By Andrew Oziemblo, Founder & CEO of Chicago SEO Geeks, the digital marketing & SEO agency helping businesses achieve long-term growth goals.
Once upon a time, businesses relied on traditional marketing and word-of-mouth advertising to succeed. Fast forward to 2019, and traditional marketing has transformed to digital — and word-of-mouth has transformed to online reviews.
While there’s nothing wrong with continuing to make the most of old-school marketing methods if they’ve treated you well, there is something wrong if your business doesn’t adapt to the new realm of online reviews.
Most businesses recognize that online reviews are important, but may not recognize exactly how important: As it turns out, 85% of consumers now trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. A survey by BrightLocal found that positive customer reviews make 73% of customers trust a business more, and 57% of customers visit a company’s website after reading positive reviews.
All of this means one thing: In 2019, businesses simply can’t ignore the value of online reviews. Sure, you might have a “let them say what they want” or “If they don’t want me, I don’t want them” type of attitude toward reviews. But if you want to stay competitive in a modern business environment, you need to understand why reviews are so important and how you can create a strategy to earn more of them.
Why reviews are winning business more than ever before
Did you know that for every one-star increase a business gains on Yelp, it also gains a 5-9% increase in revenue? In fact, one study found that online reviews impact 67.7% of purchasing decisions. With statistics like these, the picture of how reviews affect a business’ bottom line becomes much clearer.
Whether you’re a small restaurant or a big Amazon seller, reviews now follow you wherever you go — and whether they’re negative or positive now has a big impact on how many future customers will be knocking on your door. 85% of consumers now look for negative reviews in order to make informed purchase decisions — and this number jumps even higher to 91% among consumers ages 18-29.
Not only do your business’ current reviews affect your reputation and potential customer base, but they also can impact your digital marketing strategy. Recently, Google has been placing a heavy emphasis on its “Google My Business” tool, which helps businesses verify their listings and information, lets customers leave reviews, and allows the business to respond to those reviews directly — directly impacting their bottom line.
A senior product manager at Google said that there are “millions of user searches for local businesses every single day,” which translates into “billions of local searches each month.” Every month, the company delivers “hundreds of millions of calls and billions of driving directions.”
Google is one of the most powerful tools for businesses big and small, and when reviews show up on a user’s local search, it can be a make-or-break moment for any business. If you want your business to get higher SEO rankings and convert more customers just from a simple Google search, you must ensure that your customers can leave reviews on your Google business listing.
How to get more reviews
First and foremost, it’s crucial to make sure you’re responding to all your current and incoming reviews — even the negative ones! When a business owner responds to reviews, it shows potential customers that you truly care about the customer experience and value their opinions. It’ll also help happy customers keep coming back!
If a page is filled with only 5-star reviews across the board, consumers tend to think they’re all fake, and won’t trust what people are saying. That’s why it’s important to encourage reviews from all customers, even if you don’t think they’re all 100% happy. As long as you respond to all your reviews, you’ll still receive benefits in the form of returning customers and new customers who can tell you care about your clientbase.
Another way to get reviews? Simply ask for them! As it turns out, there’s no reason to be afraid of soliciting reviews from your customers: Of the 74% of customers who were asked to provide feedback in a BrightLocal survey, 68% were willing to do it.
Don’t forget to make sure that it’s actually easy for customers to leave reviews: Ensure your Google Business listing is claimed, and create Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook and any other applicable social media pages where it’s easy for customers to leave their opinion about your business.
You should also optimize your website so that it’s easy for customers to leave reviews: Set up website badges to direct website visitors to your Yelp, Facebook, Google, TripAdvisor, Amazon, and any other pages you have set up to read and leave reviews. You can also set up widgets or include links to those pages in any email marketing campaigns you send out. If all else fails, you can always offer discounts or coupon codes for your products or services, or even offer gift cards or cash for those who leave you reviews.
Adapting to the new word-of-mouth marketing
We’re living in a new age of marketing, and no matter the size of your business, it won’t be easy to succeed if you don’t adapt to the realm of online reviews. If you follow any or all of the tips above, you’ll be sure to not only keep up with your competition, but also beat out the businesses that are refusing to adapt to these changing times. It’s a simple strategy — but a winning one.