Increasingly, consumers report that they rely heavily on online reviews to make purchasing decisions. Reading reviews about a company’s product or service has become an integral part of the buying process for many Americans.
According to two studies by The Local SEO Guide and Moz, two leading online marketing and search engine optimization companies, there are a variety of ranking factors that impact local search rankings. Both studies demonstrated that reviews influence where a company or business appears in Google’s Local 3-Pack results (the top three most relevant businesses listed with a map in search results) and in localized organic search results.
While positive reviews can certainly improve your rankings, their impact goes beyond that. The most important aspect of reviews is their capacity to influence the buying choices than consumers make when perusing search results and determining which business to visit or contact.
Impact of Online Ratings and Reviews
BrightLocal, an English marketing and advertising agency, found in its “Local Consumer Review Study” that the overall star rating from online reviews is the No. 1 factor that consumers pay attention to when researching local businesses. The agency determined that it is likely that displaying reviews and ratings in search engine results lead to higher click-through rates (CTR) from “Search to Click.”
Some of BrightLocal’s key findings:
- ‐ A 5-star rating earns a business nearly 40% more clicks from Google Local Pack than a business with a 1-star rating
- ‐ Going to a 5-star rating from a 3-star rating results in a business getting 25% more clicks from Google Local Pack
- ‐ Star ratings that are shown in Google Local Pack results lead to higher CTR than do organic search results
- ‐ Over half of consumers choose a business if it has positive reviews displayed in Google Local Pack
- ‐ A company having a favorable or positive reputation can lead to a boost in search rankings, more clicks, and an increase in consumer trust
Responding to Online Reviews
Fortunately, business owners are not powerless when it comes to receiving a negative review. You have the opportunity to respond. The business owner reply is a critical part of reputation management as it allows you to be an active participant in your online reputation. Consider the following when replying to online reviews:
- 1. Owner responses can save you money. Reviews that contain legitimate complaints allow the business owner to fix the problem and make an effort to save that customer. A well-written, informative, and polite response to their complaint win back their business
- 2. Owner responses are free ads. Owner responses don’t cost anything. When writing a response, don’t word your reply like you would an advertisement or sales pitch. Rather, make every word count in creating a favorable impression of your business’s quality, customer service, and professionalism.
- 3. Owner responses are PR for your brand. The replies you submit – whether in response to positive or negative reviews – will be read by potential future customers. How you reply to one customer gives potential customers an idea of the treatment they will receive from your business.
- 4. Owner responses are a form of customer service. People who take time out of their day to write reviews, be them positive or negative, generally want to be acknowledged for the review they submitted. If you neglect reviews by failing to submit a response, you are giving up control of a key piece of the customer service picture. Same as you wouldn’t ignore the praise or complaints of customers in person, your business shouldn’t dismiss written reviews.
When constructing a response to a negative review, start with the understanding that the sentiment the reviewer is expressing is actually a valuable feedback for your business. This feedback can help you win back an unsatisfied customer, discover quality control failures in your business, and, finally, implement solutions to these problematic issues.
Make it a company policy to never represent your business poorly with owner responses. A display of blame, anger, resentment, narcissism, or other negative traits on your part as an owner can do more harm than good to your reputation than a negative review can.
How to Write a Good Owner Response
When writing a response, make sure you first apologize for their negative experience. Show empathy and be honest about the issue. Many owners include a phone number or email, telling the review writer to contact them so they can make it right. This shows the reviewer (and everyone else reading your response) that you care about the customer’s experience and you are committed to taking action.
Keep it professional in your response and in all other forms of communication. Remember that when you are interacting with a customer online, you are showing your company’s values for all to see.