While digital has become the marketing strategy of choice for businesses today, this does not mean that word of mouth is obsolete. Word of mouth still remains a powerful tool for marketing a business, and with the interconnected network of digital channels at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever for customers to tell others about their best (and worst) experiences. Online reviews are today’s word of mouth marketing, and they can make or break your business.
Crowd-sourced online review sites like Yelp, Google Maps, and TripAdvisor (among others) play a crucial role in determining the success of businesses. Your potential, current, and loyal customers are using them daily to make their decisions. Why?
Online reviews have also become incredibly easy to find, thanks to search engines, mobile apps, and the addition of review features onto popular platforms like Facebook.
In many cases, reviews for a business become visible to consumers before they even click a link. For example, a regular Google search for “bathroom remodeling” yields the following local results. As you can see, the ratings for each business are included in the results:
Sometimes results will even include a snippet from a customer review. Once again, this is before you even click on a result.
Making positive information about your business available online isn’t the only benefit of reviews. Read on to learn more ways that reviews can help in your marketing efforts.
Popular online review sites like Yelp and Trip Advisor have been around for a long time and have extensive databases of information. Search engines like Google give favor to sites with a presence like this, so it’s not uncommon for a small business’s Yelp or even Facebook page to rank higher in search results than its actual website.
Even if your company page doesn’t rank, your company name might still show up as part of a list. For example, a search for “plumbing Boston” yields the below results. As you can see, businesses like South End plumbing, Gomes Plumbing, and Boston Budget Plumbing get first-page exposure simply because they have positive online reviews on these sites.
This is perhaps the biggest factor in the importance of online reviews. The more reviews you can get on sites like Yelp, Angie’s List, and TripAdvisor, the higher the chances of your business showing up on the first page of Google.
Review sites and online directories have evolved into extensive platforms that aggregate a wide range of data from multiple sources. With so much information, these sites have become more credible to consumers than reviews from professional critics. In fact, roughly 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations! That’s huge. As such, consumers aren’t just stumbling upon online reviews in their online endeavors; many are intentionally heading to directories and review sites to scope out the businesses that are right for their needs and make purchasing decisions.
Prospective buyers look at star ratings, the total number of reviews, and basic business info. After that, they start looking at individual reviews to learn what to expect from a business and whether or not they should use their services. Overwhelmingly positive comments on a nearby dentist? Worth a call. Lots of similar bad experiences with service at a restaurant downtown? Not worth visiting.
To understand just how much online reviews can impact a business, let’s look at Yelp specifically. On Yelp, each review contains a whole star rating, and the average is rounded to the nearest half star (so a restaurant with a 3.24 average is shown with 3 stars, while 3.26 becomes a 3.5-star average). This matters, because that extra half-star will cause a restaurant to be fully booked 19% more often!
So how do you get that extra nudge to bump up to the next star level? Collect as many reviews as you can, but also monitor and respond to all of your reviews. Here are some blog posts that will help you in these areas:
How to Ask Customers for Reviews
How to Get More Online Reviews
How to Protect Your Online Reputation
How to Respond to Negative Reviews
Reputation Management Best Practices
By actively monitoring and responding to online reviews, you can influence the decisions of prospective customers and turn your online reputation into an asset for your business.
There will always be negative reviews and you can’t please everyone, but that’s okay! Having balanced reviews makes your business look legitimate, and consistent, quality responses to reviews will show you care about your customers.
If you do your best to provide excellent service, good reviews will outweigh the bad ones and your business’ review pages will be a useful tool for prospective customers to find you.
While we don’t know what the future has in store for review sites, we do know that they’ll continue to play an instrumental role in attracting (or scaring off) new customers. Online reviews and review sites are only gaining more and more traction in the world of digital marketing, so take advantage of the opportunities they provide and start actively working on your online reputation today.