It’s always good when people say nice things about you, but in business, it is not just good, but important to your brand’s visibility and ability to engage with consumers and turn them into qualified leads. Contrary to the Oscar Wilde quote that there is only one thing worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about, in the world of digital marketing, being talked about is pretty much essential to business growth.
Creating a stellar online presence with optimised web pages and an effective lead generation and conversion strategy is one thing, but if nobody says anything about your business, if nobody passes on their experience of dealing with you or availing of your products or services, you are at a major disadvantage.
Online customer reviews are so important for several reasons. Apart from showing consumers that like-minded individuals have dealt with you and gained a positive user experience, which leads them to believe they can enjoy this too, those reviews also play a significant part in SEO and your business or brand’s position in search engine rankings.
As with most things in digital marketing, the answer to the question of why online reviews are so important, is to some extent: ‘Because Google says so.’
For some, that is reason enough, but let’s take a look at why this is so.
Firstly, online reviews are thought to make up around 10% of the factors that determine search result rankings, according to the Local Search Ranking Factors Survey from Moz. Google (and the others) want to return the best possible value in the results they bring up for a query or search, so their algorithms are built to detect the messaging around a brand and assess its suitability accordingly.
The more reviews you have, the better your ranking in search. Negative reviews are not to be feared here. Just as not being talked about is considered the worst state by Oscar Wilde, it is worth noting that in order to be talked about, your brand must at least be in the mind of the consumer, which is preferable to them being oblivious to you.
Another major reason why online reviews are so important is that consumers are increasingly influenced by the recommendations of others, and are far more likely to try your brand if they have seen positive reviews of it, whether you sell high-end technology to the financial sector, or pizza from a van.
In an online world of information overload, it is hard for consumers to sift through all that content to find what is most relevant and suitable to them, but to get a nudge in the right direction by other consumers helps to narrow down the search.
Reviews are also a trusted form of content that consumers put a great deal of stock in – far more than they do with paid for content or advertising, which is often brand-heavy and doesn’t necessarily give an indication of how the brand can help a consumer overcome a challenge or offer a solution. The consumer doesn’t care if you consider yourself the best in your industry. All they want to know is if you can provide the solutions they need.
As a simple example, a business owner looking to buy a software package for his office could search for days through the countless different products and services on offer, trawling through various business websites that all claim to have the best of everything he or she needs. But what is more likely to influence that person? A website that claims to have the greatest software packages around, detailing all the bells and whistles they can offer, or a few reviews from peers that say, ‘I found this company really great to deal with and they gave me exactly what I needed’ or ‘My life is so much easier now I have this product/service’? It’s probably the latter.
This is why so many people read online reviews (some 85% of online consumers, according to a BrightLocal survey, of whom 74% say positive reviews make them trust a business more).
It's also important to note that the lead conversion rate when it comes to online reviews is remarkably fast, because consumers who are reading reviews are more likely to have read up on what they need, and are quite far down the buyer’s journey. The decision to buy comes almost immediately after reading positive reviews as a result, so getting a good online reputation is obviously essential to business success.
As this shopify article details, about 67% of consumers will read six reviews or fewer before they form an opinion, and that opinion is formed fast, followed by even quicker action.
Another great reason to encourage user reviews is that they are so well-suited to social media. After all, social platforms are essentially places where people share their experiences and opinions, and a nice mention on Twitter, Facebook or elsewhere can only do good in getting your brand’s name out there.
Online reviews on your website should be taken advantage of, promoted through your own social media platforms to spread the good word, but you should also adopt a policy of replying to comments or reviews about your brand that appear elsewhere. The more mentions you get out there, the better it is for your business, (Google Alerts is a handy service that lets you know when your business has been mentioned online) and the more you engage with consumers to comment on their reviews or citations, thanking and rewarding them, showing a human side to your business that is willing to go the extra mile, the higher your lead generation and conversion rate.
Negative reviews are not necessarily a bad thing either - remember what we said about it being better than not being talked about at all – and handling them properly can turn a negative into a real positive.
Rather than bemoaning the unfairness of what a consumer has said about you, take a proactive approach and come to the problem mentioned with an open mind, looking at it as an opportunity to engage with your market and show them how you can provide the solution they need or the fix to their dissatisfaction, while taking on board the feedback to review internally what you can do to provide a better user experience in future.
So how do you go about getting those online reviews that will help influence your market to go to you rather than the competition?
This article from BSquared gives three quickfire ways to boost your online reputation, mentioning ratings and reviews, customer or client testimonials, and certifications. Let’s take a look at what these involve.
Firstly, if a client or customer has just bought a product or service from you, don’t be afraid to jump right in there and ask for a review or rating. If you have delivered a really good service that meets client needs, approach them when they are still basking in the glory of an improved business process or an increase in sales, and keep that customer satisfied. Don’t let them get to the ‘what have you done for me lately?’ stage, when the wow factor may have diminished, before asking for their feedback.
This is also true for testimonials. If a client or customer is happy to give a testimonial in praise of your product or service, highlight the fact that you met their requirements and have left them happy by posting it on your site for all to see, and promote the fact across social media. Wear those testimonials like a badge of honour on your website!
Speaking of badges, if you have acquired highly-prized certifications relevant to your industry or sector, show them off. Affiliations, qualifications and certifications help to build trust in your abilities and position you as a leader. If your clients or customers include high-profile companies (and if they agree to it), show off the fact that they trust you to deliver for them by showing their logo amongst the businesses you have worked with.
The main thing to take away from this is that online reviews can make a significant difference in your brand’s visibility and in influencing consumer purchasing decisions. Whether it’s through higher results in search or the power of online recommendations, online reviews need to be part of your overall content strategy, and if handled correctly, will help your business to gain more customers who will (hopefully) be happy to add further to your positive review section.
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