New Study: 3 Powerful Business Benefits of Online Reviews

Line out the door at pizzeria
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

You’ve probably been hearing stories through the grapevine for a few years now:

  • The restaurateur whose dinner service began selling out after a few positive Yelp reviews (which then got him more reviews)
  • The dentist whose new patient leads dropped to near zero after a patient who didn’t understand her pricing blasted her on Google+, Healthgrades, Dr. Ooogle and every other review site he could find
  • The established real estate agent lamenting the new need to ‘play the game’ on sites like Zillow

The review space may still be relatively new (Yelp was founded in 2004 and took more than six years to amass its first 5 million reviews), but it’s finally established enough that a steady stream of research is beginning to confirm what we already know anecdotally:

There’s an incredibly powerful, direct connection between your online reviews and the success of your business.

Bazaarvoice recently released ‘The Conversation Index” Volume 8, which contains some amazing new insights into the true power of online review marketing. What they’ve discovered is a multi-faceted virtuous cycle that begins with your very first review.

1. Your First Reviews Immediately Affect Conversions

According to the report, the first positive review of your product or service can lift sales and conversions by as much as 10 percent. Those early reviews are incredibly important, too – the first 50 can account for a conversion boost of up to 30 percent.

The benefit tapers off from there, but continues to increase with review quantity. In other words, the more reviews you have, the better your product or service will convert, indefinitely.

So having even one review under your belt can benefit your business – but how can you make that first review happen?

Well, we’ve been solving that problem for years with tools to ask, remind and guide customers through the review process. A Bazaarvoice case study found that post-purchase review reminder emails increased daily review volume for one business by 137 percent. That’s no lie. When we launched automated email reminder campaigns this spring, users told us they started seeing marked increases in new reviews, some as much as 3x-5x.

2. Even a Small Volume of Reviews Carries a Sizable SEO Benefit

It only takes about 8 reviews for their marketing benefits to start compounding. Your eighth review marks the beginning of a tangible SEO benefit for your business website (side note: make sure to claim your review site listings so you can link them to your business website).

When pushed to your website, reviews are an excellent source of ‘dynamic content’ for your page. Google loves webpages that frequently update with a steady stream of fresh content. There’s no better way to ensure consistent, fresh content for your website than to begin sharing and syndicating user-generated content (UGC – which can be anything from reviews to Instagram photos to tweets) across your website and social media properties.

(Note: The ‘steady stream’ is important in other ways, too – a consistent trickle of reviews is seen as more authentic and trustworthy than a sudden flood of 5-star reviews that all get posted on the same day. That’s why there’s no silver bullet to the reputation problem: the solution is to do good business every day and have a review process in place for the long haul.)

The Bazaarvoice report finds that reviews specifically have a strong SEO benefit when added to a product page, increasing search traffic to that page 15-25 percent. Local businesses, in turn, can put their latest and greatest reviews on a conversion page of your website in rich-snippet markup, e.g. using SEO-friendly ‘Review Stream’ WordPress plugin or other means.

The inevitable result of more search traffic? More visitors, who are then more likely to become customers. And with more customers come more reviews, which leads to more conversions, and then more traffic…

…but that’s not the end of this virtuous cycle!

3. Syndicating User-Generated Content Dramatically Increases Review Writing

Maybe it’s because you’re empowering your customers to share their experiences and giving them a voice – but the fact is that sharing UGC across your website, social media channels, etc. leads to more UGC, specifically reviews.

How big of a boost in reviews you can expect depends largely on your industry, but even the least impacted vertical (department stores) still experienced a 28 percent boost in review numbers from syndicating the UGC surrounding their business (Consumer electronics experienced the biggest boost at an incredible 324 percent).

So leveraging all of your user-generated content is like adding fuel to the fire of your already-virtuous cycle.

Side Benefit: Valuable Product Insights

A high volume of reviews (100 or more) can deliver valuable insights into your product or service – if you know what to look for. While we all hope for high ratings, those 3 and 4 star reviews are more than twice as likely to contain product suggestions than other ratings (1-3 star reviews are most likely to highlight flaws present in the product).

Beware: Authenticity is key

We say it often on the Grade.us blog, but one of the biggest takeaways from this report was that buying fake reviews is a very bad decision. Consumers are 81 percent more trusting of reviews that they know are monitored by a neutral third party – another point of value in having real reviews on third-party sites that filter or moderate out fakes.

Nearly half of consumers have more trust in a business that displays some negative reviews because they perceive them as a sign of honesty and authenticity. While some pros and cons of products or services are relative, a strong review response strategy appeals to all prospective customers – that is, they like to see businesses proactively and personally working to solve customer problems.

Posted in Customer Reviews, Marketing, Reputation Management, Small Business Marketing, Word-of-mouth | Leave a comment

How NOT to Respond to Customer Reviews: 8 DON’Ts From a Recent Case Study

screaming child
Photo by Bob Walker provided under a CC license

Anytown, USA: A customer (who also happens to be an active Yelper) is enjoying a sandwich at his regular haunt: a small local burger joint that also doubles as an arcade.

