As a small business owner, you might wonder if online reviews are worth the time and effort. With so many platforms and channels for customers to share their experiences, it can be overwhelming to keep track of them all. However, online reviews really are essential to the success of your business. In fact, nearly 9 in 10 consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business, and 39% do so on a regular basis.3
“Millions of people come to Yelp every day looking for trusted reviews and information about the businesses in their area,” said Emily Washcovick, small business expert at Yelp. “Reviews are a critical step in consumers’ deciding where to spend. Whether they’re looking to learn about a restaurant’s ambiance or a plumber’s service area, consumers want confidence in their purchasing decisions. The best thing a business owner can do is present themselves authentically and accurately, creating great experiences for customers and being open to feedback that’s shared in reviews.”
But what are the benefits of online reviews? Here are some of the most important reasons why your small business needs them.
Build Trust with Your Customers
As a small business, building trust with your customers is crucial. Reviews help you establish credibility with potential customers who are researching your business. According to a 2022 survey conducted by BrightLocal, 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.1
Get familiar with the concept of “social proof.” Influence expert and marketing specialist Robert Cialdini describes this concept in his book, Influence. When people see that other people have given positive reviews of a business or service, it subconsciously signals to them that that business or service is positive, because it saves them from having to do the work to find out for themselves. We trust the opinions of other people like ourselves.
Help You Get Found Online
Online reviews can help boost your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. Google takes review ratings from multiple sites into consideration when determining the order of businesses it returns in local searches. In fact, according to LocalSEO Guide, online reviews and specific keywords influence local search engine visibility more than any other factor.2 Yelp and Facebook also use review ratings to determine the order of businesses in their search results.
Reviews Can Tip Customers in Your Favor
Reviews can be a deciding factor for many consumers when it comes to making a purchase. In fact, 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them more likely to use a local business. Similarly, nearly 70% of consumers are influenced by online reviews before making a purchase decision.3 This means that having positive reviews can help attract new customers and increase sales.
Help Identify Areas of Improvement
Online reviews can provide valuable insights into your customers’ experiences with your business. Reading through reviews can help you identify areas for improvement, such as slow service, broken website links or outdated information. This can help you make changes to your business that will improve customer satisfaction and increase the likelihood of positive reviews in the future.
Reviews can also help reinforce things you’re doing well. Don’t forget to read your positive reviews and, more importantly, use them in your marketing strategy by sharing them on your social channels, on your website and even in your store.
Responding gives you the opportunity to show you care what customers think
Responding to online reviews, both positive and not, is an opportunity to engage with your customers and show them that you value their feedback. By responding to criticisms, you can address any concerns or issues that the customer may have had and demonstrate your commitment to providing excellent customer service. Responding to positive reviews can help you build relationships with your customers and show your appreciation for their support. So, how can you get reviews for your small business? Here are some tips.
How can you get reviews?
The best reviews are those that happen organically after a great experience with a business. Since each review platform has its own unique policies when it comes to reviews, it’s important to confirm what those policies are and how it may affect your marketing strategy. For example, Yelp firmly prohibits asking for reviews because the company believes it can create an unfair advantage and false perception of popularity for a business compared to others that may not have the time or marketing budget to conduct review solicitation campaigns. To be on the safe side, business owners should focus on providing outstanding customer service and creating memorable experiences to help set yourself up for great reviews without having to ask for them.
Should you respond to reviews?
Yes, it’s important to respond to reviews, whether they are positive or not. By responding to criticisms, you can address any issues or concerns that the customer may have had and demonstrate your commitment to providing excellent customer service. Responding to positive reviews can help you build relationships with your customers and show your appreciation for their support.
What about negative reviews?
Criticism can be a learning opportunity for your business. Look for common themes in negative reviews, such as slow service or outdated information, and use that feedback to make improvements to your business. Responding to negative reviews is also important, as it shows that you take customer feedback seriously and are committed to providing excellent customer service.
If you receive a review that contains hate speech or is inaccurate, you may be able to work with the review platform to get it taken down—many review platforms have ways to report reviews for possible further action. If you do go this route, keep in mind that review platforms aren’t in the position to mediate consumer experiences, so the best thing to do is leave a response that clearly indicates you are rising above it. Never write a rude or petty reply. Most people reading the reviews will see it for what it really is.
Do reviews really impact where people decide to shop/eat/spend their money?
Absolutely. According to ReviewTracker, 98% of consumers used the internet to find information about local businesses in 2022, up from 90% in 2019.1 Similarly, a Comscore survey and Yelp internal data showed that 83% of users hire or buy from a business they found on Yelp, and 57% of users contact a business they found on Yelp within a day.4 This means that online reviews are one of the most important factors that consumers consider when deciding where to spend their money.
Make it Easy
As a small business owner, it’s important to make it easy for your customers to leave reviews. This means including links to your review pages on your website and in your email signature. Platforms like Yelp also allow you to create check-in offers that your customers can activate on the platform, encouraging them to check out your reviews.
Making consumers aware of their presence on review sites is where many businesses fall short. Think of your review strategy as a series of touch points on your customer journey that ends in a review. Provide a QR code and place it in highly visible areas where your customers can easily scan to visit your business pages on review sites.
Online reviews are essential to the success of small businesses. They help establish credibility and trust with customers, boost search engine optimization efforts, and impact purchasing decisions. By embracing the power of online reviews, you can improve and grow your business.
My business doesn’t need any reviews
Dismissing the power of positive reviews can be a mistake. If you think your niche of business doesn’t need to focus on reviews, think again. In fact, according to a Yelp and Comscore survey, 90% of people on Yelp compare businesses before deciding which one to visit, contact, hire or buy from.4 Reviews aren’t just for restaurants and retail types of establishments. They can help dental offices, contractors and many other kinds of businesses. Think of those potential customers who might be relocating to your area from another part of the country. They will likely be researching and reading the reviews for local service providers and beauty salons.
Show your support of local businesses during Small Business Saturday
Small Business Saturday is coming up on November 25, and it can be a great opportunity to voice your support. Here at Experian, we will be encouraging our employees to leave reviews for their favorite small businesses. To make it extra fun we are asking them to include a hashtag and take a screenshot of the review to share internally. Once you have the screen shot, you have something very cool that you can share on social media. To reach a wider audience with your post, consider tagging the business and including the hashtags #smallbusinessweek and #gosmall.
We would love it if this post inspires you to join in. Be sure to post so we can share!
It can be a virtual business or a brick-and-mortar in your community. Be sure to use the hashtags #SmallBusinessWeek and #gosmall in your review and share a screenshot on your social media using the hashtag as well. This will help raise awareness of the importance of supporting small businesses and leaving reviews.