Online reviews are critical to business success. Positive customer feedback builds brand credibility and consumer trust. In addition, online review platforms allow you to connect with your target customers on a more personal level.
As a business owner, it is imperative that you assess the impact your customers’ brand engagement has on your online reputation. The recent Local Consumer Review Survey published by BrightLocal showed that 82 percent of customers read online reviews for local businesses. More importantly, 91 percent of consumers say that positive brand reviews influence their purchasing decisions.
What does your company’s online reputation look like? To appeal to your target market, you must leverage customer reviews in building a better business. Start by establishing a robust online reputation management (ORM) campaign.
This article discusses the importance of creating a positive online reputation for your business. Learn more about:
• What is customer perception and why it is important
• The significance of online reviews in business success
• Why online reputation matters
• The impact of online reviews on local search engine optimization (SEO)
• ORM best practices
• Top online review sites
Read on to find out how optimizing your ORM strategy gives your brand a significant advantage over the competition.
Customer Perception: What Is It and Why It’s Important
Did you know that you can gain or lose customers before you have any interaction with them? From page visitors to those who came across your brand through social media, these people can be your next brand advocates.
However, capturing interested buyers is not an easy feat. As a marketer, you must invest in building a positive perception of your brand in your target audiences’ minds. One way to do this is by establishing social proof through customer feedback. Online reviews shape consumer perception and brand reputation.
What is Customer Perception?
Customer perception, also referred to as consumer perception, is a broad marketing concept that encompasses customers’ awareness and impression of a company. Several factors affect customer perception. These include online reviews, advertisements, social media and personal experiences, among other channels.
Why is Consumer Perception Significant For Your Business?
The global business market has notably changed over time. According to a report published by Walker Information, customer experience serves as the key brand differentiator in 2020.
Today, business owners put a premium on customer satisfaction, among other factors. This is because more marketers now realize that consumers precede traditional competitive advantages like product features and pricing.
It cannot be overemphasized that customers are the building blocks of the digital marketplace. With the introduction of social media and online platforms, consumers now have stronger and louder voices than ever.
We’re seeing definitely a huge shift in buyer behavior away from word-of-mouth reviews,” said Courtney Quigley, Rize Reviews’ reputation consultant. “Definitely focus a lot more on the story that your business is telling online.”
Your customers’ brand perception affects your overall digital presence and business growth. Knowing how your target audiences perceive your brand allows you to adjust your marketing strategies and build a more solid customer base.
How Necessary are Online Reviews?
The business value of your loyal customers is worth 10 times as much as their first purchase. With more people relying on digital platforms to acquire business and product information, it pays to take control of online conversations about your brand.
Now, as a marketer, it could be easy to shrug off reviews if you don’t care about customer satisfaction. You may choose not to go the extra mile to promote a positive brand image. It saves you time, money and resources.
BUT ignoring customer reviews can decrease your lead acquisition and customer retention rate in a heartbeat. Doing so puts your overall business growth at a disadvantage. Let’s look at the statistics:
• 76 percent of online shoppers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal)
• 4 out of 5 customers reverse their purchasing decisions based on negative reviews (Nielsen Global Trust Report)
• 94 percent of U.S. consumers check online reviews before dining at a restaurant (Tripadvisor)
When customers post their brand experiences online, they are not merely sharing their pain points. They influence other shoppers’ brand perceptions and buying decisions as well. On the flip side, online reviews also teach you how to improve your business. If you want to take your brand to the next level, you must prioritize building a positive online reputation.
Why Online Reputation Matters
Customer reviews have revolutionized the digital marketplace and overall brand experience. They are the new frontier in word-of-mouth marketing.
With everything from negative reviews to fake news circulating online, your brand reputation can change in a split second. This means that no matter the scope or niche of your business, your online reputation is crucial to your success.
However, as a business owner, you may be constantly pulled into a dozen different directions. You need to build an active social media presence, optimize your website and improve your customer service, together with your other responsibilities.
Adding another task on your checklist may seem overwhelming, but do not take your brand’s online reputation for granted. Listed below are the top reasons your business’ online reputation is more important than ever:
1. Your online presence is everywhere
2. Customer reviews serve as ranking factors
3. Your target customers read online reviews
4. Online shoppers value relevant brand feedback
5. Online reviews build brand credibility
6. The majority of your prospects are active online users
7. Customers appreciate review responses
To give you a better idea of how important a good online reputation is to your business, let’s discuss each concept thoroughly. The statistics mentioned in this section are derived from the results of BrightLocal’s local consumer review survey.
Let’s get started. Why do online reviews and reputation management matter?
1. Your Online Presence is Everywhere
Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google reviews, Yelp, Quora, LinkedIn — the list goes on. Digital platforms are powerful tools in driving customer engagement.
A single customer review can create a long thread of conversations across online channels. Depending on the weight of the information and the quality of responses the online review gets, it can either tarnish or boost your online reputation.
That is why it is crucial that you have a strong ORM strategy in place. Whatever content you post online can change or confirm your brand’s reputation. By taking control of how your business appears on digital platforms, you are protecting your overall credibility and building a solid customer following.
