How important is local search?A beginner’s guide to getting-to-grips with online reviews as their importance soars

The latest research on online reviews has highlighted just how vital they are to business success, especially as an ecommerce retailer or local business. The updated Local Consumer Review Survey discovered that more than eight in ten (85%) of local consumers trust online reviews as much as they do a personal recommendation. Simply put, online reviews are the next generation of word of mouth recommendations with experiences of strangers valued just as much as those of friends and family members.

As well as being so valued by consumers, having a strong review profile can also help to build trust in your brand, with around 7 in 10 shoppers said to feel like they can trust a business more if it has positive reviews.

Beware though, the majority of shoppers read around seven reviews before they feel comfortable trusting a business and around half of consumers want to see at least four-star reviews before parting with their cash.

If you are new to online reviews, you’ll need to start actively embracing them. To help you get started on the path to a strong (and profitable) review profile, follow our tips for beginners:

1. Make it easy for customers to leave a business review

To build a strong review profile, you’ll need to make it as easy as possible for your customers to leave a review. This can feel daunting at first but, the importance of online reviews shows no signs of diminishing so you need to embrace it.

Google and Facebook are the two most trusted sources of online reviews so it makes sense to start there. You’ll need to manually turn on Facebook reviews – go to your business Page, then click on edit Page. Next, find add tab and from there, scroll down to reviews or recommendations.

For Google, you’ll need to claim your Google My Business listing. Go to google.com/business to do this. It’s also worth registering for industry-specific review platforms such as TripAdvisor if appropriate.

Two often cited research studies confirm this opinion:

2. Make a review request part of your sales process

Over half of shoppers will leave a review if asked to do so – the tricky part can be remembering to incorporate this request into your existing sales and after care process. If you have transactional emails set up already, it should be easy to add a review request option to automate the process. Otherwise, you could use a tablet in store, send emails manually, include a request on invoices or receipts or packaging inserts.

3. Be responsive

The volume of reviews you receive is a local SEO ranking factor – but so too is how responsive you are. You’ll need to get into the habit of responding to reviews quickly and practise this for both good and bad reviews. Not only is responding to all reviews a good thing ranking wise, it also shows customers that their feedback is appreciated.

4. Develop a strategy for dealing with negative reviews

It is inevitable that you will receive a negative review at one time or another so formulate a strategy for dealing with them ahead of time. The number one rule is not to respond in kind or attack the reviewer for their views. If the review is grossly unfair or untrue, most review platforms will have a process for requesting reviews be removed. You will need to prove that the review isn’t genuine however so you can’t take this route for every negative review you receive.

While it can be distressing to receive a poor review, it’s worth keeping in mind that consumers expect to see the odd two or three star review as entirely five star ratings can seem false.

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