Why Online Reviews Matter for Your Small Business

Why Online Reviews Matter for Your Small Business

BrightLocal’s 2017 Local Consumer Review Survey detailed that an overwhelming amount of consumers (97%) read online reviews for local businesses in 2017. Which begs the question for small businesses: How important are online reviews, and how much do they impact a consumer’s purchasing journey?

Not only can positive reviews help build trust with potential customers, but they can increase your web visibility and search ranking. Additionally, in 2017, Small Business Trends reported that positive comments from customers or clients produce an average increase in sales of 18% and that consumers are likely to spend 31% more because of positive reviews.

Consumers are looking at reviews at a rapid pace, and 85% are beginning to trust them as much as personal recommendations. Reviews, both positive and negative, are beginning to have a significant impact on whether or not consumers will use a local business. As seen in the chart below, 68% of consumers say that positive reviews make them more likely to trust a business. In turn, 40% say that negative customer reviews make them not want to use a local business.

How Online Customer Reviews Influence a Consumer’s Decision to Use a Local Business

It’s important for your small business to acquire positive reviews in order to both gain new customers, as well as help drive their search traffic. Positive reviews also help build trust with your customer base, and provides a platform for your customers to have a voice. They also help solidify your reputation within your respective market, and build loyalty to your brand. As consumers become more engaged with online research prior to purchase, it’s important for you to prepare for this change.

Google’s Growing Suite of Free SMB Marketing Tools

Google’s Growing Suite of Free SMB Marketing Tools

In an effort to help small businesses connect better with their customers online, Google is promoting five non-advertising tools to create and manage a business’ online presence. The free tools, which Google released last year, provide a number of benefits and help highlight the uniqueness of an individual business to potential customers.

The tools serve various purposes: improve the search experience, help small businesses (SMBs) reach and engage with customers, and generate more original content on Google. Additionally, the tools can be managed via Google My Business (GMB).

The first of the tools, and arguably the most valuable, the website developer allows SMBs to create a website for their business within minutes. In roughly the first month, according to Mike Blumenthal, Google saw the creation of approximately 250,000 websites. This is a dramatic pace — many thousands of sites per day.

The website is created using information generated directly from a GMB listing, and can be edited with custom text, photos and various design elements. Users can choose a custom domain, and manage their website from any device. All of the sites are mobile responsive, and update automatically with new information from GMB listings.

Posts, another tool offered, allows users to engage in unique ways with their current customers, and helps attract new customers. Whether you’re looking to highlight daily featured items, or promote upcoming events, Posts allows users to share relevant updates in real time. These posts then appear on your Google business listing, where customers can read and share them.

The Questions and Answers feature allows businesses to add frequently asked questions to their GMB listing. The tool allows businesses to curate the content by featuring the most common or important question and answers prominently on the GMB listing.

Another resource, the Business Dashboard, provides a means for business owners to regulate their online presence on Google directly from Google Search. Users can enhance their business listings, share relevant photos and posts, and monitor views. The Business Dashboard is designed to help businesses grow their customer base and increase engagement.

To assist customers looking to contact your business quickly, the Messaging tool allows customers to text a business directly on the GMB listing. Business owners can then respond promptly, and provide immediate, useful feedback. Phone numbers remain private when using this feature, so customers can communicate safely and easily.

These features appear to be geared towards cost-conscious businesses with an appetite for DIY marketing. However, given Google’s prominence in the local marketing space, these tools offer powerful ways for businesses to engage with potential customers online. It will be interesting to see how adoption of these tools and the content generated from them impact search results.

Dos and Don’ts: Protecting Your Small Business Online

Dos and Don’ts: Protecting Your Small Business Online

When you’re marketing your small business online, you want to look your best on every platform. Whether you’re responding to reviews on sites like Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor, or keeping up with your comments, mentions, and reviews on social media, it’s important to be authentic to your voice, while keeping your current and future customers in mind. Main Street Hub knows — we’re trusted by 10,000 small businesses all over the country to tell their stories online.

Consumers that visit your social media pages and review sites are looking to see what kind of customer service they can expect when they pay you a visit. These essential dos and don’ts will help you put your best foot forward online with loyal fans and potential customers to keep your business top-of-mind and them coming back:

Review Sites

Online reviews are important for your business’ online reputation, but it’s how you respond to these reviews that really matters. In fact, 92% of consumers read online reviews, and 26% of consumers say it’s important that a local business responds to its reviews. Responding to your customer’s experiences can help show off your business’ excellent customer service and influence a future customer to come by for a visit.

Do be specific and personalize your review responses.

Try using the reviewer’s name in your response and specifically referencing something they said in their review — this will show that you care about the individual and their experience.

Don’t be defensive when you reply to negative feedback in customer reviews.

A good first step in responding to a one- or two-star review is to identify the biggest pain point mentioned by the reviewer. Many times, one- and two-star experiences with a business stem from a single misunderstanding or error and unravel from there. If you can identify where the issues began and explain how you intend to improve on that for next time, then you’ve gotten to the core of the issue for that reviewer while presenting your business in the best light.

Don’t be afraid to apologize when appropriate.

Many people leave online reviews because they want to feel heard. By acknowledging and apologizing for something that went wrong, you’re doing your best to make that unhappy customer feel that you will do your best to remedy the issue or situation. Once you’ve earned their trust back, they will be more likely to come back for another visit.

