In today’s market, consumers read online reviews before buying products and services whether they’re buying an item on Amazon or scoping out a local small business. You can’t afford to miss out on what people might be saying about your business online.
Online Reviews Wield Word-of-Mouth Power
According to BrightLocal, “Nearly every consumer now conducts regular local searches, placing expectations on businesses to be visible online. Some businesses can struggle to differentiate from their competitors, so a positive online reputation is useful to help customers make a choice.”
BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey – 2017 found that 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.”
Online Reviews Help SEO
Online reviews may also help a business get found in online searches. According to the Moz 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors study, review signals are among the top 8 ranking factors used by Google.
The number of reviews, diversity of reviews, and review velocity (the rate at which a product garners new reviews) all have an impact on where on the search engine results pages a business will appear.
Which Review Sites Carry the Most Weight?
The 2018 ReviewTrackers Online Reviews Survey: Statistics and Trends found that Google has become the preferred review site for consumers. “63.6 percent of consumers say they are likely to check online reviews on Google before visiting a business — more than any other review site.”
Facebook is the most popular online space for leaving reviews. Although growth has slowed for sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and CitySearch, many people are still using them, and they continue to have an impact on companies’ reputations and ranking in online searches.
A Few Things to Keep In Mind
1. If you haven’t established or claimed your business on Google My Business and other review sites, consider doing so.
On some sites, such as Yelp, customers might be leaving reviews even if a business hasn’t established an account there. Realize that people can and will talk about your business online, so it’s in your best interest to know where that’s happening.
2. Be careful about soliciting reviews from customers.
While Google allows businesses to encourage customers to leave online reviews, some other review sites prohibit it. Some review sites prohibit asking customers to leave reviews. Always check the website’s terms of service to make sure you follow their rules.
3. Make sure that your business information is consistent across review sites.
Use the same company name, address, and phone number (NAP) information across all of them. Many SEO experts say that search engines view consistency in NAP information as a sign that a business is legitimate. If your NAP info differs from one site to the next, people might see incorrect information about your business in search results—or your business might not turn up on the search engine results page at all.
4. Pay attention to when someone leaves reviews.
Stay tuned into notifications when someone leaves a review of your business so you can respond—particularly if it’s a negative review. According to the ReviewTrackers survey, 53.3 percent of people expect a business to respond to a negative review within 7 days. By acknowledging customers’ dissatisfaction and taking action to remedy it, you’ll demonstrate integrity…and those people might be inclined to remove their negative review and write a more favorable one.
If you do get a few negative reviews, don’t fret. It’s likely it won’t permanently damage your reputation. In fact, several critical reviews may even help your business. Reviews, whether positive or negative, increase the overall number of reviews and they may enhance your credibility. Some people might suspect that a company with all glowing reviews is “too good to be true.”
5. Watch out for fake reviews.
Positive and negative fake reviews can do damage to your business’s credibility online. On many sites, anyone (whether a customer or not) can write a review. Some have automated mechanisms in place to detect and remove fake reviews, but their methods aren’t always 100 percent effective. If you find that someone has left a fraudulent review about your business, follow the review site’s process to launch an investigation.
6. Monitor your online reputation so you can detect when people are talking about your business.
Besides checking activity directly on the review sites, also consider setting up a Google Alert on your business name to notify you whenever someone has mentioned your business online. The more you know about what people are saying about your business, the better able you’ll be able to understand what you’re doing well and what you might improve. Online reviews and conversations can provide valuable feedback to help your business serve your customers better.
If you have questions or need guidance about managing aspects of your business online (and off), contact SCORE to talk with a mentor.