In the age of social media, online reviews of products and services can mean the difference between success and failure for a business. Modern consumers increasingly look to their peers on online social networks, such as Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest, in order to assess what their fellow consumer thinks of a given product or service before they decide to spend money themselves.
However, tweets, posts, and pins are not all they rely on. They regularly visit online review sites in order to determine which local businesses to use, and which to avoid. It is essential, therefore, for small businesses to actively generate online reviews, and to develop an expansive portfolio of positive reviews. After studying consumer reviews for business, marketers can customize their strategies. Still not convinced? The following statistics should help highlight the importance of online reviews for you as a small business owner:
- 57% of consumers search for a local business through online reviews.
- 88% of consumers use online reviews to determine the quality of a local business.
- 85% of consumers said they read at least 10 online reviews before they decide to trust a local business.
Explore: Local Consumer Review Survey 2014
Now that we’ve established just how crucial online reviews can be for the survival of a small business, let’s take a look at the online review websites that will help you garner the positive reviews you need, which in turn, will direct a steady stream of paying customers to your website or your doorstep.
Angie’s List is a high-end review site that caters to service providers, and because it requires you to pay for membership, you can be certain the reviews you receive are neither misrepresentative nor fake, especially because only members are allowed to leave reviews, and those reviews cannot be anonymous.
On Angie’s List, you avoid all the usual ranting and raving found on most free review sites, and the reviews you do receive, on an A to F scale, are generally honest, well-thought out, and helpful to your business.
Yelp!, though considerably different from Angie’s List, is still an incredibly powerful resource for any small business seeking online reviews to help enhance their profile. It’s a free review site, allowing any and all businesses to setup a profile.
On Yelp!, the community of reviewers is extremely tight-knit, which can serve to your benefit as well as to your detriment, so be careful when you respond to your reviewers, and make sure you do not antagonize anyone for giving you a negative review.
Call it Google Places, Google Local, or Google Reviews, or as it’s currently known, Google+ Local, is one of the most powerful resources for reviews at the disposal of a small business owner. All you need to do is make a page under Google+ Local, and anyone can review your business.
The biggest advantage of Google+ Local is that at anytime, anyone ‘Googles’ your business, the search results will appear with the number of reviews your business has generated, along with user review rating on a 5 star scale.
Yahoo! Local is extremely similar to Google+ Local, in that it allows all users to review your business, also on a 5 star scale. Here is what a search for a local business may look like:
Yahoo! still has an estimated 13.5% search engine share, which can prove to be highly beneficial for a small business, if targeted with a few favorable reviews on Yahoo! Local.
Insider Pages has been around since 2004, which means they have more than a decade’s worth of viewers [in the millions], as well as a well-established reputation for providing reliable reviews and recommendations. A user-generated review site, Insider Pages allows anyone to post reviews of local businesses, and it is absolutely free.
The reviews on Insider Pages also include a 5 star scale, with the added benefit that their results are indexed, and show up, on SERPs, so even if your target audience doesn’t seek out Insider Pages for your business, they still might stumble upon one of their reviews.
Citysearch may be remarkably similar to Insider Pages, in that it’s a user-generated, free-to-use, local review site, which also incorporates the 5 star scale as a rating system. However, it’s still highly recommended you actively seek to generate some positive reviews for your business on their website, because just like Insider Pages, those reviews may just pop up in your target audience’s search results even when they are not using Citysearch to look for reviews.
Consumer Search has a rather unique approach to the review process, even if they too use the 5 star scale for rating reviews. Instead of generating reviews, Consumer Search takes the reviews from all across the web, even from print publications, and analyzes them and their sources, and then ranks them according to credibility.
On Consumer Search then, your target audience gets a one-stop exhibit of everything being said about your business, in print or online. It makes for highly credible and reliable reviews, and as a result, consumers are more likely to trust your business.
Consumer Reports is as legitimate as it gets in the world of online reviews. It is a non-profit organization, seven million subscribers strong, which rates and recommends products by testing each product themselves. They also pay for every product they test, and they accept no advertising.
There is not much you can do to have your products reviewed and recommended on Consumer Reports, except make certain everything you produce and sell is of exceptional quality. For if these guys recommend you, your sales, and in turn your business, are guaranteed to take off.
The Better Business Bureau [BBB] is, just like Consumer Reports, a non-profit organization. They differ though for the type of service they provide, as instead of recommending a business’ products or services, they merely provide users with an evaluation of a given company’s conduct.
The BBB has developed a set of criterion for how businesses should treat their customers and their communities at large, and evaluates each business against those best practices. Accreditation with the BBB goes a long way in establishing trust for your business among your target audience.
Yes, even Facebook is a resource for generating online reviews about your business, though most people are not aware of the fact. Facebook Recommendations – the place where people can leave recommendations for your business – will show up if you view your timeline as ‘Highlights’.
On Facebook, however, your mere presence is a big old review of your business – every like on your page acts as a recommendation, every follower an indication of your worth, and every post and comment on your content is yet another review, whether negative or positive.
LinkedIn has a rather well-known recommendation feature where individuals can endorse their friends, colleagues, and connections. However, it also allows users to review and recommend businesses, and not everyone is aware of this particular feature.
On LinkedIn, you will see a ‘Products and Services’ box when you visit a company page, which when clicked, leads you to a page displaying all the user-generated reviews for each particular product or service.
Twitter does not immediately spring to mind as a resource where you, as a small business owner, may be able to accumulate reviews. However, all those millions of tweets are indexed in SERPs, which means they can, and do, pop up in answers to a user’s search results where relevant.
On Twitter then, every tweet with the bare mention of your business, or its products and services, serves as user-generated review for you, whether complimentary or not.
13. Thine Own Kingdom
What is the one place in the modern world where you can indulge in absolute control – rule it with an iron fist, and do exactly what you want? Why, your own website – your very own, even if virtual, kingdom upon Earth. It is also an excellent resource through which to garner reviews, although a lot of businesses seem to overlook this fact.
On your own website, you can dedicate a section to customer testimonials, even encourage your audience to spare some seconds, and leave you with a review.
The 13 resources listed above can be used by any and all businesses in their search for online reviews to help enhance their profile, visibility, and perhaps most importantly, their credibility. The following resources, however, cater to particular industries. Take a look.
Millions of reviews for over 100,000 stores – Reseller Ratings is the place to be for your business if you wish to be successful in the retail industry.
Retail can be tough business today, but Consumer Affairs helps make it easier by giving you an insight into your target audience’s mind, expectations, and preferences.
If you wish the number of visitors to your hotel to increase, you can’t not be reviewed on TripAdvisor – the place everyone goes to before they actually go anywhere.
The spymaster review resource, Oyster actually sends investigators to visit every hotel they rate and review for photographs and unbiased opinions before they recommend them to their audience.
The name really says it all – whether you own a restaurant, or wish to eat at one, the resource for all things restaurant related is Restaurant.com.
Let us put it this way – the technology you wish to sell is good enough in the eyes of your target audience only if CNet say it is good. If they don’t, well … maybe you are in the wrong business after all.
It doesn’t matter which industry you operate in, or how good or great your products and services are truly, for if your target audience cannot read reviews of what you offer from their friends, colleagues, and online peers, they will not consider doing business with you. Online reviews is how you reveal your presence to the world, convince potential customers of the worth of your offerings, and build enough trust and credibility to encourage them to actually spend money on your products and services.
We have endeavored to provide a comprehensive list of resources you can employ to generate online reviews for your business. Let us know if and how each of these resources help you, and please do also share any review sites we may have missed.