Online Reviews For Local Business: Boost Your Sales

Your Online Reputation Matters

Most businesses lose and gain customers, because of their reputation and service delivery.

Business reputation, mostly online reputation nowadays; is a perception or belief about your business, based on opinions of existing and past customers.

The internet has allowed people the freedom to voice their opinions about almost everything – including how they feel about products and services of other businesses.

Customers leave online reviews about your business on the internet for the whole world to see, ultimately making or breaking the reputation of your company.

Hence, it is crucial to stay on top of everything being said about your company online.

Having a positive online presence will always reap benefits, as a satisfied customer will bring you many more customers.

If your business has received positive customer reviews from your local customers, then other people will read those reviews and become interested in buying your services and products.

Getting feedback from your unhappy customers is just as important. As negative feedback will allow you to improve the work of your business and correct the shortcomings it may have.

Honest customer reviews will provide you with some real insight regarding your products and services. Therefore, all feedback should be welcome if it is legit.

Summary:

This is a fairly long blog post. Here’s a summary.

It’s 2018. People are empowered and they leave reviews online.

They also read them. 97% of people use online reviews and 87% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family.

Potential customers trust reviews far more than they trust what you say about your own business.

Collecting reviews provides feedback on your business processes – if you are falling down somewhere – customer reviews will help you fix it and then you get more and better word of mouth referrals as well.

New fresh online reviews have many business benefits that all drive more traffic, leads and sales:

  1. They increase your Google ranking. Fresh online reviews are an important aspect of ranking your Google My Business listing in the local “3 Pack”
  2. This higher ranking and more reviews encourages more visibility in the search engine pages – your listing stands out more due to the stars
  3. More good fresh reviews encourage people to visit your website – by about 300% in some cases
  4. If they see reviews and testimonials on your website then the social proof increases conversion rates of visitors to leads by at least 70%
  5. Using reviews in proposals and quotes increases conversion of leads to sales
  6. You can use reviews in your advertising (like Google Adwords)

Collecting reviews and getting them online is likely to be the most cost effective promotion you can do for your business. It’s particular easy if you to ask for a review at the end of each service delivery and use a system like RepBuilder to make that happen with minimal involvement in time by you.

Benefits of Online Reviews

Search Engine Optimisation:

Search engines like Google are influenced by online reviews, as having visibility through online reviews on credible websites helps you come up in SERPs. By recognising your online presence, internet acknowledges you as a trustworthy, legitimate business. This is the most reliable form of search engine optimisation, as good quantity of Google reviews is equal to high google rankings.

Free Publicity:

As we know, word of mouth publicity is the most reliable and valid form of promotion for any business. And in this era of digitisation, online reviews do precisely that! They make your brand known and heard of; as through online reviews, an existing customer exposes you to a set of new potential customers. It’s free publicity!

Trust and Credibility:

Business owners must earn trust. And what better way than online reviews. To gain confidence, make people talk about you on the internet, make them believe that you exist, that you are credible. A potential customer is more likely to accept an existing customer’s feedback, than any other source. It makes your business real! And , you earn trust.

Customer Engagement:

Online reviews engage both potential and existing customers, as your existing customer is writing about you and your potential customer is reading about you. It helps you form a deeper relationship with your customers because through online reviews you get to undestand customers’ opinions and they get to know you better through your replies.

Constructive Feedback:

Some online reviews may raise concerns and suggest improvements. As disheartening as it may seem, these criticisms amount to constructive feedback. They allow you to improve and resolve your customer complaints. And you get to be the hero in the end!

Impact of Online Reviews

Influence of Online Reviews on Potential Customers

Acknowledge that people are already looking for information, which means they have identified their need/ want and are researching online to satisfy this need or desire. The mental gap between research and decision is small and easily influenced by your online reputation. Which is why businesses all over the web are raving about online reviews.

As per ‘Bright Local Consumer Survey 2017′, 97% of consumers read online reviews for local business in 2017, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 68% of US consumers said that positive reviews made them more likely to use a business.

online reviews for local business - it matters

Potential Customers Perceive Online Reviews as Personal Recommendations

When people see advertisements on television, in newspapers or listen to them on the radio, they know these ads are paid for by the business itself; they may not be real.

Online reviews seem real and unbiased, which is why they are more trustworthy. These are written by real people whom potential customers can relate to, they come across as personal recommendations. Hence, consumers are more influenced by online reviews than by advertisements they see all around them.

