Where’s the first place you look when you’re in the market for a new gizmo or home service? Chances are you wouldn’t make a decision without doing some research, and like 87% of consumers, you would probably read online reviews to help narrow down your options.

Online reviews have become a crucial part of the customer’s buying journey. Establishing and maintaining an online review strategy for your business builds trust, boosts revenue and can help drive more website traffic.

The Proof is in the Stars

Social proof is the measurement of credibility and the overall likability of a business or product. Sources of social proof usually include industry experts, celebrities, friends and family. But in the age of social media and online shopping, reviews have transformed into one of the most effective forms of social proof. According to Bright Local in 2020, 79% of consumers say they trust reviews just as much as they would trust a personal recommendation.

It’s important to remember customers want to see authentic reviews, so don’t be afraid to ask for them and encourage honest thoughts. Although it’s important people leave positive reviews, don’t freak out by a few negative reviews. They show visitors you haven’t stacked the site with counterfeit ones. People also know how to sift out the unfair complainers. If you have only 5-star ratings, it may give customers a “too good to be true” feeling and discourage them from making a purchase. On the other hand, if you have predominantly negative reviews, then you likely have operational, quality and/or customer service issues that need to be addressed.

Give Online Sales a Boost

According to a 2021 survey conducted by Podium, an interaction management software company, about half of consumers would be willing to travel farther to visit a business with higher reviews and pay more for the products or services. Reading about the experiences of other customers helps convince prospects the business is worth their time and money. In fact, this article in Harvard Business Review says businesses that improve their rating by one star on Yelp often see a 5-9% increase in revenue.

Additionally, you can use online reviews in various marketing communications to showcase the value of your products or services. If people are raving about a specific product, you can feature some of those reviews in your abandoned shopping cart campaigns to spark a customer’s interest and encourage a purchase.

Customer reviews also make for great social media content. Highlighting useful reviews on social networks provides further proof to your followers that others are pleased with the product or service. Plus, customer reviews may highlight specific selling points to seal the deal with prospective customers. Consider that 40% of consumers use social media to research brands and products according to a 2020 Global Web Index report.

Support an SEO Strategy

Believe it or not, online reviews have a substantial impact on SEO. Regardless of what search engine you’re using, something most algorithms have in common is the value of user-generated content (UGC). Customer reviews are a form of UGC favored by search engines because they help build SEO attributes including keywords and internal/external links.

When you’re looking for a local business, results often pop up from Google Maps, which will also display the reviews. Google search rankings are partially influenced by positive business reviews and boost discoverability. According to BrightLocal, the importance of reviews has increased, noting how reviews were responsible for 16% of search engine decisions for local rankings in 2020, compared to 12% in 2018.

In order to stay competitive, businesses must create and maintain an online review strategy. Regardless of what your business does, whether it’s providing services or selling products, you need to be proactive with review sites and online business listings. We know running a business and managing its online reputation isn’t a walk in the park. Discover how we can help enhance inbound marketing strategies and boost your business’s online presence.