No matter what business you’re in, regardless of what you’re selling or what service you’re providing, your reputation is important. For that matter, even outside of your business life, your reputation matters. As much as we all want to say that we don’t care what people think about us, the fact of the matter is…it matters. Maybe not the opinion of one person, but a community’s overall opinion of you will definitely have an impact on your success.
It seems like now more than ever, this has become a pivotal issue for businesses. Corporations big and small have been torn down by negative news and unseemly reputations. Successful CEOs have fallen from their ivory towers for a single stupid comment or action, their reputation blemished beyond repair. Conversely, companies that led with strategies focusing on exceptional service (and therefore garnering themselves an excellent reputation) have grown beyond the limits of their formerly constrained marketing budgets. Companies with a good reputation are far more likely to be recommended, because let’s face it — no one wants to recommend a company that fails to meet expectations. And a happy customer can often be one of your best marketing resources – someone who eagerly champions your business to friends and family due to the amazing service they experienced.
What’s more, in the age of the Internet, nothing ever disappears. Bad reviews don’t fade from memory — they stay in search results forever for all to find. As consumers, we have more power and more information at our fingertips than we have ever had in the history of mankind, and we’re using it. When was the last time you made a significant purchase without looking at reviews before finalizing your decision? Other than some crazy impulse buys, I always go online to look at reviews before signing up for anything or purchasing any product.
None of that should be too surprising. I know it matters, and you know it matters. But did you know that Google also knows it matters? Google is a complicated mass of intelligent algorithms that looks at hundreds of signals when determining how to rank your site. Not all of them are known, but the most important ones are pretty well established and many have been confirmed by Google. Google doesn’t want you to know exactly how they do things but they do put out a fair bit of information for webmasters and SEO professionals. Contrary to popular opinion, they are not against search engine optimization, they are against dirty tricks.
Okay, back to reputation. Did you know that one of the major signals (especially for local businesses) that Google looks at is your online reviews? A business that has a lot of reviews, particularly a business that has mostly positive reviews, is going to outrank a competitor (if everything else was equal) that has fewer reviews. Again, it’s only one signal so the rest of your site has to be well structured, optimized, and have good links coming into it (among 100 other things) , but your reviews are a big one.
Caution: Please don’t run out and write a bunch of fake reviews for yourself. Believe me, you aren’t the first person to try and Google knows it. It’s considered a black hat technique and Google has some very smart systems in place to verify the validity of these reviews. Don’t hurt yourself by trying to game the system. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask your customers to review you, but you can’t tell them what to say or how to rank you. It all circles back around to your reputation and ensuring you have a good one by delivering excellent service.
A recent study done by Moz (a popular search engine optimization resource) suggests that for local SEO, Review Signals are the third most important factor in SEO for the Local Pack and the 7th most important for regular organic listings. You can read that article at Moz’s Local Search Ranking Factors.
So, is Google the only reason you should worry about reviews? Absolutely not. As we pointed out earlier in this article, reputation matters and most consumers do their research and look at reviews before spending any money. Whether it’s a small purchase on Amazon, a new SaS app for your business, or hiring a web design company like us, most people are going to do their due diligence and look at reviews first.
There have been plenty of studies done on this over the last few years but here are the numbers I have seen most recently
- 90% of people read online reviews before making a purchase
- 88% trust those reviews as much as personal recommendations from people they know
- Customers are likely to spend 31% more on a business with excellent reviews
- 92% of users will avoid using a business if it has less than a 4 star review
- 72% of consumers will only take action after they have read a review
- Recency matters. 44% of people say a review must be written within 4 weeks or they don’t consider it relevant. That time frame is even shorter with the milennial audience.
- 95% of consumers suspect the reviews are fake when they don’t see any bad scores. No matter how great you are, you will always have at least someone that doesn’t like your service. It’s important that your reviews are honest and legitimate.
Now we all know the phrase “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” so take those numbers for what they are worth. Do your own research and you will find many sources with very similar numbers. It’s not really important if the number is 92% vs 90% — the takeaway here should be that valid and recent reviews matter. Do your best to go above and beyond for your customer and the reviews will hopefully follow.
I would also add that while we are focusing on Google in this review, it’s important that your reviews are not just on Google. Reviews should happen naturally, and if you only have 5 star reviews in one place, it’s going to look like you are trying to trick the system. Don’t be tricky, be smart — deploy a strategy that helps to encourage legitimate reviews across the web.
We do offer a fully managed reputation management service, so if you’re interested in getting help soliciting and monitoring your online reviews, please reach out. We do not employ any black hat techniques; we work with you to make it easy for your clients to send in their feedback, and we make it easy to see what’s being said out there on the magical interwebs. If you’re interested in more information, contact us today.