Reviews help businesses gain credibility, brand awareness, and of course engagement, as well as giving Google an indication of how your business is perceived. Online reviews have not only increased steeply in popularity with users over the last 12 months but are showing clear signs of being a ranking factor too.
The Value of Online Reviews
Online reviews continue to become increasingly popular as a way for users to find out more and decide who to trust in the online world. Despite a large amount of fraud and fakery, which is now being cracked down upon, users frequently turn to reviews in order to make a decision.
According to BrightLocal’s 2013 study 79% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This is an increase of almost 10% on 2012. More users are reading reviews, however users are making decisions quicker, therefore reading less reviews per decision.
In August David Mihm released the latest SEOMoz Local Search Ranking Factors survey, outlining the increased complexity and variability of factors for local search. The cited ‘a smattering of reviews on both Google and third-party sites’ and citations as two of seven primary factors in local search. The paper itself presents ‘review signals’ such as quality, diversity and velocity as a proportion of 10.3% in the overall ranking factors pie chart as can be seen below:
How to Get Online Reviews
Ask! Most people will not think to write an online review after using a business, so don’t be afraid to ask them. Use the best comments as testimonials on your website to encourage trust and further reviews.
Make It Easy. Install a third-party commenting system such as Disqus, and allow users to log in Twitter, and Facebook to make the process as quick and simple as possible.
Incentivise. In some instances it may be appropriate to incentivise users to leave a review via a discount code, free sample or something similar. Be aware that this can backfire if customers get the impression you are trying to ‘buy’ good reviews, so should be used only where appropriate and after careful consideration.
Variation. There are many review sites out there and it’s good to get comments from a selection of them. Make sure you claim your business name on as many as you can, as most customers will only be signed up to one, if any. Make sure your customers are aware that they can leave reviews on these sits via a link on your site, or advertising the fact in your place of business.
Online Review Sites
First and foremost you need to be set up on Google+ Local so that customers are able to leave reviews. These will show up as stars in listings:
Some of the most popular review sites in the UK currently include:
Review Centre – The review centre is one of the most popular review sites in the UK. It has over 1 million reviews currently, covering a huge range of products and services. The site is easy to use and it’s easy to add to your own site. You can find out more here.
TripAdvisor – With over 20 million members and 50 million reviews, if your business is relevant to TripAdvisor it may be beneficial to get yourself listed. They are well trusted these days due to a harsh crackdown on fake reviews, and have a fantastic app as well as city specific apps for travellers to use. You can find out how to get listed here.
Yelp – Yelp is still quite popular despite recent press about the huge number of fake reviews submitted to the site. Believed to have over 78 million unique visitors worldwide in Q2 2012, Yelp is worth investing in. You can open an account here.
Online Reviews Case Study – Kia
Kia Motors take reviews very seriously, even including a front and centre link on their home page.
In a brave move Kia not only offer users the chance to review the cars, but also the dealerships, and the option to ask current owners questions about the vehicles. This kind of openness and perceived honestly can work marvels for a brand’s reputation, and put them a cut above the rest when it comes to noise, and to trust.
Equally, by keeping users on the site Kia are helping to keep any negative comments and issues where they can easily deal with them, and keep negative buzz away from other platforms.
As I write, Kia’s range of cars share 7,856 reviews between them, and the dealerships total 2,173 reviews for the last 6 months. Stats for both are very impressive, especially in an industry where is can be notoriously hard to please. The lowest average rating for a car in their range is 8.8/10, and the overall scores for dealerships are as below:
Overall, very impressive. But after absorbing these figures we need to look beyond them to what this actually achieves for the company. According to dealer-communications.com Kia have seen a 484% increase in brochure requests, a 300% increase in test drives booked, and a 509% increase in users searching for a local dealership from users reading the reviews during Q1 of 2013.
Kia have extended this tactic offline and are continuing to see great results.