Understanding the Impact of Online Reviews on Your Business

The digital world is constantly changing, small business owners can’t ignore the power that online reviews have over their businesses. Here are some statistics that put this impact in perspective:

  • 97% of people read online reviews on their local businesses.
  • Younger generations (18-34) say they weigh online reviews on the same level as personal recommendations
  • 89% of customers also read the responses companies make to reviews

Combine all these facts together, and it’s clear that creating a robust, positive online review profile is key for drawing in customers, especially for small businesses that don’t have an established brand presence yet. Let’s take a closer look at how this impact breaks down in practice.

Positive Reviews

When it comes to positive reviews and how they impact your company, it sounds pretty self-explanatory at first. People want to work with companies they will be happy with, and the best evidence for this is other customers who had a good experience.

However, there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to ‘ideal positive reviews’ and how you can cultivate them. For example, a 5-star review simply saying “great work” isn’t going to be as effective as a 4.5 star review with a detailed story and explanation. As a result, you want a range of positive, and even some critical reviews to work with.

Why is this the case? Customers are savvy when it comes to online marketing these days, and reviews are no different. A flurry of reviews that are positive, but similar, are likely to set off red flags.

Equally important when we talk about reviews and diversity are the platforms that you use. Positive reviews are a key facet of local SEO, and because of this, you want to build reviews on as many platforms as possible.

Your website’s testimonial section is a good start, but you also want to work with online directories like Yelp or Google My Business. In the case of Google, having a profile with strong positive reviews is a top ranking factor in the Local 3-Pack.

How to Cultivate Positive Reviews

Some companies try to offer promotions for these reviews, but you need to be careful. Legally speaking, you can’t say “leave me a good review and you’ll get this discount,” so you need to be prepared for the good or bad impressions that a customer may leave. This is one area where smaller businesses benefit, due to the closer interaction and higher tier of customer service.

As a final add-on to this point, it’s easy to forget about the power of asking when it comes to building up your review profile.

The bulk of the time, while consumers may be willing to leave a review, it’s not the first thing they think of doing. The one exception to this is if they have a really bad experience.

So, by simply asking politely at some point during the sale or service, you have a massive increase to your chances of getting a review.

Multiple Platforms For Your Positive Reviews

Before we get into negative reviews, let’s talk some more about local SEO and building reviews in several locations. In the same way that building up backlinks to your pages across a variety of other pages increases your ranking, so do positive reviews.

Here’s a mini-checklist of places you want to make sure you are featured:

  • Your own website’s testimonial section: Sometimes, people have already heard of your brand and just want to know more about it. Having some reviews here keeps them from having to go to another site before they convert.
  • Social media pages: Business Facebook pages and even tweets with some testimonials are a good way to provide reviews for people on the platforms they use the most.
  • Business directories: We mentioned this before, but sites like Yelp and Angie’s List are generally where people go first when looking for reviews.
  • Specialty sites: If you serve a specific niche, savvy customers will look for review sites or platforms that service that niche, rather than general social media or business directories. Sites like TripAdvisor for hospitality/entertainment are a good example.

Negative Reviews

Again, when it comes to how online reviews impact your business, a negative review seems pretty self-explanatory. If the first thing a customer sees is a negative experience from another customer, there’s instantly a poor association with your business.

What makes it more frustrating is the fact that a single negative review can have a far greater reach due to the power of social media.

If a customer has a bad experience and feels the need to share it, it’s not just potential customers that are impacted, but that entire individual’s personal network. If a negative review goes viral, you suddenly have a bonafide brand crisis on your hands.

However, this doesn’t mean that a single bad review is cause to wave the white flag. There are ways for businesses, large and small, to try and convert this negative moment into a positive one.

One of the best ways is having an action plan in place to respond to negative reviews. This isn’t just about making that customer happy. In some cases, the bridge may be burned or they may not be interested in working with you any longer. However, creating a public record that you tried to address their issue professionally and promptly does a lot to show future customers that you care.

In addition, a blend of mostly positive reviews and a few negative reviews that a company addresses can actually be better than only positive. This goes back to what we mentioned before about customer skepticism. There are some unscrupulous companies that try to pay for positive reviews, so by honestly portraying a mix of reviews, and properly handling complaints, you create a realistic, but effective, portrait of your business and services.

The Impact of Reviews, In a Nutshell

Online reviews, in many ways, are the lifeblood of a company’s modern reputation.

A high amount of reviews show that your business is worth leaving an impression. A large amount of positive reviews is golden for small businesses as the modern word-of-mouth. Even negative reviews can be converted into a strong brand opportunity if you take the right approach.

Spark Reputation is designed to make sure the right approach is the automatic one, every time. Our reputation marketing service helps expand your reach for online reviews (without any effort from you, because it’s all automated!), while also helping to promote your positive ones, alerting you to any negative feedback that should be addressed, and so much more!