Do reviews influence your buying decisions? Of course they do. The opinions of other consumers matter and we like our choices to be validated by others. That’s why reviews are critical to the success of your business.
Reviews tell a story about a business, create a sense of solidarity between existing and potential customers, generate referrals and build trust and reputation and that’s exactly why savvy business owners need to invest time and effort obtaining customer feedback.
Smart business owners also know that reviews are a critical component of a good SEO strategy – and particularly for local SEO. First-hand reviews are important for establishing a reputation and building a brand while third party reviews provide vital proof of a business’s authenticity.
There are many ways to generate reviews for your business and the reality is that the more time and effort you put into your strategy, the more benefit you’ll get. It’s not easy and it requires ongoing commitment and a long-term view. And as with most things in life, it’s about quality and not quantity.
In this article, I’ll show you why your business needs reviews and why it’s important to invest time and money in getting them. I’ll also show you several effective ways of asking for reviews.
Why Are Reviews Important To Your Business?
Reviews = trust. Repeated positive affirmation about your product or service helps build trust and entrench a strong reputation.
Reviews help you stand out from competitors. Consistent, positive feedback about your offering, be it in terms of quality, affordability, value for money, after-sales service, friendly staff, problem-solving, fast turnaround times etc will help differentiate you from the competition.
Reviews show authenticity. A large number of reviews demonstrate that your business is legitimate and reliable. You can say anything you like about your business on your website, but the fact is, potential customers place more value on independent feedback. Plus, they’re not likely to challenge a fellow customer about what they thought of your brand, whereas they can easily dispute your own claims.
Reviews = keyword opportunities. Reviewers are generally your target audience, so the words and phrases that they use are likely to be your keywords. When (not if!) you reply to a review, you get another opportunity to use your keywords.
Reviews can help boost your Google My Business rankings. Positive reviews show Google that your product/service/business/website is high quality and the more you get, the more people are likely to click through to your business in the Google Maps results. A consistent flow of reviews which contain your keywords can also help boost rankings in Google My Business as Google will associate these keywords with your business. No matter if the review is positive or negative, it is likely to contain relevant keywords about your product, brand, service and even your location which in turn, enables Google to learn more about your business and ultimately position you higher in Google Maps.
Reviews can build loyalty. A customer can feel a greater sense of loyalty after leaving a review and are more likely to become an advocate for your brand. That said, it’s really important for you to respond to any feedback – both positive and negative – to demonstrate that you’re customer-focused and genuine.
Reviews encourage others to do the same. When customers see a variety of reviews across different platforms, they’re more likely to contribute their own one too.
Customers actually read them! According to BIA/Kelsey’s research*, 97% of people use online media when researching products or services in their local area whilst Podium’s studies* revealed that 93% of consumers say online reviews impact their purchasing decisions.
Customers want reassurance that they’re getting what they’re searching for, and the challenge is to give them a reason to choose you over a competitor.
How To Use Reviews To Your Advantage
Genuine customer reviews are like gold. Opportunities abound and the benefits are real, but there are inevitable scams and shonky businesses which look for shortcuts by buying fake reviews to boost their volume and rating. However, in my experience, the vast majority of people browsing online see through the fakes and recognise the real deal.
Having a variety of positive reviews across a number of different platforms (Google, Facebook, Yelp and other third party sites makes your story far more believable – boosting consumer sentiment and driving sales.
A review isn’t just about customer feedback (although their opinions are important). Think of a reviewer as a content creator. That’s the way Google sees them – and that’s why you need to collect as many as possible across as many forums as possible and use them to your advantage.
Reach for the stars
People are strongly influenced by a company’s rating. I know I am.
It’s reassuring to have an independent and reliable basis from which to make buying decisions – and a star rating that’s visible in Google search results allows prospective customers to make an immediate judgement. Once you have at least five reviews on Google, and you set-up review schema, your business will start showing stars on the search engine results page. Google also relies on third party review sites to determine star ratings, so the more you learn about these sites, the greater the benefit. A good rule of thumb is to aim for at least 30 unique reviews over a 12-month period with a 3.5 average. But remember, Google favours highly rated sites so you have to be constantly working on your review/SEO strategy to get the most for your business.
Love local with Google My Business
This is a really valuable tool for businesses and I do a lot of work for my clients in this area. Google My Business counts reviews as a ranking factor and so an increase in the number of positive correlates to a higher ranking in the Local Pack.
Use rich snippets
Including rich snippets from a review can help that review show up in SERPs.
Improve your click-through-rate
A higher CTR is one of Google’s ranking factors. There’s plenty of research which shows that CTR increases as the number of reviews and the rating of stars increase. By the way, you need to think of them as content rather than merely feedback – but more about that later.
Use niche websites in your industry
You’ll probably find there are niche websites for your industry which you can use to your advantage, especially if they feature up high in the SERPs and feature positive reviews of your business. It’s like having a third party endorsement from an industry expert and it adds another layer of credibility to your brand when potential customers are making buying decisions.
Use to improve your offering
Your customers’ opinions matter. The reviews may even contain worthwhile suggestions for improving your business or service.
Display reviews on your website
Using a plugin that pulls reviews through onto your web page, helps to bring all the great reviews through to your website in real time. We love the Business Reviews Bundle for WordPress from https://richplugins.com/
Tips On How To Respond
Encouraging people to leave reviews does take time and it requires a long-term commitment. You need to be proactive and keep things current – but making the effort will have a positive influence on your SEO.
Always reply – whether positive or negative. They’re a vital personal communication with your customer and your aim should be to keep the customer on your side. The tone of your response is key. Keep it polite, helpful and genuine.
Don’t fear the bad review. Rather use it as an opportunity to improve the customer experience and reinforce your own message. People read negative reviews, and they’ll value an honest response which shows genuine intention to help. Sometimes, bad reviews come from customers who are in the wrong themselves – and your response is an opportunity to set the record straight.
But remember, reviews mean little if your business isn’t doing the very best it can. You can be pushing wherever and whenever possible, but if you don’t back it up with product and service excellence, then you’re wasting your time. Positives will quickly turn to negative and your star rating will tumble.
This post was written by Karen Dauncey of Blue Cherry Online Marketing.