The Power of Online Reviews for your Business

Over the last few years, online reviews, or rather the popularity of online reviews, has grown by a significant amount. The fact that this rise in popularity pretty much coincides with the rise of mobile search and search in general for finding businesses and services, is no coincidence.

Reviews have the power to influence whole groups of people, helping them decide where to take their business whether that is purchasing a service, a specific item or even in deciding where to go and eat.

The fact is, aside from being extremely useful in providing information and need-to-know details about the business that the searcher is looking for, people also just love to read review. It really is as simple as that. Reviews can provide entertainment value all on their own, but they are still helping people to form opinions about your brand and business.

A research study in 2015 concluded that 90% of people will consult online reviews before even visiting a business, much less buy something from one. If this little fact doesn't convince you that business, especially small business, need online reviews then consider the fact that 88% of people consider an online review to be just as important as a personal recommendation.

Both positive and negative reviews can have a huge impact on the popularity and success of a given business, its products and its services. Naturally, this also has an impact on product and brand awareness, sales and conversion rates.

Online Reviews Affect Search Engine Rankings

Online reviews are trusted, powerful and they should be a part of your marketing and SEO strategy. Yes, online reviews do have value when it comes to search engine optimization for your website.

You see, online reviews are not only helpful when it comes to influencing the decisions of those that have found your business, they can also help people find you in the first place. Digital reviews can have a large impact on the search engine rankings for your website, and this is true for all search engines and not just Google.

In the case of Google, and it should be noted that the search giant has neither confirmed nor denied this, data would suggest that online reviews will, more likely than not, increase the visibility of your business and have it rank higher than similar business that do not have any reviews.

Reviews Affect Small and Offline Business Too

In the face of the evidence presented above, there are small businesses out here, offline businesses in particular, that seem fairly oblivious to the whole online reviews ‘thing’. Many of them are of the opinion that because they have an existing base of local customers, anything that is happening online is irrelevant - even if it relates to them and their business.

The fact of the matter is, reviews and opinions that are posted to services such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Google and Facebook can mean the difference between success, getting by and even total failure. Any business will naturally favor the first of these three options so recognizing the importance and the power of online reviews is crucial.

online reviews

Figure 1 Which business do you trust more?

Are No Reviews Better Than Negative Reviews?

It is abundantly clear that great reviews are going to help your business immeasurably, but it is equally understood that negative reviews are going to have the opposite effect on the bottom line of a business. Is that the worst case scenario though, that you have have a few terrible reviews (even if they are wholly undeserved)? You would think so, but perhaps not quite.

Imagine you are searching for a particular service provider, and three appear on the first page of the search results. One has a great reviews, the second has a few negative reviews and the third has none at all. Chances are pretty good that you will automatically fix on the first, because of the great reviews.

If the first isn’t available, for whatever reason, then you are most likely to opt for the second over the third, warts and all. Why? A few negative reviews mixed in with a few positive reviews pale in comparison to a business that people care so little about they couldn’t even take the time to pen a review.

Of course, it could just be that yours is a new business that just hasn’t attracted reviews yet - not every buyer leaves a review in much the same way that not every visitor converts into a buyer.

On the search side though, it just looks bad no matter what the actual story. Sadly there is nothing that can be done about that, short of asking for reviews.

The point is, having no reviews can be as damaging as negative reviews and can even sometimes cost you even more. Customers should always be encouraged to leave reviews is the takeaway here, just be careful about you ask since offering something in return for favorable reviews is frowned upon by search engines.

How to Ask Your Customers for That All Powerful Review

Getting a happy customer to  leave you a review may seem a little daunting, you may even be thinking “what if they think I’m being pushy or rude?”, but there is nothing wrong with asking, so long as you do it in the right way.

Email marketing is a proven way to increase sales, and emails can be a great way to grab reviews too. When a customer has made a purchase you will have gathered, presumably, their email address. Use this to reach out to them with a review request.

The subject line could read something like, “review your xyz purchase and enter our prize draw”, where ‘xyx’ is your business name. Details of the prize draw can make up the actual email, with a big CTR at the button restating the subject line incentive.

This approach relies on orders already processed, you are not asking for their business or even repeat business. Softer approaches such as this are highly effective review gathering methods. Although you are offering something for a review, it is not tangible - there is no promise of compensation, just an entry into something where the result is totally random. Under Google’s review gathering rules, this approach is perfectly legitimate.

You can also use various available reputation management platforms such as Brightlocal.

One method which I have implemented on client websites is to stick a review display form on their website. Which displays both the clients reviews on their website to help increase conversions and a link to take them directly to Google reviews. Various other plugins exists for other platforms too such as Yelp, trustpilot etc.

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Figure 2 Leave a review Form

Online reviews are more powerful now in 2017 than they have ever been since their conception, and they are likely to be just as important, if not more so, next year. If yours is a bricks and mortar business with no online presence, and you would prefer it to succeed rather than ‘get by’, then you need, at the very least, a presence with review sites.