Here’s a news flash: the method consumers use to search for local businesses online has changed. Is this news? Not really. Every aspect of online marketing is continuously changing and evolving.
Google tells us that shoppers today look at online reviews for information about local businesses they may be considering. They actually prefer online ratings to any other form of recommendation, even from family and friends. They say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews, both positive and negative. Further, they rely on reviews to fight “decision fatigue” when they get overwhelmed with too much information.
Research shows that consumers search online for more than ten pieces of information before making a local purchase. Their desire for information about local businesses – including your local business — is insatiable.
To get your business noticed in local online search results, you must get reviews that your prospective customers will consider trustworthy, and you must get the reviews into the right places for them to be seen, remembered, and acted on.
Your fight for prospective customers will be won or lost with online reviews, and your online reviews will get you ranked in search results. It’s all tied together.
Google Search and Google map results now include star ratings of your business, and these star ratings are crucial. If you aren’t “starring in search,” you’re missing the opportunity to get your business positioned in search results.
After online shoppers get their ten pieces of information from search results, they typically go to a local listings site like Yelp where reviews are featured. Where to shop and where to buy decisions are made quickly; more than half are made in less than one hour! You cannot afford to lose a prospect’s interest at this point. If you don’t have reviews on sites like Yelp that get you your stars, they will move on to your competitor.
Searches on Google give three versions of online star ratings:
To take full advantage of the ratings on Google, your online marketing has to include two key review concepts.
#1 Customer Reviews on Your Website. Google requires reviews on your website to be first-party, which means they can’t be pulled in from other sites like Yelp or Houzz. You need to collect your customers’ feedback, good and bad, and get their reviews on your website. Having those reviews on your website means you get credit for review content so you can “star in search.” (Note the stars in the examples above in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2.)
#2 Third-party Reviews like those from Facebook and Houzz. Google gives preference to reviews from Facebook, Yelp and Houzz. You need to power up these reviews by asking customers to give you feedback specifically on these sites. They can help you build and keep a strong, positive online presence.
It has to be easy for your customers to give you feedback in the right places. Consider having a card printed with instructions on how to write a review on your website, Yelp, Google, Facebook and Houzz.
Reviews can be limited to one or two sentences; they don’t have to be long and involved. But they do need to be specific. “They did a great job” isn’t enough.
“They were involved every step of the way in our remodel project. They stayed in budget. We got exactly what we wanted and couldn’t be more pleased.” That’s the review you want.
And the same couple of sentences can be used over and over. No need to write a different review for each site.
How people shop for local business has changed. Who uses Yellow Pages anymore?.
To get the online searcher’s attention, you must get “starred in search”, meaning your “snippet” and your “Knowledge Card” must have stars from Google. And to get those stars, you have to get customer reviews. More than that, your reviews must get published online in the right places.
As you gain more stars, you’ll move up in the search results rankings and you’ll get more customers. And they will write reviews for you online and you’ll get more stars and you’ll move up in the search results rankings and you’ll get more customers ….. You get the picture.