The power of online reviews (and how to manage them)

We now live in a day where we no longer look to the word of mouth as we did in the past to help us make decisions, particularly when it comes to purchasing a new product or service. Countless studies have shown that although word of mouth is a strong influence in getting consumers to make a purchase, it has a stronger effect on consumers in an online setting.

Whether it be the Amazon reviews section, a tried-and-tested blog post, or a dedicated reviewal website such as Yelp, consumers are now looking toward the advice and guidance of other consumers online to help them with their purchasing decisions. And companies are accommodating this trend, by providing users with the various tools and resources needed to make it easier than ever to compare and contrast products and services.

So just how can small businesses manage and make the most of this online tool?

First of all, let’s look at what makes reviews so powerful.

Online reviews hold high credibility and this is most likely because of their anonymous nature. Unless the user is a high-profile blogger, usually the user’s opinion is isolated from their being. There are few factors to judge how credible they are – perhaps just their profile picture (if they have one) and use of grammar. This is one of the reasons that makes the review so powerful because all you have is their word.

Also, reviews in numbers are powerful in their own right. This is why so many online retailers offer reviews in a condensed format, often by ‘starring’ products and services or giving them a thumbs up/thumbs down rating. This helps the user quickly identify whether it’s worth making the purchase. And if they require more information, they can just simply skim through the reviews, which are often categorised for an even easier way to dig for information.

Leveraging review websites

  • Yelp, Reevoo and many others are a great place for business reviews as they are so easily accessible. These websites require a little bit of maintenance every once and a while to ensure everything is kept up to date, including links, product/service images and contact information. Another bonus of this is receiving inbound links, which will boost your SEO.
  • Find more of these websites, particularly ones within your sector and contact the provider to see if you are able to be featured. The more places consumers have to  review your business, the better. For instance, if your business offers holiday homes for rental, you could look into being featured on TripAdvisor.
  • You know that little box that sometimes pops up when you search for a company on Google? It’s Google’s Knowledge Graph, and it’s a quick and useful way of displaying your Google ratings and reviews to potential customers. You can read more about how to set this up here.

How you can keep on top of reviews

  • Be conscientious of your online demeanour. How you act with users can have a big impact on their perception of you.

  • Search online about your business regularly. This is the quickest and easiest way to see what users are saying about you across a variety of websites. You can set up a Google alert to be notified when people are talking about your business online.

  • You can also search your company name on Twitter regularly to see what others are tweeting about you. IFTTT can make this process even more simple, as you can add a ‘recipe’ that emails you if your business is being talked about.

What can you do if you receive a negative review online?

If you find yourself staring at a negative review about your business, you don’t have to drop anchor. It’s worth taking the time to try and alleviate the situation.

Try these tips:

  • Be calm and polite – you don’t want to aggravate the situation.
  • Apologise where appropriate.
  • Offer to look into the matter further.

Reviews can yield great results for gaining new customers. By keeping on top of what consumers are saying about your business, you can create a great reputation and improve customer loyalty. All it takes is a little dedication and a watchful eye.