Have you heard the term 'social proof' before? It refers to the influence that the actions and attitudes of other people have on our own decisions and behaviours. When it comes to the internet, it's especially relevant to how other people's views affect our purchasing decisions.
In practice, what this highlights is the importance of online reviews. If you want people to be enticed to buy from you, the best way to do that is to have reviews from plenty of other people who've already bought and are happy with the results.
Over the years, many different studies have highlighted the power of customer voices:
- In 2016, 90% of shoppers read at least one online review before deciding to visit a business.
- A 2015 study by Bright Local discovered that a staggering 92% of consumers read online reviews
- 94% of online shoppers reported that a negative review has convinced them to avoid visiting a business
- 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 52% of 18-54-year-olds saying they ‘always’ read reviews
- Online reviews have been reported to be 20 percent more influential to the buying decisions of millennials than a brand trying to make a sale over social media
On top of all of this, online reviews are a factor in SEO. While Google keeps its ranking algorithms secret, according to MOZ, reviews make up about 13 percent of how companies are ranked on Google search. Whether that's accurate or not, it's clear that social proof is a ranking factor.
So, how can you get those golden reviews, what platforms should you get them on, and are there any rules to follow when obtaining them?
Written in the stars
The studies above don't just reveal that a large number of consumers are reading online reviews, they also discovered that star rating is the most important factor when it comes to consumers judging a business or brand.
The BrightLocal survey found that people are more likely to visit your website after reading a positive review - more than twice as likely than they are to continue looking for other businesses.
Where to be reviewed?
Star ratings can be obtained on a number of different platforms throughout the web and it is essential that you choose a popular review platform, but also one that is relevant for your business. Those in the holiday and hospitality industry should aim to gain reviews on TripAdvisor, whereas those offering household services may want to head to Yelp or another industry specific platform.
According to ReviewTrackers’ data, 63.6 percent of consumers say they are likely to check reviews on Google before visiting a business - more than any other review site - so getting those Google reviews is key.
Incorporated into map listings and search results, potential customers can easily see the average number of stars your business has and read reviews. Google reviews even get drawn into any Google Ads campaigns you have running, so you can truly maximise their use!
Make it the real deal
If you’ve been inspired by statistics to start getting online reviews, you need to make sure they are the real deal. Consumers are sceptical about fake reviews and are becoming savvier about working out which are real and which are fake.
Who should review?
Avoid negative PR by ensuring that everyone who reviews your business knows and uses your services - and isn't an employee you've press-ganged into posting on your behalf. You can request that your existing customers leave reviews simply by asking them over the phone or by email. Creating a custom email template that can be sent out to customers that details a step by step guide can make the review process easier.
Reviews have a sell by date
It appears that the more recent your review, the more power it has. 44% of those asked said that a review is only relevant if it was written within the last month. While this is handy if you previously had some negative reviews, it does mean that you have to be consistent with your focus on obtaining reviews.
Get reviews frequently, rather than a bunch all at once, so that consumers know that your brand is consistent in the service you deliver.
Don’t just let the reviews run in and leave it at that. It’s always good to respond to reviewers, thanking them for their feedback. Doing so highlights the fact that you are still in business, appreciate your customers, and can help if those stars are less than stellar.
In fact, 53.3 percent of customers expect businesses to respond to their online review within 7 days.
Respond to negativity
It’s unlikely that you are going to please everyone, which means that you could end up with some negative feedback. Don’t shy away and ignore the bad press though, be sure to respond in an appropriate manner. If someone didn’t think they received good service, apologise and offer them a discount or a freebie. Providing an olive branch can not only turn an unhappy customer into a happy one, but also shows that you run a business that cares about your customers.
Getting lots of reviews also helps mitigate against one-off negatives. If you have consistently good service and positive reviews, your average rating won't be dragged too far down with a negative, but if you only have a handful, that single low rating could have a much greater impact.
Of course, if a negative review is a lie, you can attempt to have it removed by the platform. If that doesn't work, you can respond and state your case. Keep it factual rather than emotional - professionalism is key.
Positive reviews are just one of the ways you can maximise your business’s online presence. If your business is struggling to show in search results and needs a bit of help, then why not get in touch with our Bristol SEO team. Call us on +44 (0)117 933 0570 to discuss your digital marketing strategy today.