Accelerate your business with online reviews
Online reviews can have a big impact on your business. First, they can drive awareness for your business (as well as traffic to your site) resulting in more leads. Second, good online reviews build your credibility and equity which leads to higher conversion rates. In fact, a Reevoo study found that online reviews can lead to an 18% increase in sales.
Over time, more and more customers are reading and valuing online reviews. In fact, According to a survey by BrightLocal, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendations. And, many customers google “reviews for XYZ company” or “reviews for XYZ category” before visiting your site, or before calling you or choosing your product/service.
Online retailers such as Amazon have been leveraging reviews for years. It works. And, you can make it work for your small business.
Online reviews usually work best when they are found on other 3rd party sites, as they are seen as more credible. Which do you trust more – online reviews on a review site or a testimonial page on the owners’ website?
And, very importantly, when you have more reviews (and good reviews), you will often rank higher on the review sites and the higher chance your site ranking on google’s local 3 pack (i.e. get an additional and higher placement for local searches).
- 10 Ways to leverage online reviews
- Ways to get more reviews
- How to address negative reviews (and how they can help your business)
- The SEO importance of online reviews
So here are 10 places you can leverage online reviews.
10 Ways to leverage online reviews to accelerate your business
- Google My business (previously google places and other names).
If you have to choose just one place to get reviews, this would be my top choice. First, customers use google all the time, so you should be on there. Second, this can really help get you good (and multiple) placements on searches. Third, getting more and better reviews on here increases your chances of being included in the google’s local 3 pack. They usually include stars for the reviews, so it increases click through rates, too.
This above picture shows an example of the google 3 pack. For this search, my company is showing up #2. The #1 result literally uses the name of the keyword search in their name (Westchester Hardwood Flooring), but they don’t have any reviews vs. our listing has 5 stars and 13 reviews, so it leads to a higher click through rate and higher credibility.
Yelp is one of the top review sites. And, yes, many business owners have a love/hate relationship with them. But, like it or not, many customers use this site, so you are better off using it as well as making sure your customers write reviews for you. If not, you’re missing out on a large business opportunity.
Yes, Yelp has an algorithm that will hide some of the reviews (the ones that they believe may be fake…e.g. often reviews from accounts that only have 1 review are suppressed) as well as anomalies of review flow (e.g. if you have a whole slew of reviews all at once. But, this is all the more reason to get a regular flow of reviews on there.
Anecdotally, I will tell you we’ve been seeing more and more customers over the last 3 years from Yelp (for my flooring business). And, many of these customer are great customers.
Don’t expect all of your reviews to be positive. See below on how some negative reviews can actually help your business and advice for responding to bad reviews.
Most businesses have review sites for their industry and they will vary based on type of business. Here are some examples:
- Angie’s List (for home improvement contractors as well as doctors/dentists). Only members can leave reviews and they are each screened. Reviews can’t be anonymous, so that cuts down on fake or misleading reviews. You can sign up for free, but generally, your business will be more successful if you pay for advertising here and have many good reviews. They sort the searches by paid advertisers, followed by those w/ more A reviews. This is a bit of a higher end site.
- Home Advisors (formerly Service Magic) – For home improvement contractors. Here, you pay by the lead (regardless of whether you reach them or not). Those with better reviews are more likely to be called by customers.
- Zillow (for real estate). Many realtors pay monthly fees and they’ll get leads based on the zipcode(s) purchased. There are also many real estate agents that don’t pay and simply get leads based on how many reviews they have. The reviews build up their credibility.
- Trip Advisor (for travel, hotel, airline, restaurant, entertainment)
- Houzz.com (for decorating/designing, architecture, home improvement contractors). They have a review section, and we’ve had a few customers find us there. I believe that their algorithm favors those with more reviews and more pictures (and possibly better pictures help as more people may include them in their idea books). I believe that they are also offering paid advertising, too, but I’m not sure how successful this has been for companies.
Yes, many don’t realize that your customers can leave reviews on Facebook. Make sure you have a Facebook Page (as opposed to just a personal page) and then allow/encourage your customers to leave reviews on your business page in the review section.
On LinkedIn, you can get (and give) endorsements. I know a mortgage broker who has received hundreds of endorsments from his clients. He instructs new contacts/potential clients to go to his LinkedIn acct (and connect if they’d like) and read his reviews.
They are impressed when they see hundreds of them. After all, he must be doing something right if he has over 100 endorsements. (I mean seriously, it’s easy to get 5-10 endorsements, but 100+?). Then, they read the reviews and they are even more impressed. They are raving endorsements, full with how he has helped them and advised them…it makes him look like a super hero.
Then, after he has helped the new client, he asks them if they would be willing to write a review. So, his numbers keep climbing.
Bonus Tip: He connects with many of his clients and this helps keep his name top of mind and makes it easy for his clients to find him, recommend him and link to him. He publishes daily blog post and updates again keeping high top of mind awareness among his clients and sphere of influence.
6. Yahoo Local Listings
This is similar to Google My business, but it’s for the people that use Yahoo as their primary search engine.
7. Bing Places
Not only do people search on Bing, but Bing also aggregates reviews from other online sources.
