Online reviews are the new word of mouth. In the past, consumers had to rely on friends or families for recommendations on everything from where to eat, which doctors or dentists were the best, where to buy a car – pretty much the whole gamut. Needless to say, those recommendations were limited to how large your network was and not online reviews. If you’re family or friends didn’t have any experience with a particular business, the only information about the experience you would have was provided by the company (not online business reviews).
That all changed when online reviews hit a critical mass. Consumers now turn to online business reviews for advice on practically everything. Because of the influence online reviews now wield, businesses need to place collecting reviews at the forefront of their marketing strategies. Below are some of the main reasons why online business reviews are important for your business.

Online Reviews Increase Business Visibility in Google

online reviews help increase visibility
Probably the biggest benefit that comes from increasing your business’ profile on online review sites is the boost in local SEO ranking. According to Google, there are three main factors that contribute to where a business will rank in local search:

Relevance: Similar to organic searches, the biggest factor that contributes to how high your location ranks is how well your business matches the searcher’s query. The primary goal of any search engine is to provide the optimal results based on the criteria provided by the searcher.

Distance: The next factor that search engines take into account is the proximity of the searcher to your business. Distance is something you don’t have control over, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can take to make sure your website and business listings are optimized for local search. Take the time to make sure you have a consistent name, address, and phone number on all of your listings as well as on every page of your website. Doing so will help solidify your standing in local search.

Prominence: The final factor that helps determine a business’ local search ranking is prominence. This is where online business reviews come into play. When it comes to local SEO, prominence refers to things like how well-known your business is in the offline world and the amount of information there is about your business across the web in the form of links back to your site and online business reviews. When it comes to online reviews, Google is looking for how many reviews you have, how often they are coming in, and what your overall star rating. Additionally, it also helps if you are interacting and responding to online reviews – both positive and negative.

Online reviews allow you to be there in micro-moments

Google recently coined the term ‘micro-moments’ to refer to the time in a person’s life when they have a need to know or a need to buy. The rise in micro-moments has mirrored the rise in mobile device usage. In the past, when we had a question that needed answering, we would have to get up, log in to our computers, open a browser and ask. Nowadays, we have the answers right at our fingertips. If we have a question we need to be answered, we just reach into our pocket, pull out our smartphone, and we have the answer in seconds.
This is true for both general questions like how many inches are in a mile for instance as well as specific questions about products or businesses. Because of this, you need to make sure you are popping up when customers have these need to know or need to buy moments. The best way to accomplish this is making sure you’ve done everything you can to optimize and figured out how to improve local SEO.

Online reviews help you take advantage of ‘near me’ Google searches

Today’s consumer values convenience more than business relationships. That is why you need to optimize your local SEO strategy and make it as easy as possible for customers to find you. Recent changes to the Google search algorithm have given more weight to ‘near me’ searches. In fact, according to an informal study conducted by Search Engine Land, non-branded keyword searches for generic terms like ‘accountant’ or ‘bank’ autocompleted to ‘near me’ nearly 90 percent of the time on desktops and 78 percent of the time on mobile.
Mobile devices are significantly accelerating the purchase process. Individuals can quickly go from the awareness/investigation phase to the decision phase in a matter of minutes because access to information is more readily available, and buyers know what they want so searches are more targeted.

Online business reviews influence purchase decisions

influence purchase decisions
Once you’ve gotten a consumer’s attention, you need to figure out how to convert them into a customer. Online reviews can help you push the customer from consideration to purchase. When customers search online reviews, they are looking for confirmation they are making the right decision. If a business’ online reviews aren’t up to par, customers will keep looking. Research by BrightLocal has found that 74% of buyers say positive reviews make them trust a business more.
Today’s consumer is fickle and has lots of choices. Online business reviews act as a key differentiator between you and the competition. For the most part price and product are going to be fairly similar across many industries, so what can your business do to set itself apart from the competition. What we suggest you focus on is delivering a top-notch customer experience. When everything else is equal, it’s the experience that really matters. And how can consumers learn about your experience? If you guessed online reviews you are right.

Business reviews help you find out if your customers are really satisfied

Finally, online business reviews help your business identify in real time whether or not your customers are happy. This knowledge will help you zero in on problems your customers might be facing with your experience and fix them before those problems become systemic. Additionally, online reviews can help you know who your top employees are and which employees might need some extra coaching.
Traditionally, businesses have been limited to customer satisfaction surveys or focus groups to collect feedback on the customer experience. Both of these methods can be costly and time-consuming. Many businesses don’t have the time or resources to dedicate to them. However, online reviews have proven to be a cost-effective way to monitor the performance of your business.
Sometimes businesses might be leery of asking their customers for feedback because they’re afraid of what they might hear, but you don’t need to be afraid. Negative feedback might hurt in the moment, but if you take it to heart and use it to improve the business, it could ultimately prove more valuable than positive feedback. The key is in how you respond. When responding to negative reviews you should:

Apologize: Saying you’re sorry regardless of the situation will go a long way toward smoothing things over with unhappy customers.

Stay calm: The worst thing you can do is let your emotions get in the way. In this situation you should make sure the person responding has some distance from the problem. This will prevent you from sounding defensive and further inflame the situation.

Offer a solution: Almost as important apologizing is offering a proactive solution to the problem. This will show that you have put some thought into the complaint and aren’t just trying to placate an unhappy customer.

Offer to speak privately: The final step is to take the conversation offline and refer the customer to someone at your business who can help them.

Online business reviews are a valuable asset for both consumers and businesses. For consumers, they are helpful at every stage of the customer journey from awareness to consideration, all the way to purchase. For businesses, online reviews increase visibility by giving a boost to local SEO, they influence purchase decisions by helping to build trust with customers, and finally, they help improve business operations by identifying potential problems in real time. Because of all of this, we recommend businesses continue to emphasize the collection and management of online reviews.

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