According to Bright Local Consumer Survey 2017, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, up from 84% in 2016, and 25% of people must believe the reports are authentic before they trust them as much as personal recommendations.

Most Trusted Sites for Online Reviews

With so much clutter on the web, it’s hard to decide what matters and what does not.

So, how to identify credible review sites? Which main review sites are most trusted by masses? As per ‘Bright Local Consumer Survey 2017′, Yelp and Facebook are the most trusted review sites for US consumers.

And since the world wide web is not physically bound, most internet users worldwide depend on reviews on sites like Google, Facebook, True Local, etc. for decision making.

But, to stay relevant on Google, one must be present on the main industry-specific sites. Examples are: Zomato for the food industry, TripAdvisor or Expedia for the travel industry, etc.

As, business reviews on Google appear next to your listing in Maps and Search, to help your business stand out. And, Google recently added “reviews from the web,” which aggregates reviews from third-party sites and prominently places them in the knowledge panel. Therefore, it’s important to diversify and have online reviews on multiple sites.

Influence of Online Reviews on Search Results

Google loves online reviews! As we know, Google’s job is to inform its users. And, since online reviews are a part of that comprehensive data, they inevitably affect Google rankings/SERP.

As per the 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors, the importance of review signals increased significantly from 8.4% in 2015 to 13.13% in 2017.

The factors most relevant to Google are:

  • Quantity of online reviews
  • The sites where you are receiving reviews
  • Your average star rating
  • The rate at which you gain reviews

Source: https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey/

It’s imperative to mention that Google gives you the benefit of good quantity reviews on credible websites, considering the nature and relevance of these reviews. New online reviews influence Google more than the old ones, and having more positive ones is a boon altogether.

Seller Ratings, also known as Google Seller Ratings, is an “automated extension” of Google AdWords and is a focus of the Google search engine algorithms and RankBrain.

Seller Ratings will automatically engage when your website meets these criteria:

  • At least 30 unique reviews written in the last 12 months
  • A composite rating of at least 3.5 stars
  • At least 10 reviews must be in the user’s Google interface language

Reviews are tallied up from two Google sources: Google Trusted Stores and Google Consumer Surveys. But reviews do not just come from these two things because that would severely limit the scope. Google also pulls from third-party review sites, like TrustPilot, Bazaarvoice, Yotpo, and SiteJabber.

But for starters, Google recently lowered the threshold. So, new businesses only need one review to display a star rating in local search results.

Online reviews play a significant role in determining the search engine rankings of your page. Every industry, be it restaurants, hotels, hair salons, doctors, plumbing, etc. is affected by online reviews.

Effects of Online Reviews on Click Through Rate

Another thing to consider is ‘click-through rate’ (CTR). CTR is the rate at which potential customer clicks to reach your website from your ratings on other third-party sites.

As perBright Local research, listings with 5-star ratings earned 69% of clicks from the Google Local Pack in 2016, listings with 4 stars received 59% of clicks, listings with 3 stars earned 44% of clicks, and Listings with 1 or 2 stars earned less clicks than listings with no stars.

It’s evident that positive ratings on Google, result in higher clicks on your website. The more the number of stars, the higher the number of clicks on your business website.

The survey also states that no reviews are better than negative reviews. This means that customers are less likely to buy your product if you have negative reviews, compared to no reviews at all. This may be a problem, as most people are more likely to share negative reviews than positive ones.

Online Reviews and its Effects on Conversion Rate

Now, positive online reviews bring traffic to your website. But, what is the conversion rate of this website footfall to actual business, i.e., calls, queries, online applications or sales. Also, does it help to add these reviews/testimonials to traditional sales approaches like proposals and price estimates?

Well! The conversion rate is determined by various factors like the products /service you are selling, cost of your offering and average order value, traffic source, device (PC, mobile or tablet) and your location. Also, the conversion rate is industry specific.

But, you can work to improve your conversion rate by focusing on top converting traffic channels, promoting best converting products or services, and by investing on your website, mobile app, and overall online presence.

Let’s figure out how online reviews can help us here;

Source:https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey/

It’s clear from the above statistics that positive online reviews influence the potential customer to contact the business. 10% of consumers now approach a company after reading a positive review. Hence, positive online reviews are affecting your business’s conversion rate.