2. Customer Reviews Serve as Ranking Factors
While online reviews seem like a small portion of your digital marketing strategy, more customers are relying on these channels to assist them in their decision making. More importantly, search engines consider customer feedback as a ranking factor.
Search engines treat ratings and reviews as user-generated content (UGC). This means Google considers every conversation about your brand as an endorsement of trustworthiness and authority. Google, in turn, collects this data and uses it to match user queries with the most relevant search results. As more people talk about your brand online, your click-through rate (CTR) and organic rankings increase as well.
Overall, customer reviews increase your search visibility, drive site traffic, affect conversion rates and influence search results. The outcome varies depending on the type of review your brand generates.
3. Your Target Customers Read Online Reviews
The majority of online users value and utilize the information they acquire from local business reviews.
I really want to focus on the age group that’s 18-34,” Quigley said. “That’s a huge percent, regardless of your industry, as your consumer base. And 95 percent of us are in that 18-34 range, that’s almost virtually every single person in that age group who’s looking online and reading reviews for local businesses.”
Understanding the impact of online reviews on your brand reputation gives you the upper hand. It facilitates your strategy implementation and decision making. However, it takes more than one review to boost your competitive edge.
Research shows that customers read an average of 10 online reviews before forming an opinion about a business.
This illustrates that having just a couple of reviews is great,” Quigley added. “It’s important to have a few [reviews] on there, but you definitely want to end up in the double digits. You want to have more than just four or five reviews — 10 plus is a good place for you.”
4. Online Shoppers Value Relevant Brand Feedback
Forty percent of consumers only consider account reviews written within the past two weeks when making a decision. This means that to acquire more leads and boost your retention rate, you need a proactive reputation management strategy.
As a marketer, you must continuously engage with your customers and encourage them to leave positive feedback. A lack of recent reviews could sabotage your brand’s digital marketing efforts.
What that tells us is somebody doesn’t want to hear what a great time John had at a restaurant maybe last year because he knows that restaurant has undergone management changes or there’s a new chef and things are just totally different over a year ago than present day,” Quigley said. “So it’s really important to not only have a good volume of reviews but also actively be seeking them out just so you’re always keeping it up-to-date.”
5. Online Reviews Build Brand Credibility
With over 3.5 billion searches conducted per day, you must ensure your target audience can find you with ease. Customer reviews help position your brand at the top of search results. They build brand recognition and send trust signals to search engines.
Google is a major advocate of user experience. By being readily available to your target audience, you increase your chances of acquiring qualified leads and converting them into sales.
Acquiring four-star ratings and above is one way to boost your brand authenticity and authority. Studies show that 57 percent of customers only trust a business if it has four or more star ratings.
Four- and five-star reviews are considered to be, in our industry, good reviews,” Quigley said. “Three and below are considered to be more like an unsatisfactory visit to your business. So having that rating up is definitely something you want to be focusing on in your reputation efforts for sure.”
6. The Majority of Your Prospects are Active Online Users
With baby boomers taking a back seat, it’s time to shift your focus to the tech-savvy generation of consumers. Millennials and Generation Z are highly socially connected individuals. These consumer generations are more proactive than the previous ones. This means they are more likely to maximize technology and online platforms in acquiring information and interacting with businesses.
In fact, statistics show that 80 percent of customers aged 18-34 have written more online reviews compared to 41 percent of consumers over 55. In addition, 91 percent of people in the same age bracket trust online reviews as much as, if not more, recommendations from families and friends.
These powerhouse consumers should be on top of your customer service strategy.
7. Customers Appreciate Review Responses
Responding to your online reviews shows online users and search engines your commitment to improving your customer service and ensuring customer satisfaction. This earns you points from Google since it prioritizes user experience.
Now, as a marketer, you can’t be too selective about how you engage with online users. You must respond to both negative and positive customer reviews.
Studies show that 89 percent of consumers read businesses’ review responses. “You can have really great reviews, but responding to your reviews is also something that, in very recent months, has come out as extremely important,” Quigley said. “People really consider this when they’re looking at whether or not they want to engage with the business themselves.”
Overall, building your online reputation is crucial to obtaining your marketing goals. Online reviews are an integral part of the broader business landscape. This means having no customer reviews or ignoring negative feedback will cause BIG problems for your brand in the years to come.
The Impact of Online Reviews on Local SEO
There is a high probability that your target customers have already searched for your business online before reaching out to you.
The information that your prospects acquire on the first pages of search results serves as a deciding factor whether or not they will go with your brand. That is why ORM and local search optimization are integral to your business’ success.
The top three results on search engine results pages (SERPs) are collectively called the local pack.
Those best organic listings mostly, if not always, are taken by businesses with great reviews,” Quigley said. “We’re looking at four stars and three digits, to quadruple digits even in this case, review.”
According to Quigley, 60 percent of customers find these top organic results the most trustworthy ones on Google. Interestingly, SEO experts say that reviews are among the top five most important factors that search engines consider when ranking businesses on the local pack.
