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Ultimate guide to online reviews

10 minute read

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Online reviews are a huge factor in consumers’ decision-making process, with an estimated 93% of consumers reading local reviews to decide if a business is any good. But not only do they help with your online reputation, they also go a long way to improve your visibility in search rankings online.

Some quick stats:

  • 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more
  • 30% of consumers believe that responding to reviews is key when judging local businesses
  • 68% of consumers left a local business review when asked – with 74% having been asked for their feedback
  • Yelp & Facebook are local consumers’ most trusted review sites, followed by Google & BBB.org
  • Consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business
Source: BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey

Reviews can feel like something you have no control over; after all, you can’t review your own product or service. However, the UK Domain’s Ultimate Guide will demonstrate to you why you should be spending some effort achieving reviews, but we’ll also give you some top tips to guide you through the process. 

In this article:

  • Why online reviews are so important
  • Planning your strategy
  • How to get online reviews
  • Responding to your reviews
  • Embracing negative reviews
  • Showcasing your reviews
  • Tracking conversions against your online reviews
  • Your toolkit

You can also check out our #asktheukdomain video for a introduction to the points covered in this article: 

1. Why online reviews are so important

Online reviews can be one of the most important ways to drive potential customers to your website. If you’re already spending lots of time and effort on online marketing, then you’ll know that efforts often take a while to come to fruition. Reviews, however, can give potential customers, as well as search engines, an instant indication of the value of your product or service.

How they improve your SEO:

Local SEO ranking factors

Reviews are estimated to make up to 10% of the ranking factors in Google. Moz’s 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors demonstrate that organic local search gives a 7% weight to customer reviews, and this rises to 13% for local pack/finder ranking factors.

Local pack and local finder are local search page displays that show the pins in maps of local businesses.  Local 3-pack means that no more than three results will be displayed, but local finder will display more.  Given that customer reviews account for 13% of factors making up your visibility in local pack/finder ranking, the importance of acquiring good reviews among local businesses is obvious. 

Source: Moz 2017 Local Search Ranking Factors

Long-tail keyword search

If you’re already spending time on keyword research, then reviews are an efficient way of matching content against consumers’ real search enquiries. For example, if people are searching for “the best inexpensive spa treatments in Nottingham”, then your reviews may include some or all of those keywords to help match the search enquiry to your website.

User-generated content:

Given search engines’ keenness on regular new content, then reviews are an easy way to tick this box. Furthermore, because it’s user-generated, it’s likely to be most relevant to your customers’ search enquiries.

Your click-through-rate (CTR) will be increased:

Not only will reviews help your business appear in search results to begin with, but people are more likely to click on your site link if you have visible yellow star ratings in your search listings. Catalyst Search Marketing argues that rich snippets increase click through rate by 150%. In turn, the higher your number of good star ratings combined with improved CTR demonstrates to Google that your business is worthy of being displayed higher up in search rankings.

Customers are more likely to choose a trusted business

Gaining trust and credibility online is easier said than done. The internet is a competitive marketplace, to say the least, and getting your brand to stand out above your competition requires a concerted effort. But with more people turning away from traditional advertising, towards social recommendations and review sites, more and more businesses are using online reviews as the first line of their reputation management.

In fact, according to BrightLocal, not only do 93% of consumers read online reviews before making their choice, but 85% say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. And with 73% of consumers saying that positive reviews make them trust a local business more, the need to gather good reviews is intrinsic to having an online business.

2. Planning your strategy

Before you start acquiring reviews, it’s worth spending some time planning your objectives and how to go about achieving your online reviews.

Firstly, outline your goals and how you’ll measure them. For example, would you like to see how reviews help to improve traffic to your site overall, or would you like to focus on a few of your best products and see how reviews affect sales?

Next, you’ll need to identify which platforms you’ll use to encourage reviews (your own product pages, email marketing, third party review sites, social review sites).

You’ll also need to plan time to respond to reviews and consider how you’ll show off your reviews on your website. Be realistic about the extent of your activity and know when not to ask for a review.

You might also want to consider how you can automate the process, which we’ll cover further on, and how to monitor your online reputation.

3. How to get online reviews

Make it clear you’re open to reviews

Online reviews of your business can be left on external sites such as TripAdvisor or Yelp, or via a review tool built into your website, as we will look at later. Either way, if your customers don’t know that they can review you online, the chances are they might not think to do so.

Including a reviews section prominently on each of your product pages is a good start; not only does it inform potential customers about what others thought of the product, but it will let them know that they can leave a review of their own should they purchase.

