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Online reviews could very well be the key for small business growth.
If you are running, or plan to run, a small, locally-oriented and marketed business, you need to read and understand the above statement. To begin with, it should not come as any “recently discovered” news that people around the world love to voice their opinions about pretty much everything… and we have social media platforms to thank for that.
Mobiley-Social or Socially Mobile?
Ever since the advent of technologically advanced mobile devices and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook – not to mention the wildly popular and almost overwhelmingly successful YouTube – humans have been not only commenting about nearly every move they make from morning until night, but also commenting on everything around them. While there is certainly some concern for the negative aspects of utilizing these platforms, such as secretly recording others with cell cameras and posting these strangers’ images on Facebook pages (for reasons beyond us), there have been more than a few positive uses that have come in the form of restaurant and retail store reviews.
This trend doesn’t stop with writing reviews – a whopping 90-percent of consumers read other people’s reviews when making decisions about where to go, or even who to hire. It makes sense, then, that a small business should be paying attention to these reviews if it’s looking to expand so it can fix any aspect that may be putting off potential customers.
The people are speaking… and you better be listening.
But here’s a somewhat alarming observation we have made: In its inaugural Small Business and Online Reviews Survey, local online marketing entity Yodle found that many small business owners don’t put that much stock into feedback. In fact, only half of the 300 respondents reported that they believe “positive online reviews” are important; nearly one in four (23-percent) went so far as to say they’re actually unimportant.
We’re going to show you why this isn’t the perspective to harbor…
Positive Reviews Can be a Great Way for Small Businesses to Grow
Here’s a sort of flip side to that Yodle coin: A recent infographic from Merchant Warehouse regarding Yelp – one of the frequently-used and most popular online review portals – found that a staggering 72-percent of consumers do in fact trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. What’s more, 93-percent of people who researched a certain product on a review site made a purchase via the business they showed interest in.
This infographic also revealed that small businesses that had a fully optimized Yelp account enjoyed an average revenue increase of $8,000 – and that’s not peanuts for a locally-oriented business owner. These numbers, we feel, make it clear that even if a small business has access to only “barebones” technology, its owners and operators should make sure it’s active on social media.
Positive Reviews = Positive Growth
Now, let’s get into the positive review arena, and how these affect small business growth. First, here are some eye-opening statistics: Some 72-percent of consumers say that positive reviews allow them to trust a local business more, which equates to seven out of 10 people believing positive reviews indeed inspire trust. What does this suggest? Just how important positive reviews are for local business…and that it’s clear that reputation management is an element that cannot be ignored. Conversely, any negative reviews will directly affect customer acquisition and, in turn, company revenue.
While just one in 10 consumers do not tend to take notice of online reviews, we have been noticing that this percentage is decreasing on a year-after-year basis as review consumption becomes more commonplace.
Why do you want good online reviews?
• Reviews Stand Out in Search Results – Positive reviews accessed via search engines like Google and those found on review sites like Yelp can assist in attracting more visitors to check out your business, as they often feature prominently in search results.
• Reviews Can Help Improve Conversions (Signups, Sales, Leads, etc.) – Boasting a plethora of positive reviews can make people feel more comfortable about doing business with you.
MVMG Quick Stat: In a survey conducted by Marketing Land, 90-percent of respondents reported that POSITIVE online reviews influenced their buying decisions.
• Only Highly-Rated or Reviewed Sites May be Chosen to be Viewed – Some portals, such as Google and Yelp, allow visitors to only view listings boasting a minimum star rating, or to sort the listings by the most reviews.
MVMG Quick Tip: If your business exists in a market wherein a large percentage of your competitors boast online reviews, your listing may not even be visible if you don’t garner enough positive reviews.
How to Gain More Positive Reviews…and How to Deal with the Negative Ones When They Occur
If your business operates within the confines of a geographically-defined area – i.e. you’re “local” – you should know by now how important it is to rank higher than your competitors for local searches. Considering that 46-percent of consumers now research companies exclusively on their mobile devices, coupled with the inescapable fact that search engines such as Google now represent the primary research tools, you really don’t have to be a marketing guru to see a direct correlation between your local search engine ranking and your overall business success.
