It’s 2016. In all honesty, will you make dinner reservations at a restaurant without checking Yelp or Facebook? Will you book a luxury suite at a hotel without first consulting TripAdvisor? Will you entrust your health and well-being to a doctor without looking at her profile on Vitals or Healthgrades? And will you watch Suicide Squad without reading the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes?
Fine. You’ll probably still watch Suicide Squad, regardless of what critics say.
But the point is this: online reviews and ratings heavily influence consumers’ purchase decisions. At once the modern take on traditional word of mouth and the new standard for customer feedback, reviews can make or break a business.
- According to Cone Communications, 4 in 5 consumers will reverse a purchase decision after reading negative reviews.
- ReviewTrackers research found that 33 percent of diners wouldn’t eat in a restaurant with an average online rating of fewer than 4 stars out of 5.
- A number of research studies suggest that online reviews are more trustworthy and useful than branded social media content, advertising, information from salespeople, and even natural search engine results.
What business owners and marketing executives must realize is that online reviews and ratings are a major factor in shaping their brand reputation. More importantly, these reviews offer a unique insight into the customer experience — into what customers really think and how they really feel about the given product, service, or brand.
Online Review Websites Your Business Should Track
There’s no question that you should listen to the voice of the customer and track what people are saying on online review sites.
By keeping your finger on the pulse of customer feedback, you can protect and build your brand reputation, become responsive to consumer needs and expectations, and gain a better, more accurate understanding of your customers.
You can also leverage reviews in order to get more credibility, improve your organic search ranking, and influence potential customers to choose you over the competition.
To help you get started, we created a list of online review websites your business should track. Take note of the sites that allow management responses to reviews; on the majority of these, the business owner or manager must first claim the business listing before being able to respond.
General Review Sites
Founded in 2004, San Francisco-based Yelp has collected approximately 102 million crowd-sourced reviews of businesses in a wide range of categories — from restaurants and hotels to dentists, boutiques, and mechanics.
Studies have shown that 82 percent of Yelp users visit the site when preparing to spend money. Also, 93 percent of Yelp users go on to make purchases at the business they looked up and researched on the site.
While Google is more commonly known as the world’s leading search engine, the company also hosts online reviews and ratings of businesses in order to enhance users’ search experience. These reviews are displayed on Google+ business pages, Google Maps listings, and Google Search results.
To take control of your business page on Google, you must sign up to use Google My Business. You’ll be able to manage and respond to your reviews once you create your account and receive verification from Google that you are the rightful owner of your page.
TripAdvisor describes itself as the world’s biggest travel site, and it’s hard to disagree. Founded in 2000, the travel planning and booking site has collected over 350 million customer reviews and opinions covering more than 6.5 million accommodations, restaurants, and attractions. It also generates 340 million unique visits per month, operates in 48 markets worldwide, and operates other travel media brands, including BookingBuddy, Oyster, SeatGuru, Viator, and VirtualTourist.
According to World Travel Market, TripAdvisor ranks ahead of personal recommendations, tourist board websites, and guidebooks as the most trusted source for travel planning.
Don’t get the wrong idea: while TripAdvisor is a great platform for hotels, it isn’t just for hotels. The review website also offers reviews and ratings of restaurants, tourist attractions, tour operators, theme parks and entertainment attractions, museums, landmarks, and other types of businesses that cater to travelers.
If your business falls under any of these categories, TripAdvisor is extremely likely to have an impact on your brand reputation and business performance. Yes, you can respond to TripAdvisor reviews — by signing up through the TripAdvisor Management Center.
Facebook, the world’s biggest social networking site, is also one of the fastest-growing platforms for online reviews and customer feedback. In 2015, Facebook quietly launched Professional Services, a search feature that allows users to find and discover the highest-rated businesses in a given geographical area.
Does Facebook even have reviews? Yes, and they’re coming in droves. Our research team here at ReviewTrackers recently studied the review quantity and velocity (the pace at which reviews were being generated) of 250 restaurants over a 6-month period. Facebook outperformed other popular review sites, growing its review volume at a pace 4 times faster than TripAdvisor, Google, and Yelp.
You can respond to customer reviews on Facebook as long as you’re logged in as the administrator of your Facebook Page. In case you haven’t enabled reviews on your Page, read our recent blog post for a step-by-step guide on how you can do just that.
Primarily known as a local search and discovery service and mobile app (it does work on desktop), Foursquare gives users the ability to find places to eat, drink, shop, and visit — in any city in the world. It became famous for popularizing mobile “check-ins,” and while Foursquare has since moved its gamified check-in feature to a separate app (called Swarm), the company still holds one of the world’s largest dynamic panels of global foot traffic data.
As a way to share their thoughts, customer experiences, or opinions and advice about places they’ve visited, users can leave “tips” on any Foursquare business listing, as well as give numerical ratings.
With a Foursquare account and a claimed business listing (more info on that here), you can share tips of your own and even run Foursquare “specials”; unfortunately, there seems to be no way for Foursquare page owners to publicly respond to their customers’ feedback.
Your good old yellow pages have gone digital, in the form of YellowPages.com. Recognized as the number 2 local search destination in the U.S. and with nearly 70 million monthly across all YP properties, YellowPages.com offers all kinds of business information across a wide range of industries and categories, including restaurants, automotive, home improvement, health and wellness, and attorneys.