Ask for reviews on social media

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get”, as the saying goes. If your business is active on social media, then it’s a great place to ask nicely for reviews every so often. Don’t forget to share the link to the page on your website where they can share their review – otherwise they may simply leave a Facebook comment or Twitter mention, which won’t help your website ranking.

Ask for feedback after purchase

If you’re an online shop, you can ask for a review once an order is placed. When a customer has completed a purchase from your e-shop, make sure the automated confirmation email or thank you page asks for a product/service review. You can send a follow-up email two or three weeks after they’ve purchased, asking them how they’ve been getting on with your product and encouraging them to leave a review.

Take care to set up your campaign correctly, to avoid bombarding customers who’ve already left a review.  Platforms such as Mailchimp can be integrated with ecommerce sites like Shopify, and will guide you through this process.

Sign up to third party review sites

Defining the right review platforms is the first step here, as there is an abundance of review sites out there to choose from.

General review sites: It’s worth aiming for the big three to start with: Google My Business, Yahoo, and Yelp, all of which will help to get your review scores seen in search results.

Industry specific review sites:  Niche review sites such as TripAdvisor or Houzz are a good way of targeting your particular customer base. If you’re not sure of which review sites are relevant to your business, then a quick Google search of “[industry] + reviews” will bring up some results. Sign up to the most popular of these.

Social review sites: Facebook is a good place to start. Once you’ve set up your Facebook Business page, and enabled reviews, you should then make sure to link to this when asking for customer feedback.

Incentivise reviews

If reviews are hard to come by in your niche, then a good tactic to employ is to incentivise reviews.

Offering discounts, coupons, or money back vouchers is perfectly acceptable when a customer has made a purchase or received a service.

However, caution must be taken to ensure you’re not seen to be shamelessly bribing your customers.  A good way to demonstrate your neutrality is to make sure you also reward those customers offering you negative feedback.

Make it as easy as possible to leave a review

Keeping the review process simple is important, because if it takes too much time, it’s likely that only the unhappiest customers will make the effort. Try to keep the number of questions down to a few important ones, and avoid complicated procedures or too many clicks.

Some companies simply email a set of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ buttons or a smiley, sad or neutral face against a question such as “were you happy with this product?”. When the customer clicks one of these buttons, they’re taken to a link with more questions or a comments box that they can leave more feedback if they want to.

Once you’ve started getting a few more reviews, you’ll probably find that they grow organically; customers will see others leaving reviews and may feel more inclined to leave one themselves.

Automate the process

Asking for reviews can take up a lot of time out of your day, but thankfully there are options for automating the process.

Reputation management tools such as GetMoreReviews, LocalClarity, Grade.us, Broadly and Feefo all integrate with your site to help you acquire reviews either directly to your site or via third party and industry-specific review sites. They also allow you to monitor and manage your online reputation and display your reviews on your site.

You can also simply automate the follow up email you send your customers after they’ve made a purchase from your site. Mailchimp, for example, can be integrated with your online shop and lets you set up automated work flows to send thank you and follow up emails with requests for feedback.

Bring your physical reviews online

If you’re also a bricks-and-mortar outfit, then good old-fashioned feedback slips can be handed to your customers, compiled and published on your site.

You can also encourage customers to go to your site and leave a review themselves. For example, each time someone buys from your shop or dines at your restaurant, hand them a card with the receipt, with a message along lines of, “If you’ve enjoyed this product, we’d love to hear about it!” Include a brief explanation of how to leave a review, along with a short web address.

When not to ask for a review

Timing and targeting is everything when it comes to asking for reviews; getting it wrong can actually harm your online reputation.

If you’re targeting everyone, not just your customers: Make sure you only notify customers with review notifications, rather than one-time visitors to your site.

If you’ve already asked twice for a review: A simple review request on a purchase notification email and a follow up feedback request a week later would suffice. Email after email demanding feedback will deter customers from ever using your site again.

If you’ve left it too long: If you wait too long to ask for a review, then you’re likely not to receive one at all. It’s important to strike while the iron’s hot and gather reviews as soon as a purchase is made, a service received, or a problem resolved.

4. Responding to your reviews

Once you’ve received a glowing review, then the job’s done, right? Unfortunately not. In fact, not only is it important to respond to good reviews because it’s polite, but it’s also a good opportunity to engage further with your customer. Not only does it let­­ your customers know that their feedback is appreciated, which only helps to build your trust with your customers, but you can use it to go further to secure their loyalty.

