Many people once relied almost exclusively on word-of-mouth and face-to-face recommendations to determine whether a business was worth its salt or not. Now, we’re all living in a world where online customer reviews are an incredibly popular, massively powerful medium for consumers to share sentiments and help determine the fame and fortune of small businesses.
You’re already aware of the “incredibly popular” part, as you undoubtedly come across some form of online customer reviews for various products, services and enterprises daily. However, you likely haven’t taken the time to consider how often people pay any mind to these reviews, or what tangible effects they have on your business. Just how powerful are these reviews?
Do People Even Pay Attention to Online Customer Reviews?
Sorry to be abrupt, but we wanted to make a point. Online customer reviews are indeed a powerful resource that affect consumer sentiment. Let’s look at a few facts and figures:
– In a 2014 consumer usage and attitudes questionnaire, BrightLocal gathered consumer sentiment toward the potency of online customer reviews for the fourth year running. The questionnaire (“Local Consumer Review Survey”) they conducted found that nearly 90% of study participants read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business. This number was up from the previous year (88% versus 85% in 2013).
– The same survey determined that 85% of consumers read up to 10 reviews of a single local business to educate themselves on the merits of the business’s services.
– BrightLocal’s survey also found that a startlingly high 39% utilize online customer reviews to gauge the quality of a business on a regular basis.
– Yelp!, one of the biggest players in the online review business, commissioned a Nielsen survey that found four out of five of their users head straight to Yelp! to check out a business prior to making a purchase.
Where Do Online Customer Reviews Show Up? Are They on Google?
The above are some pretty convincing numbers, but they wouldn’t matter much if existing reviews weren’t easy to find online.
Yelp! has become a name synonymous with business reviews and personal recommendations, and it’s incredibly easy to visit the site and type in a business to collect intel from consumers. What’s more, businesses don’t have any ability to prune unwanted reviews, which is why consumers enjoy Yelp! so much.
But Google’s the key here, right? Will positive (and negative) reviews show up purely when doing a Google search for your business? They can. Even if the search engine user in question doesn’t search using the term “reviews,” just typing in your business may bring up reviews under its Google business listing on the right side of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). There is a link under your business listing that allows users to immediately add reviews, and these added reviews will show up whenever someone searches for your business.
Additionally, anytime someone leaves a Google+ review of your business the review will automatically be pulled and listed under your business listing on the SERP, too.
Do Online Customer Reviews Directly Affect My Google Ranking?
They certainly do. While it’s difficult to currently determine the effect online customer reviews have on search engine optimization rankings overall, we do know that when performing a local search a user is first presented with matching businesses that have received many good reviews. The more highly-ranked online customer reviews your small business has received, the higher up among local businesses it’s likely to be listed.
This also applies to Google Maps. When searching directly within Google Maps, results are fed back to the user based on the “highest-rated shops nearby.” If you’re not highly-rated, your small business won’t be joining the party here. The same applies when a Google user performs a Google search on their mobile device, as well. Highly-rated businesses will be receiving the billing.
What Can I Do to Improve My Online Customer Reviews?
Responding to both negative and positive online customer reviews — and regularly communicating with customers and potential customers via social media and blogging — can lead to improved reviews for your business. This is highly dependent on understanding how to engage with your audience and how to incorporate the correct “tone” in your social media content and communication.
Read inBLOOM’s 5 Tips To Take When Responding to Negative Reviews for some expert advice.
Handle your reviews with compassion and brand integrity, no matter how upsetting the situation might be. Responding to reviews is a great way to learn from and build goodwill with your most vocal customers and brand ambassadors. Reviews are also important, as noted above, for increasing your visibility on search engines.