The Power of Online Reviews for Small Businesses

Olivia Garrison

Simply put: Consumers love reading online reviews for small businesses.

Long gone are the days where shoppers need to go in in blind on any purchase when websites like Google, Amazon and Yelp provide a platform to review nearly any kind of business, product or service. Needless to say, being able to generate a collection of positive online reviews has become an incredibly important factor in increasing your company’s engagement rate – and small business owners especially should embrace them as a necessary element in their search engine optimization efforts.

small business reviewsOnline Reviews for Small Businesses by the Numbers

According to research compiled in 2019 by BryanCaplan.com:

  • 60% of consumers refer to Google My Business reviews when looking up a local business.
  • 90% of consumers read reviews for local businesses prior to making a purchase.
  • 50% of consumers will visit a business’ website after reading positive reviews about them.
  • 57% of consumers will only consider purchasing from or working with a business with an average rating of at least 4 out of 5 stars.
  • 89% of consumers take the way a business owner responds to online reviews into consideration before deciding to contact them.

The SEO Effect

In addition to being a potential deal breaker when closing a sale, online reviews have a significant impact on your business’s search engine ranking.  After years of speculation, Google finally confirmed in early 2019 that businesses with reviews rank higher in their SEO algorithm than businesses without reviews.

From Google’s support page:

“Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking. Your position in web results is also a factor, so SEO best practices also apply to local search optimization.”

For example, in a Google search for “web design NJ”, our company with 56 reviews ranks higher than two competing agencies with zero reviews.

online reviews google my businessThe Art of Asking for Online Reviews

Now that we’ve established the power of online reviews for small businesses, the next step is to create a strategy that will entice your customers to leave them. Luckily, there are a few ways to encourage your audience to post a review without turning them off by being too pushy:

  • Just Ask!: Sometimes the most straightforward option is the most effective option. Explain the benefits of online reviews for small businesses to your most satisfied customers, and they will most likely be happy to share their positive experience in a five-star review.

  • Make it Easy: Provide your customers with direct links to any way they can leave reviews, whether that be by linking to a form on your website or a direct link to your company’s Google My Business profile. The quicker and easier you make the process, the more likely they are to take the time to leave a positive review.

  • Collect Testimonials: Provide a personal touch to your online review acquisition by reaching out directly to former clients regarding their experience working with your company. If they respond with glowing compliments, ask their permission to quote them for a testimonial section on your website. These testimonials won’t have a direct effect on your SEO the same way an online review through Google would, but it will instill some on-site confidence in your website visitors.

  • Incentivize: Many retailers, restaurants and other B2C-based businesses offer coupons and contest entries to customers who provide an online review. This serves as a win-win scenario for both parties – your customers will receive a reward, and your business will reap the SEO benefits.

  • Utilize Tools: Managing online reviews on your own can be quite a hefty undertaking. Thankfully, there are a number of tools available to help manage them for you. Our company uses ReviewShake to help our clients collect, manage, track and respond to online reviews, all from one easy to use interface.

reviewshake small businessesYou Got a Bad Review – Now What?

First things first – don’t panic!

As your company grows and your demand increases, you may receive a bad review every now and then. While this is a less than desirable outcome, a negative review will not ruin your business if you know how to manage it professionally.

  • Leave it Up: Believe it or not, deleting negative reviews could damage your business’ reputation more than leaving the review on your page. You do not want your business to be associated with any practices that could be seen as shady, so all reviews should remain blatantly defamatory in nature.

  • Be Polite: Despite any instinctual urge to fiercely protect your business, this is neither the time nor place to get overly defensive. Thank the reviewer for their feedback, apologize for their negative experience, and try to come to a resolution if the situation permits. This can either be handled publicly or privately depending on the severity of the negative review.

  • Change Their Mind: Take the conversation offline and try to appease your disgruntled reviewer, whether that’s by providing an extra service, offering a discount and so on. They might be so impressed by your company’s exemplary customer experience that they will remove the negative review or amend it with a higher rating.

  • Treat it as a Learning Experience: If you are receiving recurring negative reviews regarding a certain area of your company, it might be time to reevaluate your business model. Treat negative reviews as an opportunity to make the changes needed to bring your business up to a consistent 5-star standard.

From Online Reviews to Offline Success

Giving up control of your business’ narrative and perception can be an intimidating prospect, but the benefits to asking for online reviews can far outweigh the risks when approached deliberately. Ready to make online reviews an integral component of your reputation management and SEO strategy? Contact our team to learn more about how to begin generating a collection of online reviews and testimonials for your small business.

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