Business owners love to hate reviews. A positive review from a customer can put you on top of the world, while a negative review often feels unfair and leaves you feeling defeated. The policies of the review platforms may drive you crazy – especially when they 'filter' legitimate 5-star reviews and publish the negative reviews right at the top of your listing.
Instead many owners decide to give up on reviews entirely, under the assumption that "people never read reviews anyways". The truth is, you couldn't be more wrong, and by choosing to ignore reviews you're sending your best customers right to your competition.
Each year, a company called BrightLocal conducts a major consumer study, learning how Americans use online reviews to research their buying decisions. The results may surprise you.
In total, 98% of American consumers say they read online reviews for local businesses. (The joke is that the other 2% have their grandkids do it for them!) 87% reported using Google to research a local business, and 76% of all consumers describe themselves as "regular" readers of online reviews.
When it comes to how people evaluate the reviews they're reading, we've got some important insights there too.
First, people look at star ratings. 38% of consumers say they won't use a business with ratings below 4 stars, and 16% expect 4.5 stars or better. On the other hand, only 7% of searchers say they would patronize a business with a rating below 3 stars.
Then (and widely ignored by most businesses), responses from the business owner are critically important to most readers. When a business replied to every review, 88% of people reported an increased level of confidence in the validity of those reviews, and their trust in the business.
Other key elements are the number and recency of reviews. Having a large number of reviews changes the math on how potential negative reviews will impact your star ratings, and the number of reviews are typically shown in search results. Customers also value recency: 52% look for reviews that have been posted within the last 2-4 weeks.
Reviews are important for consumer trust, especially when they're on Google. When you look at the top of a search engine results page (when searching for a local business), you'll typically see reviews included as part of the business listings. This means if your competition has more and better reviews than you do, their listing will have a better chance of being clicked on by customers looking for their service or product. Combined with the statistics that we reviewed above, a competitor with more relevant reviews becomes a more compelling choice for your target customer.
Reviews also play into local SEO because Google uses them as signals for ranking businesses in its own search results. The more positive online reviews your business receives, the more likely Google will rank you higher than others with fewer positive reviews or no ratings whatsoever! The text of your customer reviews also provide naturally relevant keyword results which Google often pulls out and displays as snippets right on the results page.
When Brightlocal asked respondents which online review platforms they trusted the most, Google was the runaway winner in every single business category. 87% of people reported using Google for reviews in 2022. But, don't dismiss the others. Yelp and Facebook round out the top 3, with 48% and 46% of respondents respectively reporting reading reviews on those platforms.
When we work with customers to improve their reviews, we recommend a balanced approach to all three review sites, plus other niche sites that may be important in your industry like TripAdvisor, Angie, Healthgrades, or Avvo.
As a business owner, you know that trust is the foundation of your success. Without it, consumers won't buy from you and your company will fail.
Google also understands this fact and has made it a priority to help consumers find trustworthy businesses online. That's why they use reviews as part of how they rank local businesses in organic search results as well as in local listings (such as the map results that show on the results page).
Reviews are critical for building trust with customers; however, if there aren't enough reviews for them to see what others think about their experience with you or your products/services—or if those reviews aren't positive enough—then people will look elsewhere!
44% of US consumers describe their financial status as "worse off" than in 2021, so choosing the right business is important to them. Financial uncertainty means consumers are more careful than ever about who they do business with. Building their trust with positive customer reviews can go a long way toward making you the obvious choice for spending their hard-earned dollars.
Based on what we've learned, it seems clear that great reviews will help your business inspire trust in potential customers, improve your search rankings, and make you the compelling choice compared to your competitors. Now the challenge is to get more positive reviews!
This is where we can help! Brentwood Visual can assist with automating the process of requesting and managing reviews. Our system sends customers review requests through their preferred communication methods, enabling them to provide feedback on the platforms that work best for them. We find that most customers are willing to leave a review when asked, making it an effective way to build trust with consumers and ensure that your online presence reflects positively on your business.
When we discuss online reviews with business owners, the response is often passionate, with owners all too willing to share their frustrations and past experiences. Failing to prioritize reviews can lead to negative rankings, and make it difficult for potential customers to find and trust your business.
It's essential for small businesses to take the reins and make sure their online reviews reflect the quality of their services. By proactively requesting and managing reviews, you can create trust and increase your visibility with potential customers. This is key for demonstrating the value of your business and helping customers make an informed decision. That's why it's so important for small businesses to take control of their reviews and make sure their online presence is seen in a positive light!
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