As search engines strive to provide the best online experience for users, online customer reviews have become more and more important. A 2016 study by BrightLocal found that 91% of consumers use reviews when making an online purchasing decision. The same study also found that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Crazy, huh? In today’s digital economy people put more stock in the input of a complete stranger than that of their friends and family.
Reviews aren’t only important to humans, though. According to MOZ’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, online reviews are thought to make up approximately 10% of how search engines decide to rank local search results. Not only that, online reviews aren’t just about star ratings, but other factors including review quantity, review velocity and review diversity all play an important role.
Your online review landscape directly impacts your bottom line revenue. Positive online reviews can help companies obtain prominent positions in local search engine results. Search engine listings with good reviews entice more users to click through. Online reviews, both positive and negative, give consumers the extra push they need to make a buying decision. Local search results with positive online reviews can mean the difference between winning over a potential customer, or losing them to a competitor.
So how do you cultivate good reviews for your business? Below we have outlined a simple and straightforward process that will help your business get more reviews.
Start by locating the best review sources for your particular industry and market.
Not all reviews are created equal. In each market and industry there are review locations that are more valuable. Whitespark and MOZ have created a handy list of local citation sources by city. This is a great place to reference while you start to understand where to find the best locations for reviews. Another good tactic is to type into Google a series of keywords like “orthodontist reviews” or “reviews of orthodontists near me,” and then look to see which review source locations show up. You can see one such search depicted in the screenshot below.
Once you know where to get reviews develop a program start asking for them.
The same BrightLocal study that indicated 91% of users pay attention also found that 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business IF ASKED. Simply doing great work is not enough to get good reviews. You have to ask and remind users to leave you a review.
Work a review-ask into your standard workflow. This may be immediately after finishing a project or shipping a product, directly after they pay, or with a follow-up email. It could also be a combination of all 3.
Make leaving a review easy.
Respect your customers’ time. Don’t just ask them for a review–make it super easy for them. This will help increase your review quantity and velocity. Once you have determined where you want to cultivate reviews, create a flyer to hand customers that specifically directs them precisely to where they can leave a review. In addition, give them several options. If your customer has a Google Account already, they are more apt to leave you a review on Google. If they’re a heavy Yelp user they may want to review you there, so they get credit on the platform. The key is to eliminate any and all barriers that would prevent someone from leaving you a review.
One tactic we often deploy for customers is a series of custom review landing pages. In emails, flyers, and other communication we ask for reviews and provide a simple link. When someone navigates to the linked content they are presented with a simple instruction page. This page will provide not only instructions but direct links for the particular platform of interest to the user.
Don’t just ask once, remind them.
Let’s face it, we all get busy. Send your review prospect a follow-up email a couple days after the initial ask to remind them. Perhaps they were too busy at the time of the initial ask but they have some free time now. Staying top of mind will help get those prospects to follow-through with a review.
You can use marketing automation software for this if you must, but if you have a good, solid, interested prospect we would highly recommend a personalized email. Remind your customer of the benefit of your services and encourage them to take the next step.
At the end of the day reviews are important for your business and their importance in the online ecosystem is continuing to increase. It is important that your business implements an ongoing process to cultivate reviews on a regular basis, as part of your business process. A well-planned review generation system will put you far ahead of your competitors in the short-term, and it will help to create a significant competitive advantage in the long-run. It also helps to smooth out any negative reviews that come naturally (and those will happen). Even the best businesses can’t please 100% of customers, so the more positive, quality reviews you have, the more obvious these anomalies will seem to customers.