As a business owner, you know how powerful online reviews can be. They have the power to drive customers to (or away from!) your business. Today, there are countless review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List. With a few clicks, consumers can go online and share their experiences with a business for everyone to read.
Online reviews can be kind of a Catch 22 for business owners. On one hand, favorable reviews can go a long way in convincing potential customers to try your business. On the other hand, a bad review can cause some serious damage to your online reputation.
From an SEO perspective, negative reviews also directly affect your PageRank. Your PageRank is a factor that Google uses to determine the “importance” of your website and where you should appear in search results. Poor reviews that are connected to your business can cause your PageRank, and your position in search results, to plummet. More on that later.
For better or worse, online reviews are just part of our business ecosystem today, and they don’t show signs of going away.
This wasn’t always the case.
Back in 2010, Google was working hard to improve their algorithm and the quality of the SERPs the were generated from search queries. Mainly, they focused on helping users find websites that were as relevant as possible to their search terms.
The idea was that by helping users find exactly what they were looking for, they were creating a better customer experience.
It turns out that wasn’t enough.
The thing was, identifying a relevant company did not mean that the company was trustworthy.
The trouble began when a critical article came out about Google recounting a person’s bad experience with an e-commerce company. The argument was that since this particular website ranked high in a Google search, the customer believed that was an indication that said company must be a reputable business.
When their transaction didn’t go as planned, they argued that Google’s search results were misleading. After all, weren’t only the “best” websites supposed to make it to the top of search results?
As long as SEO has been a thing, webmasters have found ways to gamify Google’s algorithms, using tactics to improve their position in search results. The end result was that the company that ranked highest for a search term wasn’t necessarily the “best choice” for consumers.
This presented a huge problem for Google and their commitment to a great user experience. As a result, the Negative Reviews algorithm update was introduced.
The purpose of the Negative Reviews algorithm was to identify the type consumer feedback companies were getting from their customers online. Shops that were continually failing to meet their customers’ expectations would be penalized by with lower positions in search results.
Alternatively, businesses whose customers were singing their praises online would get a boost in their search rank, regardless of what SEO tactics they were incorporating into their websites.
The Negative Reviews update was not perfect. There was no way that Google could guarantee that customers would have a positive experience with merchants on the top page of their search results. However, the Google algorithm update went a long way in putting bad merchants on notice.
All of a sudden, businesses had to make sure that they were paying attention to their customer’s feedback more than ever. Online reviews were not playing a direct roll in their ability to attract new customers.
Unfortunately, it should come as no surprise that unscrupulous webmasters found a way to game the system.
Google had made promising strides towards protecting consumers from underperforming merchants. However, it wasn’t long before fake reviews began to plague the internet. Soon, it was difficult for consumers to identify which reviews were real and which were fake. Before long, shady merchants were once again rising in search results.
Since then, Google’s battle against fake reviews has been ongoing. However, more recent Google algorithm updates have done a great job at identifying which websites are faking their reviews. Websites that collect customer reviews have also made their own efforts to ward off fake reviews. For example, both Yelp and Amazon have their own algorithms that are specifically designed to filter seemingly illegitimate reviews.
Consumers have also become savvier over the years and know that a company or product’s star-rating alone doesn’t always tell the whole story. That’s not to say that online reviews aren’t important anymore. On the contrary, they are more important now than ever before.
Even though fake reviews exist, both consumers and search engines alike still look to them to vet businesses.
So how do you go about getting customer reviews?
The best way is simply to ask.
The unfortunate truth is that a customer is more likely to take the time to go online to write a review when they’ve had a bad experience than when they’ve had a good one. Many consumers simply don’t think about leaving a review unless it’s for the purposes of “warning” other consumers that they might have a bad experience.
However, many customers are more than happy to leave a favorable review when asked.
The best time to ask for a review is immediately following a transaction or delivery. Assuming you’ve done a good job of meeting your customer’s expectations, this is the moment when they’ll be most excited about your product or service. Don’t wait too long after a transaction to ask for a review. If you do, they may be less inclined to take the time to do so.
One effective tactic is to send your customer’s an e-mail immediately after a transaction with a link to where they can leave you a review.
For brick and mortar businesses, the best way to encourage your customers to leave more reviews is to train your staff to ask for them. The best time to do this is right before the customer leaves your business.
These are just a couple of ways that local businesses can collect more positive reviews. A local SEO expert can effectively manage your online reviews and other aspects of your company’s online presence. Most consumers are now looking to online reviews prior to making purchasing decisions. So, there is no time like the present to invest in some help with your reputation management. Contact us today to learn more.