Never underestimate the importance of online reviews

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When it comes to promoting your business, you can do all of the marketing and paid advertising in the world but it still won’t surpass one crucial factor in your success – customer reviews. In fact, customer reviews – particularly through social media and online review sites like Yelp, Google+, Foursquare, and Facebook – are more important than ever in attracting a new audience and converting them to new clients efficiently.

But online reviews are also a double-edged sword since the aggregate opinion of past customers is somewhat out of our control, and negative reviews and opinions can sting a lot longer than positive ones resonate.

But with a little knowledge, planning, and diligence, businesses (and especially small businesses) can optimize their use of these online review sites, boosting their social reputation to new heights – with profits to follow.

We’ll cover tips, tools and strategies for you to use in the near future, but for now we wanted to cover some basic information about review sites that are crucial for you to understand.

Online reviews create invaluable social proof and trust:

These days, 90% of all customers surveyed report that their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews, and another study found that 85% of customers now read online reviews before making a purchase.

A 2014 study found that 88% of consumers now trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations from people they know.

That same study found that the more online reviews the business has, the more trustworthy and credible it is perceived.

Most consumers read up to six reviews before forming their strong opinion about the business and whether they will become a paying client (or not.)

However, human nature dictates that negative experiences with a business are more likely to be shared than positive ones. Consider that 95% of consumers have shared a bad experience with a brand online versus only 87% of positive experiences.

Yelp
Launched in 2004, Yelp is the most popular web resource for consumers who want to get review, recommendations and information about local businesses. It’s now grown to 89 million monthly users on phones and mobile devices, and another 75 million on computers. So why is Yelp so important? All of those people combined have generated 95 million reviews of companies, brands, and services on the site to date!

In fact, according to the results of a Harvard Business School Study, a one-star increase (Yelp rates from one to five stars) in Yelp ratings translated into a revenue increase between five to nine percent! Confirming these findings, a study by two Berkeley economists concluded that even an additional half-star rating on Yelp could boost peak business by up to 19 percent!

Google+
Google+ may not be very popular as a social media platform, but it’s important is still paramount since it directly impacts Google rankings, the world’s top search engine, handling 68.8% of all search queries in the U.S. in 2016. In fact, the majority of consumers start their search for information or recommendations about products and services on Google, not Yelp.

Google algorithms rank web pages based on about 200 factors, but up to 10% of Google rankings are determined by online reviews! Needless to say, using Google+ presents a huge opportunity to boost search rankings, gain new customers and improve your overall social reputation.

Don’t forget that Google is also integrated with Google Maps, Street Search, etc. so online directional mobile apps and services easily integrate with Google reviews, driving (literally!) even more traffic.

Facebook
Facebook is still the #1 social media platform in the U.S. and the world with more than half a billion users! (Facebook would be the third largest country in the world if that were its population!) Facebook has also recently passed Google as the top source of traffic routed to other major portals!

Just like Google has its own algorithm that determines rankings, Facebook has its own secret calculations that dictate their metric called  “EdgeRank.” EdgeRank factors in “affinity,” “weight,” and “decay” of each post to determine whether it shows up in a friend or fan’s newsfeed. Facebook’s own, star rating review system factors into both affinity and weight, so reviews are just as crucial as with other review sites and social media platforms.

Foursquare, Citysearch, YellowPages (YP.com)
While Facebook reviews are growing 4x faster than other social media platforms, in certain industries (like restaurants, bars, nightlife, etc.) there are other online review sites like Foursquare and Citysearch that are still relevant. And platforms like Yellow Pages Super Pages are maximizing their popular directory listing services by including review systems.

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