Reviews Trump Testimonials in 2016

Google Reviews

A lot of pieces of the local marketing puzzle moved around in 2015. For example, Google’s 7-pack shrank to 3 and Google+ removed location information, marking two of the biggest recent changes in this arena. Until Google makes additional changes, right now, your business listing’s Knowledge Box and Google Maps are the only places where your business information, including reviews, is shown.

Reviews have always been important, especially when it comes to potential customers. And now that Google has purged information from the listings, including the business description, categories, and photos, all you’re left with is your business name, basic contact information, and reviews. This means the importance of these reviews has increased, so much so that it may be time to rethink your review/testimonial strategy.

Customers want to see unbiased, honest reviews on a third-party site, not hand-picked testimonials. Have you ever looked at your website analytics to find activity on your site’s Testimonial page? If you have one, it is most likely one of the least-visited pages on your entire website. Consumers want to read the good with the bad and gather enough information about a company to make a decision themselves.

That being said, instead of a testimonials page, we suggest a reviews page that links to various off-site reviews, including Google Reviews as well as other sites your customers may frequent. For example, restaurant-goers are more likely to use Yelp, while those reviewing a medical facility are likely to use Healthgrades.

Keep in mind that Yelp frowns upon direct links to a listing page. However, by conducting a Google search for “[your business] Yelp” and using that SERP URL as the link, you are putting the Yelp reviews on a platter for the user without sending them directly there, and Yelp sees it as the visit coming from an organic search.

Now your Reviews page is a wealth of useful information that a customer can appreciate. Having these links also makes it easier for customers to leave reviews. It’s a win-win!

The Importance of Reviews For All Local Businesses

Reviews for local businesses have always been important, but often times, companies outside the restaurant and hotel categories don’t go out of their way to attain them. In fact, reviews for all local businesses, especially businesses dealing directly with the consumer, are becoming ever more crucial based on the way the average consumer researches online. The customer’s journey to making a purchase has become more complex over the years, thanks to digital channels.

Most consumers start the buying process by researching a company, product or service via search engine. From there, they will find websites; read Google, Yelp, or Amazon reviews if it’s a product, ask loved ones for opinions; and more before they make a decision. So how do you ensure they choose you over your competition? Reviews! A recent Marketing Land survey stated that 90% of respondents claimed positive reviews online influence their buying decision, and almost as many were also influenced by negative reviews. Good reviews make consumers feel comfortable doing business with you and, in return, increase your conversions.

Not only do reviews assist with conversions, but also, thanks to how Google is set up, they visually set your company apart from the competition.  Which one would you visit first?

SERP Map listing

Some sites like Yelp and Google also allow you to only view listings that have reviews or filter to only the highest-rated reviews. So if you are in an area where your competition has more or better reviews than you, you might not even appear in the listings.

reviews screenshot

Though neither Google nor Bing has confirmed that reviews impact rankings, anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise. A Digital Marketing Works survey found a strong correlation between ratings and rankings in Google’s now-retired Carousel display. A MOZ Local search rankings survey given to industry marketers also shows that review signals are believed to influence your rankings by almost 10%.

moz-local-search-ranking-factors-2014-616x600

Some people are trepidatious about asking for reviews for fear of being penalized or for what a dissatisfied customer would say. Some review sites, particularly Yelp, discourage soliciting reviews because they feel it will affect the integrity of the site. On the other hand, Google encourages businesses to ask for feedback from customers, so it’s important to look into the terms and conditions of the review sites to prevent being penalized by any particular site.

In addition to major review sites, it is also a great idea to find a review site that pertains to your industry. For example, a local physician should encourage patients to post reviews on a site like RateMD. Those reviews would be more beneficial to potential patients than reviews of the practice on Yelp.

And remember, simply reminding your customers you appreciate feedback and providing excellent service are two great ways to develop a continuous stream of online reviews.

In review:

  • Reviews help increase conversions.
  • Reviews help you stand out from your competition visually.
  • Reviews assist in your rankings.
  • Try industry-related review sites in addition to Google reviews.
  • Asking for feedback and great customer service are sure-fire wins.

Further reading:

http://searchengineland.com/local-businesses-get-good-online-reviews-build-business-214939

https://smallbusiness.yahoo.com/advisor/why-online-customer-reviews-more-important-2014-143042598.html

http://moz.com/local-search-ranking-factors

http://www.seochat.com/c/a/search-engine-optimization-help/are-reviews-getting-even-more-important/

http://searchengineland.com/study-quantity-quality-of-google-reviews-determine-carousel-rankings-172221