Online customer reviews–both positive and negative–have a huge influence in attracting customers for local businesses. Research has shown that the typical consumer checks more than ten online information sources before making a decision. They don’t go to review sites like Yelp first; first they Google.
Online reviews do more than just influence consumer buying decisions; they create visibility on Google and other search engines, too.
Having online reviews is one of the most effective and inexpensive SEO (Search Engine Optimization) tactics out there. A legitimate review on a respected third party site is one of the most powerful signals you can send to Google.
What is e-WOM?
Getting customer reviews is a numbers game, and you can improve your numbers.
As a business owner looking to increase your online visibility, you need to become a participant in “electronic Word of Mouth” (eWOM). Yes, it’s a thing. eWOM is a term that encompasses online reviews, social media and discussion forums.
Who uses eWOM? “Empowered consumers”, that’s who. Empowered consumers are more demanding than ever, and they have the ability to make or break your business. Thanks to incessant TV commercials, over-hyped products on the web, and now “fake news”, consumers don’t trust what you say about your services yourself and they certainly don’t trust ads.
But it appears that they do trust online reviews. Because customer reviews are written by “regular folks” with no agenda. People who read and post online reviews tend to be younger, wealthier and more in tune with technology – an attractive demographic for businesses to reach.
Let’s look at some myths and truths about reviews that might change your mind if you’re skeptical.
Truth: Consumers consider star ratings in context. Customers who look at reviews actually read the reviews. They are suspicious of both positive and negative reviews. Fake reviews are common and people know it.
Truth: Good reviews make good reputations, bad ones bad ones. Right? The truth is, all reviews help your reputation. It’s the mix of opinions that create authenticity in a business’s online reputation. Research has shown that mixed reviews create more positive opinions of a business than those with only positive reviews.
Truth: To be meaningful, a review should relate how real customers experienced a product or service so that other real customers can decide whether that product or service is a good fit for them, too.
Truth: Be proactive in getting customer reviews and be responsive to reviews. Not just one time, but over time. You have to make a commitment to get reviews. Customers who have good intentions to write a review still won’t do it if they forget, or it’s too hard, or they’re too busy.
Your job is to invite each customer to write a review and make the process easy for them.
What’s the best approach to use when asking for reviews? Honesty. A simple, sincere, no-stress request with no financial incentives and no pressure. You simply “invite” them to give feedback. Keep the request “soft” and nuanced. You “invite”, you don’t “ask.” You “remind”, you don’t “nag.” Email, thank you cards, a printed card with instructions how to review are all good ideas.
Never offer cash in exchange for a positive review. This practice is unethical and violates the terms of service on review sites.
eWOM is all about your reputation, both online and in the real world. When you consider the incredible influence consumer opinions carry, getting your business into this peer-to-peer conversation can have a greater marketing impact at a lower cost than almost any paid advertising.
Your former clients will lead you to your future customers; all you have to do is ask. Wait, we mean “invite”. All you have to do is “invite” them to tell others about their experience with you.