Reviews – Trust, Expertise & Social Proof
Online reviews for local businesses are vital for providing social proof, establishing expertise, and building trust in your business.
Looking through your online reviews on Google might be one of the first things a prospective customer does.
Not only do good reviews feel nice, but when managed correctly, great online reviews can improve search rankings and boost your local SEO efforts. If you don’t manage them properly, however, it can have the opposite effect.
Let’s find out how online customer reviews can impact your local SEO, how you can get more reviews, and how to handle bad reviews when they happen.
Need Help Attracting & Managing Online Reviews
The Benefits of Online Reviews for Local SEO
We’re going to start things off with some cold, hard statistics:
- More than 99.9% of people read online reviews when shopping online.
- 91% of consumers say positive reviews make them more likely to support local businesses.
(SEO Stats – Search Engine Journal)
- 79% of shoppers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. (SEJ – Local Business Reviews)
- Only 13% of people would consider using a business with a rating of two stars or less.
It’s common sense: reviews matter.
Google Sees All
But how do online reviews for local businesses impact your SEO and your search rankings? It’s simple! Google sees everything. Not in an Orwellian sort of way, but because Google puts users first.
Since Google’s algorithm is designed to prioritize the needs and opinions of its users, it listens to what they have to say. If your customers tell the online world that your business is great (or not so great), Google uses that as a signal to rank you accordingly.
That doesn’t mean that one bad review will spell out the end of your business, but too many negative reviews can take a serious toll on how you appear in search results.
How Online Reviews Impact Local SEO
If you are a business with a brick-and-mortar location, online reviews should be crucial to your local marketing strategy.
This is because when potential customers search for a business like yours in your area, they will turn to Google. They take out their phone, tap “plumbers near me,” and see what the search results pull up.
They are not looking at the paid ad section either. No, searchers are looking at a Google map with red location pins and a list of Google Business Profiles. How are they going to decide on which plumber to call? In most cases, it’s the one that has the best reviews.
Online reviews for local businesses can work alongside your Local SEO strategy to:
- Increase click-through rate
- Improve ranking for targeted keywords
- Foster social media engagement
- Lower bounce rates
- Gain insight into your audience
Gaining online reviews is crucial for demonstrating to potential customers that you are real, trustworthy, and a good investment. It’s the power of word-of-mouth, magnified tenfold by the Internet.
Why You Should Respond to EVERY Online Review
You might think that getting a bad review is the worst thing that could happen. Wrong!
The worst thing that could happen is that you don’t respond to a bad review.
Whether it’s good, bad, or ugly, it’s crucial that you reply to every review, not matter what.
A study by Harvard Business Review on TripAdvisor discovered that hotels can improve their ratings by .012 stars and attract up to 12% more reviews if they respond to every review they receive.
It’s not only that responding to reviews helps your local SEO, but customers expect it too. Consumer success specialists Yotpo conducted a consumer loyalty survey for The Local Search Association and discovered that most consumers expect a response within 24 hours.
Responding to online reviews promptly sends a signal to your customers that you value their feedback. This builds customer loyalty and recommends you to prospective customers scrolling through those reviews.
Finally, if all that wasn’t reason enough, Google has stated that: “High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”
This is really code for: Google will consider reviews when ranking your website.
How To Get More Online Reviews for Your Local Business
Okay, you’ve won. You acknowledge that reviews are the bomb. Now what?
How do you get these good reviews and boost your local SEO?
Here are a few suggestions:
Just Ask for a Review
A closed mouth doesn’t get fed. The easiest way to get online reviews for your local business is to ask your most loyal and happy customers to give you a review!
Do you have regulars, long-term partners, or early supporters that have been with you since the beginning? Reach out and ask them to leave you an online review. They’ll probably be more than happy to oblige and promote your local business.
Make it easy for your customers by specifying where you’d like them to post their reviews (like Google) and sending them your business profiles via email, link, or QR code.
Display Your Reviews Prominently
If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Place some of your glowing online reviews right on your website homepage and make it a part of your local SEO strategy. If you have reviews for specific products or services, then publish them on those respective pages.
There’s nothing wrong with a little humble bragging. Just make sure you are displaying them in a way that works for your business. If you have their permission, include the customer’s name and picture for added credibility.
Link Your Google Business Profile in Emails
Use the footer in your outgoing emails like the valuable real estate it truly is. Try including a link to your Google Business Profile underneath your contact information with a call to action to write a review.