One of the best ways to increase your local search visibility is to create a Google Plus Business page and fill it out completely; doing so can rocket your business into the relevancy-for-local search parameters arena in mere DAYS. However, simply having a profile isn’t enough…you also have to earn reviews, and you know what we’re going to say next, right? Yes…they must be POSITIVE reviews at that!
Know Your Consumer Behavior
Before we go into the ways you can generate positive online reviews for your company, let’s discuss a couple of factors at play here. An unfortunate reality every established business has been hit with is that it seems far easier to garner negative reviews than positive ones; when customers feel jilted, they’re motivated and angry enough to take to their tablet and tell the whole wide Internet about it.
When it comes to satisfied customers, they’re…well…”satisfied,” and are probably busy enjoying the products and indulging in the services you provided them, having little incentive to offer reviews.
Now, don’t get us wrong – this isn’t a bad thing…just an observation regarding average consumer behavior. Indeed, customers expect outstanding service to be the norm, not the exception, regardless of what the reality of the situation dictates (and we know this can be frustrating at times when we all know everyone isn’t 100-percent perfect). Still, it’s possible to generate a ton of positive online reviews that will assist you in increasing local SEO rankings…so let’s take a look at how you can achieve that.
1. Ask for Reviews
You know something? It never hurts to ask. But here’s the catch: Wait until the sale is complete and customers have had time to try your products and services before you do. You’ll find that many customers are willing to provide an online review if you tell them that you take reviews very seriously and actively monitor them to help analyze overall customer satisfaction.
2. Attend to Negative Reviews Quickly
The bottom line is this: Address a bad review immediately upon receiving one, either online if possible or in person if the reviewer can be identified. We can’t stress enough just how important attempting to make everything right in a brief period of time is; absolutely resist the urge, as well, to respond harshly to the individual who left the review (believe us…we know it’s tempting) even if you feel the blame lies with them in this situation. Other customers will view these efforts as genuine and see you as a businessperson that does everything in your power to make their customers happy, and they will want to buy from you based on that reason alone.
3. Make it Easy for Customers to Review Your Business
The last thing you want is for customers to have to search for your profile or otherwise jump through proverbial hoops to provide your company with a positive review, so make it as easy as possible. Prominently feature a button on your website that links visitors to your Google Plus page so that they may submit reviews, and do the same in your emails.
4. Never Fake Reviews
One of the worst shortcuts you want to take in this whole sector is asking friends or family members to solicit positive reviews for your company; why? Trust us when we tell you that seasoned Internet surfers can spot a fake review from a distant desert island – and such reviews don’t read as though they’re genuinely written, anyway.
MVMG Tip: Always remember that you want to generate REAL reviews from REAL customers so they lend credibility to your business.
5. Set Up Profiles on Alternative Websites
Facebook, Bing, Yelp and a plethora of other popular websites allow users to set up business profiles and earn reviews. While Google Plus is often considered the “big dog” amongst Google searches, it’s not the only one out there. What’s more, additional citations and positive third-party reviews only help you rank better on Google.
6. Monitor Your Online Reputation
This is a tactic we’ve covered in other blogs, and it remains vital to local business marketing. The idea here is to keep track of how many reviews you receive – positive, negative or otherwise – to analyze and gauge how effective you are at generating positive reviews while addressing the problem of negative reviews across the entire Internet. You can search for services that enable you to monitor your online reputation to identify the platform that makes the most sense for your needs; though some of them charge a monthly fee, this is money well spent because it will help you obtain better reviews and increase your search engine ranking.
7. Do a Good Job
At the end of the day, no matter what product or service you’re selling, just do the best job possible…go out of your way to under-promise and over-deliver while truly “wowing” your customers. You know what will happen? They’ll be motivated to hop online and tell the world how awesome your company is and how well you’ve treated them.
Small business marketing doesn’t have to be overtly difficult. Delivering a great product or service at a great price – and backing it with impeccable customer service – is the single-best way to generate positive online reviews that help catapult your local SEO rankings.
Questions? Comments? Leave them below! …and don’t forget to leave us an online review! 😉