Local SEO: Online Reviews and Their Influence

A Man Giving Online Reviews

“Because I said so”

It’s never been the best reason to do something, but coming from our parents it was always the only choice. If you’re a parent, chances are those four words have come out of your mouth at least once.

But somewhere along the line, probably as teenagers, we stopped listening to our parents and traded what those “antiquated” people had to say for what our friends and peers had to say.

In the digital world, we pay attention to online reviews

Quality, price, and advertising play a huge role in helping products, services, and ideas become successful. Unfortunately, they don’t explain the whole story.

Take the first names Jessica and Yesenia. Both are great names for girls. Both are the same length in characters, share a similar sound, and end with a vowel. Thousands of babies are named Jessica or Yesenia every year.

Now think about how many people you know with each name. I can bet you know at least one Jessica, but you probably don’t know a Yesenia. In fact, if you do know a Yesenia, I bet you know several Jessicas.

How did I know that? Jessica is a much more popular name. There were more than 300,000 Jessicas born in the United States during the 90s but only about 15,000 Yesenias. If I tried to explain how one name became more popular than the other, quality, price, and advertising would fail me. It’s not like one is better than the other; both are free, and there is no advertising campaign promoting one over the other.

soda online review

The same thing can be said for certain products — Coke or Pepsi for example. While a lot of people claim they know the difference, most wouldn’t be able to tell them apart in a blind test. Even online videos — most are free to watch, few receive any promotion, and although some have higher production values, most that do go viral are blurry and out of focus.

If quality, price, and advertising do not explain why one name is more popular than another, why one video gets more views, or why one business gets more clients, what does?

Social influence and word-of-mouth

When it comes to marketing, nothing beats a quality referral from a trusted source. Word-of-mouth has always been the preferred source for referrals. People love to share stories, news, information, and their experiences with those around them. Online reviews are part of this and can play a very important part in an effective referral strategy.

  • 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations – Search Engine Land
  • 81% of shoppers conduct research online before they make a purchase – AdWeek
  • 93% of consumers check online reviews before shopping or dining at a local business. – Street Fight Magazine

Online reviews are playing an important role not only in helping businesses to be found, but also to be seen as trustworthy.

Online reviews help with local SEO

Like I mentioned in last week’s article, search engines are “confidence based.” Having several strong reviews on sites like Google My Business, Yelp, Foursquare, and any industry specific sites can make your business findable at the top spot in search engines.

How to motivate researchers to purchase from you

Help them find you. Take advantage of local SEO and get to the top of the results page of a search engine, publish continuous content that is optimized for the keywords that your prospects are looking for, and incorporate and encourage social sharing.

review cookie purchase

As a business, you have to “own” the review process. First make sure every customer that passes through your business leaves satisfied and then ask them to write a review. If a business does not take control of this process, only two things can happen, and they’re both not good:

  • Reviews will skew to the negative side. People are often more motivated to write a negative review.
  • Your business will get no reviews at all. Silence can be one of the loudest sounds. If your prospects find your business on any review-oriented site and there’s no actual reviews, that also says a lot about your business.

Make it as easy as possible for happy customers to write reviews about your business. Satisfied customers are happy to write reviews if you ask them to and make it easy and convenient. You could even offer incentives, like a small discount next time they visit your business. Subway, the international sandwich franchise, is a perfect example. Subway offers its customers a free cookie on every ticket if they fill out an online questionnaire reviewing their experience.

Turn your customers into advocates with your friendly service and excellent product. Spend time with them to understand their problems, explain your processes, and what exactly makes you different from the competition, what value you bring to the table that no one else can. This will all translate into information that your customers can use to write these reviews — or when they are talking with their friends and family about their latest experience at their favorite new place.

What to do if you have negative reviews

negative reviews

Some negative reviews are inevitable; to err is human and even simple miscommunication could lead to one. The difference lies in acting or reacting to them.

Negative reviews can be irritating or discouraging, but don’t let them get to you. You have to take the high road. Even though it’s easy to take it personally, you have to be bigger and better, be professional and learn from them.

When they get negative reviews, smart business owners regard these as valuable information that can help them improve. Online reviews are a steady flow of feedback from actual customers, and business owners can read and respond to these to better understand what works and what doesn’t

If several people pick up on the same issue, that’s something the business should focus on. Reviews tend to point out issues that can spur business owners to address these problems and in turn lift their ratings.

As you can see, online reviews are a very powerful tool in your marketing arsenal. Are you taking advantage of them? If not, it’s time to start managing the conversation about your business. 8 Signal can help you outsmart rather than outspend the competition. Give us a call at (915) 585-1919 or fill out our online form to get in touch with one of our marketing experts.

Photos courtesy of: waferboard & theimpulsivebuy.