Towards the end of last year, we wrote about the growing importance of online customer reviews, and stressed why it was a crucial business opportunity, not to be missed. The review rating is one of many ranking factors Google uses within its algorithm: the better the rating the more chance of ranking higher in web search or map results, and consequently being seen. According to Nielsen’s latest biennial Global Survey of Trust in Advertising, which polled 30,000 online respondents in 60 countries, personal recommendation (trusted to some degree by 81% of UK respondents) remains the most trusted form of advertising or communication, with the credibility gap widening between it and other formats. It now stands alone as the only format trusted by more than 60% of UK respondents. ‘Consumer opinions online’ (58%) is now the second most trusted format (up from fourth two years ago). But for one reason or another, many businesses continue to host online testimonials and reviews within their own website. The truth is, it’s an outdated approach, which the majority of consumers no longer want to see. The original purpose of a testimonials page made sense until a few years ago, when people were researching and consuming information in a linear fashion. But the way that customers search for information has changed, and they want to read honest, unbiased reviews on third-party sites. Testimonial pages, in the eyes of today’s consumers, lack authenticity and trust. Generally speaking, testimonial pages are a place for businesses to showcase their glowing reviews, with the poor ones rarely seeing the light of day. The chances are that if your business has a testimonials page, its traffic figures will have steadily declined so much over the past couple of years, that is probably just gathering dust.
What to do instead?
Far better than a testimonials page, is to set up a ‘reviews’ section within your website, containing external links to trusted third party sites where customers can read about your business and quality of service. It’s important to make sure links open in a new browser tab, so that you aren’t pushing customers away from your website. It makes sense to place Google at the top of the list, since these reviews are the most visible within search, and generally what people want to see. Below this, link to other vertical directories that will be of interest to your customers. So for example, if you’re in the travel, hotel, airline, entertainment, or restaurant industries, TripAdvisor is a ‘must’. The key to a successful profile on TripAdvisor is making it as close to the top of its popularity index as possible, so that people searching for information in a specific place see your listing. According to TripAdvisor, the popularity ranking algorithm is based on three key components: quantity, quality, and age of reviews (with recent reviews carrying more weight). Yahoo! Local Listings are also worth including, receiving approximately 10% of market share still. YouTube can is also an influential review channel in some markets, such as fashion and beauty, and so if your customers are choosing to create video reviews, you can add these videos to your channel as Favourites, and link to your channel within your ‘reviews’ page. For other ideas and inspiration, Hubspot has put together a useful roundup of ‘19 Online Review Sites for Collecting Business and Product Reviews’.
Control where your customers go to leave their reviews
Get into the habit of following up with customers, once they’ve used your business or service, and invite them to write an honest review. The beauty of this approach is that you can be directing customers to the site where you would prefer them to leave a review. So if you have no or few Google reviews, that should be the obvious destination to begin with. Once you have accrued enough positive reviews on Google, you can then begin to diversify, and offer customers a choice of review websites to use. If you are looking to build your Facebook profile, for example, you could encourage fans to leave reviews there.
Let your customers do the talking
When given the right context, customer testimonials are an immensely powerful trust signal. But increasingly customers lack faith in reviews ‘published’ by the brand directly, and so ensuring you have authentic customer reviews available on third-party sites, which you’re signposting potential customers to, will ensure they have what they need in their research and decision-making process.