For consumers, the development of review sites such as Google+ for Business, Citysearch, Insider Pages, and Yelp have largely been a great development. It’s easy to quickly find out about the quality of service or products at a specific store or restaurant. It’s also simple to vent your frustrations with a bad customer service experience or give praise for exceptional service. But the impact of customer reviews on your business is significant because they carry a lot of influence and many business owners are unclear how to make the most of this trend. Here’s what you need to know about why reviews matter for your search engine rankings and your bottom line, and how you can develop a strategy to put customer reviews to work for you.
At the local level, customers frequently check reviews for stores, restaurants, bars, and services that they’ve never tried before. One study estimates that 90% of consumers will visit a review site before making a purchase. The impact for businesses is major because you no longer directly control the messaging that a majority of your prospective customers sees before you have a chance to market to them. In fact, after the all-important optimization work it takes to get your business to rank on the first page of searches, reviews are the second most important factor in turning potential customers into converted customers. And more customers translates to more revenue. Therefore, it’s essential that you encourage happy and returning customers to leave a positive review on relevant sites.
How often are you getting reviews online? The frequency of reviews is an important factor in how Google views you. A business with a regular stream of reviews on a site such as Google is likely to be seen as more credible than one that gets an occasional review. How recent reviews are also matters. Older content is weighted less than reviews posted in the last few months, so getting reviews online needs to be an ongoing focus of your business. Finally, Google is able to measure the sentiment of reviews. Did the reviewer love your business or did he or she hate it? The key here isn’t just that Google may penalize you for bad reviews (although they may, as the algorithm continues to develop). It’s also hard to control which reviews show up earliest in the search results for your business – so prospective customers may see negative reviews before glowing ones. That’s why a review strategy is imperative for your business.
It’s never okay to purchase reviews or post fake reviews of your business. Google’s sophisticated algorithm is able to quickly ferret out fake reviews, and you can face serious penalties for doing so including being banned from Google. Instead, focus on using a proactive ethical approach to capture all the benefits of genuine customer reviews.
Reviews are playing an increasingly important role in local SEO and in expanding a business’s customer base. Companies that are working to get the attention of local customers can make significant progress by paying attention to reviews and encouraging happy customers to post on their behalf. A smart review strategy is an ongoing component of building positive word-of-mouth for your business.