Have you ever gotten a new customer via a referral? It can feel delightfully effortless to have your best customers essentially do your marketing for you by recommending your business to friends and colleagues.
These personal and professional networks are increasingly moving online. Instead of picking up a phone and calling a dozen people to ask for a recommendation for a hair stylist or a business card printing company, people are surveying their Twitter followers, monitoring which brands their friends “like” on Facebook, and looking for reviews by trusted peers.
Who’s doing research online? Nearly everyone.
A poll of online shoppers by PowerReviews found that 60% do at least a week of research before making a purchase, and Bazaarvoice reports that 84% of Americans are more likely to check online reviews before buying than they were a year ago.
The web has introduced a new layer of rich information that buyers can use to make better-informed decisions. It doesn’t matter if your business does most or all of its sales offline — you’re still competing with other businesses online.
Anyone who’s implemented an SEO strategy for their website knows the good news. You have some control over which information prospective customers find during their search process — and how they find it.
Reviews create that indispensable word-of-mouth marketing that you got from a referral in the “real” world.
Reviews are good for SEO.
Reviews complement your other SEO efforts to help potential customers find your business online. For example, Google Places is invaluable for companies that thrive on local search traffic, and the site displays reviews along with search results.
Reviews add value to searchers’ results by providing them with more information, and firms with higher ratings draw more clicks. Plus, many SEO experts agree that Google Places and Yahoo! Local give added weight to firms with lots of reviews.
Reviews help conversion.
Peer reviews build trust in your brand. Studies also show that people are growing increasingly jaded about “traditional” marketing. Stats from Nielsen reveal that 90% of consumers trust peer recommendations from friends and 70% trust online reviews — both mediums coming out ahead of newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio advertising.
Opinions coming from a third party are more credible, and a bevy of glowing reviews can be the deciding factor that moves a prospective client to commit to your company instead of a competitor.
Giving customers a nudge.
It’s great when positive reviews occur naturally, but your customers are busy, and writing about your business online probably isn’t foremost in their mind.
Sometimes you have to gently help the process along. It can be as simple as sending your best clients a link to a third-party website where they can write a review. A B2B reviews website, like ChoiceVendor, makes it easy for business owners to ask customers for reviews when they create a free business listing.
Look for third-party review sites that would have the highest impact for your industry or location.
It doesn’t have to be a one-off request that comes out of the blue, either. You can also ask for reviews at different stages in the buying process — such as in a confirmation email after a purchase. Think about the eBay or Amazon feedback system — you’re most motivated to rate someone’s services when you’ve just bought something from them.
Promote your reviews.
Reviews of your business will appear organically in search results, but you shouldn’t stop there.
Spread the word about your reviews via social media. Add a link on your own website. Use excerpts from your reviews as testimonials. If you have a lot of good reviews, you can even include a link in your ads and marketing materials.
It’s easier than you think to turn satisfied clients into brand advocates and get more business through word of mouth. Customer reviews are a great way to get free, authentic marketing for your business – don’t miss out.