Whether you sell products online, provide services, or have a brick and mortar business your customers visit, your client and customer reviews play an important role in your company’s local SEO. A 2018 local consumer survey by BrightLocal found that 86 percent of potential customers read online reviews for local businesses, and of these reviews, they read about 10 before they start feeling trust.
Why Online Review Strategies Matter
As we’re sure you know, it’s important to always keep refreshing your digital marketing strategy with new practices and techniques. One of the latest practices, especially for local SEO, is to use review sites like Yelp, Google Business, Facebook, and even testimonials on your own website to improve your visibility in search results. The more sites that your business shows up on, the better—for increasing your sales, improving your online rating scale, and establishing a cadence of positive reviews.
When people searching for specific services read positive reviews, their next step is often a website or business location visit, which puts the following statistic from Propecta into context:
81 percent of B2B purchase cycles start with a web search.
So, how do the search engines use reviews to help potential customers and clients find businesses? There are two main factors they consider.
The first factor is to weigh review quantity and sentiment. The quantity, or overall number of reviews used to be the most important factor, but as of 2017, sentiment now matters even more.
The second factor is review cadence. Your business needs consistent online review activity over time, rather than a spike and dip in reviews. Keeping this in mind when developing your online review strategy will help you identify the best practices and most feasible tactics to implement for your company.
Understanding Why People Leave Reviews and How to Prepare for Reputation Management
When it comes to leaving reviews, it’s the tale of two extremes: People leave reviews when they love a brand and want to celebrate it, or, when they hate a brand and want to warn others. In other words, people with strong emotions about a brand or company’s products and services will go out of their way to sing their praises or warn other customers about their experience.
When executing your online review strategy, be prepared to take the good with the bad. We know that it takes about 10 positive reviews to nullify a single bad review, so keep that in mind when working to gain new reviews for your company and when setting your goals.
How Review Sites Affect SEO
When it comes to SEO, your primary focus should be on increasing the number of Google reviews. Your secondary focus should be on reviews platforms like Yelp, Facebook, TripAdvisor etc.
If your online review strategy goal is to use reviews to improve your SEO, you should be focusing on attracting reviews to your business listing on Google. The question isn’t “what is the best platform,” it’s “what is the best platform for SEO?”
How To Get More Reviews
It’s simple: Ask for them. The old adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” rings especially true when it comes to receiving reviews. We’ve put together a couple of ways to ask for more reviews based on best practices below.
The beginnings of a strong online review strategy:
- Know when it’s appropriate to ask for a customer review. Which past and present clients have something positive to say about their experience working with you and your team?
- Identify past and present colleagues and members of your professional network that would welcome the opportunity to leave a few kind words about your working relationship.
Once you’ve worked your way through your clients and network, you may feel like you’ve exhausted all your options. However, as with many other things in life, an online review strategy is all about timing.
Consider the following:
- Know when clients are most likely to respond and actually leave a review. For instance, after a big win, at a major company milestone, on their anniversary date, or after a big project is completed.
- Everyone’s always going to be busy. Don’t let that deter you from reaching out. Trying to identify a “slower time of year” never works, so don’t worry about reaching out to ask for their help with leaving an online review for your business.
- If it is a busier time of year, manage your expectations in terms of response time. The key to collecting more online reviews is continued follow up.
- Once you have identified the best time to reach out and which clients to reach out to, make note of this in your Customer Relationship Management system or internal timeline calendar so you don’t forget to reach out and/or follow up.
Lastly, make it easy for customers to post a review. Provide a direct link for your customers and colleagues to easily post an online review about your business.
Here is an easy step-by-step guide to simplifying this process:
- Create a link for customers to write reviews via the Google Places API.
- Copy the place ID and put it in the URL string.
- Drop that link where you want reviews.
You can also include a CTA to this link in your email signature. Here’s a sample prompt you can simply copy and paste into your existing signature:
“Have feedback for [YOUR COMPANY NAME]? Tell us how we’re doing by leaving a review on Google. [HYPERLINK TO YOUR COMPANY’S GOOGLE REVIEW PAGE].
Responding to Reviews
A review, whether it’s good, lukewarm, or bad, means that people are proactively interacting with your brand. Best practices suggest that all reviews are worth a response, especially your negative reviews. Your approach should be different, depending on the tonality of the review you’ve received.
If reviews are left on review sites or on social media, set up an alert for when they are posted. Then, get in touch with reviewers personally to thank them for leaving a review and ask them to copy/paste it to your Google Business reviews with a provided link.
Tips for responding to positive reviews:
- Be quick with your response.
- Be warm and personal.
- Thank the reviewer for leaving a review.
- Talk about “next time” and “in the future.”
- Make it actionable on your part.
Tips for responding to bad reviews:
- Keep in mind that 57 percent of the time, bad ratings relate to customer service.
- In your response, depersonalize the interaction. Remember, it’s not about you, it’s about the business.
- Be empathetic and proactive.
- Be actionable. Say what you are going to do to make it right.
- Talk about “next time” and “in the future.”
Tips for responding to lukewarm reviews:
- Consider it like a negative review.
- If you didn’t wow them, the service was disappointing in some way, so follow the same methodology in which you would respond to a bad review.
- The upside is that they found it worth their time to leave a review, they are open to giving you a second chance.
Customer reviews have a direct impact on business’ search visibility, especially local businesses. Outlining a clear, consistent way to request and respond to reviews is a great way to improve your SEO. Have any questions about local SEO or want to see more results? Let us know!