Online reviews: an often feared expression, spoken in hushed whispers among businesses, lest their patrons hear them utter it and unleash their wrath in the form of “constructive criticism.” Jokes aside, online reviews can be a powerful tool both for helping or hurting a business. What your customers are saying about your business can have a direct impact on your reputation, your income, and even your search engine rankings, which is why it’s important to pay attention to online reviews. Your SEO marketing should rely on leveraging online reviews to your business advantage.
The direct impact of reviews, both good and bad, is incredibly important, and if you aren’t paying attention to how your business is being portrayed online, then you’re making a massive mistake. Shoppers listen to reviews. More than 90 percent of shoppers have said that their decision on whether or not to purchase something from a business is influenced by online reviews. This means that if you’re only getting bad reviews, you could be losing out on over 90 percent of your potential online business.
But online reviews don’t only affect the purchasing decisions of consumers. They can also directly affect your rankings on local search platforms, and whether or not the first search results for your business are positive or negative. Online reviews are as important, if not more important for your local SEO as on-site optimisation or back links. Online reviews can also provide you with a jumping-off point for local SEO, or they can help you strengthen your existing strategy.
How can you take advantage of online reviews for SEO, and prevent them from destroying your online business? First, we’ll need to take a look at why reviews are so important for your business. Knowing exactly how reviews affect your business, and why they affect your business can go a long way towards helping you understand how to properly leverage them for your benefit while improving your online reputation.
Since the advent of online reviews, they’ve become a critical part of the average consumer’s purchasing cycle. This also means that they’ve become a critical factor that businesses need to consider in their marketing and SEO strategies.
Generally, when consumers begin reading online reviews, either via a dedicated review site, Facebook, Instagram or your product pages, they already know exactly what product or service they’re looking for, and what they want in a business that can fulfil their needs. This means that the consumer already knows what they want, they’re just looking for reviews to confirm that the business they’re looking into can provide it to them in a satisfactory manner.
This means that reviews are often the deciding factor on whether or not a consumer will make a purchase. After reading reviews, a consumer will usually make a yes or no decision about their purchase immediately. If you’re a smaller business, your reputation online can influence your revenue directly, and a bad reputation can severely hamper your sales.
But exactly how influential are good, or bad, reviews? According to a recent survey, more than 80 percent of consumers stated that they trusted online reviews of a business exactly as much as they would trust a personal recommendation from either their friends or family. This means that online reviews of your business can directly affect your online sales by over 80 percent, which is an absolutely massive amount.
Reviews also affect how consumers interact with your business. Consumers who read positive reviews about your business are actually less likely to visit your website, but they’re far more likely to directly contact you via e-mail, phone, or personal visit. This means that your direct web traffic may not see as much of a boost due to positive reviews as you might expect, but that you’ll still be getting more business overall.
Online Reviews Have a Profound Effect on Local SEO
So, now that it’s clear exactly how online reviews affect the purchase decisions of consumers and direct web traffic, we need to take a look at how reviews, both positive and negative can work to directly affect your website’s local search engine optimization.
Local search engines will prioritize reviews. The reason they do this is simple: consumers like to read reviews, and search engines specialize in giving consumers exactly the results that they want.
Review websites will almost always come up before your own website when people are looking for reviews, and that’s because they’re in the business of providing reviews, and are trusted sources. Review sites thrive on reviews and work tirelessly to provide consumers with exactly the information they’re looking for. Trusted review sites attract more traffic, which lets them gather more reviews and gain more trust, then the cycle repeats. This makes reviews sites, unsurprisingly, the number one source for reviews, and the most trusted by consumers.
Reviews are not the only factor in your local SEO though. In fact, they only make up 10 percent of your ranking on average. However, 10 percent is more than it sounds like. It can be the difference between the first and second page of results, or the first and second rank on the first page.
Reviews are not the most important aspect of your SEO, but they are still important. A balanced small business SEO strategy will take advantage of every edge it can, and reviews can provide just the edge your site needs to go from unnoticed to immediately noticeable on the search page.
How You Can Get More Online Reviews
So, you know that reviews are important for your SEO, but how can you get more reviews in order to help your SEO and online reputation? The first step towards utilizing the full potential of online reviews is crafting a robust review acquisition strategy. A good agency should have the acquisition of reviews in their SEO services. There are a few steps you’ll need to take in order to do this.
