Venting in a newspaper used to be the closest a customer could get to leaving a bad review of a local business. Nowadays, there are ample opportunities for customers to sound off, be it via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and increasingly, through online reviews. The review rating is one of many ranking factors Google uses within its algorithm, so it’s not to be ignored. The better the rating the more chance of ranking higher in web search or map results. But if this isn’t reason enough, here are five reasons why local businesses shouldn’t be ignoring the online review opportunity…
- Google is hedging its bets on online reviews, and Google is usually right!
Google is doing all that it can to boost the prominence of online reviews, which are now more visible to searchers following the recent redesign of the Google Maps interface. Additionally, it has just announced changes to its ‘Local Guides’ programme, which sits within Google Maps and encourages the direct contribution of user reviews. These changes include new incentives to write online reviews, and are aimed at broadening participation and the types of content collected. In a blog post, Google says, “you can earn points and level up by writing reviews, uploading photos, adding new places, fixing outdated information, and answering simple questions. Each contribution type is worth one point, so you can earn up to five points per place.” So not only is Google doing more to encourage consumers to write reviews, but it is also inviting them to correct local business information.
- Consumer trust in online reviews has never been higher
It might surprise you that 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Furthermore, according to market research specialist iPerceptions, 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews. Additionally, consumer reviews are nearly 12 times more trusted than descriptions that come from manufacturers, according to a survey of US internet users by online video review site EXPO. The volume of reviews customers are reading is also on the increase, with many reviewing a minimum of five before they put their trust in a local business. The amount of faith a customer has in online reviews is now almost equal to a recommendation from a trusted friend.
- Customers need coaxing into writing positive online reviews
A recent poll by AYTM Market Research found that few consumers actually post local business reviews. Nearly three-quarters of US internet users said they had never posted a review of a business on Yelp or a similar site, while 16% had only done so once or twice, and just 10.5% many times. This represents a missed opportunity. In coming months, we are likely to see local businesses doing more to encourage customers to write and publish reviews, and particularly when they’ve received a positive experience. It’s crucial the review process is a simple one, to help with up-take. Remaining in dialogue with a customer, once they have made a purchase, and encouraging them to leave their feedback on the product or service, is one of the most popular tactics currently being used. Without reviews, businesses are at risk of having no reputation signals, or worse, having one single, scathing review, visible in the local search listing.
- Businesses can turn a negative online review into a positive
A local business needs a healthy balance of positive and negative online reviews. Recent stats from Reevoo suggest that the presence of bad reviews actually improves conversions by 67%. Additionally, 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see any negative opinions on the page. However, negative local reviews can damage a brand perception at a national level, if they are not addressed properly. For example, recent research from Lightspeed found that between one and three bad online reviews would be enough to deter the majority (67%) of shoppers from purchasing a product or service. Private eye hospital Optegra targets a high-value customer online. The services it offers are ones that individuals tend to research heavily online before booking a consultation, particularly via trusted online reviews. For a business of this sort, carefully managing online reviews is crucial to business success. So when Optegra experienced a couple of negative online reviews, relating to personal experiences within their hospitals, these could have proven detrimental. Luckily, with our support, it was able to respond quickly, stressing the quality of its Class A surgeons, and resolve the matter before it escalated. After seeing a brand response to a review, 71% of consumers change their perception of the brand, according to data from Bazaarvoice.
- Online reviews can have a direct impact on your bottom line
According to Reevoo, reviews produce on average 18% uplift in sales. Additionally, 50 or more reviews per product can mean a 4.6% increase in conversion rates. Site visitors who interact with both reviews and customer questions and answers are 105% more likely to purchase while visiting, and spend 11% more than visitors who don’t interact with UGC, according to Bazaarvoice. Also, mobile shoppers who view customer content such as reviews show a 133% higher conversion rate. So with online reviews we’re no longer just talking about business reputation. Getting online reviews right can also make a significant difference to sales for a local business. If you’re a multi-location business, tools such as our Local Presence Management (LPM) can help to take out some of the leg work of tracking and managing online reviews.