Everything you want to know about online reviews — and then some
Online reviews are playing an increasing role in both search engine visibility and in customer buying behavior. We’ve written about this recently in terms of the value of online reviews for small businesses.
Thanks to some research by the folks at WebsiteBuilder.org, the following infographic compiles lots of the latest information about the value of online reviews.
Do you have trouble getting online reviews?
Getting good online reviews isn’t as easy as it sounds. People who are unhappy are super-motivated to leave a nasty review while people who are happy … are just happy. Often they aren’t particularly motivated to give a review.
We’re all pretty aware that bad reviews online hurt. But do good ones really help? And is the risk of a bad review worth encouraging customers to write reviews?
We’ll try to answer those questions here.
Yelp is perhaps the most prominent online review site, so we’ll be focusing on that here. Understand that most of what follows is generalizable to other review sites as well. Don’t dismiss the value of reviews at Google My Business, Facebook, SuperPages, Merchant Circle, EZlocal and more.
People trust online reviews
The first thing to understand is that, as Search Engine Land has found, 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from family and friends. Positive reviews do drive business your way.
What about bad reviews?
Obviously, that’s a double-edged sword because bad reviews can hurt. But good reviews can help a lot, so is it worth ricking an occasional bad review by asking customers to review you? Absolutely! For one thing, if all your reviews are 5-star reviews, people may view them with some suspicion. But if you’ve got one or two mediocre reviews, they lend credibility to your good ones. Beyond that, there are ways to turn a bad review into positive feelings about your company. We explain in a post entitled How to Handle Bad Online Reviews.
And there’s even more good news about Yelp customer reviews.
The benefit of good Yelp business reviews helps small individual businesses but doesn’t make much difference for chains. In the case of restaurants, an improvement in Yelp business reviews helped independent restaurants but made little or no difference to chains like Subway or Applebee’s.
Most small businesses struggle to compete with larger competitors. It’s good to know that Yelp reviews can help level the playing field. Online customer reviews are valuable, but we now have evidence of the impact Yelp reviews, in particular, can have on your small business.
How important are online reviews to your small business?
Whether or not you have online customer reviews can make or break your online visibility and also affect your conversion rate.
According to a survey by BrightLocal, nearly 9 out of 10 consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from family and friends. That may be surprising to you, considering those reviews are probably posted by complete strangers. Nevertheless, your own experience and that of your friends and family almost certainly bears this out.
This means that if a client comes across a favorable review of your business online, this can be just as effective as having one of their friends personally recommend your business to them. … It’s been known for a while that businesses [that] are rated positively are more likely to rank for relevant search terms
88% of customers sought and trusted online reviews in 2014.
Online reviews increase your search rankings
Not only do consumers read and trust online reviews — they actually help you to rank higher in Google, Yahoo & Bing. The state of your reviews online ranks 5th among the most important search ranking factors according to Entrepreneur Magazine. As you probably know, showing up in the Local Pack is like gold for a local business. It’s been reported recently that Google’s “Local Pack”is now filtering out businesses with fewer than 4 stars. If you have problematic reviews, the best remedy is to encourage more delighted customers to review you.
… getting reviewed on as many sites as you can will help your business. … If you’re not encouraging your customers to write reviews of your business online, you’re missing out on a great way to gain perspective [sic0000000000] customers’ trust and get them to try your business.
Only 10% of people ignored online reviews in 2014.
Forbes says that as online reviews increase in importance and more of your competitors start doing more to encourage customer reviews, your involvement is only going to become more important.
Search Engine Land pointed out that only 1 in 10 consumers ignored online reviews in 2014 (down from 12% in 2013). The trend is clear from the chart above: this percentage is decreasing each year.
Online reviews improve your conversion rate
Having more reviews online will also give you a higher conversion rate according to Forbes. Your conversion rate is the number of people who convert from being visitors on your site to being actual paying customers. Note that even if your reviews aren’t all good, they still help. As counter-intuitive as that may seem, bad reviews can have a positive effect on your conversion rate. A blend of good reviews and bad reviews shows that you aren’t trying to hide anything, and makes the good reviews seem more sincere. And if you respond to bad reviews positively, that can leave a very favorable impression of you. You might want to check out our advice for dealing with bad reviews.
Sites which host reviews include Google, Facebook, Merchant Circle, Yelp, Show Me Local, and many more. The more reviews you have on these sites, and assuming you average 4 stars or better, the more likely you are to show up in Google’s Local Pack.