Therefore, the conventional methods of accomplishing sales through proposals and price estimates should be in sync with online conversion techniques. As today’s customer is likely to look you up on the web to cross-check your credentials on your estimates and proposals. He or she will determine his decision based on your existing reviews. So, it makes sense to add testimonials to your proposals and price quotes.

How to Encourage Customers to Leave Online Reviews

We can safely conclude that online reviews have a powerful impact on potential customer’s buying decision. As your search engine click thru rate and traffic conversion rate depends on the nature and volume of online reviews.

The ultimate takeaway for every business holder here is that ‘online Reviews are important’. Therefore, pay attention to reviews!

Whether you have positive reviews or negative reviews, it’s imperative to acknowledge all social conversations about your brand and product. Encourage reviews, spend time and resources on getting positive online reviews on relevant websites, to manage your online reputation. Remember ‘customer is the king’ and ensuring customer satisfaction goes a long way in building a positive brand image.

But, how to make your customers leave an online review?

Businesses which aggressively solicit their customers for reviews can turn their customers off and could result in receiving negative reviews instead.

Also, you must avoid posting fake reviews at all costs. Counterfeit reviews won’t get you far as most potential customers are smart enough to spot fake reviews from a mile away. They are more likely to respond to genuine, valid reviews – even if there are a few negative ones.

Here are some ways you can encourage your customers to write honest reviews of your services or products.

Ask Customers Who Come Into Your Establishment for Reviews

According to Bright Local, 68% of consumers left a review after a local business asked them to.

More companies are asking their customers for reviews – 74% of consumers have now been asked. Only 26% of consumers have never been asked to leave a review (down from 30% in 2016)

You have only to ask! You could ask in person, on the phone or online. But just ask.

Physically you could ask for reviews on the back of receipts, on menus, on pamphlets or postcards, or just have your staff ask for them. And, on the web, you could ask for reviews on your website or through emails.

You can also have an “onsite review station” set up in your establishment where your customers can leave reviews for you right on the spot via their own mobile phones. There’s nothing better than getting a review from a satisfied customer who just purchased from you.

Make it EASY for Your Customers to Write Reviews

If you want your customers to leave reviews for your business, make it easy for them by trying to help them do so.

  1. Provide links to your review pages on your website, it could be Google, Yelp, Facebook or your local business directory.
  2. Help your customers out by giving them some tips on how to write customer reviews and where they can post them.
  3. Display the actual reviews and testimonials on your official website, this may encourage others to leave a review.

Ask for Customer Reviews in Your Emails & Direct Mail

You can send out emails via an autoresponder to your customer list, asking them to leave reviews.

Many customers may intend to do so, but neglect to do it for some the reason – life just gets in the way. So a friendly reminder every now and then is just what you must get your customers engaged with your business and tell the world how much they love you.

The same applies to your direct mail campaigns. Reminding consumers you exist could be enough to urge them to leave a review for your company – especially if you ask them to do so.

Utilise the Power of Social Media

Since you’re already connecting with some of your customers via social media, it is the perfect place to ask for reviews and feedback. Customers involved in social media like to “socialise” with the businesses they follow.

On sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and others, it is relatively simple to shoot a message to your audience, and many are likely to respond. Therefore, take advantage of this opportunity by asking them for reviews and feedback often.

Encourage Them To Add Their Reviews on Multiple Sites

Some of your customers probably leave reviews on one review site, whether it’s Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, Yelp or others. However, it always works in your business’s favour to have as many reviews across multiple review platforms as possible.

Not only will this increase your online visibility, but it should increase the number of customers coming through your doors. If consumers find that your business has a lot of great feedback on multiple review sites, it will boost your trust and credibility tremendously.

How to Build and Maintain a Positive Online Reputation

Just as your customers are utilising the internet to voice their opinions, your business must make use of the internet to build and maintain an excellent online reputation.

The more positive your reputation, the more potential customers you can attract.

Here are some tips on how you can build and maintain a positive online reputation:

Monitor the Customer Review sites

You can think of customer review sites as “local directories” that enable people to express their opinions regarding various businesses present in the directories.

People utilise these directories to find businesses able to provide them with the products or services they want. They can browse through the companies, and many decide based on the customer reviews.

Some sites that are critical players include Yelp!, Google Local, City Search and True Local. There are also directories that only cater to specific business industries like local restaurants, dentists, lawyers, etc. Being an active part of these sites can help you build a positive reputation.

Some things you can do in order make use of these review sites are:

Register Your Business

First of all, you must create accounts on the most popular local review sites and directories so your business can be included in the listings.

