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One of the most effective ways to build and improve your online business reputation is to get more and better online reviews.

Reviews, after all, are a powerful marketing weapon — and an important research tool for consumers on their path to purchase.

  • Approximately 4 in 5 American consumers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. 79 percent do so to make sure the product or service is good, 61 percent read reviews to make sure the product or service works, and 53 percent read reviews to make sure they don’t get ripped off.
  • 50 percent of consumers think that reviews (positive and negative) are the best peer-to-peer contribution to trust. Reviews inspire twice as much trust as general social networking “likes”.
  • 55 percent will not consider a business with negative reviews and ratings. Additionally, 27 percent will also voice their dissatisfaction with businesses with no testimonials, ratings, or reviews.

These figures offer insight into how consumer decision-making today typically unfolds. More than ever, people are checking TripAdvisor or Booking.com before choosing a hotel, Yelp or OpenTable before making dinner reservations, Facebook or Google before selecting a local service professional, Vitals or Dr. Oogle before booking a doctor appointment, and Cars.com or Edmunds before visiting an automotive dealership.

If your business listings or pages on these sites are blemished by negative customer feedback, or — and this could be just as bad — contain an insufficient amount of reviews and ratings, your reputation could suffer, driving potential customers away instead of reeling them in.

Being able to request reviews from customers can solve this problem, even prevent it from happening. New brands and fledgling businesses, in particular, needs presence on these review sites just to be discovered and considered by customers.

If you’re looking to gain an edge over your competitors, it helps to proactively request reviews from customers — instead of simply passively wait for them to roll in.

Important Note: Before developing a review request program, be sure to identify the review sites where your company is listed and read each site’s content guidelines and terms of use. Some sites discourage or even prohibit businesses from reaching out to customers and asking for reviews. So make sure that all your efforts are in compliance with each individual review site’s guidelines. You want to be rewarded, not penalized, for asking for online reviews.

Why Request Reviews?

Amplified SEO and greater online visibility. Fresh reviews can dramatically improve your search engine performance, essential to attracting more customers and increasing conversion. Reviews are also a powerful way to expand your social and digital footprint.

According to a report, 800 words of review text can make up as much as 70 percent of fresh content for a website page, which search engines will subsequently reward with higher search results.

SEO software company Moz, meanwhile, has indicated that online reviews are one of the top seven factors influencing local search results.

This isn’t to mention the other SEO benefits of generating new online reviews: improved content density, better content differentiation, increased triggers for search engine crawlers, and improved ranking for long-tail searches.

Higher overall ratings. Reviews produced by review requests usually come with higher rating scores than unprompted reviews. Based on a study by Northwestern University’s Spiegel Digital and Database Research Center, the average rating of reviews from review requests is 4.34 stars (out of 5): right in the range of the ideal average star rating (4.2 to 4.5 stars) for purchase probability. These ratings also tend to remain steady over time.

If you’re merely waiting for reviews, the ratings they come with are likely to be lower. Unprompted reviews have an average rating of 3.89 stars, and over time, the ratings tend to drop. According to the researchers suggest, these differences could be attributed to social biases as well as levels of extremity in opinion.

Instant outreach. Proactively asking customers for reviews can help strengthen customer relationships. It connects your business to the voices that matter the most, and serves to demonstrate that your business values what the customer has to say.

Remember: when you deliver experiences that customers love, they won’t hesitate to vouch for you. All you have to do is ask.

Requesting reviews can fire up your biggest fans and direct your advocates to sharing their positive experiences online, where other consumers can read and find out more about your business. (Did you know that 70 percent of reviews come from review request e-mails?)

But what if your customer’s experience was not-so-positive? In this case, the act of reaching out creates an opportunity to engage with the dissatisfied customer, helping your company recover detractors, embrace negative feedback, and identify opportunities for improvement.

Greater relevance and better engagement. According to Search Engine Land, 69 percent of consumers believe that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. Approximately 15 percent, meanwhile, believe that the only relevant reviews are the ones written within two weeks.

Furthermore, 7 percent of consumers read at least 20 online reviews before they put enough trust in a business.

These are the reasons why you should proactively and regularly ask customers for their feedback. It helps keep your business pages on online review sites fresh, updated, and credible — and there aren’t many things more influential to the consumer than a steady stream of recent reviews.

Better understanding of customer experience. It’s important for every kind of business to pay close attention to customer feedback and dive deeper into it. Sure, rating scores are a great indicator of the kind of experience you’re able to provide, but there is a wealth of data you can get from unstructured feedback, social media comments, and text found in reviews.  

By asking customers for reviews, you’ll be able to more effectively gather useful information and insights into the customer experience — and therefore understand customers better and meet their needs and expectations.

Don’t be afraid of what the voice of the customer has to say. By requesting reviews from customers and encouraging them to share their feedback, you can positively shape your brand, protect your online reputation, achieve a better understanding of customer experience, and improve your bottom line.

Migs Bassig

Migs is the Content Manager for ReviewTrackers. He’s a creative writer who has helped numerous companies communicate more effectively online, and he loves sharing his local marketing knowledge to help brands and business succeed.

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