In the Internet age, online reviews can make or break your business. Consumers aren’t limited to friends’ recommendations or co-workers’ connections; they can consult millions of opinions with a click of a button through online review sites. As a result, advertising for your business is no longer solely in your hands as the business owner. Customers now have a say in who trusts your company, regardless of the message you put out on print ads, social or other marketing mediums.
Taking charge of your reviews means taking charge of your business. The time you invest in managing reviews is time spent managing your reputation as a business and building better relationships with your customer base. Not convinced? Think reviews aren’t important to your marketing strategy? We’ll explain how reviews are crucial – no matter your product or service – and how to maximize them for the best potential return.
Why Does My Small Business Need Reviews?
Reviews validate your business: You’re in need of a good plumber and fast. You type “plumber near me” into a search engine and come up with two options that are open right now. The first plumber has a 4-star average with 30 reviews. The second plumber has a 4.5-star average, but only two reviews. Even though the first plumber has a slightly lower score, you might still go with them because that review is validated when compared to the plumber that only has two reviews. The volume of reviews lets you know that the rating is probably more accurate and isn’t skewed by a singular review. Which brings us to our next point.
More reviews mean an honest reflection: If you only have a few reviews, one negative post could make a large impact. Picture a pebble dropped in a puddle. Now picture that same pebble dropped into a lake. The puddle would ripple to the edge, but the ripples in a lake would fade out before ever making it that far. Don’t let one stone sour your water. The more reviews you have not only validates your reputation, but helps drown out any negative outliers.
Reviews boost sales: According to a study conducted by Harvard Business School, “a restaurant that boosts its Yelp score by one full star can see revenues increase 5 to 9 percent.”1 While Yelp may not be your forte (and we’ll discuss if it should be), the study is still relevant – positive online reviews help get your business noticed.
Which Review Site is Right for Me?
We’ve compiled a list of popular review sites across the web, breaking down the type of business that would benefit most from the review structure of the site.
Note: Our recommendations are not one size fits all. You can be (and probably will be) listed on multiple review sites. However, engaging with all review sites might be too time consuming. Instead of spreading yourself too thin, invest time in your top two review sites. Current customer activity is a great indicator for whether or not you should invest time on one particular site over another. In other words, see where your customers are already posting reviews and start there. You may read the profiles below and think that one review site fits your business better than what is popular among your customer base. We recommend prioritizing your optimization efforts on what your customers want, not what you think they want.
Yelp: Founded in 2004, Yelp is the largest review site for local businesses.2 With over 86 million unique views on mobile in Q4 2015 alone, it’s at the top of the review site ladder. 2 Yelp is a favorite among restaurateurs, but also has a large stake in service-based businesses. Over the last few years, Yelp has expanded its features to benefit both the business user and the consumer. They’ve added a “featured listing” which, for a price, guarantees your business listing first or second position, similarly to pay-per-click advertising through Google AdWords. Businesses can also list exclusive Groupon-style deals for purchase (i.e. $15 for $5) or discounts that users can redeem by checking in at your location.
|Yelp is for you if…||Yelp is passable if…|
|You have a brick-and-mortar location||You are an online-only company|
|Your target demographic is in the 18-34 age group|
|You have a tight budget|
Angie’s List: One of the oldest review sites, Angie’s List was the result of desperate search to find a reliable contractor by none other than Angie herself.3 Now, over a decade later, Angie’s List has 70,000 subscribers and 60,000 reviews posted every month.4 Members rate companies with a school-type grading system of “A” to “F”. Unlike Yelp’s open response format, Angie’s List asks users to rate based on specific categories: professionalism, price, punctuality, quality and responsiveness. The other major difference between the two popular sites: Angie’s List members pay to participate. While this may deter some consumers from engaging with the site, it also keeps out spammers and heightens the quality of the posts overall.
|Angie’s List is for you if…||Angie’s List is passable if…|
|Your target demographic is in the 34+ age group||Your target market is low-income|
|You’re a service-based business (i.e. plumbers, realtors)||Your customers review your business without much provocation.|
|You struggle with fake or spam reviews frequently|
Google+ Local: Google+ Local is Google’s way of creating an all-in-one business listing for its consumers. Click-to-call features for mobile devices, Google Maps integration and single-click website access create an enticing user experience and keep users from straying to other sites like Yelp or Angie’s List. With the launch of Google’s new local search-focused results page, brick-and-mortar businesses get major priority. Google+ Local organic results are pushed farther down the page, and in most cases, completely below the fold on mobile devices. The result? A major opportunity for businesses with physical locations.
|Google+ Local is for you if…||Google+ Local is passable if…|
|You have a brick-and-mortar location||You are an online-only company|
|Your customer base is younger and driven by online social connections and benefits from the “connections” feature.||The majority of your customer base does not use Google|
SiteJabber: Unlike its counterparts, SiteJabber deals exclusively with online businesses. Since 2008, SiteJabber’s intent is to, “make the Internet a better place for consumers.”5 That includes a focus on minimizing the amount of consumers that are vulnerable to fraud or scams across the web. Like Yelp, SiteJabber is free for both business owners and reviewers. They also allow for businesses to respond to reviews. The lightweight of the review site world, SiteJabber is gaining ground fast with over 700,000 members.5
|SiteJabber is for you if…||SiteJabber is passable if…|
|You are an only-company only||You have a brick-and-mortar location|
|Your business is very anti-spam and would benefit from SiteJabber’s policies|
Review Ready? How To Get Started
Google yourself: Most people have Googled themselves to see what comes up -– have you done the same for your business? Search for your business the way your potential customers would and comb through the results. The review sites that rank first are the profiles that your customers most likely interact with. For the tech-savvy business owner, take a look at your social referral report in Google Analytics to see exactly where customers are coming from.
Stake your claim: Take ownership of your business page on Google, Yelp and other review sites that are appropriate for your business. Oftentimes, sites will verify your claim by sending you snail mail confirmation. This may take a few business days, so initiate this right away to get the ball rolling.
Get the word out: Link to review sites on your social media pages and business website to create awareness. You can also include links in your email signature. The goal here is simple: writing a review takes unrewarded effort on behalf of your consumer, so you want to make your review page easily accessible.
Be interactive: Most review sites allow business owners to respond to posts. Reply to good reviews with a simple word of gratitude and make it personal. If you’re too generic (or copy-and-paste from other positive reviews) you may appear disingenuous, negating your response. Bad reviews do not have to be damaging; view it as an opportunity. Address the issues the customer describes and talk about the steps you are taking to correct the problem. Even if that customer continues to be unsatisfied, other potential customers see that you take pride in your business and provide solutions even after the fact. No matter the review, try to respond in a timely manner.
Use what you have: Once you start to get great reviews, repurpose them for other marketing channels. Share positive reviews on your website or use them in print ads.
Maximizing your reviews across the web now runs in tandem with maximizing your sales. Review sites are today’s version of “word-of-mouth” advertising. The opinions of strangers are greatly influencing the purchasing process. Investing your time in reviews is investing in your future customers. Can you afford to be out of the game?
Prepare your finances for a boost or possible lull: You might not see an influx right away, and your efforts may have used a large portion of your capital. A line of credit offers flexibility with funds right when you need them.
1 Luca, M. (October 04, 2011). Reviews, reputation, and revenue: the case of Yelp.com. Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/reviews-reputation-and-revenue-the-case-of-yelp-com
2 Yelp. (2016). Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.yelp.com/about
3 Angie’s List. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2016, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angie’s_List
4 Angie’s List. (2012). Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.angieslist.com/aboutus.htm
5 Learn About SiteJabber. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2016, from http://www.sitejabber.com/about-us