Those are referred to as “third-party reviews” because they appear on websites that you don’t own. First party reviews are reviews that show up on your own website. You may think that reviews on your own site would be viewed with a certain degree of suspicion, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. First party reviews do actively contribute toward better search rankings.
It’s possible to format reviews on your website with special markup that allows Google to display the stars from your own site when you show up in search results. Your reviews and stars might even show up in the large site profile at the top right of search results in Google when people search for your name. So it’s a good idea to enable customer reviews on your own website.
Clearly there’s an advantage for you to encourage reviews from delighted customers. Don’t offer incentives for reviews, but make it as easy as possible for people to review you.
We have a program that makes it particularly easy to encourage customer reviews. It can also spread them out so that they are balanced across third-party sites and your own website.
If you have a local business where you interact on a face-to-face basis with your customers, local SEO is important to you. Even if you don’t have a storefront where people physically come to your location, if your customers are local you need local SEO.
If your service occurs at a customer’s home or business, they are still likely to search for you in their town, county, or using a “near me” search. Examples might be “plumber near me” or “landscaper in Morris County”.
There are three factors that control how prominently you appear when cusOKtomers do a search like that:
The strength of your standard SEO
The number and consistency of citations of your name, address & phone (NAP) across the web
Your proximity to the person doing the search
The first item is what most people think of when they want to show up prominently in the search engines. And that’s certainly important. There’s not much you or we can do about the third item, of course. But what’s often overlooked is the importance of citations.
Don’t overlook your citations
A citation is simply a mention of your company on the web. It can be in local search engines, directories, apps, maps, or other websites that may be recommending you. For purposes of local SEO, the important citations are those that include your NAP.
There are a number of places where you can check to see how widely your citations appear on the web. One simple way to do that is to do a Google search of your company name, street address, city and state. Another way is to run a scan of local sites here or here.
There are, of course obvious large sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and others. There are also many smaller sites that are important as well. The more broadly search engines find your NAP, the more highly you are likely to rank in the search results.
Unless you’ve been actively building your citations across the web, you’re probably missing from many of the sites that search engines check. If you run a scan from one of the links above, you may find that you’re missing from quite a few of them. You can go to those websites and enter or claim your listing and update your NAP and other information manually.
You may also find citations that list bad phone numbers, old addresses, or confusing variations on your company name. Those inconsistencies cost you some trust with the search engines. If you ask a bunch of friends about a particular restaurant, and you get three different addresses, two different names for the restaurant, and more than one phone number, you’re not really sure which is right. The same applies to the search engines. So if you find inconsistencies among your citations, you should work to get them fixed. Search Engine Land recently reported that inconsistency of your citatinos is the #1 issue affecting your local rankings and whether you show up in Google’s Local Stack.
Once you have fixed inconsistent citations, your work isn’t over. Most of these sites on the web periodically re-synchronize their information from whatever sources they got it from in the first place. So even if you have corrected your address, for example, in two or three months the site may resynchronize with its sources and bring back the old address. It can start to feel like a game of Whack-a-Mole.
Local citation subscriptions
One solution for that problem is to subscribe to a citation management service like Moz Local or Yext PowerListings. These and similar services typically provide a dashboard for you to enter your NAP and other information which they then synchronize across a variety of local search engines, directories, maps & apps. Yext PowerListings goes one step further with a programming interface to each of those sites to lock in your information so that even when one of those websites goes back to their original source to synchronize their data, your information cannot change.
Fair disclosure: Rank Magic is a partner with Yext PowerListings. But if you’ve become frustrated with lousy local rankings or with the challenges of maintaining wide and consistent citations, we can help. Give us a call, if only to discuss your situation and see what we can suggest you try.
Share with us your experience getting and keeping good citations in the comments below.
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Do you think spending time on social media is wasted?
If so, it’s time to think again. The way customers interact with small business has changed dramatically over the years. They now want to interact and engage with small businesses digitally. That means they are looking to connect on social media, probably using their mobile devices. It is important that you deliver on this type of experience.
Search Engine Land talks about social media & ranking in search results. They explain that social signals are ranking factors as search engines determine how to leverage our social interaction and behavior. Social Reputation relates to the authority of the social sites with mentions of you and links to your web pages. Social Shares relates to having social mentions and links in a variety of authoritative social sites; they provide a list of some of the most powerful ones.
Every business needs to have a presence on social media. Whether you are just someone selling your crafts on Etsy or a well established business with employees, social media should play an integral part in your marketing efforts.