YP users can post online reviews and comments on the site; when applicable, YellowPages.com also syndicates or displays review data and customer feedback from Citysearch and TripAdvisor.
You can respond publicly to reviews written by YP users by using the comment section available within each review (in which case, you’ll have to sign into or join YP). We also highly recommend that you create or claim your business listing on the site, which you can opt to do for free or by signing up for YellowPages.com’s paid advertising platform.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a non-profit organization that’s focused on advancing marketplace trust. That’s why the BBB website contains a comprehensive database of reviews and ratings — searchable by business name, business type, website URL, phone number, or email.
BBB obtains information about businesses from public data sources, including complaints received from the public. It assigns ratings from A+ (highest) to F (lowest), and the BBB Business Reviews feature is designed to explain the most significant factors that affect a business rating.
You can respond to Business Reviews, Customer Reviews, and Customer Complaints on Better Business Bureau — and yes, reviews and customer feedback on BBB are categorized into these types. There’s a form that you have to fill out for each type. Here, for example, is a Customer Complaint response form for BBB Chicago.
Founded in Denmark in 2007, Trustpilot is an online review community where users can share their customer experiences in order to build trust and transparency. It has since grown to collect over 20 million reviews of more than 130,000 businesses in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, and (of course) Denmark.
Provided that they have already signed up to use Trustpilot, business owners and managers can respond to Trustpilot reviews. All you need to do is log into your Trustpilot Business account and look for the specific review in the Service Reviews section.
Automotive Review Sites
Founded in 1998, Cars.com is a leading online destination for automotive shoppers and car owners. The website, which features a database of dealership reviews, offers easy-to-understand info to help consumers find vehicles and automotive service providers.
Recently, Cars.com acquired another automotive dealership review website, DealerRater. The move gave Cars.com the largest review platform in the automotive industry (more than 4 million consumer-generated reviews), where car shoppers are 3 times more likely to become buyers if a dealership has positive online reviews and customer feedback.
An online resource for automotive information, Edmunds.com offers reviews of both cars and dealerships. Edmunds actually used to be a paperback newsstand publication from the 1960s, but the brand has since gone digital, offering a wide range of services — like the True Market Value pricing tool, True Cost to Own projections, and dealer reviews and ratings — through its website.
Dealerships can respond to reviews on Edmunds.com by creating an account and logging into the Edmunds Automotive Network.
Restaurant Review Sites
When it comes to managing online reviews posted by diners, restaurants should look beyond Yelp and TripAdvisor. Another big player is Zomato, the company that scooped up then shut down restaurant recommendation service Urbanspoon. According to its website, Zomato has collected over 10 million reviews of more than 1 million restaurants. The company currently operates in 23 countries.
Restaurant execs can respond to reviews on Zomato after claiming their business listing. Our advice? Make sure you respond to show you care, and not to hit back or offer the customer an incentive to change his or her review.
Founded in 1998, OpenTable functions as an online restaurant reservations platform as well as a restaurant reviews website. It seats more than 19 million diners a month via online bookings across more than 37,000 restaurants. In addition to the company’s website and mobile apps, OpenTable powers online reservations for nearly 600 partners, including TripAdvisor, Google, and Zagat.
The OpenTable Reviews Program was launched in 2008. Since then, it has collected more than 40 million reviews from verified diners, at a rate of over 750,000 reviews every month.
Every restaurant that’s part of the OpenTable Network can respond — but not publicly — to reviews. You can join the network by visiting this page; if you’re already logged in, you can reach out to the diners via email, which, if provided by the diner, can be located in the OpenTable Restaurant Center, in the Diner Feedback section. Unfortunately, if the diner did not provide an email address, you won’t be able to respond at all.
Doctor and Healthcare Review Sites
According to a report by Software Advice, Healthgrades, founded in 1998, is the most trusted website for online reviews of doctors, medical professionals, and healthcare providers (including hospitals). More than 1 million consumers a day rely on Healthgrades to research, compare, and connect with physicians and other practitioners. The site currently has over 3 million reviews.
Can you respond to reviews on Healthgrades? Sort of. You can submit a general response that will be displayed on your patient survey page, but you are not allowed to comment on or refer to any specific cases or people, even if indirectly. After you have reviewed and updated your profile and verified your identity, you will find this option to respond in the Profile Commentary section.
Launched in 2004, RateMDs has since collected over 2 million doctor ratings and reviews. The doctor review and ratings website also offers the latest health trends coverage and medical specialties information.
Listed doctors can respond to patient reviews on RateMDs via their RateMDs doctor profile account. To claim, manage, and edit your listing, click on the “Claim Doctor Profile” located at the top of your reviews page.
Vitals, another online resource that aims to connect patients and doctors through listings, reviews, and ratings, was founded in 2007 by Mitchel Rothschild and Todd Rosengart. The website has since grown its user base to 13 million consumers each month — and its database of patient reviews to more than 6 million.
Ratings on Vitals take into account various aspects of the patient experience: ease of appointment, promptness, courteousness of staff, diagnosis accuracy, bedside manner, post-visit follow-ups, etc.
If you’re a listed doctor, you will have the ability to respond to reviews on Vitals. All you have to do is claim your professional profile; once that’s done, just log into your Vitals account to respond to reviews.