What are the benefits and pitfalls of Online Reviews?

online reviews
Online Review Research Data

There are several reasons why online reviews help local businesses to increase their sales.

  1. Assist prospective customers with their buying decision
  2. Gain a better understanding of their Customers
  3. Create Social Proof
  4. Improve Online Visibility
  5. Increase Trust
  6. Improve Publicity

Assist Buying Decision

Reviews are an increasingly natural part of the buying decision and their absence in the face of competition is likely to be seen as negative. If you have no competition and no reviews it may not make much difference. If your competitors show good reviews in search results, it is much more likely that people will choose to buy from them. Online Reviews are a driving force behind most of the purchases that are made these days, both online and in-store. More than ever people are researching products and businesses before they use them, and having no customer reviews online can be just as bad as having negative reviews.

Improve Understanding of Your Customer

Feedback is the lifeblood of any business and vital even if it doesn’t result in an online review being published. It is essential to monitor your reviews if only to obtain that vital feedback. If you have a sophisticated review management system in place, you may be actively seeking feedback and reviews from every customer. Regardless, you cannot afford to ignore what customers are saying about your business online.

Online Reviews create Social Proof

Reviews on independent review sites are much more credible than words on your own website. They provide powerful social proof about a business which can help search engines. They can also reinforce the benefit of “content” if the reviewer uses keywords to describe their experience.

Improve Online Visibility

Whereas there used to be just a few sites where customers could leave reviews, today there are many Review Sites. Some are specific to a niche, such as TripAdvisor in the hospitality niche. Google tracks third party review sites and shows some of them in their Knowledge Graph. Users may come across your business anywhere and if there are reviews or recommendations when they do then your business will benefit. If you can show review snippets in search results that will improve your online visibility. Showing review ratings in the search results is an example of Structured Data.

Online Reviews Increase Trust

As the graphic at the top of this article states “84% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends or family.” There is nothing more powerful for sales than a personal recommendation from someone you trust. Research shows that online reviews are trusted by most consumers as much as recommendations from friends or family. That is a powerful benefit of online reviews.

They Can Improve Publicity

Online reviews are very powerful messages and some businesses use them in Press Releases. Others will send copies of them (usually a screenshot) out on social media as a means of publicising them. Left alone they may not improve publicity but they ammunition that smart businesses can use to their advantage.

Ask for Online Reviews

In order to get reviews, all businesses have to do is ask their customers. Research shows that 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review if asked to do so. There is no doubt that a recent review carries more weight than an old review and so there should be a constant flow of new reviews.

One of the pitfalls is if you are in a niche where some consumers think they can take advantage of you by leaving a bad review. The best way to deal with that is to have an easy process for customers to leave feedback and to be responsive. In a restaurant, for instance, the mechanism may be to ask for verbal feedback but it is important to respond well to any criticism. Failure to do so may result in a poor online review.

Getting reviews needs to be consistent and we have systems that can help businesses that struggle with that aspect of the review process. Business owners need continuously to make sure new positive reviews are being added and publicised. This is both to keep them up to date for users and to assist their search engine page rank.

Respond to Online Reviews

It is also important to respond to reviews as that shows “engagement” which will help with ranking. Quite apart from the ranking benefit, businesses responding to reviews will come across as more caring and friendly.

All businesses have a marketing funnel with a wide top of prospective customers and a narrow bottom of the most loyal customers. Businesses should utilise their loyal customers by getting reviews that will attract new customers into the top of their funnel.

About MyLocal

We work with your website designer to improve your ability to be found in Google and other search engines. Also, to look good wherever you may appear online. We specialise in local SEO and most of our work is off-site. But there may need to be some on-site work undertaken by your webmaster to complement what we do. If you would be interested in finding out more, please use the Contact Form on our website.

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