important ranking signal for Google. Review scores are, in fact, one of the fastest-growing ranking factors, especially in a local market.
Google My Business or GMB is Google’s way of classifying local businesses. Any business with a physical address has access to this free business profile. A GMB profile usually includes location information, photos, opening hours, reviews, questions & answers, services, events, social media profiles, popular times to visit, etc. The reviews on GMB are one of the multiple factors influencing your search engine ranking. Here’s how:
Having a great number of good reviews makes your website more alluring to browsing customers, which can result in more clicks to your website. If many users click on your link and spend time navigating your site, it sends a positive signal to Google, therefore increasing your chances of ranking well.
Plus, keep in mind that Google’s main goal is to offer credible and relevant information to its users. Lots of good reviews let Google know that your business is real and loved by many. The search engine is, as a result, more confident that your site is meeting the needs of consumers.
Also, in many industries, such as restaurants and hotels, not many businesses make it to the first page, because it’s so hard to outrank directories and lists. Take this search engine result page for example :
As you can see, no restaurant ranks on the first page. As a business, your best chance to outrank your competitors is to show up as a Google Map results. An optimized Google My Business profile and good reviews will increase your chances of making an appearance as a first result.
Other Review Sources
Although 63.6% of consumers say they are likely to look at reviews on Google before visiting a business (which is more than any other review site), focusing your efforts only on Google, isn’t the right strategy.
As you can see in the screenshot below, Google adds reviews from other sites, such as Facebook, YellowPages, Bookenda, Yelp, and more, directly in Google My Business.
Your reviews on Facebook or other directories probably have no real impact on your search engine ranking. But, that being said, having consistent reviews across web platforms adds to your brand’s credibility and reinforces the idea that your business, is the right choice to fulfill a client’s needs.
Managing online reviews on more than one platform might be quite time-consuming. That’s why we recommend using a local listing management software like Sweet IQ. A tool like theirs will help you manage your location data (address, phone number, etc.) and monitor new reviews in one centralized place.
How Online Reviews Impact User Experience?
A great review management strategy, will not only help you rank higher than your competition, but it will also improve overall user experience.
Answering your customers’ concerns and positive feedback on online review platforms is a great way to create brand loyalty and create (or reinforce) an emotional connection with your brand.
Brands should also see customer reviews as a way to refine their marketing strategies and improve their services/products. Online reviews are a direct line of communication with your customers, and they shouldn’t be underestimated.
In The End, Consumer Reviews Impact Your Bottom Line
As mentioned above, great reviews will most likely increase traffic to your website through SEO. More people on your website means more people who might convert. Plus, as online reviews improve user experience, it also increases customer loyalty and customer retention.
Collecting positive reviews online will most likely have a very positive impact on your sales. According to BrightLocal, 93% of consumers say online reviews impact their purchasing decisions. Spiegel’s research also explains that displaying reviews can increase conversion by 270%.
How To Get More Reviews Online?
Having happy customers willing to share their positive experience is crucial for businesses looking to grow in today’s competitive landscape. A lack of a review could discourage users from even just visiting your website.
So, how can your business get more reviews online? The simple answer would be: just ask. According to BrightLocal, 68% of consumers will leave a review, if asked.
Email marketing and social media are two great channels to ask users to leave an online review. To scale up your review strategy, try offering incentives that will make your customers want to write a review: free goodies, 10% off their next order, contest, gift cards, etc.
Timing is also key when soliciting customers for reviews. You want to ask for an online review after a positive experience or when the user shows engagement with your brand:
- When the repurchase
- After they experience success with your product
- When the refer another customer
- When they tag your business on social media
How To Answer Negative Reviews?
Research is pretty clear on the matter: users are more likely to leave a review after a negative experience than a positive one. And, turns out that negative reviews have convinced 94% of consumers to avoid a business. Therefore, negative reviews should be taken care of, right away. In fact, 53% of customers expect businesses to respond to negative reviews within a week.
That being said, bad reviews seem like they are not entirely bad news: according to the Spiegel study, higher ratings doesn’t automatically lead to higher sales. They found that “purchase likelihood typically peaks at ratings in the 4.0 – 4.7 range, and then begins to decrease as ratings approach 5.0”. In their opinion, near-perfect ratings might undermine the credibility of the review.
The key for business is to be proactive and do everything in their power to make things right for the disappointed customer and for all the other potential clients that might read its review. According to Review Tracker, 45% of consumers say that they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.
Answering negative reviews can be challenging. Here are a few best practices to follow when answering negative feedback:
- Always acknowledge the problem, apologize and don’t be defensive.
- Always be polite.
- Try to move the situation in private, or offline.
- Personalized your message.
- Answer promptly, within 24 hours if possible.
In the end, brands need to remember that their best marketers and sales reps aren’t really their employees, they are their existing customers. Investing in your brand reputation/consumer reviews strategy might be incredibly beneficial for your brand. Learn more about how we can help you manage your online reputation and increase your local reach here.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SEO Director @ Bloom