Most local business owners are aware that positive online reviews are good for business, but over the years, I’ve realized many aren’t aware of just how much they can impact it. Today’s consumers are increasingly relying on reviews to make decisions about the products and services they purchase, in fact:
- 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 92% of buyers regularly or occasionally rely on reviews when making a local buying decision
Building up reviews of your business is a great way to offer third-party proof that your company does what it says it does and that your customers are happy and willing to talk about it. In fact, reviews have become even more important now that local search directories like Google and Yelp! have made them a foundational element for ranking well in local search.
And, it’s only going to more important – according to MOZ annual survey of local ranking factors for search, links and reviews are now receiving increased emphasis. Bonus points for reviews with keywords.
Getting reviews on a regular basis takes a proactive and committed approach if you are going to generate them authentically and consistently.
Why reviews are important
With all the scams out there these days, people want to be reassured when they’re searching for products and services online that they’re getting the value they’re looking for. They’re looking for a reason to choose you over the competition, so you need to give them one.
Traditional SEO tactics can get you to the top of search engine results pages, but online reviews will help you seal the deal.
In essence, online reviews are modern day referrals, so having a plethora of them readily available for your audience to see is a great way to stand out from your competitors. No matter what you do for marketing, people will always trust what is said about you more than what is said by you.
How to get reviews
Reviews are harder to get than they should be, even if you have raving fans. The key to getting reviews for your business is to be proactive and to make it easy to build a review funnel. Below is a pretty simple process that I follow and recommend for clients who are trying to get reviews.
- Create a template email to ask for reviews.
- Review websites sometimes filter reviews submitted by customers on the spot (based on IP address), so you need to diversify your review solicitation strategy. A great way to follow up and reach out to customers is via email.
- Use a tool like Grade.us or GetFiveStars
- Add links to your Google My Business and Yelp profiles on the sidebar of 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 (again, making it as easy as possible for them to leave a review for you).
Lastly, as a good rule of thumb, consider writing reviews to get reviews. What I mean is that you can actually build your brand online by giving reviews to companies within your partner and referral networks because what helps them will, in turn, help you. I’d recommend starting with Google and Linkedin, as I’ve found those are great places for getting reciprocal reviews.
Where to build your online review presence
While you need positive reviews for social proof, you also need them for your local SEO efforts. Google factors review activity as one of the elements that help determine what businesses show up in the 3-pack, which is something you shouldn’t ignore.
To really make an impact I recommend getting reviews on Google My Business, Facebook, and Yelp. In fact, for Google My Business, you must have at least 5 reviews for Google to display the review stars as a highlighting feature of local results. In addition, if there are any local review sites for your industry, be sure to build them up there as well. For example, if you’re a remodeling contractor in the Kansas City area, you’d want to get good reviews on HomeAdvisor. If you’re a lawyer, Avvo would probably be a good bet.
Additionally, anytime someone writes a “top 10” post or something similar for your type of business in your area, you want to be on it.
Managing your reputation
It’s not enough to simply set up your review funnel and let it work for you in the background. You must be mindful of what people are saying about you and you must be present. Below are a few good rules of thumb to follow:
1. Never write, buy, or encourage fake reviews! Unfortunately, there are businesses out there that do this, but it is important that you aren’t one of them.
2. Always engage with the people who review you, whether their comments are positive or negative. For positive comments, be sure to thank them as it may encourage them to leave additional reviews in the future. For negative comments, address the issue in a professional manner and recommend the person gives you a call to work everything out. This shows your audience that you care and are respectful even with negative reviews, but you can take the rest of the conversation offline.
3. Don’t panic over negative reviews. They happen. Just remember to take the high road.
4. Detailed reviews containing keywords that are relevant to your business are more valuable than one-liners. See if you can get your customers to leave detailed reviews as to why their experience was so great.
Hidden benefits of reviews
You don’t hear about these a lot but I’ve found these two benefits to be extremely important for businesses.
Reviews are a great way to come up with your company’s messaging. Within reviews, people often include what they really appreciate about your business, which can be a great way to find themes. Once themes are identified, be sure to include them in your messaging.
One of my clients consistently saw “showed up on time and cleaned up job site” in their reviews, so we made it one of their core messages.
In addition to messaging, reviews can be great for problems solving. If you’re stuck in a rut or aren’t hitting the goals you’d like to be hitting, see if you can identify the reason in user reviews. If they are unhappy with something, perhaps fixing the complaint will help solve your problem.
Bottom line, if you want your business to be successful in today’s world, you can’t ignore the numerous benefits of receiving online reviews. If this isn’t something you’ve started giving a lot of attention to, it’s time you start.