The importance of online reviews for SMBs
The famous saying goes that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. Even the Eiffel Tower has a few ‘terrible’ reviews on TripAdvisor.
So, with this being the case why would a business open itself up to potential criticism through online reviews?
Actually, there are several powerful reasons why SMBs should be actively encouraging online reviews.
In this post we’ll look into the benefits of online reviews, the most powerful review sites, tips for getting happy customers to write reviews about your business, and how to manage reviews.
What are the benefits of online reviews?
We’ve cherry-picked four of the most persuasive reasons why businesses should offer online reviews.
It’s thought that 93 per cent of consumers now read online reviews when considering whether to buy a product or use the services of local businesses. So, if your organisation doesn’t have online reviews, there’s a chance that potential new customers could overlook your business in favour of a brand that does offer online reviews.
In its Local Consumer Review Survey, digital marketing company Bright Local carried out an experiment that looked into the way online reviews linked to customer trust.
It concluded that 85 per cent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
Another study by Expo Communications found that consumer reviews were nearly 12 times more trusted than descriptions of products or services that came from manufacturers themselves.
In 2017 Search Engine Journal ran an article with the headline ‘Reviews are the Most Prominent Local SEO Ranking Factor in 2017’.
In the piece, it explained: “Reviews appear to be the most prominent ranking factor in local search, helping businesses rank well even if they have low-quality link profiles.”
The Competition and Markets Authority estimates that £23 billion of UK consumer spending is potentially influenced by online reviews every year.
A study by Cornel, into the impact of reviews within the hospitality sector, also found that an increase of one star in a hotel’s average rating on a major review site allowed the hotel to charge 11 per cent more without losing custom or market share.
An experiment by Bright Local, meanwhile, found that consumers were 12 per cent more likely to contact a business if it had reviews on its homepage, compared to one that did not.
Bright Local also found that having a five-star rating earnt a business 39 per cent more clicks from Google Local than having a one-star rating.
Where do I start with getting online reviews for my business?
There are two titans when it comes to online reviews – Google and Facebook.
Google My Business
Google makes it a piece of cake to set up online reviews. You just need to visit the Google My Business home page and fill in details like your business name, address, category, phone number and website. You’ll then be asked to verify your connections to your business and you’re up and running.
Google encourages Google My Business users to update their account on a regular basis with seasonal opening hours and new photos. Google will also send you an alert when a customer leaves a review so you can respond.
In summer 2018 Facebook carried out a series of updates to its business pages, swapping reviews for recommendations.
Visitors to the review sections of business Facebook pages are now asked whether they would recommend a business and given a yes or no option. They can choose to add a written comment to their recommendation, plus they’re given a list of keywords to auto input, to both inspire their review and to make it faster to complete.
To set up reviews on Facebook you need to ensure you have a business page, with your address added, then you can activate the recommendations section by simply going into the settings area of your page.
How can I get my customers to write online reviews?
Say it with signs
Somewhat ironically, the quest for online reviews starts offline. If you have a brick and mortar business that your customers physically visit, you can put up little reminders to ask customers to leave reviews. You could also hand out cards at the till and train your staff to ask customers to go online to recommend your business.
On the Facebook front, it can help to encourage customers to check-in to your business, because Facebook will usually follow up their check-in activity automatically with a little alert asking them to rate their visit.
Ask via email
Another option is to send an automatic email to customers after they have made a purchase with you, asking them to leave you a little review.
Tips on reviews best practice
Reviews work harder in terms of SEO when they contain keywords. Of course, you will never be able to control what your customers write, but you can encourage them to drop a keyword into their reviews by mentioning the keyword in your request for review signage. For example, put up a little sign in your coffee shop saying… “Think we’re the bee’s knees? Help us create more of a buzz. Recommend us on Facebook. Don’t forget to mention our Red Velvet cake!”
In Spring 2018 SEO experts Moz claimed that responding to reviews had gone from being an ‘extra’ that businesses offered to being expected. In its article, it also quoted research that suggested that consumers now expect a reply to reviews within three days.
A recent survey by GatherUp found that 57 per cent of complaints to companies revolve around employee behaviour and poor customer service, as opposed to product quality.
Simply ensuring your customer-facing team are receiving the support they need to deliver great customer service will help you in your quest to perform well in online reviews.
It can also help to make it easy for your customers to complain to you directly. Often negative reviews are cries for help from customers. They just want to be heard. If you offer a complaints hotline or text number then your customer is less likely to seek a resolution of their complaint through a review site.
Don’t panic over the odd negative review
According to digital experts Social B, 68 per cent of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30 per cent suspect censorship when they don’t see any negative opinions among the reviews they read.
When a customer leaves a negative review, refer back to the responses section of this blog and reply to the customer as speedily as possible.
Take all of the above on board and you could see genuine rises in customer loyalty, sales and engagement.