Online Reviews Can Make or Break Your Business: Why They Matter, What You Need to Know
It’s no secret that the internet has dramatically changed how consumers make purchasing decisions. One of the most important factors in this decision-making process is online reviews. We read them before we decide where to eat, what movie to see, or even who to date. Reviews are often the deciding factor when it comes to making a big purchase like a car or an appliance because they help us make decisions based on other people’s experiences. They can be an invaluable resource for determining whether or not to buy something and who to trust.
In the age of social media, reviews have more power than ever and they can make or break your business. It may sound crazy but it’s true!
The truth is that online reviews are now one of the most important factors to consider when it comes to marketing and customer service. For many companies, their business lives and dies by positive reviews because this is one of the few ways in which they have direct contact with potential customers and social proof that helps them build trust and loyalty among their clients.
It’s up to business owners to monitor their online reputation and manage it proactively so as not to suffer negative consequences such as lost customers, low sales figures, and poor Google ranking.
Yet, despite this, many businesses don’t take reviews seriously enough. They either don’t monitor what people are saying about them online, have no system in place to collect regular reviews, or simply ignore any negative reviews that appear online about their company. That’s a huge mistake!
So what exactly is an online review? What do businesses need to know about them? And why should you care?
If you are a small business owner, online reviews should be one of your top priorities. Reviews can make or break your company and how it’s perceived in the marketplace. The benefits they provide to businesses vary from trust and loyalty among customers to increased enquiries for services that will lead to more sales. At the other extreme, it’s easy to lose potential customers if your ratings are low.
Let’s dive a little deeper into some of the most important benefits to your business when your customers share their positive experience of working with your company online…
Benefits of Positive Online Reviews
Improved Google Rank
According to Bizrate Insights 2021, Google is the most popular online review platform and a huge 59% of consumers use it to read reviews. But, it doesn’t end there! Google has now incorporated online reviews into their ranking algorithm for local searches meaning that businesses with lots of regular, positive reviews will rank higher up than those that don’t.
Of course, every business wants to rank well on Google. Higher rank = more people clicking through to your website = more enquiries = more sales!
Online reviews are now crucial to achieving that goal.
With most selling and social media platforms across the internet now having dedicated review features, there are many places customers can leave a review for your business online.
Whether it’s search engines such as Google or Bing, or sites like Amazon or Facebook, these are the first places potential customers look when deciding to make a purchase.
As we’ve already said, Google has made reviews an integral part of their ranking system which will obviously directly impact your online visibility. But Google aside, all of these sites favour fresh and original content and a steady stream of regular positive reviews is a great way to keep those algorithms happy and ensure your business gets the visibility it deserves.
Increased Trust, Social Proof & Customer Loyalty
You may have heard the term ‘social proof’; it’s the idea that if lots of people say something is good then it must be good. In the offline world, word-of-mouth and recommendations are hugely important in creating social proof – in the online world, reviews play that same role.
The most powerful form of social proof is when consumers share reviews online about their experience using your company. When people can see that others are satisfied with your product or service it creates a heightened sense of trust in your brand as well as helping to build customer loyalty.
A recent study by BrightLocal found that 86% of consumers read online reviews about businesses they haven’t tried yet with 55% saying the ratings on those reviews influenced their purchasing decision.
Furthermore, according to a 2020 TrustPilot survey, 89% of consumers across the globe read online reviews before making a purchase.
It seems obvious then that good online reviews for your business should translate into more enquiries and more sales. However, that’s only partially true. The same BrightLocal survey also reported that ‘73% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written in the last month’ demonstrating the importance, not just of positive reviews, but regular positive reviews if you want to see a significant increase in enquiries from potential customers.
Indeed, the latest 2021 stats from Bizrate Insights indicate that businesses which have regular reviews are more likely to see an increase in enquiries and sales than those that don’t.
No-Cost Marketing Tool
Many businesses spend huge amounts of money on their marketing campaigns and lead generation efforts but forget the power of online reviews as a completely free yet immensely effective marketing tool.