If you normally send follow-up emails after a sale or service, add a section that asks for a public review with links to your business profiles. Following up on a sale or service and offering customers an opportunity to voice their opinion is a great way to make them feel valued.
Integrate Your Profiles
You want to make it easy for customers to leave online reviews for your local business, right? If you haven’t already, try creating a “Review Us” section that links to your social media platforms including Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn business profiles.
Connect With Partners and Suppliers
Are you a B2B business? You can still leverage reviews to get more customers! Utilize your key industry relationships by leaving your partners an honest Google review and see if they return the favour!
So long as the services they offer are not in direct competition with yours, there’s no harm in promoting one another. As a bonus, it can help your local SEO to be mentioned by other local businesses in your service area.
Offer Incentives If They Leave a Review
While some customers will happily sing your praises and recommend you to their friends and family, others may need a little nudge. Offer a discount, coupon, or another incentive in return for leaving an honest review on your business profiles.
Just remember that you cannot ask for a positive review. That’s cheating and goes against Google Policies. To stay within Google’s guidelines, that means that the two-star and five-star reviewers both would get the same coupon. You can’t play favorites.
Use QR Codes
QR codes are handy for including links “in real life.” Include a QR code if you have a sign or other print material asking customers to leave an online review. This allows the tech-savvy to scan the QR code with their phone and immediately be taken to the review link.
Give Customers a Reason to Leave a Review
We’re sure that you are already doing a great job, so this isn’t about giving you more work to do. But going above and beyond to provide an exceptional customer experience is a great step towards getting those glowing online reviews for your business.
Even something as simple as including a personalized note in a packaged order can make a customer feel valued and special. Some brands do such a good job at this that customers will share pictures of the packaging on social media!
How to Deal with Bad Online Reviews
Of course, it’s not always sunshine, roses, and rainbows. Bad reviews can hurt more than just your feelings so dealing with them should be part of your local SEO maintenance.
Unfortunately, people are far more likely to leave unprompted negative reviews than positive ones. The stats show that this has to do with how we are accustomed to sharing negative experiences with others.
Did you know that Only 5% of people do not tell anyone about a bad service experience? However:
- 81% will talk to friends and family about bad customer service.
- 57% will speak to co-workers in-person about a bad customer service experience.
- 45% tell friends through social media about bad customer service.
- 35% write online reviews about bad experiences on Yelp and Google.
So not only are people almost DEFINITELY going to tell others about a bad experience, but there are so many ways for them to do it!
Here are just a few examples:
- Talking to family over dinner.
- Telling their story to a group of co-workers during lunch break.
- Posting on Facebook or Instagram to their 200+ friends.
- Tweeting about your business with hashtags and tags.
- Writing a permanent bad online review on your Google Business listing.
Best Responses to Bad Online Reviews
The first step is to put aside your ego and remember that every bad review is a customer service opportunity.
How you respond to a bad review can have a huge impact on how others perceive your business. You can even potentially turn a bad experience into a loyal return customer.
It’s a good idea to monitor reviews as part of your ongoing local SEO maintenance.
Here’s what to keep in mind when dealing with a negative online review:
- Timing Is Key
Respond to a bad review as soon as you see it to avoid appearing unresponsive, uncaring, or secretive. Make it a habit to check business reviews daily or set up a time once a week to stay on top of your reviews.
- Admit Your Mistakes
Don’t be afraid of admitting to a mistake. Honesty speaks volumes to demonstrate that your business is real and human. Apologize sincerely and share how the problem is being resolved.
- Commit To Change
It’s important to follow through. Once you’ve apologized, explain how you are working to ensure the issue doesn’t happen again and what you’ve learned from the experience.
- Follow Up
This is part of rebuilding trust. Real people can recognize when you are sincerely sorry and trying to make things right.
- Discredit False Claims
Sometimes, the customer is not always right. Take control of the online reviews for your business that are incorrect or misleading to others. State the facts clearly and politely without getting into an argument. Sometimes, a business measure that may appear negative is in place to protect customers or maintain a high standard of service.
Online reviews can be a powerful tool for enhancing your local SEO efforts. Reviews can help potential customers make informed decisions about the products or services you offer. Additionally, online reviews for your business can help attract new customers thereby increasing revenue and improving your overall online presence.
However, for you to effectively leverage online reviews for your business, it is important to actively manage your online reputation. This includes monitoring reviews on different platforms, responding to both positive and negative reviews in a timely and professional manner, and actively soliciting reviews from satisfied customers.
About 1st on the List
As Local SEO experts, 1st on the List has over 25 years of experience helping local businesses improve and maintain their online presence.