8. Share your 5 star reviews on social media
Now, when you get a great 5 Star (or A) review, think about how you can leverage that so more people see it. You could add it as one of your status updates on social media (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) or even it share it on your blog. Be careful to write this tactfully so it doesn’t sound like you are bragging too much. And, make sure you intersperse with other types of updates, so you don’t have a wall of reviews on your page.
9. Enable customer reviews on your own website.
Add a page (or section) on your site where customers can leave a review. You can use a wordpress plugin such as Rich Reviews that will make this easy. It will visually show the stars and it provides rich snippets which in turn will often show the stars in the search results. This can lead higher click through rates.
By the way, if you’d like to start your own website (either for your business or personal use), follow my article on this simple 3 step process to start a website on your own. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is (and you can do it very inexpensively…in fact, close to free).
10. Local Directories
Many towns and counties have local directories for local businesses. Go to google and do a search for “town XYZ directory” or “local businesses in town XYZ” and see what comes up. Some may be free and others may require a small one time or yearly cost. Also, there is CitySearch.com and MerchantCircle.com where you can add your business for free.
Sometimes, some of the local magazines and newspapers also have local directories where you can get your listing. Some allow reviews as well, so check these out in your local market.
Be sure to register your business on these sites, both to make sure the info is accurate and to link back to your website.
Oh, and here’s a FREE local directory that I created on one of my websites. Feel free to enter in your business info here, regardless of your area of the country.
Do you have other suggestions on where to add online reviews? Please leave me a comment if you do.
How to get more reviews
- Just ask. Ask your customers when you see them or call them.
- Email your customers/send email reminders. Make it as easy as possible for them and link to the page where they can write the review. Don’t make them search for your company.
- Include this in your email newsletter. Again, make it easy and link to the place where they can leave the review.
- Provide free samples or trial services. Then, encourage people to write reviews. (Note: this works on some products/services, but not all).
- Ask for reviews on your website’s product or services pages. Make it easy.
IMPORTANT: Don’t pay for reviews or offer bribes to write reviews. This is against the terms and services of most review sites. Also, recognize that many third party sites have algorithms to try to sort out/hide fake reviews or out of the ordinary patterns (e.g. if you get a flood of reviews all at once, or you have many reviews from newly opened accounts). So, just make reviews part of your everyday process and make sure it’s done on a regular and gradual basis. (And, it also looks better if you are getting consistent reviews over time, including more recent ones).
Having a mix of good and bad reviews can help conversions
Yes, of course you want lots of good reviews. But, having some bad reviews is normal (after all, no one is perfect…and most people get this). It’s often surprising to most businesses that having a few bad reviews can actually help you (provided that the majority of reviews are positive).
A blend of good reviews and bad reviews shows that you aren’t trying to hide anything, and importantly it makes the good reviews seem more sincere and credible. No one has a perfect report card. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. And, if you have hundreds of perfect reviews, and no bad reviews, it makes customers suspicious. Savvy consumers realize that reviews can be faked.
A Reevoo study found that 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad reviews. And, 30% suspect faked reviews (or even censorship) when they don’t see any negative reviews.
As a business owner, it’s important to monitor your reviews and respond to them. Be quick and proactive. Often, a bad review can be neutralized by the owner’s response. It shows that the owner cares and takes pride in their business, and importantly that they are paying attention. It also allows you to explain what you did to remedy the situation.
When responding to a bad review, be sure to respond objectively (and not emotionally). Remember your audience…you are writing to for potential new customers. Getting personal and criticizing the reviewer will generally hurt your credibility. Instead, focus on what you did and/or will do in the future to make things better. Show empathy and compassion.
Bonus Tip: If you’ve received a really bad review, in addition to responding professionally to it, see if you can have some of your happy customers write some good reviews for you, both to lower the bad review and to improve your overall average.
SEO impact of online reviews
Of course, the primary purpose for online reviews is to help the customer and guide them to good products and services. But, let’s not forget that there are also some SEO (search engine optimization) benefits for online reviews.
- First, you are creating more unique and fresh content for the search engines. Google and other search engines like unique content. It can help your site’s authority and help with more long tail searches. Since it creates more useful information for your customer, it can help your page rank higher.
- Second, it can help you rank higher for “Product (or service) XYZ” + “reviews.” You may get multiple placements on the search engine results and you are more likely to have your page rank higher.
- Third, reviews can lead to higher click through rates, especially if they are formatted correctly. Some review plugins or rich snippets show the 5 stars in the search results, and that is both eye catching and compelling, so more people click on those results. Some studies have shown that this can lead to 10-20% higher click through rates.
So there you have it. 10 ways to leverage online reviews. Do you have additional suggestions? Feel free to leave a comment below. And, now it’s time to implement. Choose 1-2 areas to register on and start getting reviews from your customers. Or, choose 1-2 areas where you want to accelerate reviews.
Other useful articles:
- How to create a wordpress website for close to free
- 35 Ways to create more repeat business
- 8 Insider Pinterest Tips to drive more traffic to your website
- Marketing Resources I recommend
- How to build a successful marketing plan
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10 Ways to leverage online reviews to accelerate your business