These days, one of the most powerful brand awareness and marketing tools in your arsenal is online reviews. If you know how to use them, online reviews can help you sell more products, improve your brand’s reputation, and increase your visibility all at the same time—and since reviews are written by your customers, you won’t even have to expend much effort to reap the rewards.
So how is it that online reviews have come to matter so much, and what can you do to get more of them?
Why Online Reviews Matter
These are some of the biggest reasons why online marketers have been clamoring to get more and better online reviews:
- Consumer trust. You may be surprised to learn that online reviews are one of the most trusted sources of information available in the modern world. In fact, 88 percent of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family members. That means reviews carry significant weight, and if they make a recommendation, the people reading the review are likely to follow it.
- Buying decisions. Reviews become even more powerful when you realize how most consumers use them. They don’t read reviews for fun most of the time; instead, they consult reviews only when they’re close to making a purchasing decision, such as when they’re ready to try a new weight loss plan, or they’re trying to decide on a place to eat.
- Search and third-party visibility. Yelp and other third-party review providers take their reviews seriously, and consumers have come to trust them for verifying review authenticity and accuracy. Google and other search engines have also modified their algorithms in recent years to favor online reviews. The end result here is that your brand will have more visibility across multiple online channels, including reviews in search results and in third-party review sites.
- Domain authority. Getting more and better reviews is likely to increase your site’s domain authority, which in turn is going to improve how you rank for various searches related to your business. In fact, if you want to rank in the coveted top three results for local searches, reviews are a practical necessity.
- Brand engagement. Even if you get a bad review, the customer leaving reviews is engaging actively with your brand. That brand engagement is going to open the door to more positive brand interactions. With negative reviewers, you can apologize and attempt to correct the situation. With positive reviewers, you can thank them for their patronage and welcome them back for a return trip.
- Feedback opportunities. Reading your own online reviews is also a good way to get honest feedback about your business. Is there something that most customers seem to like or dislike? What can you do to change your offerings to reflect those preferences?
How to Get More (and Better) Reviews
So now that you know why online reviews are so important, what can you do to improve the quality and quantity of yours?
- Start with amazing service. As you might imagine, everything starts with giving your customers fantastic products, and even better service. Go out of your way to make your customers’ experiences unique, and they’ll reward you with exceptional reviews.
- List yourself in as many directories as you can. Make sure your brand is listed in as many third-party directories as possible (assuming they’re relevant for your brand). Clean up your local citations here by ensuring that your name, address, phone number, and website are listed accurately; this is key to see the greatest return on your investment.
- Promote your brand’s visibility. Let your customers know that your brand is listed on these review sites. You won’t be able to solicit reviews directly in any way (it’s explicitly forbidden by most review sites), but you can advertise your presence and hope for the reviews to trickle in.
- Respond to both positive and negative reviews. When reviews do come in, respond to them—regardless of whether they’re positive or negative. It’s a good opportunity to reinforce positive vibes, correct negative experiences, and show that you’re an active brand that cares about its customers.
Online reviews are one of the best ways to improve your business’s online visibility, so don’t neglect them in your reputation management or online marketing strategy. You won’t be able to write or post the reviews yourself, but you can control the circumstances surrounding your reviews, and hopefully optimize them for the better.