When was the last time you checked your business’ Yelp! page? Do you even have a Yelp page? How about Foursquare? And how is your Google My Business listing looking? If you have either a rather puzzled or somewhat guilty look on your face right now we’re going to take a guess that you really haven’t being paying too much attention to online review sites. Unfortunately if that is the case you are really missing out on a chance to grow your business, increase revenue and build your brand.
Why Have Online Reviews Become So Important?
For years businesses have been told that the most important thing for them to do in terms of visibility for their business online was to ensure that their website, and related content, was as SEO friendly as possible. And while that is still relevant advice it is becoming just as important, especially to local businesses, to have a favorable presence across the popular review sites that are springing up – and gaining influence – all over the web.
Why are these online reviews so important? In making a buying decision consumers may begin their journey with a simple Google keyword search but as thy will then be presented with a large number results to choose from they need more in order to make a decision. Reviews on sites like Yelp! are often their next destination.
In the mind of the average consumer these examples of ‘social proof’ are rather powerful, so what these reviews have to say can seriously impact their final decision.
The Power of Online Reviews By the Numbers
Recently local search specialists Bright Local conducted a rather large study to gauge just where the public currently stand on the importance of online reviews and the role they play in their decision making. Here are some of the notable findings from their final report:
84% those surveyed trust online reviews as much as they would a personal recommendation
If asked to, 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business
90% of the consumers questioned read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business
54% of the people surveyed will visit a company’s website after reading positive reviews
73% the consumers questioned think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant
74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them view a local business as more trustworthy.
58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important
As you can now see, gaining positive reviews – and getting them on a regular basis – really is a must. But given that paying for reviews is a huge no-no – Yelp! especially are particularly harsh on businesses that they find doing so – how can you encourage your customers to leave you those all important reviews? Here are some ideas to consider:
Make Leaving a Review as Easy as Possible
In most cases the only time an average customer is actually going to spend time seeking out a way to leave your business a review is if they have something negative to say. Therefore you need to make it as easy as possible for people to review you. Add links to your review site profiles to your site in prominent places (you can always add a link to a graphic for aesthetic purposes) and add them to any emails you send out to customers as well.
Be Careful with Incentives
Some experts argue that offering an incentive to leave a review of any kind is wrong, and that doing so corrupts the process for everyone. On the other hand, any business owner will appreciate the fact that a customer took a little time out of their busy day to do so and offering a reward of some kind seems only seems like the polite thing to do. In reality there is no real harm in offering a discount to reviewers as long as you make it clear that it is in return for any review, not just a good one.
Alternately, you could choose to send a small reward to people, as a surprise, after they have written a review, to ensure that your incentive really did not affect their opinions.
Deal with Negative Reviews
If you are going to start actively soliciting reviews for your business at some point a negative or two is going to show up. These do not have to hurt your business though, as long as you deal with them in the right way. Rather than ignore such things address them directly, in a professional and helpful manner, even if the reviewer does not respond in kind.
Accepting of Multiple Review Sites
Everyone has their own particular favorite go to review site (it may be how they found your business in the first place) and so while it would be nice, and much easier for you to keep track of, if your customers would all leave a review in the same place, demanding that they do so will only put your customers off.
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