There are entire conversations occurring about your business online. Often, these take the form of customer reviews and can be found on search engines, directories, and even social sites. This new word of mouth spreads at a rate our grandparents only dreamed of and has real repercussions for a business’s bottom line. Here are four things to help you better understand how those stars and thumbs affect your business.

Search engines are placing increased emphasis on reviews.

In early September, Google rolled out “Reviews from the Web.” This new feature displays a business’s average reviews from up to three sources around the web directly on the knowledge panel of Google Maps. Now your Facebook and Yelp reviews are front and center, right along with Google Plus reviews, on both desktop and mobile.

google reviews from the web

 

The inclusion of more reviews in the knowledge panel follows Google’s earlier updates that gave more favor to review sites, giving them more prominence on search engine results pages. Just do a quick Google search for your business name, and you are likely to see several review sites right along with your website. Simply put, online reviews are only becoming more prominent in search, not less.

Both quantity and quality of reviews influence buyer behavior.

I have heard some business owners boast that they have the most reviews of any local business in their category. I’ve heard others wax that they have the highest star rating. Truth be told, you need a good balance of quantity and quality. Having a hundred reviews but an average rating of three stars suggests that reviewers are passionate about your business, but not necessarily in the way you want. Similarly, an average five-star rating with only three reviews fails to build trust with a potential customer.

Depending on the date of the last review, it could even look like you started strong and then dropped the ball (or ran out of friends and family). I would rather have twenty-five solid reviews with an average four-star rating than either of the prior examples. It’s the balancing act of quantity and quality that drives the greatest long-term results.

Your responses, or lack thereof, indicate your commitment to customer service.

There is nothing worse for me than finding a negative review for one of my clients that went unanswered. If a customer standing in your business complained, would you ignore them? Of course not, but that is essentially what you’ve done when you fail to acknowledge a negative review.

I’ll talk about how to appropriately respond to negative reviews in a future blog post. For now, understand that responding shows other potential customers that you care enough to try to make good on negative customer experiences. While we’re at it, don’t forget to thank your customers for the positive reviews that they leave. You don’t have to respond to each and every one, but occasionally thanking them improves customer loyalty and shows that you appreciate your biggest brand advocates.

Online reviews can be indicators of offline problems.

This one goes both ways. On the one hand, if there are enough reviewers commenting on rude staff, or long waits, or whatever, maybe it’s time to investigate. No business does everything right all of the time and we all can improve. Take heed when several reviews come in about the same issue and take corrective action. On the other hand, no amount of responding to reviews or asking for new ones from customers is going to have a positive effect if something is truly broken in your business. Fix the real world problems and the online ones go away, too.

To learn more about managing your reputation online contact me at chris.west@soapboxteam.com, and be on the lookout for future blog posts outlining best practices in responding to negative reviews.