If your business is already present in the listings, you still have work to do. Some directory listings post incorrect information about activities, which could affect your visibility.

Therefore, you must take control of your listings by completing them, claiming them, and verifying them.

Make sure your profiles are complete with accurate information, add images to your profile, and add any additional links that may attract potential customers.

Respond to Reviews

Acknowledge and respond to both positive and negative reviews. Don’t panic if adverse reviews happen! People have a right to their opinions, and all we can do is respect them. The best thing to do is try to handle the situation in a proper, positive manner.

If the complaint is legit, be sure to post how you plan to correct it.

Form a Bond with Customers

It is as essential to respond to positive reviews as negative ones. Doing so creates somewhat of a “bond” with your happy customers and shall keep them coming back.

Responding to positive reviews also shows consumers you do care about what your customers think and are grateful for their feedback.

Monitor What is Being Said About Your Business

To see when and where people mention your business, you must monitor everything. There are many ways to follow what is being said about your business. You can just “Google” your business’s name, or you can even set up alerts using Google Alerts. With alerts, you can monitor when someone writes a review on a site or mentions you online.

By knowing about the reviews that people write online, you can contact those reviewers and interact with them immediately. If someone writes a negative review online, you can resolve the issue quickly with them.

Handle Negative Online Reviews

Having some negative reviews is part of the game. Consumers might begin to suspect something fishy if all they see are good or ‘five’ star reviews.

No matter how great your products and services are, there will always be at least one unhappy customer who will leave a negative online review.

The problem is that a lot of business owners ignore negative reviews, which can be harmful to your company’s reputation. Not responding could indicate that you just do not care about that unhappy customer’s concern. If you do, show the world you care by responding to their online complaint positively.

If you receive a negative review, do not argue with the reviewer, as it can jeopardise your online reputation. Arguing with an unhappy customer may lead to him spreading even more negativity about your company, which may lead to even more harm.

Instead, give a positive response. It shows you are open to criticism, willing to hear what the reviewer has to say, and willing to correct the problem. By responding positively, you will also encourage positivity from other customers.

Here are some tips to handle negative reviews:

  1. Determine the authenticity of the negative online review. If it is fake, i.e., from a competitor, you can contact the review site to take it down.
  2. Join the conversation and highlight the positive, while acknowledging the negative review.
  3. Encourage more positive reviews from happy customers to minimise the effect of the review.
  4. Have a strategy in place. You could offer a replacement or one free service to make it up to the unhappy customer, and encourage him to leave positive review after that.

Create Positive Content

The internet search engines are the key players when it comes to managing your online image.

When consumers perform searches for local products and services, the results presented at the top of search engines receive maximum traffic, and that’s why your business needs to rank high.

Content is the key here. The more frequently you create relevant, unique content, the higher you will rank. This is why you should build positive content about your business consistently.

Different sources like customer review sites, social-networking sites and blogs can help you build a positive reputation for your business.

Blogging

Creating a blog can help you build a positive online reputation. As by creating a blog you can provide more information about your company to your customers. You can share images and other types of useful content and information to your customers.

Having a blog will also allow you to provide a place where your customers can ask questions, and you can give them with the answers relating to your business.

You can also provide links to positive reviews written by customers on other sites. Updating your blog consistently will also help your business to rank high in search engine results.

Social Media Content

Participate in customer review sites and social-networking sites. By continually monitoring what customers say about your business and appropriately replying to them, you can maintain a positive online reputation for your business.

Conclusion

Online Reviews can make or break your company’s online reputation and customer flows

But to manage positive online reputation, you have to constantly monitor social and other media. This is easier said than done! It requires practice and expertise and time you probably don’t have to spare.

Collecting reviews and getting them online is likely to be the most cost effective promotion you can do for your business. It’s particular easy if you to ask for a review at the end of each service delivery and use a system like RepBuilder to make that happen with minimal involvement in time by you.

RepBuilder provides your local business with everything you need to:

  1. Make sure that it’s being positively represented on the internet
  2. Develop a stronger positive reputation.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation demo of how RepBuilder can help you.

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Vossey

Hendrik Vos is a director of Lead Fuse, a digital agency that specialises in marketing for businesses who service homeowners and rely on repeat business from those homeowners. The proprietary 5R marketing strategy used by Lead Fuse is perfect for these business types. And because it pulls a number of marketing levers, is guaranteed to increase sales and profits for businesses that use it.

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