One of the curious things about human beings is that we can use something in our personal lives without realizing how important it is to our professional lives. Like 90% of the customers out there, you’ve probably read online reviews when choosing a restaurant or shopping for a product or service. But have you considered how vital online reviews are to your business? Here’s a bit of trivia: Yelp! users post about 26,000 reviews a minute. The tiniest fraction of that is still significant exposure for your business. Let’s talk a bit more about why reviews matter, and how to get them.
Why Online Reviews Matter
Online reviews do the heavy lifting for you. Most consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, so while Yelp!, Facebook, and Google might feel big and impersonal to you, they forge connections for your business. Star ratings are the most important factor, since they’re so easy to see at a glance. 94% of customers would use a business with a 4 star rating, while only 14% would do business with a 1 or 2 star business. While customers do read reviews, 40% of those surveyed make decisions after reading only 1-3.
Reviews don’t just affect customers’ attitudes toward businesses. They yield results. Almost 50% of those surveyed visit a company’s website after reading positive reviews, and 23% of them will actually visit the premises. Reviews bring in real leads and conversions.
Online reviews also help your rankings in search engines. Google gives high priority to reviews for local businesses, using them to account for about 10% of your search ranking. For this reason, and because customers look for reviews, if you don’t have any your site will actually be harder to find. This is easy to demonstrate. Just search for something like “granite countertops.” You’ll see Google’s Shopping results on the right-hand side of the page, with star ratings if available. You might also see a map of your area in the results, with a list of pinned businesses below it. Click one, and a window will pop up with a Review Summary featured front and center.
So, how do you get good online reviews?
Well, this is the tricky part. While Google encourages you to remind customers to leave reviews, some sites, particularly Yelp!, frown on soliciting reviews. They’ve even created algorithms to detect an abnormal number of positive reviews, to ensure you don’t use incentives and promotions to artificially drive up your numbers. Yelp! wants reviews to be organic and spontaneous, because they believe this offers the best information to their readers.
Your goal should not be to spur a stampede of incentivized reviews, but to make it as easy as possible for customers to leave authentic ones. It’s fairly easy to get Google and Yelp! stickers that advertise the option to leave a review. Post them where they’ll be highly visible, and if a customer asks about them, take the opportunity to briefly explain how positive reviews benefit small businesses. Remember, star ratings, the easiest reviews to give, carry a lot of weight with customers, and smartphones make it easy for them to follow through. You can also put a link in your email signature that takes customers to a review site’s online form. You might be surprised how many of them are not making the connection between the online reviews they read and their ability to leave one for you. Sometimes they just need a nudge.
Consider using email automation to invite recent customers to review your business after a service has been rendered or product has been purchased. Make it as easy as possible for customers to get from the email to the review site you wish them to use. While it’s nice to get reviews in a variety of places, don’t overwhelm customers by asking for too much. Choose one or two review sites that are most relevant to your business and then include a direct link to that site. If you are an interior designer, that’s probably Houzz. If you are a custom t-shirt company, that’s probably Facebook.
One last note: if you’ve been holding off on encouraging reviews because you’re afraid of the potential consequences of a bad one, relax. Believe it or not, 95% of consumers think something is fishy if they don’t see any bad reviews at all. Most people understand that every business has an occasional unhappy customer. In fact, most sites allow you to respond to reviews, so in the event that a disgruntled customer posts, you can step in and resolve the problem, demonstrating your excellent customer service skills! You deserve every opportunity to showcase your talents, so don’t be shy. Educate your customers, and keep an eye on those reviews.