Most local business owners know that positive online reviews are good for business, but many aren’t aware of just how much of an impact they have. Some think just because they serve a local customer base that what people are saying on the web is irrelevant.
The truth is that the online reviews on sites like Yelp and Facebook can mean the difference between making a sale or losing one. Today’s consumers increasingly rely on reviews to make decisions about the products and services they purchase.
In the last ten years, significant shifts have occurred in the way consumers seek out and use customer reviews when searching for and selecting a local business. They are becoming more review-savvy, preferring businesses that receive lots of high-scoring reviews.
But how exactly are consumers using local search services and online review sites to find and evaluate businesses?
• 68% of consumers wrote a local business review when asked
• 67% of consumers say that at least half of their searches result in a visit to a local business
• 63% of consumers trust businesses with overall ratings of 4 or 4.5 stars (out of 5)
• 32% of consumers read local reviews on mobile apps in 2017 (up 14% from 2016)
Why Reviews Are Important
Getting reviews of your business is a great way to demonstrate proof that your company does what it says it does and that your customers are happy and willing to share their experiences.
With all the scams out there these days, people want to be reassured when they’re searching for products and services online that your business is legit. They’re looking for a reason to choose you over the competition, so you need to give them one.
How To Get Reviews
The key to getting reviews is to be proactive and to make it easy for customers to review you.
• Create a template email to ask for reviews.
• Use a tool like Grade.us (not free) or GetFiveStars (also not free). These programs allow you to set up a review page for your customers to visit.
• Add links to your Houzz, Google My Business and Yelp pages on your website to make it easy for people to find you on those sites and leave a review.
• Put a link leading to a review site in your email signature, business cards, and invoices.
• Write reviews to get reviews. Give reviews to companies within your referral partner networks because what helps them will, in turn, help you. Google and Linkedin are great places for getting reciprocal reviews.
Where to Build Your On-line Review Presence
You need positive reviews to boost your local SEO efforts. SEO dictates which businesses your customers see first when they search online for a specific product or service. In addition, Google takes reviews into consideration as one of the things that determines which businesses show up in the Local 3-pack.
For the biggest impact, reviews on Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp are a must.
Google My Business requires at least five reviews before they will display your review stars in local search results. As can be seen in the graphic below, Houzz and Home Advisor reviews get shown in the Knowledge Panel.
Local industry-specific review sites, like HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, BBB, etc., are also great places for your reviews to get seen.
Manage Your Reputation
1. Never write, buy, or encourage fake reviews. With all the talk of “fake news” and “post-truth” these days, people are increasingly skeptical. If you’re caught with fake reviews, the damage to your business may be irreparable. Nobody likes a liar.
2. Best practices say you should respond to everyone who reviews you. For positive comments, all you have to do is thank them.
3. For negative comments, don’t panic. Address the issue in a professional manner and possibly call the person to work things out. This shows your audience that you care and are respectful, even with negative reviews. Resist the temptation to delete, ignore, or censor negative feedback, critical reviews, and low ratings.
Having a couple of negative reviews actually makes customers more likely to trust your business. No place can be 100% perfect. Consumers often perceive ratings close to a perfect 5.0 as too good to be true, and they appreciate less-than-perfect reviews as an important element in their research and decision-making process.
4. Having no reviews at all can have a huge negative impact on your business’s potential. Finding little or no information tells consumers that you’re either a new business or that you’re not even on the radar. It only takes a few positive reviews to reassure potential customers that you’re worth checking out.
You can’t afford to ignore the benefits of online reviews. What customers say about your business in their online reviews – and how you respond to them – can influence purchase decisions more than just about any other marketing tactic.
Think of online reviews as modern day referrals; having them available for your prospects to see is a great way to stand out from your competitors.
People will always trust what is said about you more than what is said by you.