In 2018, reviews made by consumers on websites like Google, Facebook, Trip Advisor, Yelp and more can make or break a business. Not only do 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, but 84% trust them as much as personal recommendations. It’s statistics like this that explain why online reviews have become an invaluable asset for small businesses.

Reviews are a love-hate thing, especially for small businesses trying to build a solid reputation. On the one hand, positive reviews help promote your brand and on the other, negative reviews can produce an undesirable impact. As a business owner, you should always remember that a negative review here and there is inevitable, and if the vast majority are positive, you have nothing to worry about.

There are three major steps within the online review timeline, including inquiring customers to leave them, monitoring the reviews that come in and responding to the customers who leave them, both positive and negative. You should be prepared to invest your time and resources into each of these components.

In order to understand why these investments are necessary, here are a few reasons why online reviews are so important.

Reviews Build Credibility

In the era of smartphones, consumers conduct more research than ever prior to selecting where to purchase goods and services. And, as mentioned above, most of them trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Consumers turn to review sites to gain a better understanding of a business, so the more positive reviews you have, the better. These positive reviews will help instill trust within your business and solidify your reputation as a leader in your perspective field.

Reviews Help Your SEO

In order to appear in online searches, your business needs to have good SEO (search engine optimization) tactics in place. Online reviews play a big role in SEO, as reviews can influence where a business falls within search rankings. Google, for instance, gathers review information from many sites when determining where a business will fall in search results. Sites like Yelp and Facebook determine a business’s ranking based on overall rating and number of reviews.

Reviews Help Connect you with Your Customers

To stand out against competitors within your local community, it’s important to find interesting ways to connect with your customers. Reviews provide an avenue for doing just that. When a customer leaves a review, you can take the time to respond and thank them for taking the time to do so. This will also provide credibility to others who read the reviews and see your responses.

You can also learn about issues that you didn’t know existed this way. For instance, a customer might leave a comment regarding an issue they came across. You can then provide them with a solution to their problem, and hopefully turn that negative comment into a positive one.

Small businesses should embrace the power of positive online reviews. They can help customers learn more about your business so that in the future, they turn to you when they’re ready to learn more and possibly make a purchase.