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The Importance of Online Reviews for Local Businesses

The Importance of Online Reviews for Local Businesses
Blue Atlas

Blue Atlas

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A good review is always good news for a brand, right? But when it comes to online reviews, the role that these ubiquitous reports play is deeper, more subtle, and more important than traditional reviews tend to be.

After all, you can find reviews everywhere these days: Every Facebook Business Page has them, every online directory like Yelp includes them, key awareness platforms like Google My Business include them. And all those reviews add up, no matter who’s making them. That presents both an opportunity and a challenge for local businesses. Here’s why online reviews cannot be ignored.

The Concept of Social Proof

“Social proof” is a type of content that provides opinions from peers and customers – essentially, third parties that are not the brand itself. No matter how persuasive your content, today’s customers tend to have an innate wariness when it comes to marketing that’s created by the business itself. What if you’re lying? Social proof is an additional type of content that people seek out when making decisions, because it comes from another source and is therefore seen as more trustworthy, with the ability to confirm what the business claims.

One of the most common types of social proof is the recommendations of friends. But another very popular type is reviews, especially when people are looking at local options to eat, buy specific products, or use certain services.

Content that falls under social proof, like reviews, is incredibly important to businesses, and will help convince leads to give your brand a try. But it’s also not something you can just leave untouched and hope for that best. That means reviews need to be part of your marketing efforts.

The Broad Availability of Reviews

As we already mentioned, reviews are available nearly everywhere. Anyplace your business has a profile, there’s probably a review or at least a “star rating” option. If your business hasn’t paid much attention to reviews in the past, monitoring all these different platforms may sound challenging. There are ways to make it easier, including using marketing automation platforms that can gather reviews in one place to help save time. Blue Atlas Local can provide solutions that make review management easier!

Making Decisions Based on Reviews

So, just how important are online reviews today? Extremely so. Studies show that 97% of people read reviews for local businesses, and around 88% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family. And they aren’t necessarily reading every review either, especially when browsing on mobile devices: Other research indicates that on average, customers would engage with a business that has a 3.3-star rating or above, but nothing lower. Even losing half a star on a review rating can make a very large difference when it comes to leads. All these numbers are even more pronounced when looking at younger consumers.

Reviews and Rankings

What about Google and SEO algorithms? How do they treat reviews? Do good reviews make a difference in how your website or your social profiles are ranked? Well, Google keeps the details of its algorithm well-hidden and frequently updated, so giving a precise answer is difficult. However, studies can show how factors appear to change over time, and how some factors appear to affect page ranking more than others. Starting in the mid-2010s, researchers saw growth in “review signals” when it came to apparent effect on page ranking, growth that has continued over time. So yes, reviews do appear to have an impact on page ranking.

Asking for Reviews

Review strategies have many parts, but if you are part of a growing business, you may be wondering, “How do I get plenty of reviews in the first place?” The secret is usually to just ask. A certain portion of customers will generally be willing to leave reviews if requested, and if they know where to go. So, don’t be afraid to mention reviews on social media, or to ask for a review at the end of an email where appropriate. Always include a link to the review page to make things easier, and you should be able to increase your review numbers easily.

On the other hand, you may also find poor or negative reviews that you can’t really do anything about. Purely fraudulent reviews can always be reported, but you can’t erase honest bad ratings: The best thing to do is develop a system of immediate communication and reconciliation for every bad review – these fast responses may be able to turn around the situation.

Fuel for Deeper Testimonials

There’s an extra reason that online reviews help local growth – they are great sources for testimonials that you can include on your own site. Look for reviewers that provide in-depth information about their experience and why it was positive. Reach out to them and ask if it would be all right to use a quote from the review on your website. This is an excellent way to collect a testimonials page when you’re looking for social proof content that you can display easily for those who may not be reading other online reviews.

Blue Atlas Knows Online Reviews

At Blue Atlas, we excel at getting you local reviews and can even respond to reviews for you. We take the hassle out of online reputation management and make you look great online. Contact us today for a no-cost consultation.

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