The to-do list of a small business owner is seemingly never ending. And while it can be easy to let little things slip through the cracks, you should never overlook the important role that online reviews play. Whether you have a brick-and-mortar establishment or you conduct business solely over the internet, your online reviews will factor into your business’ success. While in previous years, there may have only been a handful of review sites, that has obviously changed. From social media to search engines, your customers won’t have to go far to tell you exactly what they think about your products or services. If you’ve been neglecting your business’ reviews, now’s the time to make the most of them.
Why Are Reviews So Important?
Put simply, they give your potential customers the ability to make a snap judgment regarding whether they should do business with you. The first metric they’ll use to judge your company is your star rating. The majority of consumers are wary of companies that have fewer than four stars. A review’s content is the second most important factor that customers use to judge your business. Most consumers (90%) read reviews and what they read makes a big impact on them. Over 85% of people trust them as much as they do a recommendation from someone they know. Positive reviews increase the likelihood that customers will trust your business, which in turn affects purchase decisions and increases conversion rates.
But It Goes One Step Further…
Your star rating and your reviews also play a part in your search results ranking. One of the factors that Google uses when displaying local search results is a business’ online prominence. When your business has more stars, this makes it more likely that people will click on your company and eventually do business with you. This leads to more business reviews. So when your business has a higher star ranking and more reviews, this tells Google that your business is well-known and it helps you to rank higher in search results.
Optimizing Your Online Reviews
If you’re just getting started, it will take some time to accumulate a good number of reviews. You can facilitate the process by setting up a review funnel. What is a review funnel? It essentially works like this: you start by sending your customers an automated email shortly after their purchase. Among other things, like a thank-you for their business, the email will ask whether they’d recommend your company. If they select yes, they’re taken to a page that gives them different sites where they can write reviews. (We’ve found the Google Review Link Generator to be particularly helpful.) If they select no, they’re taken to a page that allows them to tell you exactly what was unsatisfactory. Review funnels make it easier to ensure that your positive reviews make it online while also giving you the ability to deal directly with any complaints.
- The majority of consumers (70%) will provide a review if they’re asked. But keep in mind that it’s essential to request them quickly. The sooner a review is requested after a transaction, the more likely your customer will be to provide one.
- Customers will look at the recency of your reviews. If all of your reviews are older than three months, most individuals will not consider them relevant.
- Having all five-star reviews isn’t necessarily best. If a company only has five-star reviews, customers may think that they’re fake or that bad reviews have been censored. No business is perfect. So while you definitely want to have more good reviews than bad, a mix of both makes consumers trust them more.
- Above all, never pay for reviews. It’s considered to be deceptive marketing and it can be illegal, which will get you into trouble with the Federal Trade Commission and lead to expensive fines. Your company will also likely be banned from whatever site on which the paid reviews were hosted. You’ll get a whole bunch of negative publicity that will quickly undo any good reputation you had established.
Handling Negative Reviews
When you see a negative review, your first reaction might be to get defensive or angry. While you’ll want to respond fairly quickly, you’ll also want to take the time to put together a calm and measured response. Start by thanking them for telling you about their experience and offer an apology that the product or service wasn’t to their liking. Then have them contact you directly or offer to contact them so you can find out what you can do to make the situation better. Essentially, your response should show that you accept responsibility and that your goal is to resolve the problem. This engagement may make the customer more likely to consider doing business with you again at a later date.
Quality Service = Quality Reviews
If you continue to focus on providing high quality products or services to your customers, this will shine through your online profiles. It will take some management on your part, though. You’ll need to ask for feedback in a timely manner and keep abreast of what customers are saying about you online. These small steps, however, will go a long way in ensuring that your small business has a strong online presence as well as a great reputation.