  • Thank your customer for the review: “Thanks for your glowing review! Sophie’s Cakes really appreciates your feedback.”
  • Use your keywords in your response: “Here at Sophie’s Cakes, we are glad to know that our customers find our pastries as yummy as we do”.
  • Subtly do a bit of marketing: “Did you know we have a new range of cupcakes, which you might be interested in?”
  • Invite the customer to take another action: “When you’re next here, why don’t you try our new cupcakes and a cup of coffee?”

5. Embracing negative reviews

When someone leaves a bad review it’s almost impossible not to take it personally. But, in fact, negative feedback can be seen as an opportunity to reach out to your customers personally and learn from your mistakes. In an Econsultancy study, it was found that bad reviews actually improved conversions by 67%. Not only are they a chance for you to take on criticism from those on the other end of your product or service, but also to demonstrate your customer service excellence in how you respond to these individuals.

What if your bad review is unfounded? Hootsuite argues that you still must issue an apology. You might even consider offering a discount for further transactions. Responding to negativity with further negativity can do a huge amount of damage to your brand reputation, whereas the odd 1-star rating, when dealt with correctly, will have minimal impact to business. 

Here’s a quick step-by-step approach to your response:

1. Take some time. Don’t rush your reply in the heat of the moment, but take a step back and consider your response objectively.

2. Investigate the problem: Don’t take the customer’s word for it. Instead, do a little research into the issue and get your facts straight before responding.

3. Apologise, even if you’re not in the wrong: “We’re sorry to hear….”

4. Keep your response calm. Avoid rushing in and being either defensive, or overpromising solutions.

5. Offer a practical solution: “We’d like to do whatever we can to address the problem”

6. Try to take the conversation offline: “We’d like to continue this conversation, so would you mind sending us a quick email?”

Find out more about responding to negative reviews here. 

6. Showcasing your reviews

Designated part of your site

A good way of showcasing your reviews is to designate a page to your feedback, and direct customers to it. Customers can then see what other people are saying about you, but also leave feedback of their own.

According to Moz, the line between third party reviews and business-collated testimonials is increasingly becoming blurred. As web users are growing more discerning in their need for transparency, so technology is enabling a better integration between review sites and your business website.

As such, an example of best practise for a review page, should look something like this:

Rich snippets

Rich snippets are a form of structured data which allow you as a website owner to provide specific information about your web content for search engines to display. If you employ rich snippets on your product pages then you’ll be more likely to get your reviews seen in search results.

For more on setting up rich snippets for your eCommerce site, Moz has this helpful guide.

7. Tracking your conversions against online reviews 

As part of your initial planning (see point 2), you will have thought about your objectives and how to measure them.  For example, you might want to see how reviews might gain you more web visitors overall, or you could hone in on one or two products and see how reviews affect their sales.

Simple Google Analytics tracking will allow you to gain a good comparison as to how reviews are affecting your business. Taking some metrics before you even start out gaining reviews will give you a baseline from which to work. You can then report against these on a weekly or monthly basis to assess your progress and tweak accordingly.

Some ideas about what to track:

  • Page views of your top three products
  • Goal completion of your top three products (i.e. numbers of purchases)
  • Overall visitors to your website
  • Referrals from review sites such as Yahoo
  • Time spent on a given page (a good indication of customer engagement)

For more detail about setting up tracking, Moz has this helpful guide.

8. Your toolkit

Social review sites: Facebook Business page

Third party review sites: Google My Business, Yahoo, Yelp,

Industry-specific review sites: e.g. TripAdvisor or Houzz

Automation and monitoring tools: e.g. GetMoreReviews, LocalClarity, Grade.us, Broadly, Feefo

Tracking your success: Google Analytics

In summary

Today’s competitive online marketplace means consumers are increasingly swift in their decision-making. As such, they rely more and more on peer reviews and star ratings to help them chose quickly from which company to make a purchase.

Alongside this, search engine ranking factors give a great deal of credence to online reviews when they decide how well you perform in search results. Gaining good reviews helps to boost your SEO, and enables you not only to be found online, but get click throughs from potential customers.

For these reasons there’s overwhelming evidence that your company should make the most of your customer feedback. By following our tips and tricks, your company will get a real head start in the busy online marketplace. 

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Charlotte Jenkins is an Oxford-based content marketer. She has several years’ experience in content writing, editing and digital marketing, helping clients communicate their businesses online.

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