In today’s digital world, the online presence of any business is a priority. You build a website, you include customer testimonials, you create social media profiles, you regularly update your Google business listing. However, your online reputation isn’t just the result of what you generate on your end—it’s all instances in which your business appears online, including online reviews. With the prevalence and power of online review sites like Yelp, Google+, and Angie’s List, it is essential to understand the impact they have on your business, and how you can use reviews to strengthen your company’s reputation online.
Online Customer Reviews
Online customer reviews serve to highlight—positively or negatively—various aspects of your business, including products, services, purchase interactions or customer support engagements.
Online customer reviews are found in a number of different places, including but not limited to:
• General search engines that provide local results, such as Google or Yahoo
• Directory sites such as Yelp and YP.com
• Niche sites such as TripAdvisor for travelers and UrbanSpoon for restaurants
• Paid review sites like Angie’s List
• Social media sites like Facebook
While these sites contain direct reviews and star ratings, there are other forms of online reviews, such as
• Third party blog posts and articles
• Comments on your business blog
• Social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram
• Comments on your social media posts
The Power of Online Reviews
Not only are online customer reviews widespread across the web, they are widely used by internet users to make decisions. According to recent statistics, 90% of consumers read online reviews, and 88% of them trust online reviews when considering a business. This means that by not having online reviews, you are denying 88% of your potential customers the information they consider important for making a purchase!
The power of online reviews is further apparent through additional stats from the study above. For example, 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more. In addition, customers are likely to spend 31% more on a business with excellent reviews. However, 86% of consumers will decide against buying from you if they read negative reviews about you online.
You’ve probably seen the power of online reviews yourself. In addition to review scores, you’ll notice that many reviews show up in search results for your business. In fact, reviews often show up in results pages before users even get to your website!
Yelp is another indicator of the power of online reviews. Any business owner who has had a negative Yelp review knows how hard it can be for your rating to bounce back. According to the study above, a one-star increase on Yelp leads a to a 5-9% increase in business revenue, and one negative review can cost you 30 customers. In addition, a Yelp page will sometimes rank higher than a company’s actual site on a search engine results page.
Negative Online Reviews
No one likes a bad review, and as a business owner, you want to maintain a positive online reputation through these reviews. Unfortunately, miscommunications and mistakes happen, and at some point you’ll get a negative online review. So what can you do?
Negative online reviews are less than ideal, but they are not the end of the world. If you know how to respond to negative reviews, you can mitigate the damage they incur and in some cases, benefit from them! In response to a thorough follow up to a negative online review, for example, an unhappy customer may remove that review, edit it, or replace it with a positive one on the follow up interaction.
Benefits of Online Reviews
Positive reviews are great for business, but they do more than just make your business look good. Here are some additional benefits of online reviews that will have you crossing your fingers for the next positive review to come in!
Promote the Positive
You can say all you want about the value of your own business, but nothing is more credible than the approval of an actual customer. In addition, you can share positive reviews on your website and across social channels, amplifying their effect. Cross promotion of online reviews is a useful way to save you time and money in your marketing, and gives you additional information to include on your business website.
Provide Insight into Services
External review sites are not only a highly trusted source of information, they tend to generate reviews on businesses as a whole, rather than just a specific product or service. With online reviews, customers can learn not just about your offerings, but also about what the experience of engaging with your business is like—which can help to set you apart from your competitors.
Another benefit of online reviews is that they give customers the ability to highlight aspects of your service that make you stand out above the competition. Online reviews often mention things that you might not have noticed yourself or thought to highlight to customers. This could be anything—a singing dentist who puts patients at ease, the accommodating tour guide who provides bottles of water, or the plumber with a funny painting on his truck. The little things that matter to customers can stand out in online reviews.
Convey Your Personality
In addition to providing insight into your services, online reviews can also benefit your business by shedding light on your brand’s personality. As mentioned earlier, how you respond to a review has just as much of an impact as the review itself, whether that review is positive or negative. Online reviews are opportunities to show your personality to the public. If you consistently take care of unhappy customers and express gratitude for positive reviews, you can convey your brand personality and show that you care about your customers.
If a business has a wealth of positive reviews and not a single negative mention in site, users may actually become suspicious. It is a universal truth that because everyone is different, you can rarely satisfy everyone. If your business has a few negative reviews in the mix, don’t sweat it. The negative reviews show that you have nothing to hide, and make the positive reviews more sincere. A balanced mix of online reviews benefit your business by adding elements of truth and transparency to your business reputation, which are likely to aid with customer trust.
Google pulls data from external online review sites for its search result quality. Therefore, the more positive reviews you have on these sites, the better your rankings will be in organic search results.
Online reviews today extend far beyond just customer testimonials on your website. With the increasing number of websites, platforms, and directories, and the growing interconnectivity of these applications, it is more important than ever to monitor and manage your online reputation. With a balance of prevention, maintenance and response tactics, you can leverage the power of online reviews for growing your business.