Pitching an online review marketing strategy to small business owners seems like it should be an easy sell. Online reviews continue to grow in importance for local small business as consumers depend more on other people’s opinions than ever before. Yet a large portion of small businesses do not have any type of strategy in place for getting positive reviews. As more local SEO firms and marketing agencies add Online Review related services to their businesses, developing a compelling pitch of your online review marketing and management services is essential for bringing in new clients.
Part of the challenge is clearly explaining how Online Reviews impact search engine results. Small business owners tend to have limited marketing budgets and don’t understand SEO in the first place. They do understand that Online Reviews are important, but might not be able to explain why. That’s where your agency can come in and highlight the value proposition, explain the impact on the bottom line, and provide a foundational education on the importance of Local Search.
Research on the impact of online reviews are still limited, but more companies are starting to produce quality evidence that investing in an online review acquisition strategy can affect a company’s revenue and customer acquisition.
TrustPilot’s blog has been publishing some fascinating case studies recently highlighting the impact on retargeting click through rate, increasing quality leads and conversions, and boosting staff morale.
Across the board, using reviews to generate business is becoming more common.
I reached out to a few Local Search experts to get their advice when it comes to the Online Review Marketing and Management pitch.
What Do the Experts Recommend?
There are two main components to the Search Engine Marketing and SEO picture:
I would say that most people focus around 90% of their effort into getting found. Everyone wants to search and find themselves. But even if you are first in the local pack, you may find yourself below four ads that are often easier to click and occupy a lot more screen space. Even if you back that up with a good organic listing below the local pack, your prospects have about 20 other options on the page.
This presents an opportunity for those businesses willing to go the extra mile. Often you can be the only business returned with reviews in the search results. If this is the case, then you can be something of a beacon for clicks. So long as your reviews are solid, then you should be on to a winner.
Another scenario is where everyone has reviews and you don’t. In that case the prospect will likely pick one or more companies with good reviews and contact them all.
Further still, good reviews are a protection against the inevitable bad review. Sooner or later most businesses will upset someone or have that customer that you simply can’t please. So a bedrock of good reviews protects against the inevitable bad one that will appear.
I spend a lot of time extolling reviews, and often the best example is to simply search for your major keywords and see what it looks like – reviews give you a means to stand out, gain more clicks and can increase local visibility, so what’s not to like?
At my company, Bowler Hat, for years we were the only people in the Birmingham, the UK’s second city with reviews. As such, we were able to stand out from the crowd which certainly couldn’t have hurt. And you know, if the competing SEO companies are not focusing on reviews, then your average businesses can still differentiate themselves by putting in that little extra bit of effort.
I wrote in some detail how reviews can help, and how you can go beyond simple credibility and aim to be super credible over on Search Engine Land.
Why should you bother getting reviews? The reasons are almost too many to count, but here are 10 big ones off the top of my head.
Reviews can help you:
1. Capture more word-of-mouth referrals. One of your happy customers tells a friend, and the friend looks up your business. When that happens, he or she had better be impressed.
2. Get more business from whatever rankings you’ve already got. Sure, maybe only 10 people find you in the search results every day, but if each of those people is impressed enough by your reviews to click through to your site, then you’ve got something.
3. Help your rankings in Google’s “local map” search results. The benefit of Google reviews, specifically, isn’t direct: the business with the most reviews doesn’t always rank on top. Rather, the benefit seems to be more indirect:
If you rack up Google reviews over time, you’ll probably get more clicks than your competitors during that time period, and those clicks from would-be customers appear to help your rankings over time.
4. Develop non-Google sources of visibility. You can turn Yelp, Facebook, Avvo, HealthGrades, Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, and many other sites into additional trickles of leads. Relying too much on Google visibility is foolish.
5. Take a little pressure off the other aspects of your marketing. Whoever makes it to your site is more likely to be “pre-sold” on how good you are.
6. Lend you more credibility. If you say you’re great, and past customers also say you’re great, then would-be customers will listen to what you say about yourself a little more. Your stories match.
7. Provide defense. At some point you will get a bad review. That is not the time to start caring about your reputation. Don’t wait until you’re in a hole to start asking the happy customers to put in a good word.
8. Provide easy content for your site – content you don’t have to write personally. If you’re not sure what you can say about your services, try leaning on what customers have said.
9. Condition future customers to write more reviews for you. If they found you and chose you in the first place because of your strong reviews, they’re more likely to write one for you when you ask.
10. Learn how to improve. You can find out which customers end up being happiest and why, which customers are least happy and why, and how to avoid more of one type and get more of the other type – for starters. Everything you need to know about your customers and how to run your business you can learn by studying your reviews (or lack thereof) and the customers that write them.
Dan Leibson and Andrew Shotland of Local SEO Guide
Online Review Marketing and Management is a pretty easy sell. Forget about SEO and think about how you want your brand to be represented online, where the majority of your potential customers start their search for local services.
On the impact of online reviews on local search rankings, check out our new Local SEO Ranking Factors study. We looked at 100+ factors across 30K businesses. Google reviews were the top factor correlating with positive local pack rankings (Emphasis ours).
There’s a lot more we will be looking at, in regards to online reviews, as a factor as this study just looked at the number of reviews each business had. But we have seen a lot of evidence that the words and sentiment used in reviews on Google and third-party sites can impact rankings.
I think it’s pretty clear that if you don’t have online reviews you are going to be leaving money on the table. Since most customers look for online reviews before considering a local business (myself included), bad reviews or no reviews just mean you aren’t even in the game.
Like Andrew said, our Local SEO Ranking factors show the importance of online reviews when it comes to SEO, and stay tuned as we are planning a really deep dive on this subject in the future!
Marcus, Phil, Andrew, and Dan all explore some of the important benefits of Online Reviews for small businesses. Many Small Business owners don’t have the time to manage reviews themselves, let alone utilize them for marketing purposes.
So as an agency pitching the value of these reviews, both in regards to visibility and credibility, highlight the benefits and explain how investing in their online review strategy can bring in new customers. Despite how common sense it is to spend time on the online review pipeline, it’s too important to ignore. There’s not better time to bring new clients on board.