Ratings and review sites: Why you should keep your friends close and your enemies further

Buying products and services can be a daunting task. Is this business legitimate? Is it reputable? Could I get a lower price elsewhere? Am I likely to be scammed or dissatisfied with my experience?

These are just some of the questions and concerns that cycle through a consumer’s brain when contemplating a purchase. For most, the natural next step is to investigate what others are saying about the business. And that process typically involves a little known thing called The Internet…

Fun fact: 88% of consumers read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business (BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, 2014)

Just think…
Yelp – a name that has become synonymous with ratings and reviews – garners an average of 142 million unique site visitors a month (that’s nearly 5 million a day!) and generates over 200,000 daily calls to businesses. Amazingly, 98% of Yelp users have made a purchase at a business they found on the site.

So that’s a good thing for my businesses, right? As long as customer satisfaction is up, Yelp should bring more people in the door.

Not necessarily…

The not-so-obvious problem with ratings and review sites
Ratings and review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List are what we like to call “competitive battlefields,” as they stack businesses right up against each other making it easy for consumers to comparison shop. A few bad reviews front and center on Yelp and it’s “bye, bye Otto’s Oil Shop; hello Marty’s Auto Body just a few doors down.” Even if a business does maintain a relatively high rating, competition is still fierce.

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Fun fact: Studies have shown that just a .5 star difference on Yelp will influence a user’s decision to buy from one business over another.

Now imagine if Otto’s Oil Shop paid for a potential customer to click on a search ad, only to lose that customer to a competitor on Yelp? Well, you can stop imagining because this is a real obstacle local businesses face every day.

Businesses pour time, money and effort into beating (or bidding) out the competition to land their ads in the top ranked page positions with the goal of getting clicks, driving traffic to their site and ideally making a sale.

However, for the 88% of consumers that trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations (BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, 2014), the journey does not end there. More often than not, a savvy consumer – let’s call her Pat – will navigate away from Otto’s Oil Shop’s website to Yelp or Angie’s List where she can verify the business is credible as well as compare reviews, offers and prices against other options before making the decision to buy.

What a nightmare! I finally got Pat to our site, was in the perfect position to make a sale, and now the lead that I paid for is being funneled right into my competitor’s lap! Just when I thought the battle was won, I’m right back where I started.

But what if…
Imagine that Pat didn’t have to leave your site to see what other customers are saying about your business. What if a carefully curated stream of ratings and reviews were embedded directly on your home page? Wouldn’t this enhance her experience, re-enforce your credibility and further encourage her to buy?

Chances are, this would help you build trust with the many customers like Pat that are swayed by the opinions of others more than the messaging coming straight from your brand. And just as importantly, this would remove a critical barrier on the path to purchase and reduce the risk of your paid-for leads ending up at your competitor’s door. This is precisely why many businesses do post their ratings and reviews on their websites – a proven tactic that with the right tools can be very easily implemented for a very big return.

3 tips for posting ratings and reviews on your site:

Automate it! Leverage marketing automation tools that allow you to easily integrate ratings and reviews into your site and update them on a regular basis.
Don’t be too perfect. Perfection can be suspicious. Throw in a few average ratings so you look more authentic and not as though you rigged the vote.
Reach out to your happy campers. There are two types of people that leave reviews; the extremely happy and the extremely disgruntled. Drown out the angry voices with more pleasant ones by soliciting reviews from your satisfied, loyal customers.

Click here for more on how you can work ratings and reviews to your advantage.

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