No-one likes receiving a negative review; but it’s been estimated that a negative experience is 21% more likely to inspire an online review than a positive experience. It’s a trend that has experienced some welcome reversal as of late but, as a business, you need to be conscious of the impact reviews can have. Today we’re going to explore the roles played by online reviews and the steps you can take in managing your reviews to improve your online reputation and set your business up for greater success.
Shaping Consumer Opinion
72% of consumers refuse to invest in a product or service until they’ve explored online reviews. This number continues to climb as we shift our focus to younger consumers, with 91% of millennials emphasizing the importance they place on online reviews by claiming that they trust those reviews as much as they trust friends and family. A bold statement for sure, but with stats like that it becomes easy to understand why online reviews carry so much clout.
Now, what if we told you that 70% of consumers prefer a minimum of four positive reviews before they place their trust in a business? Or that up to 90% of consumers scroll through as many at 10 reviews to help inform their opinions? You’d have to be pretty shortsighted to downplay the potential impact of online reviews on the continued success of your business. But with attentive management, reviews can be made to work in your favor; they can help to shape consumer opinion in a positive manner, and play a key role in your SEO strategy.
Influencing Search Results
Our regular readers are no strangers to the term ‘search signals’. In layman’s terms, search signals are factors that make your site look good or bad in the all-seeing eye of Google. In the annual breakdown of Local Search Ranking Factors from Moz we gain some insight as to how relevant each kind of signal is in Google’s determination of local search rankings; and among the eight primary ranking factors, review signals rank third at 15.44%.
So, if reviews influence both consumer opinion and search result ranking position, where should a business begin when trying to manage their reviews? Well, in the world of online reviews, Google lays claim to a whopping 57.5% of reviews worldwide! That’s a big piece of the pie, with Facebook taking a distant second spot at 19%, Trip Advisor pulling in 8.4% and Yelp only grabbing a modest 6.6% (before we start splitting the remaining 8.6% between everyone else). So, attentive management of both your Google and Facebook reviews will account for nearly 80% of search signals being generated by your business!
But What About Yelp?
Truth be told, I hate to even give Yelp space in this article. As mentioned above, Yelp only accounts for less than 7% of online reviews; but it is the 2nd most popular destination for those in search of online reviews for businesses.
Yelp ratings also feed the ‘Review Stars’ feature on Apple Maps. Following its well-publicized (and criminally overdue) overhaul, the improved Apple Maps feature surged in popularity. Among iPhone users in 2019, Apple Maps was was used 3x more than Google Maps. This may only be a piece of the puzzle, but it reminds us that Local Search isn’t solely influenced by Google and that, while Yelp reviews still play a role in influencing consumer opinion.
Best Practices for Managing Your Reviews
- Exceed expectations. Regardless of their motivation, a consumer who takes the time to leave a review expect a prompt acknowledgment, response or corrective action, right? You might be surprised. According to a recent survey, only 53.3% of online reviewers expect a response within 7 days, and the remaining 46.7% don’t expect a response at all. In other words, it’s not hard to meet (let alone exceed) expectations in the digital realm.
- Take Action. As we move from expectation to reality, consider this: 63.3% of respondents claim to have never received a response to an online review. That’s nearly two-thirds, which emphasizes just how easily you can set yourself apart by responding.
- Do Not Delete Negative Reviews. Regardless of a negative review’s merit (or lack thereof) you need to view it as an opportunity to exercise your customer service skills. With the review having been left publicly, your initial response should be prompt and public, before taking the conversation offline. This will help to shape the perception of other potential customers who are reading your reviews. In fact, 44.6% of consumers are more likely to visit a local business if that business replies to negative reviews. That said, some negative reviews test the limits of propriety. If they violate community standards, include threats and/or offensive language you can report the posts in the aim of having them removed.
- Understand the Context of the Review. Over the last decade we’ve seen the word count of online reviews drop by over 60%. On one hand, this helps to reduce the number of emotion-fueled rants out there, but can also minimize helpful context or details that might otherwise aid in acknowledgement and resolution. In addition, it’s important to recognize the potential disparity between a ‘star-type’ rating and a text-based review. A reviewer might leave a 5-star review without any descriptives as to why they were so pleased, or leave a 1-star review without any explanation of their dissatisfaction. To prevent any missteps, make it a priority to understand the context and intent of a review.
- Remember That You Have an Audience. While it’s important that you respond to the reviewer, it’s equally important to remember that you have a wider audience. How you respond will influence future opportunities.
- Be Responsive and Concise. Your initial response to a review (whether positive or negative) should be short, simple and conversational. Be personal, but professional. Avoid robotic phrasing, or customer service jargon. Acknowledge the reviewer in a personalized manner. Acknowledge the feedback based on the context of the review. And, in the case of negative reviews, move the conversation offline where you discuss the issue in greater detail, albeit in a private space. While some reviewers might be resistant, it sends a message to the wider audience that (i) you’re responsive and committed to doing right by your customers, and (ii) are respectful of privacy.
- Optimize Positive Reviews. When responding to a positive reviews (especially ones that lack context) remember that your response can be used to provide additional insights on the products or services that earned you praise. This can help to shine a light on those products and services, improving your search rankings and making you more visible to users who are in search of them.
Make Reviews Work for You
Online reviews can be intimidating, but view each one as an opportunity to communicate your value and build stronger relationships. And when it comes to negative reviews, you have far more to lose by not replying (or attempting to delete them). Be prompt. Be responsive. Be professional. You might be surprised by the results.