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Online reviews: why they are important and how to manage them

In today’s digital age, the business landscape is more competitive than ever. As such, establishing a strong online presence and reputation is essential in attracting new customers and differentiating from your competitors. Consumers are increasingly relying on online resources to aid in purchasing decisions and online reviews have become one of the most important assets a business can have.

Why are online reviews so important?

Specifically, online reviews can benefit your business in the following ways:

  • Create Trust: According to a recent study, 90% of customers read online reviews before visiting a business and 88% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. Of the critical sources of information driving consumers to purchase, online reviews rank second, behind only friends and family recommendations. And millennials? They trust online reviews MORE than they trust friends and family.

  • Attracting sales: Poor online reviews can result in a loss of sales. Consumers will possibly overlook a business if it doesn’t have 3 or more stars, and are less likely to consider your product or service if you have no reviews at all. These are potential customers and sales you could be gaining. As such, getting good reviews and satisfactorily managing negative reviews is key to converting leads into customers.

  • Helping with SEO: We’re commonly asked if reviews are important to achieving great search rankings. The answer is YES - among other things, the Google algorithm does take reviews into consideration. Online reviews can boost your company’s organic search rankings in a very simple manner: the more people talk about your business the more domain authority Google will attribute to your website, and the higher Google will rank you.

Types of reviews

First-party reviews are those that live on your own website, so those might be powered by a software tool or maybe you’re just collecting them and putting them on your site. Testimonials and reviews have historically been nice to have on your site, but they are more important now because Google fairly recently changed the algorithm to account for them. So these quite literally help search results – which is key for local businesses in particular.

This doesn’t mean you can stuff your site with great reviews, Google is smarter than that and will discount sites that do this. Also, including only good reviews will undermine the credibility of all of them in your customers’ minds. Typically when people look at reviews and they’re all positive, they are unlikely to believe any of them.

Third party reviews are what we typically think of when we think of reviews. These are the reviews you might receive on a third party platform such as Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor or Yelp. In some industries, there are specialised third party review providers e.g. Rate My Agent for real estate agents.

How to get good reviews?

The best way to attract positive online reviews is by providing a product or service that meets customers’ needs and offers an all-round excellent customer experience. This is something we recommend maintaining a consistent focus on and can be done through a process of customer journey optimisation. Read more about this in our blog post on the topic.

Additionally, here are some other tips on encouraging good reviews:

  • Engage with your customers and respond to their questions as soon as possible in the platform in which they were asked, i.e. if your customer comments on Facebook, respond to them on Facebook.

  • Ask your loyal customers to provide online reviews for your business. Perhaps include a card inviting reviews in the packaging of your product. If you’re a service, why not include an invitation to review in your invoice email?

  • Always thank people for leaving reviews, both positive and negative, and offer solutions to dissatisfied customers...later in this blog post we’ll go into more detail on how to best to do this.

  • Provide incentives - but not bribes! Give your customers something small enough to not feel like a bribe, yet noticeable enough to make them remember you and want to write a review. For example, a boutique hotel in the Hunter Valley once gifted me a bottle of premium local wine with a card attached encouraging me to review them on TripAdvisor. Online reviews were clearly important to the owners - after all, good Hunter Valley wine isn’t free! A quick check of TripAdvisor finds that they have 1030 reviews, a 5 star average, and are ranked #2 of all hotels in the Pokolbin area of the Hunter Valley. Of course I wrote a lovely review - while drinking the wine!

  • Get new reviews regularly! 77% of consumers do not trust reviews that are older than 90 days, according to BrightLocal. Also, Google now uses a thing called “review velocity” (fancy words for the pace at which your business accumulates new reviews) as a ranking factor for local search results.

How to deal with negative reviews

Let’s not overlook the risks associated with online reviews. Negative online reviews can rapidly impact your reputation, all it takes is one negative review to prevent sales from taking place - that’s IF you don’t handle them well.

When it comes to negative reviews, it’s not all bad. Having a blend of both positive and negative reviews makes your business look more authentic and results in readers trusting the positive feedback even more. If you only have 5 star reviews, it can look suspicious and customers may suspect they are fake or written by your friends or relatives.

It all comes down to how you handle the negative…here are our tips:

  1. Pause: If someone complains about your business, understandably it feels like somebody is telling you that your baby is ugly. But an emotional reaction is not what you need here. We recommend you pause, take a deep breath and think it through, and then follow the steps below.

  2. Research: Who is the reviewer? Look into this by checking your CRM or sales records. Were they in fact a customer? If so, review their customer journey and any notes in your CRM. Speak with your sales team to find out the details of their sale and how things may have gone wrong.

    If you can’t find any record of them having been a customer, you can either:

    - respond advising so, and ask them to contact you direct to find out more details and try to help them, or;

    - contact the review platform and advise that they appear to be a fake review.

  3. Stay calm and apologise: This is the secret sauce...so listen up! The more angry they are, the less angry you are. So if they are really aggressive, you remain incredibly rational. This approach can be very effective in many cases of conflict resolution. They are baiting you for an online argument, don’t give them that satisfaction. They may still go on and on, but at that point everybody who’s reading the conversation will see you as rational and them as a jerk.

    Respond with an apology up front and an offer to make it right in some way. It could be as simple as saying, “We’re terribly sorry, how can we help?“ or “We’re sorry to hear you’re unhappy with our service. We’d like to make it right, so please contact us on (your email address) to discuss further”. To the reviewer, and everyone else reading, this shows that you care and want to repair the relationship. This helps to spin the review into a positive, right? That’s the key.

  4. Only respond twice: Never ever under any circumstances answer a customer more than twice online. It doesn’t matter if it’s Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or Google or TripAdvisor - just leave it at two responses. Getting into it online is never a good look for you. If they come back a third time, you just let them go - two and out.

We hope this helps you to understand more about online reviews, their importance to your business success and how to manage them. They really can be used to your advantage. Neglecting online reviews and leaving your online reputation to chance will definitely hurt your sales and a one-star change in your online reviews can make your revenue significantly higher or lower. Working to improve your star rating on key online review platforms is a simple way to make more money and improve your business operations.

Want some help to get more positive reviews? Talk to us about how to implement a reviews strategy across your business.