From researching our next car purchase to buying groceries, the internet has brought everything to our fingertips. The online world of today significantly changed the way we spend money.
Simply having a website or paying for internet ads is not enough to bring in new leads anymore. While consumers are still interested in what you have to say about your business, they also want to hear from others as well.
The modern consumer evaluates services, products, and entire businesses based on impressions and feedback from other people.
The internet offers them a wide variety of forums, platforms, and social media networks where they can exchange opinions with like-minded individuals. If you want your business to thrive in the digital era, you must learn how to use online reviews to your advantage.
Online Reviews in Numbers
A staggering 94% of online shoppers read reviews before making a purchase, according to Fan % Fuel. Moreover, 97% of consumers that read reviews also read businesses’ responses to reviews, according to Bright Local.
It’s safe to say that simply telling clients and customers about your services or products won’t cut it. People want insights from first-hand experiences.
Those insights are also useful to businesses. Whether you are working in health care, retail, recruitment, hospitality, or public services, you can use online reviews to improve your products, services, customer experience, and marketing strategy.
In fact, 67% of customers report being asked to review a local business. And, a quarter of those asked reported being offered a gift or discount in return for writing a review.
As seen in Bright Local’s research, consumers are more likely to engage with a brand after reading positive reviews. Moreover, 93% of online shoppers read online reviews to gauge a company’s reputation.
Consumer Purchasing Decisions
To better understand how online reviews can affect your business, it is key to understand the key motivators behind most online reviews:
- Social proof: People want to take part and contribute to a virtual community.
- Quality: Shoppers read customer feedback to figure out what are the pros and cons of a product.
- Risk: Many consumers turn to reviews in order to reduce the risk of making a bad decision.
- Information: Most people research reviews simply to get better informed about a product or service.
By looking into what your prospects are analyzing prior to purchase, you can significantly improve your approach.
Online Reviews Affect SEO
Saying that online reviews lead to more customers and more profits is easy. But what funnels and processes exactly lead to that growth? Perhaps the biggest impact online reviews can have on your brand is through your search engine ranking.
A good ranking on Google’s result pages leads to more traffic on your site. And, the more people you have on your site, the more leads you will end up with.
Many businesses are aware of this, so they are actively working on improving their search engines. This is also known as SEO (search engine optimization). Search Engine Optimization is the sum of all the factors, efforts, and practices that can improve your search engine rankings.
Google uses a variety of factors and algorithms to decide which pages they will display when you search for something, online reviews being one of these factors.
Naturally, the better reviews you have, the better you will rank. But, what do Google and other search engines consider to be good reviews?
Factors Search Engines Take Into Account:
Diversity: Writing fake reviews is easy. You know that, your customers know that, and Google knows that. If all of your reviews are positive, Google will see that something is off and that will negatively impact your ranking.
So, a few negative reviews can be good for your business. However, if there are too many negative reviews, Google will think that many customers are dissatisfied with your services and your site won’t be at the top of search results.
Velocity: Long-form reviews that include a lot of useful information and details are undoubtedly much better than one-liners.
Quantity: The more reviews your brand has, the better it will rank on search engine pages.
Recency: When it comes to your discoverability, fresh reviews are more valuable than old ones. Fresh reviews encourage relevance and trust.
Finding a way to get customers to write positive online reviews of your business on Yelp, Facebook, Amazon, FourSquare, and other review platforms is a must if you want to improve your SEO.
But, it’s easier said than done. Luckily, Google also pays attention to online reviews written on your own website. Major search engines such as Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo search for useful content related to certain keywords by using internet crawlers. These crawlers scrutinize your site as well (if you let them). They examine the content you have, and if the search engine deems it useful, your site will rank better on SERPs (search result pages) related to specific keywords.
Online reviews are user-generated content. When it comes to SEO and marketing in general, user-generated content is a goldmine. It adds great value to your site, both in the eyes of Google and your visitors.
Moreover, if you reply to the online reviews on your website with useful, well-formatted answers, Google may feature your replies as “rich answers” on SERPs. And, let’s not forget, people use Google to actively seek out reviews, so you would want them to stumble upon your website when they search for them.
Not all online reviews have the same value, and not just in terms of SEO. Some types of online reviews carry greater weight than others.When people read reviews, they don’t just look at their content. They also pay attention to who is writing the reviews. Reviews written by the ordinary Joe indeed do matter, of course, but consumers respect the opinions of industry experts, leaders, and influencers much more.
If you want to buy new running shoes, whose advice would you rather take—that of your favorite athlete or that of some random stranger from Amazon? What movie reviews have more influence— those of IMDB users or those written by the famous film critic Roger Elbert?
People value reviews backed by authority. And, again, there is the issue of fake reviews. Nothing is stopping a dishonest business from writing fake reviews to boost their reputation. Unscrupulous businesses can also write negative fake reviews of competing brands to try to undermine them.
Fake reviews have been a problem ever since online reviews became a thing.
In some markets, authentic reviews matter more than others. The iGaming industry may be the best place where we can see the importance of genuine reviews written by people with credibility.
It’s not hard to imagine why players are wary of scams when they are seeking out platforms to play their favorite games. If a player wants to sign up on a platform, they have to share their sensitive personal information with the platforms as well as make a deposit. So, many players seek out credible casino reviews written by experts before they sign up somewhere. This way, they can be sure they are making the right choice.
This can translate to almost every industry where trust is involved. Authentic reviews written by experts can give credibility to your business and help you build social proof.
Build Trust Through Natural Endorsement
To get big names in the industry to share their opinions on your brand, you must put your business on the map. One of the best ways to do that is to write blog posts that target influencers in your niche, according to Moz.
In fact, blogging is one of the most inexpensive ways to market your business and reach your target audience, and it can be very effective. Writing blog posts in a way that will make influencers want to share and comment on them is a great strategic move that will help you harness the power of genuine online reviews.
Industry experts and influencers already have a great impact on your target audience, so it only makes sense to write blogs with them in mind. You can apply the same strategy to your social media activity and your advertisements.
If you market your products or services in a way that is appealing to the most influential people in your niche, some of them will happily start a conversation about your brand.
Most marketing strategies of today are focused on getting businesses in front of the consumer, so this often results in intrusive advertisements. By targeting industry experts and influencers your customers respect, you can avoid bombarding your target audience with unwanted interests.
Online Reviews Expand the Conversation About Your Brand
Positive reviews breed more positive reviews. Nothing can beat the power of word of mouth marketing. As seen in Bright Local’s survey, 76% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.
And, good reviews can spread quickly. They will snowball across platforms such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, and FourSquare. People that write often come back to check replies and post updates, keeping the conversation going.
But, if you really want to expand the conversation about your business, you need to engage with customers that write reviews. Online reviews give you a chance to talk with your customers and show them how much you appreciate your business.
All of us like to feel special. By replying to reviews, both positive and negative, you will show your customers how much you value them.
There will be some negative reviews, but, if you make an effort to apologize to dissatisfied customers publicly and show everyone that you are ready to own your mistakes, you can significantly boost your reputation.
Online reviews can strengthen your brand’s credibility on top of influencing consumer decisions. Online reviews can encourage other consumers to interact with a brand.
They can also help inspire trust among consumers. All of these steps ultimately lead to new customers and increased profits. Brands that are neglecting the real value of online reviews are missing a chance to grow their venture.
The power of word-of-mouth marketing should never be underestimated. Now that you know how online reviews can boost your brand, it is time to create a few reputation-based incentives for your customers.