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Online Review Stats in 2017

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Every year surveys come out with percentages and detailed information regarding just about everything online. At LinkNow Media, we’re always interested in anything that affects SEO.
When it comes to online reviews, your reputation is pretty important, and the latest information confirms it. We’ll give you the “too long didn’t read” right now and say: reviews still matter in 2017.

So, don’t think you can get out of encouraging and monitoring them any time soon.

Who is Reading What?

In 2016, 95% of consumers were using the internet to look up local businesses. If you think that’s high though, 2017 has seen a 2% increase, up to 97%! If you currently run a business that doesn’t have an online presence, you’re making a big mistake.

Half of these consumers are looking for local businesses online at least once a month. Imagine how much business you’re missing out on if you’re not there to be found!
But, maybe your industry doesn’t really do that whole online thing? We doubt it. Among the top industries that have their clients reading reviews are:

    • Restaurants
    • Hotels
    • Healthcare
    • Clothing stores
    • Car dealerships
    • Tradesmen
    • Pest control
    • Cars for hire
    • Accountants
    • Locksmiths

And that’s just to name a few. So, where should you be collecting reviews? Facebook and Yelp unsurprisingly tied at 20% of consumers trusting them the most, followed closely by Google at 16% and the Better Business Bureau at 15%.

And, how many of these browsers turn into conversions? 68% of US consumers are more likely to use a business with positive reviews, with 40% citing negative reviews as a reason not to frequent a local business.

Best of all, the number of consumers who will actually visit a business after reading a review has grown by 10% from last year, to 17%.

Focus on Quantity and Quality

Factors that have also grown in importance since 2016 are the quantity and quality of reviews. There’s no way you can just sit back and coast when it comes to this powerful SEO builder.
54% of consumers rank star rating as the most important factor, with quantity coming in second at 46%—up 11% from last year. Consumers also want to see you getting involved. Up 10% from 2016, 30% now want to see you responding.

Therefore, our best advice to you is to keep doing what you’re doing. But do it a lot more. You still need to be drumming up reviews and monitoring them, providing professional responses to both positive and negative, but the importance of review building and etiquette has only become more important.

Feeling overwhelmed? You can always put the reins in the hands of an experienced SEO team like the one at LinkNow Media!

Can I Review my own Business?

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In the world of online reviews, many business owners like to start the ball rolling by leaving their own company a star rating or a little review.

Sounds innocent enough, but is it?

Whether your intentions are good, or shady, reviewing your own business is a bad idea.

Nearly 80% of consumers rely on online reviews before hiring a service or purchasing a product. In fact, peer reviews are trusted as much as recommendations from family or friends. With this in mind, it can be easy to get greedy and impatient when you’re just starting out.

However, you need to keep in mind that fake reviews are unethical, and even illegal. That’s right—you can be sued for posting fake reviews. It is called “astroturfing” and websites such as Google, Yelp and Amazon have been known to sue over it.

But you might be thinking: “How is it a fake review if I state that I am the business owner, or don’t say anything and just leave five stars??”

In the case of a five-star rating, it’s true you can probably get away with it. But if anyone realizes you are the business owner, your credibility is shot. If you reviewed your own company with five stars, who’s to say you didn’t talk other friends and family members into leaving biased reviews, or even pay for fake reviews?

    A fake review can be any of the following:

    • Asking someone who is not a customer to write a review.

    • Paying someone to write a review, even if they are a customer.

    • Asking an employee to review your company (it’s different if they review and state that the review is about their experience as an employee).

    • Creating a fake profile to review your company.

    • Reviewing your company as yourself, the business owner.

    That’s right, even if you state that you are the business owner and you’re just stopping in to leave a positive review, it’s counted as fake.
    Why?

    Because you have added to your rating. Whether you’re up-front about who you are or not, you have successfully altered the rating of your business and that is the goal of fake reviews.

    In 2016, Amazon sued 1,000 fake reviewers in an attempt to crack down on this practice. They stated that these false reviewers were tarnishing their brand with inauthenticity.

    No one is invulnerable to this sort of crackdown.

    So, how do you get started with reviews? There’s nothing wrong with suggesting that clients leave a review. Mention it on your website by linking to your business page, or put a sign up in your brick and mortar business.

