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How Online Reviews Affect Sales (And What to Do About It)

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Online reviews are important to business, but how important are they really? Here are some quick statistics that might open your eyes:

  • 92% of consumers read online reviews.
  • When judging a business, the star rating is the #1 factor.
  • 44% of consumers deem reviews written over a month ago to be irrelevant.
  • 26% of consumers think it’s important that a local business responds to its reviews.

There are some key takeaways from this. First, a lot of consumers are turning to reviews, and many of them want those reviews to be recent in order to make a decision. Next, the way a business reacts or responds to reviews matters.

Because smaller or local businesses rely on their review rankings to even be seen or noticed by a consumer, it’s important that they learn about online review management and how online reviews affect sales.

How Online Reviews Affect Sales

Local search engines and review platforms can play a big role in your business’ SEO. In fact, MOZ posts that online reviews factor in 13% of how search ranking is determined. Once users scan the list of results, your aggregate reviews (in the form of, say, a star rating) will affect their decision to click or not in just seconds. And if a prospective customer does decide to read the reviews in depth, they will make their ultimate buying decisions based on them.

It’s important to remember that a customer reading online reviews before a purchase already knows what they want. Reviews will tell them if your business can provide the product or service that fits within those needs. Often, in addition to the product itself, the consumer will also look at how you handle customer service should a problem arise. Because they privilege recent reviews, you’ll want to ensure your business gets a steady flow of reviews that show how great your product is—and how good your customer service is, too.

What You Can Do

So, how do you ensure your reviews work to your benefit? It’s simple: devise a review strategy. Begin by identifying platforms (Yelp, Trip Advisor, etc.) to focus on. This will likely depend on the industry your business works in. Search “[your industry] reviews” on your search engine of choice and scan the results. Which platforms come up first and most often? These are where you’ll put your focus.

Next, you’ll want to simply encourage customers to leave reviews on these platforms. This can be done by employees at the end of each transaction, or through a flyer or card included with an order or on the receipt. Alternatively, you might place a sticker or flyer on the store window: “Find us on…” naming your review platforms. You may also link to your business profiles on these review platforms from your business website.

It’s important that you encourage everyone, not just customers you think have had a good experience to share. Failure to do so leads to obviously biased reviews, which prospective customers will be able to see through. Another rule of thumb is to never offer monetary compensation for reviews—doing so crosses an ethical line, if not a legal one. You should also see how your platforms of choice feel about asking for reviews: Yelp is famously against it, while most other platforms seem not to mind.

Reputation Protection and Online Reviews Management

To use reviews to your advantage, you must remain vigilant of what people are saying about you and your business. Use community monitoring tools to assess your reputation and the discussion around the business. To track mentions off social media, use Google Alerts.

Of course, you should keep an eye on your reviews themselves and respond to them. Be proactive! Thank or highlight positive reviewers and answer negative reviews to apologize and set things right. When answering reviews, you should:

  • Defuse the situation (if the reviewer is angry)
  • Demonstrate your willingness to make things right
  • Highlight any positivity from the review
  • Offer a private channel to continue the conversation (if necessary)

Responding to negative reviews and owning up to your mistakes instills confidence in the business. Prospective customers will appreciate this. You should treat negative reviews as opportunities to make your business better, so have conversations internally on how the business can improve based on customers’ grievances. Remember, online reviews management requires you engage with negativity—not ignore it.

Moderate Online Reviews and Identify Trolls

If you keep reviews on your website or social platforms like a Facebook page, you can use automated comment moderation to ensure all reviews fit within terms of service. This means you can easily erase spam reviews, obvious troll attempts, and reviews that resort to abusive language. When you moderate your online reviews and profile comments, you free up time to focus on genuine negative reviews that you can engage as discussed above.

The bottom line: how do online reviews affect sales? At a glance, they tell customers whether it’s worth their time and money to do business with you. Therefore, you must be proactive in online review management.

If you’d like to learn more about social listening for reputation management, check out the guide to giving your business a reputation check-up. These tips will help you boost your reputation and respond to negative engagement swiftly.

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