Why do I need reviews?
The benefits of receiving online feedback are undeniable. Theyll:
- Move you up the local search rankings in Google
- Give you a free advertising platform
- Provide you with ideas on how to improve your business
- Let you get to know your customers
Theyre not always the easiest things in the world to get, but theyre worth the perseverance.
We live in a world where 72% of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations and where 70% of people trust a review with a minimum of 6-10 reviews
Consumer reviews are trusted 12 times as much as manufacturers own reviews, according to a survey by video review site EXPO.
Our interest in reading reviews is increasing too. In 2010 58% of consumers read between 2-10 reviews: by 2012 this number had increased to 65%.
How many reviews to get ranked?
David Mihm, whos a local search expert, estimates that reviews make up 25% of Googles ranking factors, and he believes that you need at least 10 Google+ and 10 others to get you started. Research from another experienced local search consultant, Phil Rozek back in 2011 showed that 26 is a good number, and to get ranked higher in the SERPs (search engine ranking pages), youll need around one and a half times your local competitors reviews to rank higher than them (on average).
This article looks into why people leave reviews and how to get them. Read on
Why do people leave reviews?
Altruism or perhaps even enlightened self-interest. Reasons customers might want to leave a good review are:
- To do good by a company thats provided a good experience.
- To help out an independent business in their local area.
- To be a good member of the online community.
- To tell readers what they would want to know themselves.
Therefore, ask for their help and appeal to their altruistic side. Tell them you value their feedback (because you do) and its important to you and your customers (because it is). And remember to say thanks!
Expectation of a reward
Be careful: some sites dont take kindly to providing incentives customers to give them a review as they will tend to be positive reviews. However, running a competition (see below) can increase the number of reviews you receive, and you could offer a discount on a future purchase or a heads-up on a sale in return for a review, if done carefully by email.
Never, ever solicit positive reviews, however, as it only makes you look untrustworthy and it will quite possibly get you into trouble with Google, review sites, or even cause yourself a PR headache if someone talks about your actions online.
Some people like the idea of being able to influence future improvements to a product or service. Be sure to prove to customers that their views will be taken on board by listening to them and importantly, engaging with them. Include these people in focus groups and use their testimonials as part of the marketing for your new product.
You will inevitably have the odd dissatisfied customer, so youll need to give them an outlet for their unhappiness to prevent it getting to review stage, if at all possible. An email address, for example, or a phone number so that they can get in touch with you directly rather than make their grumbles public. Making it a rule to contact unhappy customers may even result in a negative review being amended, as well as possible future sales.
Bear in mind that a 2011 survey by Cone found that 80% of correspondents declined to buy a product after they had read a negative review of it. Cheeringly, the same survey found that 87% of correspondents bought a product because they had read positive reviews.
It therefore makes sense to minimise the number of negative reviews by providing excellent customer service, great products and a great after-sales service, plus dealing with customer complaints before theyre forced to make it public, if at all possible. And lots of positive reviews will outweigh the importance of negative ones, which leads us on to
Positive v Negative Reviews
For those who have cringed at the thought of having their restaurant or hotel pulled apart on TripAdvisor, there is hope: a huge number, 90 million reviews from 65 review sites, were analysed by ReviewPro to discover the percentage of reviews that were grumbles, glowing, or just meh. The results are interesting and show that people dont turn to a review site simply to communicate their dissatisfaction:
В Positive 60%, Neutral 28%, Negative“ 12%
ReviewPro said:В The need to monitor the social web for damaging content remains, but ReviewPros research proves most people go online to share positive experiences.
So, to attract real reviews that people and algorithms are going to approve of, concentrate on improving your services to attract positive real ones, rather than clearing out the bad ones or faking them altogether even if you know others are doing it.
Respond to reviews
Responding gives you the opportunity to thank positive reviewers, be seen to care about what your customers are saying about you, and it shows that youre willing to listen to and try to deal with customers issues.
Take a deep breath and reply diplomatically even if you think the review is unfair: it may well reap rewards and other people will be encourage to review you positively as well.
Contact your loyal customers to thank them for their reviews. Paying attention to your faithful taskforce will mean that theyll be better inclined to review other products for you. Try offering a reviewer of the month prize draw and you might encourage them to review you on further sites or give you more product reviews.
Users cant leave reviews on Google+ anonymously: they have to specifically have a Google+ account. This adds an element of trustworthiness to the reviews but isnt a quick and easy way for non-Google+ account holders to leave a review.
Unfortunately, these reviews are worth getting as you saw at the beginning of this article, so find out how visitors found you, and if it was on Google+ Local, ask them nicely.
Youll need your prospective reviewers email addresses if you want to ask for their reviews by email.
Its not terribly easy for bricks and mortar shops to get customers addresses in the first place, but there are ways and means:
- Leave a form beside the till that asks your customer to Sign up for our email list. Make sure you let them know that its confidential and that you wont sell on their email addresses.
- Offer a small incentive: Hotel Chocolat give their customers a small bar of chocolates if they leave their addresses. Or enter them into a draw for a prize.
- Have a fishbowl on the counter that they can put their business cards into.
- Provide a comment card with the bill or keep them beside the cash registers. As well as collating very useful customer feedback and testimonials, its an outlet for customers to vent their frustrations if theyve had an unhappy experience with you. Plus you can have a space to add an email address.
If you have a website (and you should)
- Have a sign-up form in a prominent place on every page of the site. Only ask for the name and email address so you dont scare people away.
- Add your sign-up form to your social media profiles, then post something about the great emails you send once a week to encourage people to sign up. Give a good reason for people to sign up: tell them theyll receive news about discounts or events, new menus or advance notice of sales.
Once you have these valuable addresses, dont abuse them. Send your customers a simple email a day or two after their product is due to arrive (youll need to be sure of your delivery dates as you dont want to send it before the product gets there); or one or two days after youve provided a service for them.
Pick up the Phone
I had a phone call recently from a plumbing company Id used a couple of days previously. They were following up to check that everything had gone well, and they asked me if I wouldnt mind leaving a review for them online?
I happily did so because theyd done a great job and I had been more than pleased with their service. In fact the phone call might well have been more effective than an email because I receive so many of the little critters they tend to get lost.
Make that call and you may well be rewarded with a loyal customer (Ive used them again since partly because of the good job they did and partly because of the follow-up).
Slow and steady does it
Dont have a mass mailing. If you manage to gain 500 reviews in a week, the review sites and search engines will be suspicious and you could find that all your reviews are wiped by Google, as reported in this Moz article. Yelp is another site where reviews tend to disappear.
Engage your customers
Simply by making your companys presence known youll attract reviews, so have a presence on social media and you have a chance of getting some. 40% of personal travelers and 46% of business travelers leave reviews on social media sites, according to Google Insights.
Young people are especially good at leaving feedback online and over half of millennials (Generation Y) actually trust the opinions of strangers over those of their friends and family, so it makes sense to engage this section of population (not to the detriment of your older customers, of course).