by Margery Spears on April 11, 2011
Before the Internet, business was all about the customer. It still is. Except that now, instead of sharing their experience with their friends and neighbors, your customers can tell the world—or, at least the part of the world with Internet access. In addition to exchanges on social sites like Facebook, online interest groups and discussion forums, online reviews provide another powerful feedback mechanism for both consumers and business owners.
Online reviews can increase search engine rankings as well as drive business through visits from online shoppers. Many review sites allow you to add a link to your website, which can benefit your keyword ranking. Even if a link is not permitted, the mere mention of your business or product in many locations across the web will confirm your geographic location in local search and help you to rank higher in the map listings. Higher rankings in organic search results equal more visibility, more website traffic, and greater brand awareness.
Trusted local online review sites such as Angie’s List, Judy’s Book, CitySearch, and Yelp have turned making personal recommendations into a national pastime. In fact, 32% of Internet users claim they have posted product reviews or comments online. But while it should come as no surprise that 90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know, 70% trust the opinions of online reviewers they don’t know. The trend isn’t slowing. The leading local review site, Angieslist.com, grew 73.58% over last year in unique visitors, and Yelp.com growing 61.55% over the same period. If you aren’t taking advantage of online reviews to improve and evangelize your business, you are ignoring a powerful source of free advertising.
Depending on your niche, you could find that reviews bring in a surprising amount of business. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports that a local fitness studio owner reported that fully 95 percent of her business comes from CitySearch and Yelp.
Encouraging online reviews is a proven way to increase local search rankings, website traffic, trust, and sales. To get started, claim your business pages in Angie’s List, Insider Pages, Judy’s Book, Yelp, and Google Places or create a new business page. Regularly encourage satisfied customers to submit reviews by asking in person, adding review sites to your customer satisfaction surveys, posting reviews in your store, or in your Twitter and Facebook accounts. If negative reviews are posted, sincerely address them publicly or privately. Keep track of reviews and reviewer sentiment by using any of the many free or subscription-based tracking tools. Even though it takes time, the results are well worth the effort.
If you are interested in a more detailed overview of this subject, step-by-step instructions on generating online reviews as well as pointers for encouraging positive reviews and handling negative reviews, we invite you to download our complimentary Executive Brief: The SEO Power of Online Reviews.