Do be yourself! Online users are attracted to authenticity. It’s important to respond in the most personalized and authentic way possible so your customers know that they’re talking to a real person who cares about their concerns.

Social Media

Customer service online shouldn’t stop at review sites. Take a look at these interesting stats: 67% of consumers now utilize networks like Twitter and Facebook for customer service requests, and 33% of consumers even prefer to contact brands using social media rather than a phone call. This means that each and every message, mention, and wall post that comes in for your business on social media has the power to influence consumers’ opinions of your business and their chances of visiting you when they’re ready to make a purchase.

Do be personable and address people directly when responding to mentions, comments, and reviews on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

If the review, message, or mention contains a detail about the customer’s experience or a particular thing that stood out to them about your business, work that into your response, too. The more personal the better — it shows that you took the time to craft a response that speaks to their concerns.

And, don’t forget to say, “thank you.” Whether the customer’s feedback is positive or negative, it’s key to thank that customer for taking the time to reach out. After all, gathering feedback from your customers is the most effective way to find out what you can be doing better to improve the experience at your business.

Don’t forget to remind your customers that they are welcome to reach out to you any time.

Encouraging more comments, messages, mentions, and reviews will not only increase your engagement, it will also maximize your reach. As more of your fans and followers engage with your page, you will gain exposure to their networks — getting your business in front of brand new audiences.

Don’t ignore conversations happening in your local area.

At least 319 million people are active on Twitter every month, and 85% of those Twitter users report feeling more connected to the small businesses that they follow.

Twitter is the perfect place to engage with people looking online for services your business offers. If you own a casual pizza restaurant, you can search for users tweeting keywords and hashtags like, “hungry,” “pizza craving,” or “#lunchtime,” and jump into conversations. With a little interaction, users might just click to your profile, check out your business, and look at what you have to offer. By reaching out and engaging in conversations on Twitter, you’ll add more users to your online community and stay top-of-mind with consumers in your area.

Do: Be engaging! Interact with users on these platforms to protect your business’ reputation and extend your customer service online.

Always be sure to like and respond to user comments on your own photos, and comment and like posts of users in your community and fanbase. This will show users that you care about what they post, that you’re listening and engaged, and it will support your business’ authentic voice and personality. Building relationships with potential customers and maintaining those relationships with current customers will be the most enduring way to create brand loyalty for your business.

Why It is Important to Respond to Reviews

Why It is Important to Respond to Reviews

Exceptional customer service has been a pillar of business success for years, and brands such as Nordstrom, Amazon, and Marriott are among the few constantly praised for their above and beyond practices when it comes to customer satisfaction. One could argue that their success is rooted in being a big company or brand with more bodies and resources available to keep their customers happy. The reality isn’t that their products or services are better, but that their dedication to customer service is stronger than the other companies providing the same exact goods or services.

In the digital world we live in today there is more visibility into consumer experiences and emotions through review sites and social media channels. This could be seen as an additional stress or roadblock for business owners, or it could be seen as an opportunity to amplify your exceptional customer service practices and increase your consumer trust.

This concept is outlined and supported by Jay Baer in his book, Hug Your Haters. Jay teamed up with Edison Research to discuss review response expectations of consumers and what he found may be shocking. 53% of customers expect a reply on review sites. What’s more is that businesses experience a 16% boost in customer advocacy from answered complaints on reviews sites. Meanwhile, businesses that ignore complaints on review sites experience a 37% decline in customer advocacy.

This study shows the incredible upside to responding to a review, especially within 24 hours, but also emphasizes the potential negative effects of not responding at all. Similarly Yelp’s Data Science team found that Yelp users are 33% more likely to upgrade their review if a business responds with a personalized message within a day. The same study also found that businesses that respond to reviews get a 5% increase in review count. Added bonus: This increase in review volume helps attract organic traffic to business pages on Yelp.

Think of it this way. A customer of yours, happy or not, decides to announce in front of 20 other potential customers of yours how their experience with your business was. Would you respond to them or simply stare blankly until they went away? Of course you would respond! So how can do you implement those same practices on social media and review sites such as Yelp?

The Positive Review: Respond! These customers took time out of their day to give you positive feedback online. Sending a direct message is a fast and effective way to let those happy customers know you appreciate their feedback and their business. Now and then, respond to those stellar five-star reviews publicly so potential patients know that you care.

The Negative Review: Take this as an opportunity to grow. When it comes to a negative review, it’s easy to get upset, but successful business owners remain calm, cool, and collected. If you need to give yourself 24 hours to cool off, feel free! Then it’s time to respond and outline a plan to fix this situation.

Step 1: Respond privately to the reviewer. Try to dig in a bit and get more information about what happened. Thank them for reaching out to you and give them a way to communicate with you directly to get things resolved Business to Consumer.

Step 2: Post a public response while you wait to hear back from the reviewer directly. This can be a generic message for the most part. Thank the reviewer for their feedback, outline steps you have taken to resolve the issue, and urge them to contact you to talk further about what happened. This shows that you value feedback and want your customer experience to be exceptional. This public response is to showcase your business practices to all of your future patients. It’s not about trying to win that reviewer over.

You can start responding to your Yelp reviews today by logging in to your Yelp Business User Account or downloading the Yelp Biz App.