Small businesses used to rely heavily on word of mouth to generate business and traffic. In today’s always-online society dominated by mobile device usage and search results, word of mouth has been replaced by social media and online review sites. According to a study administered by Dimensional Research and sponsored by Zendesk, a large percentage of respondents who have read online reviews indicate that the reviews influence their buying decisions. The study further reported that a full 66 percent of respondents reported reading online reviews.
Consumers also trust online reviews. According to a recent survey by BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers trust reviews they find online just as much as personal recommendations. Bad reviews, good reviews or a lack of reviews can make or break a small business and understanding their impact is essential.
Online Review Sites get Tons of Traffic
Many consumers will seek out information on businesses by visiting online review sites. According to Alexa ranking, Yelp has a global rank of 157 and a US rank of 35 regarding internet traffic. Tripadvisor.com has rankings of 190 globally and 60 in the US. Review sites like these and others are big business and have a tremendous amount of impact on consumer decision making.
The Review Platform Matters
Google results also consider the source of the online reviews, going so far as to update their search algorithm in 2014 with Pigeon. The Pigeon update effectively takes reviews from popular review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and others into consideration when ranking local businesses. Google wants to provide users with the best possible results and values reviews as much as consumers do.
The Volume Also Matters
BrightLocal’s survey also provided some information on how many reviews a company needs before gaining the consumer’s trust. It turns out, a minimum of 10 reviews are necessary before people believe the results. This is important, as small businesses sometimes struggle to get customers to review their business or products. Small businesses should do what they can to gain visibility on the high-traffic sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google Reviews. This could involve incentivizing customers for reviewing products by promising a future discount or free gift upon completion of a review.
Reviews Impact Search Rankings
Google currently displays the top three most relevant businesses for any search. When multiple companies are available locally and meet the search criteria, Google turns to online reviews as a way to further determine which of the three businesses to display. An expert with a white-label SEO company says review signals have been ranked as the fifth most important search-engine ranking factor. Businesses with higher reviews will, therefore, be more likely to hit that coveted “top three” spot.
Customers Will Pay for Highly-Rated Products
In addition to driving traffic and generating sales, online reviews can also impact a business’ bottom line. Even the shrewdest customers may be willing to pay a bit more for a company or product with “excellent” reviews, appreciating the assurance of quality which comes from positive reviews. Considering what a 31 percent premium could do to the bottom line of a small business, this fact alone is reason enough to value the online review.
It is clear to see that consumers are heavily influenced by online reviews and often make buying decisions based on those reviews. Search engines like Google present the highest rated businesses in their results; online review sites get enormous amounts of traffic and customers are always reading, writing and comparing online reviews. Reviews are essential to the consumers purchasing process and businesses that get good reviews are far more likely to succeed.