What’s one of the most important assets your business has? Your reputation.

And we’ve all seen how quickly a good name can be smeared in the online world. With one bad incident, the news can be filled with stories for months at a time. And depending on the size of your business, it can be difficult to overcome.

Reputation is everything. That’s why it’s important to listen to everything your customers have to say. Whether they tweet, talk about you in a Facebook post, post a picture on Instagram, or give you a review, it’s your job to know what’s being said.

Think about how you’ve changed your own shopping behavior since the development of online reviews.

Head over to Airbnb, for example. As you search through the homes in the city you’re about to visit, you compare two properties with similar amenities. One has one great review; the other has one hundred. Which will you more likely sign up for?

Or do a quick search for a plumber for a little handiwork around your home. Are you more likely to hire the one where you see “outstanding, he’s the best” over and over again, or one where you can’t find anything being said?

A recent survey by Podium suggests that 93 percent of all shoppers state that online reviews do influence their purchasing decisions. What’s more, 60 percent of consumers actively look at online reviews for the products and services they are looking for each week.

That makes online reviews an important part of the sales process.

Not All Review are Equal - happy, sad & neutral faces

Online reviews are important for a number of reasons:

First, they aid in consumer purchasing decisions.

Second, they help improve your ranking in local search engines. Remember how we’ve talked about Google loving relevant content in other posts? Online reviews are a part of that content. And if you have them, Google knows and rewards you for it.

Digital Marketing CTA reading "Find out how DMG can help your business today!" with "Lets Start" buttonThird, they also help control what search results show when people look for your business. Google ranks what people want to see. And anymore, it knows search results are an important part of the process. If you have more reviews, they are more likely to surface when people search for you.

Not All Reviews Are Equal

As a business owner, we’d like to think we could fill the internet with positive reviews about what we do. We’d love to see more reviews that say “I love you” and push aside the ones that say anything bad.

Positive reviews good. Negative reviews bad.

But we can’t control what’s being said about us online. And deep down inside, we know there is no way we’re ever going to get a positive review from everyone. Every business has its raving fans. Every business has the occasional problem. It’s business.

Today, smart devices are in everyone’s hands, every minute of the day. By the time they start looking for reviews, they are well into the purchasing process. They’ve already figures out what they need and where to go to get it. So moving to a review site is simply another notch in the process. It confirms what a consumer already knows; they’re making a well-informed decision.

The critical thing to note that the time between reading a review and clicking “buy” is a ridiculously short period of time. The customer knows what they want. They just need a little confirmation they’re doing the right thing.

So they click. And read. And read again. Studies show a customer needs about seven reviews before trusting a business.

Woman looking at online reviews on phone.

Why Online Reviews Matter

Review websites are in the business of providing consumers with as much information as they need to make an informed decision. They allow people to add content, rank their satisfaction, and provide honest feedback. Some also give a chance for the business owner to respond.

According to MOZ’s Local Finder Ranking Factors, search results also make up about 13 percent of how Google decides to rank search results.

Google does this because it’s a way to give business websites the recognition they deserve if they’re well liked in their community. They know legitimate reviews are the cornerstone to reputation. And if a business is well loved by the community at large, they should be rewarded.

How To Get More Online Reviews

Before you sit down and create a strategy to get more online reviews, it’s important to understand where you should push your best customers to leave a review. There are different platforms based on your industry. To find which are best, head to Google and search “[industry] reviews”. Look at the URLs for the first few ranked search results to see what the industry leaders are using.

The other thing you can do is mouse over some of the search results for the competitors within your category. A knowledge panel will pop up for each, giving you information about the company. Included in that information is a review summary. Search through the results and you’ll discover where the search results come from. You can use this information to start directing your own strategy.
Online Reviews Helping a Business - Screenshot

One thing to note is there are two different strategies for displaying online reviews. Some review platforms keep all of their reviews exclusively on their own platforms, while others syndicate the information back into the search engines. Both can impact your business rankings, yet both will be displayed in slightly different ways.

Policies and Procedures - Play By The Rules

Play By The Rules

It’s also important to note that every review site has their own set of rules. Break them and it can hurt your ranking, your reputation, even the way your business is viewed online. For example, Yelp strictly forbids a business from soliciting online reviews. Break this rule and you’ll pay the price. Yet other review sites don’t have a problem with it.

The important thing is to know the difference. Here are a few guidelines to get you started.

Google
Yelp
Angie’s List
CitySearch

How is your online reputation being handled? Do you have a plan for the way your customers perceive you online, from a basic search all the way through customer retention years into the future? If not, maybe now is the time to make it happen. Start with local listings and planning your online marketing strategy today.

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