Enter a gleefully screaming child, whose behavior continues uncorrected by parent nor staff for the length of our customer’s meal, souring his dining experience. He takes to Yelp to complain.

The kicker? He likes the place. His two-star review first mentions the many positives of the restaurant’s food and service – things that have kept him coming back – before launching into a lengthy grievance about the screaming child. It just goes to show that the most vocal critics of a business can also be its loyal customers.

But business owners have to steel themselves up to deal with unhappy reviewers the right way. Continue reading

Posted in Customer Behavior, Customer Reviews, Negative Reviews, Reputation Management, Yelp | Leave a comment

New “Review Stream” WordPress Plugin Being Alpha-tested With Grade.us Customers

Grade.us has always made it easy to amplify your latest and greatest reviews from around the web with our “Review Stream” widget, a copy/paste Web widget that automatically streams your 4- and 5-star reviews to your website or Facebook page.

Now, we’ve gone one step further and introduced this functionality as a WordPress plugin, “Review Stream”. Continue reading

Posted in Product Features, Review Monitoring, SEO | Leave a comment

6 Reasons Why Your Business Needs an Email List

You’ve probably heard it over and over again: “you need to build a list!” But maybe you’re still skeptical.

After all, hasn’t email’s functionality been replaced over the years by social media and mobile technology, among other things? And aren’t my customers too riveted to Facebook or Snapchat or Meerkat or whatever’s next to pry their eyes away long enough to read my email?

Maybe. But for leveraging your existing customers for sales and business growth, email still reigns supreme over other channels. Continue reading

Posted in Email Marketing, Marketing, Review Funnel | Leave a comment

5 Reasons Why You Should Never Buy Fake Reviews

Savvy marketers and business owners know how valuable customer reviews are. It’s tempting, then, that for a few bucks on Elance, Craigslist or Fiverr, you can recruit an invisible army of ‘customers’ to populate your profiles on Yelp and Google+ with 4- and 5-star reviews.

It’s quick, it’s easy, and it makes your business look good, right? What could possibly go wrong?

To be blunt, everything.

Sure, you may experience some temporary benefit in the form of a burst of new business and the confidence that comes with your new five-star status. But over time, a wall of fake reviews will not only destroy your reputation, but possibly the business itself.

Here are five reasons why you should never buy or solicit fake reviews. Continue reading

Posted in Customer Reviews, Fake Reviews, Reputation Management, Review Fraud | Leave a comment

The 3 Reputation Management Tips Every Business Can’t Do Without

So much of a small business’s success is dependent upon its reputation among customers. It has been said time and time again that word-of-mouth is the best marketing tool. The trick is to keep that word-of-mouth positive and contagious. So how do you keep your reputation in check? Continue reading

Posted in Reputation Management, Small Business Marketing, Social Media, Word-of-mouth | Leave a comment

Get Weird: One Simple Trick to Getting More Online Reviews

How do you get more of your happy customers to participate in online reviews? You’ve probably come across our sober and straightforward advice: ask, guide and remind customers to write reviews–that’s why our “review funnel” service exists, after all.

But what if you’re just not getting any traction? What if you work in a “boring” industry vertical (sorry, HVAC folks ;) ) and can’t motivate customers to share their pleasantly boring experiences with others? Or what if you simply want Yelp reviews but don’t want to so much as mention the words “Yelp” and “review” in the same sentence for fear of inciting Yelp’s wrath?

Well, then you have to start thinking creatively. Continue reading

Posted in Customer Behavior, Customer Psychology, Customer Reviews, Remarkability, Yelp | Leave a comment

Why You Need to Establish a Review Strategy Today

Importance of a review funnel for a small business

Reviews can be one of the best sources of marketing a small business can get. But why exactly is that? Thanks to the internet, and a larger variety of information sources, consumers now spend much more time getting information before they buy. According to one study, on average, 10.4 information sources are checked before making a decision. Continue reading

Posted in Customer Reviews, Review Monitoring, Small Business Marketing | Leave a comment

The Cost of Unhappy Customers

The good folks at Vision Critical have put together this eye-opening infographic showing the potential costs of letting your customers go unhappy, unserved, frustrated. Nobody wins! Continue reading

Posted in Customer Service, Negative Reviews, Public Relations | Tagged , | Leave a comment

This Company Lost $300k Trying to Bully Customers Who Wrote Bad Reviews

The now infamous case of KlearGear.com’s corporate bullying tactics has been settled in a U.S. District Court in Utah, with Judge Dee Benson awarding John and Jen Palmer $306,750 ($102,250 in compensatory damages and $204,500 in punitive damages) against the online retailer. Continue reading

Posted in Customer Reviews, Negative Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

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