What your existing customers say about you in their online reviews is more believable to your prospective customers than what you say about yourself in your website copy, social media or any other advertising channels. It makes sense then, to take advantage of the opportunity to have your clients share their positive experiences with your business – it’s the most powerful and trusted form of advertising for your company without having to increase your marketing spend!
A Customer Perspective of Your Business
Not only are reviews invaluable when it comes to attracting new business, but they can also enable you to see how people view the experience they have had with your company. This is essentially a gold mine of information that can help you to improve your products and services and refine your customer experience.
So, we’ve seen that the business benefits of having positive reviews are enormous. And we’ve looked at why it’s so important to keep getting new reviews to help with Google rank, social media/web visibility, and to provide prospective customers with up-to-date ratings for your business. But what about negative reviews? Can they really damage your business?
The Impact of Negative Reviews…
The effects of even one negative review can be devastating if not handled in the right way. To put this into perspective, a recent study by the Harvard Business Review found that negative reviews can reduce sales by up to 50% or more.
Sadly, consumers are more likely to leave a review online following a negative experience than they are after a positive one. It’s likely that at some point your business may receive an unfavourable review; in today’s world where everyone wants to voice their opinion, it’s pretty unavoidable.
You’ll want to have a strategy in place for dealing with bad online reviews as they happen because the impact of a single negative review can be serious. The Harvard study found that ‘negative reviews on social media, in particular, have proven to reduce brand equity by as much as 40%.’
So what can you do if someone leaves you a negative review?
- Have your team respond in a professional manner as soon as they see it happen. This is why monitoring your online reviews is vital; when someone says something negative about your business online, you need to make sure it’s picked up straight away so that it can be dealt with quickly and professionally.
- The worst thing you can do is to ignore bad reviews or respond with a defensive attitude. both of these things will only make it worse and get more people talking about your business on social media sites etc.
- Remember, people who have had a bad experience with your business are complaining for a reason. Instead of fighting back and blaming them for giving negative feedback, try to understand the reasons behind their complaint so that you can rectify things in future.
- You should never be afraid to acknowledge customer complaints; they can ultimately serve to make your company, your products and your service better.
- Determine not to let negative reviews bring your business down. Learn from them and use the feedback to improve your customer service.
- Ultimately, customers want to know that you care. You can demonstrate this by acknowledging their complaint, seeking to understand the problem, and corresponding with them in an appropriate manner to reach an agreeable solution where possible.
Another Harvard study conducted in 2018 found that the simple act of responding to a negative review online rather than ignoring it can actually have a positive effect on your ratings. After studying thousands of hotel reviews on TripAdvisor, it was discovered that the hotels that responded to their customer reviews (both positive and negative) attracted 12% more reviews than those that didn’t. This in turn caused their TripAdvisor ratings to increase.
The key to minimising the impact of negative reviews is by building a regular stream of fresh, positive reviews that will outweigh anything negative. The best way to earn positive reviews is by providing a great service and being communicative with customers. Creating an incredible experience will make your clients want to say great things about you.
The effects of reviews – both positive and negative – are exponential, which is why it’s so important that you monitor them, respond swiftly and use them to your advantage.
It’s advisable to have a plan in place for actively monitoring and managing your online reviews – if you don’t, they can build up and cause even bigger problems down the line.
You can of course do this yourself, or you may choose to use a review management company to take care of it all for you. A review management company can monitor your online reviews, internalise any negative reviews ensuring they can be responded to before going public, and also get a steady stream of fresh positive reviews coming in for your business. If you’re short on time or prefer to concentrate your efforts on your core business activity then this may be a great option for you to explore.
Hopefully, you can see how online reviews are an incredibly powerful tool that can have significant benefits for any small or medium-sized business. They give potential customers increased peace of mind in their buying decision, and they create trust and social proof that can mean more sales. Regular positive reviews can significantly increase enquiries and improve Google rank too which could help lead to an influx of new leads without any extra effort from you!
As a business owner if you haven’t already started encouraging your customers to share their experience of working with your company online, now is the time.
If you have any questions about anything we’ve discussed or you would like to learn more about how we can help you to implement these techniques, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you!