No matter how great your ad campaigns, or how innovative your services, it may not matter if the first thing your customers see is a bad review – or no reviews at all. Even though we’re living in a digital age, humans are still social creatures, and we look to the experiences and wisdom of others to guide our decision-making. This is why online reviews are crucial for your business.

87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020 – up 81% from 2019

BrightLocal, Local Consumer Review Survey 2020

Now more than ever, businesses should be using online reviews to their advantage. To help you do so, here’s our ultimate guide where we walk you through the importance of online reviews, best practices for managing and responding to reviews, and more.

Benefits of Online Reviews

While there are endless reasons that local businesses should start taking online reviews more seriously, these are just a few of the biggest points. With these benefits in mind, you’ll start to realise what you are missing out on when you don’t strategise for online reviews.

They serve as social proof for your business

We look to others when faced with a decision.

Gathering online reviews is one of the simplest, most cost-efficient ways to generate social proof for your business – the idea that consumers will adapt their behaviour based on what others are doing. Social proof is at play, for example, when a potential customer is unsure if they want to purchase your product, but then read a positive review from someone and decide to give it a chance.

They can rank your business higher in search results

While online reviews are now expected from consumers, they are also expected from Google and play a role in boosting SEO. When a business has a collection of high-quality, recent reviews, this communicates expertise, authority, and trust to Google. Thus, this business will get more consideration for search ranking than businesses who don’t have many or any reviews.

They can improve online conversions

Positive product reviews could be what convinces a customer to purchase.

Showcasing reviews on product pages, websites, and landing pages have been shown to increase conversions for businesses. With the social proof that people crave, reviews give consumers that extra push they need to make a purchasing decision or explore your business further, which in turn increases the overall sales for businesses.

They give you a chance to connect with your customers

Each online review gives you feedback on your products and services, so you can hear straight from your customers if you are meeting expectations or not. They also open the door for two-way communication, so you can thank customers or promptly provide customer support for those with an issue.

How To Collect Online Reviews

While consumers often rush to give reviews for hotels and restaurants, it can be more difficult to collect online reviews for other industries. Or, businesses of any type may struggle to receive regular, timely reviews that are the most important attributes (along with legitimacy).

Here are a few tips on how to collect online reviews.

Don’t be afraid of less-than-perfect reviews

Many businesses are hesitant to start encouraging online reviews from their customers due to the fear that they won’t receive all perfect, 5-star reviews. However, recent research from social commerce company ReeVoo has shown that these less-than-perfect reviews can actually be better for conversions.

The company found that 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see anything negative at all.

ReeVoo

So don’t let the possibility of some negative reviews keep you from starting up a review campaign for your business, or tempt you to create fake 5-star reviews.

Add links to leave reviews at major touch points with your business

Having links or places to leave a review readily available throughout the customer journey with your business can be an effective yet gentle way to encourage reviews. This can be done by creating a review section on your website or adding a review link to your email signatures.

Reach out for reviews

If you really want to collect reviews, most times the best way to do so is by reaching out and asking your customers directly in a way that is honest and not too pushy. Here are the best methods for asking for a positive review:

1. In-Person

Did your customer find exactly what they were looking for? Ask for a review.

Local businesses sometimes have the advantage of getting to know their customers, which can make asking for a review less intimidating. But even if you don’t know the customer personally, we suggest asking for a review following praise from a customer or when it seems right in conversation – just make sure to not push it.

2. By Email

Another solid approach to collecting online reviews is through email. at+m marketing is experienced in delivering automated email campaigns to customers in order to gather timely, legitimate online reviews. For example, if someone makes a purchase on your online store, a personalised email can be automatically sent out a few weeks after delivery to ask them to leave a review.

3. Over the Phone

If you’ve helped a customer over the phone, they may be willing to review your business.

If you are a customer service-heavy company, asking for reviews over the phone can be efficient. Just make sure you pick and choose who you ask based on the experience. Also, automated SMS messages with a short, friendly message and a link to leave a review is a sound strategy, much like emails.

Managing Online Reviews

So now that you know how to collect reviews, you’ll need to also develop a strategy on how to manage them. With all of the review websites out there, it is most efficient to pick and choose the platform you will pay the most attention to. Here are some of the most common review platforms.

Google My Business

Google will always remain one of the most important platforms for reviews since most local businesses are discovered with a simple Google search. Your Google My Business listing appears when someone searches for your business or what your business provides, and it places a big focus on reviews.

As you can see, a GMB listing features your business’ reviews in a prominent location which instantly captures user attention. You’ll also receive a review snapshot from Google which rates your business out of 5 stars and is very visible to users, showing the importance of managing these reviews.

Yelp

Many platforms, such as Apple Maps and Microsoft Bing, pull reviews from Yelp when they showcase reviews for businesses in a search. When a user clicks on the reviews, they can read full reviews on Yelp’s website. It’s important to note here, that it is against user guidelines to solicit reviews for Yelp.

Facebook

Facebook acts a bit different than other platforms, tossing aside the star rating system and instead allowing users to either recommend or not recommend a business. They can then add a comment and keywords about their experience.

Pink stars represent a positive recommendation, while gray stars represent a negative one.

You can manage these listings straight from the reviews section of your Business Page. Personalised responses to reviews are expected on this social platform.

Others

Different businesses have different review platforms that are important to them, so part of your review strategy should be to figure out where your time will be best spent. Other than Facebook, Google, or Yelp, businesses that sell products like electronics or kitchenware may rely on productreview.com.au reviews, while hotels and restaurants often focus on TripAdvisor reviews.

Responding To Online Reviews

It’s not enough to just have reviews for your local business – you also need to create a strategy for how you respond to the reviews, regardless if they are positive or negative. When you are structuring your response, follow these three P’s.

Prompt

Timely responses can mend broken relationships.

Responding to customer reviews gives customers the feeling that they are a top priority and are having their voices heard, which can encourage others to leave reviews as well. For negative reviews, timely responses give you the chance to remedy the situation before they tell friends or family about their poor experience or you lose them as a customer. With the right response, you may even be able to change a bad review to a good one.

Professional

Staying on-brand and professional in your responses to reviews should be top priority. Make sure you spell check your responses, since too many errors could make your business seem unprofessional. Also, making your responses a bit lengthier than “thanks for the review” can reflect well on your business.

Positive

Keep your cool when responding to criticism.

Keeping a positive tone for every review, good or bad, shows that your business is open to feedback. If you are constantly responding back to criticism with negative responses, then customers will feel your defensiveness and create a negative picture of your business as a whole. Keep your responses friendly, empathic, and upbeat at all times.

How To Use Reviews For Your Business

Since you spend a chunk of time collecting, managing, and responding to reviews, you should also use them to your business’ advantage in other marketing strategies. Here are just a few ways businesses use positive reviews on their website and in other marketing efforts.

Website

  • Display a handful of customer reviews across your pages
  • Add review site badges to your website
  • Include reviews within case studies
  • Post reviews at the bottom of your blog posts

Social Media

Look out for positive review posts from users on social media and share them.
  • Create content that showcases customer reviews
  • Share posts that customers have created about your business

e-Newsletters

  • Develop emails every now and then showcasing reviews
  • Include reviews at the bottom of emails

Contact at+m marketing For Help

By following this guide on collecting, managing, and responding to online reviews, you will elevate your business and your reputation in the digital space while connecting better than ever before with consumers.

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