The amount and quality of your reviews help Google determine your brand credibility.
We know that Google has an algorithm and sometimes these algorithms change,” Quigley added. “So, at least currently, the authenticity and authority of your business or domain, the story that the internet is writing about your business, are probably impacted by your reviews.”
ORM Best Practices
Now that we’ve established the importance of online reviews when building your reputation, let’s look at the best ORM practices. The following are proven strategies that Quigley and her team implement in their review monitoring and response services:
• Review generation — This involves increasing your brand’s review volume and aggregating your star ratings through text and email campaigns.
• Negative review monitoring — This process entails capturing negative feedback before it goes public.
• ORM conceptualization — This phase includes developing and testing strategies to capture customers at their “peak happiness” point. Quigley and her team utilize CRM-enabled POS systems to facilitate data gathering, a custom dashboard to input customer login and link for field staff.
• Review optimization and marketing — This pertains to the implementation of data-driven ORM strategies to help you market your positive reviews.
We follow the best practices and we also consider ourselves as thought leaders in review management,” Quigley said. “So in addition to following the current best practices, we always have our eyes open for anything new that might come around or new research that comes out about consumer behavior that we can continue improving upon our best practices for review monitoring.”
To facilitate your digital marketing journey, keep in mind these essential elements when managing your brand’s online reputation:
1. Review Monitoring
This method allows for a quick resolution to negative feedback. Proper review monitoring practices also assist you to provide prompt responses to positive online reviews from valued customers.
Experts say that consumers have a higher degree of trust in businesses that don’t have perfect five-star ratings. To leverage this opportunity and demonstrate authenticity allow 4- and 5-star reviews to come through, NOT just five stars. Stay on top of your customer reviews and your responses, by setting up email notifications for all incoming public reviews and private feedback.
Analytics and data-tracking software allows you to monitor your campaign success, including your review volume and aggregate rating progress. Reputation management software also makes it easier for you to perform sentiment analysis and determine your listing distribution data. Furthermore, it allows you to take advantage of other custom reporting options available.
Responding to negative reviews is one of the best practices,” Quigley said. “The best thing to do is to let them talk to you privately. Direct them to some kind of a phone number, customer service line perhaps or to email you directly, whatever the case might be. Just to show that you’re very sorry that they did not have a great experience, but you want them to get better, so here are the steps we’re going to take.”
Keep the following in mind when responding to customer reviews:
➜ Acknowledge more than 75 percent of positive customer feedback
➜ Respond to all negative reviews
➜ Show genuine interest in customer feedback and rectify issues
➜ Respond to positive reviews that are thoughtful and lengthier
This is not just for that person’s benefit but for everyone reading that review,” Quigley added. “It sends the signals that, OK, this person really cares. And also note that they’re not getting snappy, they’re not getting offended, things like that definitely resonate with customers reading your reviews.”
4. Peak Happiness
Peak happiness point is something that’s really important to know and pay attention to as a business owner,” Quigley said.
According to Quigley, the “peak happiness” point is when your customers are in their happiest state. This could be when you’ve fulfilled their request or provided them with customer satisfaction. The peak happiness point varies across industries.
For example, the peak happiness point of customers at a restaurant could be when their stomach is full and the food is good. The best time to solicit customer reviews is right before they leave the restaurant. Meanwhile, if you’re in the auto mechanic industry, your customers’ peak happiness point could be a week after you’ve completed a service on their vehicle. This is the point where all their anxieties about the car issues and repair concerns are gone.
Right after they paid their bill, they’re probably a little stressed out,” Quigley added. “You want to hit them after they’re driving their car, they’re getting to a point safely and not while their car is getting fixed.”
Targeting your customers at their peak happiness state is essential when trying to obtain positive reviews. This may take a couple of days or weeks, depending on your industry and the severity of the issue.
Once you’ve identified your market’s peak happiness point, you can execute a strategy to reach customers with review requests. Doing so will give you more positive results than asking for reviews without a solid strategy in place.
Which Online Review Sites Matter?
Many business owners do not recognize the importance of collecting online reviews across digital platforms. Do not make the same mistake. Concentrating on only one channel is detrimental to your online reputation. Doing so takes a substantial group of your customer base out of the equation.
To grow your online reviews, you must keep track of online conversations about your brand on the following popular consumer review sites:
• Google Reviews
• Insider Pages
• Yellow Pages
• Trip Advisor
• Home Advisor
• Better Business Bureau (BBB)
• Google My Business (GMB)
• Demand Force
• Among others
Leverage Positive Customer Reviews to Your Advantage
After acquiring positive reviews, marketing them to your potential customers, social media followers and website visitors is also important. Maximize the potential of your social media channels, website widget and review landing pages. Doing so boosts your online visibility and business acquisition.
Need help building your brand’s online reputation? Thrive is here to help!
Thrive Internet Marketing Agency offers integrated ORM and digital marketing services to help you zoom past the competition. Schedule a consultation with our online marketing specialists now to boost your advantage.