Utilising the power of online reviews to increase sales

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Did you know that 88 per cent of customers read online reviews before making purchasing decisions? How about the statistic that online reviews account for 9.8 per cent of local SEO ranking factors? Online reviews are quickly becoming an important digital marketing strategy.

What are the benefits of online reviews?

Social proof – The first benefit of online reviews is social proof. Reviews are essentially the online version of word of mouth marketing. They help provide reassurance and confirmation to people looking to buy goods or services. A third of customers are likely to spend 31 per cent more on a business with excellent reviews and 72 per cent of consumers will take action only after reading a positive review.

Local SEO – The second benefit of online reviews is increasing your local SEO ranking. Online reviews count as fresh user-generated content which increases SEO, and reviewers will often use keywords in their reviews which helps boost long-tail keyword traffic.

How to ask for reviews

The first step before you ask customers for reviews is to ensure that you consistently provide a top quality customer experience. If your business’ customer service is less than ideal there’s no point asking for reviews until you fix that otherwise you will open yourself up to lots of negative reviews that will only harm your reputation. However, if you are confident in the service and products you provide, there are many ways to encourage reviews:

Ask customers while they’re in store – Have posters instore encouraging them to leave reviews, print a reminder on the bottom of their receipt and ask customers as they are paying the bill. There’s no need to be shy about it – if customers have had a great experience they will be more than happy to leave a review for you but unless you remind them they likely won’t think about it.

Send out an email to ask for reviews – Email is one of the best ways to ask for reviews. Firstly, because people who are checking their emails are already online, it is easy for them to simply click on a link and fill out a review on Google +, Facebook, True Local, Yellow Pages etc. The other advantage of asking for reviews by email is you can actually automate the process. If you’re an online business you will already have your customer’s email address and you can send out an email 7-10 days after a product was shipped to ask them to leave a review using automation software. This allows you to collect reviews on auto-pilot. If you’re not an online retailer you can still benefit from sending out an email to your list to ask for reviews.

Use your social channels to generate reviews – Social channels are another way to generate reviews but be cautious about how you use this strategy. You don’t want to overdo it. Posting once every few months to ask for reviews is sufficient. Some businesses offer incentives for leaving reviews like prizes or competition entries, however I would not recommend this personally. Both Google and Yelp and many other review sites have policies against this, and, if caught, your reviews will be disallowed.

Most important places to encourage reviews

Positive online reviews are great for business no matter what sites customers leave them on. However, there are a couple of places where it is particularly important to encourage reviews. Google + (or Google My Business) is one of these places. Because Google is the main search engine in the world, leaving a review on Google + or Google My Business provides higher SEO benefits than leaving reviews on other sites. Facebook is the other place that is particularly important for encouraging reviews. This is because 68 per cent of customers turn to social media first (or exclusively) for product or company reviews. As Facebook is by far the most dominant and frequently used social platform across most demographics, if you have to pick somewhere to refer people to, start there.

How to respond to negative customer reviews

No matter how many satisfied customers you have, there will always be some that weren’t happy and will leave negative reviews about your business. How you respond to these negative reviews will also influence people’s perception of your company. Here are some simple strategies for dealing with negative reviews:

  1. Always reply – Failure to reply to a negative review can be perceived as a lack of empathy or care for your customers
  2. Don’t respond immediately – Often our first response to any type of negative feedback is to get defensive. Wait to cool off before responding
  3. If it’s possible, contact the customer offline – Take the time to hear their story. Just listen. Bad reviews can sometimes be a blessing as they can alert you to issues with your products or systems that you may not have been aware of. Apologise and offer the customer some sort of incentive to try your business again e.g. a discount coupon. It is possible that if you deal with the complaint with some grace, you may be able to salvage the relationship with the customer and even turn them into an advocate
  4. Respond to the complaint online – If, after talking to the customer, you became aware of a problem on your end, own up to it in your response. Acknowledge the issue transparently and discuss what actions you are taking to prevent the situation from happening again. People reading it will appreciate your honesty and this will help them trust you. Even if the complaint seems unjustified, take the time to write a courteous response. Draft the response carefully and show it to a few co-workers before posting.

Small businesses have always survived based on positive word of mouth reviews. Online reviews are simply an extension of word of mouth marketing that can help new people find you and buy from you. Although negative reviews are inevitable, and can’t be deleted, they are not to be feared. The important thing is to encourage your many satisfied customers to leave reviews and make it easy for them to do so.

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Luke Chaffey is a senior member of the KBB Digital team, and heads up the search marketing division. With a keen eye on innovation and developing digital trends, Luke regularly attends the Google Partners Masterclass, and is also a prolific writer for websites such as Yahoo, The Australian Government (Digital Business sector), Kochie’s Business Builders, Smarter.Digital, KBB Digital.

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