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The internet has forever changed – and continues to change – the way businesses reach, convert and engage with their customers. One of the most important developments in recent times is the emphasis on social media and how it is used by businesses and customers.
It has led to a fierce culture of online feedback in various forms, whether it be on Facebook or review websites. Where once an unsatisfied customer’s only course of action would be to make a formal complaint and tell their friends, now they can share the experience with any number of interested parties online, including potential new customers for the service.
As well as making businesses more accountable for their service and theoretically improving overall standards, it has also given customers more information to make an informed decision when selecting a provider. But how much does this affect your business in real terms? In what areas do positive reviews impact your business?
This is where you will find that having positive reviews can give you an advantage: they ultimately help you convert. There are various studies on the matter and it’s estimated that anywhere between 80-90% of online shoppers read and trust online reviews when making purchasing decisions.
In these cases it’s generally a good idea to think of your own online behavior to get an idea of how people approach things. When you scan the search engine result pages, do your eyes tend to be drawn to the gold stars and reviews in Google Local to the right of the page? Google has organised things in such a way that it’s difficult to miss reviews these days, so the high number of people reading them is not surprising.
It paints an even more promising picture when you think about the kinds of people that are hunting for reviews of products and businesses. As discussed, a lot of people using Google will scan over any reviews without really thinking about it – but those that are using websites like Yelp , True Local and Yellow Pages to check out your customers’ feedback are likely almost at the point where they’re ready to pick up the phone/purchase from your website.
It’s true that there are businesses in certain types of industries that will naturally get more out of having good reviews. However the bottom line is that it’s always going to work strongly in your favour as a business owner.
The number of factors that determine your Google rank is greater than ever given that there are more and more innovations and creative things happening online, all of which determine the way we access information. Ten years ago, very few businesses had social media pages at all – today it’s an absolute necessity if you want to rank highly. And so it is with many other recently innovated internet features – responsive designs, videos, interactive maps, and onsite blogs – all of which are highly necessary if you’re going to compete for that number one spot.
With the number of factors so great, there’s a lot of confusion about how important specific factors are and how much influence they have. Google spokesmen have been known to contradict themselves when talking about what matters and what doesn’t – trying to piece it altogether can be tricky even for experts.
The relationship between reviews and Google ranking is a case in point, as there are conflicting ideas in the search community about how much of an impact this can have. The truth of the matter is that thinking about a ‘percentage of influence’ that a certain factor has on your Google ranking is probably missing the point.
What we can say with certainty is that positive reviews that show up in search engine result pages will increase your click-through-rate, which is something that Google certainly holds in high regard. It can thus lay the foundation for a strong Google ranking under the right circumstances and should be a part of your Local SEO plan.
While it’s quite clear that positive online reviews are great for your business, it’s been shown that negative reviews can have a significantly greater impact on conversions. One of the reasons for this is the fact that negative reviews stick out in people’s minds a lot more and frankly, they’re more interesting and possibly relatable.
Another crucial finding is the fact that regardless of whether they be positive or negative, a greater number of reviews leads to a better conversion rate. In fact, with the abundance of fake reviews online, people are less likely to trust a business with a handful of 5 star reviews than they are a business with many mixed reviews.
Negative reviews are unavoidable at times; what’s important is that you deal with them effectively. You should always respond to negative reviews for several reasons. For one, your response will be read by everyone reading the page, and it’s important to demonstrate that customer service is a priority. It can also mean repairing any damage done with the unhappy customer. Rather than being defensive or providing excuses, it can be a good strategy to be brief and express regret for their bad experience.
Given these facts, it becomes clear that encouraging customers to leave genuine reviews is a win-win regardless of the size of your business or industry you are operating in. Creating a positive online reputation is something you can proactively work on in-house or with the help of an expert.