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Online reviews

The online review market has grown considerably over recent years, with forums ranging from Google Reviews through to Trust Pilot, Facebook, and one of the longest established, Trip Advisor, gaining huge popularity across all industry sectors. With a rapidly increasing number of people referring to them prior to making a purchase decision, they can have a major impact on the growth of a business, helping with everything from building trust and credibility through to boosting online search ranking positioning.

With increased pressure from online competition, local businesses now have to fight harder to win customers and stand out in a crowded place, so securing and monitoring your business’ online reviews can pay huge dividends. We look at the reasons why online reviews are so important for your business:

What is an online review?

An online review is simply a summary of a customer’s experience with your business in terms of a product purchased or service received. It is a place for a customer to leave a no-holds barred, honest review and as such potential customers use these as a way to get a true picture of a company. The reviews represent a wider conversation that customers might be having after their online journey has finished or a service has been completed. These are completely independent reviews and a business can have no influence over these making them an important resource for customers looking to conduct research before committing to a purchase.

Why are online reviews so important?

A growing number of people are using them to inform a purchasing decision

In 2020, according to a Bright Local Consumer Review Survey, 87% of people read Google reviews for local businesses ahead of their buying decision and 94% of people said that the reviews made them more likely to use a business. These statistics clearly demonstrate that consumers are devoting more time to researching companies and do care what reviews say, and as a result, are actively making them part of their buying decision.

They boost your reputation and credibility

Consumers who research a business will inevitably be comparing a selected pool of options often with no discernible differentiating factors, and so it follows that those who boost a wealth of positive glowing independent reviews are more likely to capture a consumers’ attention and win their trust. In the mind of a consumer a bank of positive reviews makes your business look a more credible option that they can put their faith in.

They help you rank higher in search results

Perhaps one of the most important benefits of online reviews is the impact they can have on search engine rankings. Search engines love a multitude of reviews as they want to present the searcher with the best results available. In order to do this, they look at both the quantity and quality of reviews so if your business has a good number of reviews and a good overall average rating then the search engine will rank it higher up the search results. This has the obvious benefit of meaning you are more likely to be seen by potential customers looking for similar products or services. As the online review appears next to your business name on a search result then consumers are more likely to then click through to your website.

It is important to also note specifically with regard to Google Reviews, in April 2021 Google launched an update to its reviews which rewards those containing the most helpful information. This update aims to enrich the user experience by showing preference to content that delivers the most helpful and useful information about a product being reviewed. This kind of content ranges from insightful analysis written by an authoritative source to in-depth research discussing the features or benefits of a product. Reviews that are thin on content will no longer rank as well on search engines.

They allow you to gather customer feedback

Online reviews are a fantastic way to gain meaningful insight from consumers and this can be used to improve the business. If a customer has spent time giving an honest review it is bound to provide valuable feedback into the consumer journey, highlighting any areas of concern or which aspects are working effectively, which could be incorporated into future staff training. In turn, by working on any areas of concern identified, this can help deliver more positive reviews in the long run.

Provides an invaluable chance to interact with your consumers

An understandable concern about online reviews is that a customer may leave a bad review which has a negative impact on the business. However bad reviews are not necessarily a problem so long as they are dealt with effectively. Most people would understand it is not always possible to please everyone and so a bad review might be inevitable. The most important thing is that they are dealt with in the right way.

Online reviews provide the opportunity to respond to both good and bad feedback as well as deal with any issues. Reacting swiftly and showing willing to find an agreeable solution or resolve a problem is key and demonstrating to potential customers that you care, are present and prepared to engage goes a long way towards winning trust.

Offer stand-out against a big budget competitor

It can be a huge challenge for smaller businesses to stand out against a well-known more established competitor with a larger marketing budget, however, online reviews can help to level out the playing field.

With the trend towards shopping local and supporting local businesses growing at a rapid pace particularly due to the increased number of people working from home, the desire is there and, where previously, there may have been reluctance and worry about parting money with an unfamiliar small business, online reviews can provide that all important evidence that a business is legitimate and trustworthy. So ultimately a bank of positive online reviews can help a smaller business stand out against a larger competitor and potentially sway a consumer to go with a smaller business over a bigger brand.

There is clearly a wide range of far-reaching benefits of online reviews for a business and combined with the relatively low outlay in terms of both time and cost involved it definitely an area worth investing in. We would recommend incorporating it into an overall communications strategy as it can have a real impact on the growth of a business.