Handouts and Requests
One of the best ways to get reviews is, perhaps unsurprisingly, to ask for them. Creating a physical or digital handout asking your customers to review your service or leave feedback can be an effective tool for increasing the number of reviews that you garner, and will also allow you to more effectively control which sites you’re getting reviewed on.
If you’re an Amazon or eBay seller, you should link to your review profiles on those services, as well as a list of all the different sites that you’d like customers to use when reviewing you. Training your staff to ask for feedback or reviews when a customer is being checked out can also increase the number of reviews you get. However, in any case, it’s important not to push reviews too heavily on your consumers, otherwise, they might be more likely to either leave a bad review or just not do business with you anymore.
Picking Sites to Suit Your Business
When you’re creating your strategy for acquiring reviews, it’s important to think about which review websites and platforms will work best for your needs. For example, if most of your business is done through Amazon or eBay, an external review site won’t have as much impact as your ratings on those platforms.
However, if you run your own online storefront, or if you have a physical location, it’s important that you find out which review sites have the largest impact on your type of business. To find out what the big names are in your industry, just search for the name of your industry, followed by “reviews.” This should give you a good indication of which review sites you want to target, depending on which ones show up on the first page. You’ll want to repeat the process for multiple search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. While most people use Google, it’s never a bad idea to check with other search engines, as they still maintain a significant user-base.
On Google, you can also find additional review sites by hovering your mouse over the top results for your search. Two arrows will show up and will allow you to open the business’s knowledge panel. From there, you can see more sites listed under their “more reviews” section.
Following Review Site Rules
Finally, before taking advantage of a review site, make sure that you’ve read their rules and familiarized yourself with their terms of service. Not following these rules may get your business stricken from their site, which can hurt your SEO as well as your reputation.
One example of these rules is the fact that Yelp forbids small businesses from asking for online reviews. They can and will act against your business if they find that you are soliciting Yelp reviews. Many other platforms don’t have this rule. But it’s always better to make sure you’re abiding by the website’s guidelines before asking for reviews.
Managing Your Online Reputation
So, you’ve got your handouts ready, you’ve found the review sites that you want to focus on, and you’ve made sure that everything you’re doing is within the terms of those sites. You know how to get reviews, but now for the hard part: getting positive reviews and dealing with negative ones.
Probably the most important aspect of dealing with reviews is managing your reputation. Bad reviews can lead to a steep drop in business, whereas good reviews can help you reach the top. In order to make sure you don’t miss any news or reviews on your business, it may be wise to set up an alert to notify you if your business is mentioned online. A service such as Google Alerts can help you with that. Once you’re in the know about your business’s reputation, you can begin taking a more active stance in your online reputation.
Getting positive reviews is challenging, but it’s not complex. If you’re running an honest business that cares about its customers and provides a high quality of service and well-made products, you’ll get good reviews. However, even the best business gets a negative review on occasion, and how you deal with negative reviews can greatly affect your reputation and the type of reviews you get in the future.
Dealing With Negative Reviews
When you get a negative review, the absolute worst thing you can do is get angry about it or ask for it to be taken down. This will only portray you in a bad light and will hurt you in the long run. More often than not, a review site will side with the reviewer regardless. The best way to deal with negative reviews is to take a more understanding approach and to take it as a criticism.
A review doesn’t have to be a permanent blemish on your reputation, and, indeed, you can even make your negative reviews into positive customer experiences. One mistake you can make is to ignore the review. Ignoring it makes the consumer feel like their concerns don’t matter, and they’ll be far less likely to change their mind about your business.
You should always address negative reviews in a conversational manner. Your job here is to defuse the situation, address their concerns, find a way to make up for their bad experience, and highlight the positive aspects of your business or of other reviews.
One of the absolute best things you can do to handle a negative review is to use it internally. For example, if a customer is complaining about bad customer service, a lousy return policy or bad wait times, you should take that criticism and use it as a tool to help you improve your business and address the root of the issue.
Addressing reviews both directly and through your business decisions can be an excellent way to improve your business, let your consumers know that you care about their experience, and defuse negative reviews, perhaps even making a negative review into one that reflects well on your business and earns you loyal customers.
After reading this article, we hope that you see the immense potential in both positive and negative online reviews, not only for SEO, web traffic, direct sales, and reputation but also as a tool for taking feedback and using it to improve your business strategies. With this information, you should be able to build a comprehensive strategy to utilize reviews for the benefit of your business as well as your customers.