Today’s world of business revolves around a digital era. So how would you feel as a small business owner if I told you that 90% of customers are influenced by online reviews when it comes to their buying decision making? You’d either pat yourself on the back if your business already has a strategy in place for acquiring reviews and managing your online reputation, or you’d scratch your head in disbelief and think ‘oh man, I better get on this quick.’

Online reviews also play a critical role to your local SEO strategy as building citations and on-site optimization. Online reviews affect modern-day consumer’s decision-making, along with where they fit into your Local SEO campaign, while proactively managing your online reputation. Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, it’s important to understand as a business owner that online reviews are important for a number of reasons, and can have major implications if not taken seriously.

  • Your rankings in local search engines
  • Which search results actually gets clicked on
  • Consumers purchasing decisions
  • Managing your reputation both online and off

How Consumers Use Online Reviews

It’s important to consider where data surrounding how online reviews are used by consumers, how it impacts their buying decision, and how they fit into the purchasing cycle for desired products and services. Keep in mind that by the time someone has started looking at reviews, they’ve pretty much already figured out their needs and wants. At this point, they are now in the process of selecting a business that will ideally fulfill those needs and wants.

The critical thing to keep in mind is that the mental gap between reading a review and making a decision to purchase from a business is ridiculously small, which typically results in a ye or no decision almost immediately. So as a small business, your online reputation can directly influence your bottom line. But, how many consumers actually read online reviews? According to a survey conducted by BrightLocal, roughly 85% of consumers reported reading online reviews.

Why Online Reviews Are Important For Local SEO

Local search engines love online reviews for one primary reason, consumers love online reviews. They’re in the business of providing people with the most accurate information to help them predict and make decisions around their future purchases. The faster they can do that, the more consumers will turn to them time and time again. Online reviews are factored into organic local search rankings, and make up approximately 7 percent of what gets you listed in organic results.

Over the years, reviews have dramatically shaped search engine algorithms. Google clearly indicates that reviews play a huge role in its primary local search factors, and causes marketers and local SEO professionals to continuously craft strategic approaches to reviews in hopes of improving local SEO performance. According to MOZ’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, online reviews are thought to make up about 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results.

Online Reputation Management

Now you’re probably wondering how to respond if you happen to get a negative review. I would recommend partnering up with a company like Digital+ so that your business can take a more proactive approach to online reputation management. What you don’t want to do is get worked up and have your blood pressure rise through the roof. Try and remember that reviews are a form for users to share both positive and negative opinions.

Instead of allowing your emotions to cause you to react, take a big deep breath, and deal with negative online reviews like you would with any other general criticism. Treat the negative review as a conversation where you would have to go in, diffuse the situation, offer to make up for whatever their dissatisfaction was, and of course, end with highlighting the positive when possible and point to more positive reviews and ratings.

Supercharge your local SEO With Online Review Management

Staggering evidence of the growing importance of online review sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, and Facebook is very hard to ignore. Multiple surveys report that 72 percent trust reviews as much as they do recommendations from friends and family. The other thing to keep in mind is that negative reviews should be catalysts for internal conversation and actions for improvement. This means getting to the bottom of some potential pitfalls in your existing operations.

Hopefully this helps you understand from a consumer perspective just how important online reviews are in helping steer their purchasing decisions for the better or worse. Not only do online reviews influence consumer behavior and brand reputation, but they also make an impact on local search rankings. By investing time and effort into executing your online review management strategy, you can boost your search visibility, snag more clicks, and gain the trust of today’s review-reading, review-writing consumers.