    But next time you’re considering somehow leaving a review for your own business, just say no.

Millennials and Reviews

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The largest generational cohort since the baby boomers, millennials are the largest generation in US history, and their shopping habits are shaping our economy more and more.

This tech-savvy generation has a purchasing power that will soon exceed that of every other generation. Strong supporters of online shopping, millennials are cautious as well, putting off large purchases until later in life and valuing quality over price.

It’s no surprise that with all the information available at their fingertips, they put research into their purchases whether it’s a physical one, or a service. That’s where reviews come in.

The Importance of User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC) such as status updates on social media, blog posts and Google reviews are what make the millennial consumer’s world go around. The more viral and liked a product or service is by peers, the more likely they are to purchase it themselves.

In past generations, the professional opinion was king, but with a growing distrust for mainstream media and big corporations, this generation finds themselves turning to the most trusted source: mass approval.

Some may see this as illogical, but to understand the logic, consider this: Professionals may have appeared on adverts or written articles on a product, but was this always of their own volition? If not, someone wanted them doing that promotion for a reason. And can you really trust that?

UGC: Investing in Time to Make Solid Investments

Millennials spend 18 hours with media per day. Astounding, right? Some of us aren’t even awake for 18 hours of the day! Thirty percent of this time is spent browsing UGC, 33% on traditional media such as print and TV, and 37% on other media.

No matter what they’re looking at, and especially when it’s online, products are being promoted.

When something catches their eye, their first instinct is to look that product up online to see if it is legitimately what they expect, and to see if it’s worth buying.

If they’re looking for a service, Google reviews will be their first stop. If your business isn’t listed on a Google My Business page and set up with a star rating, you’re in trouble!

With 90% of millennials shopping online, your online presence is more important than ever. You just can’t afford to stay in the stone age.

Influence With Technology

Most millennials are obsessed with reviews. With apps like Yelp and Foursquare, everyone has a place to speak their mind. Whether you’re reading entertaining negative reviews, leaving one yourself, or praising the best pizza you’ve ever tried, reviews are fascinating and, for the most part, trustworthy.

Whether they’re aware of it or not, millennials have their antenna up for star ratings and reviews no matter where they are online and if there are no reviews to be found, it’s likely they’ll find a more reliable product.

So go the extra mile and make sure that your business is getting lots of great reviews. Rank higher on search engines, and bring in that amazing millennial purchasing power!

How Consumers Use Reviews Online

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When you’re searching online to find the perfect restaurant to try out on Friday night, the last place you’ll choose is one with zero online presence. In the information age that is exactly what people are looking for: information. They want to see photos, other customer’s opinions, and maybe even a virtual tour if you have a physical storefront. These days, 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more, with 94% saying they’ll use a business if it has at least a four-star rating.

On average, a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a five to nine percent increase in revenue, with just one negative review costing you 30 customers. Reviews are the best way to hold a business accountable. Consumers look for reliability, expertise and professionalism, and if you cannot practice these they’ll let you know.

So, if negative reviews are so dangerous, why collect reviews at all? Well, a couple negative reviews are better than no reviews at all, so long as you’ve got some positive ones going on as well. When negative reviews occur, respond quickly, admit to any errors, reiterate your company’s mission and if possible and warranted, provide compensation.

When a consumer looks at or leaves reviews online, they’re looking to:

Find the best business for their needs

Build trust

Express themselves

Help other consumers

Here are some more numbers to help you understand the benefits of reviews:

92% of consumers read online reviews

68% say positive reviews make them trust a business more

Only14% of consumers will use a business with a one- or two-star rating, whereas 94% would use one with a five-star rating

80% of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations

Online reviews are probably the most important tool for a modern business. You can gain them with skill by requesting them from loyal customers and publicly thanking positive reviewers while apologizing to those who had a bad experience.

A business with active reviews on websites like Google, Yelp and Foursquare will get a boost in SEO making their online presence skyrocket and produce tangible results in the form of an 18% uplift in sales.

Now more than ever, consumers want to see that business’ are run by real people, not robots. By interacting through reviews, you are showing that you care enough about your customers to take a moment out of your day to leave a personalized response to their opinion, and being able to do that is massively beneficial to any business. The last thing the 2017 consumer wants is to deal with a business that is unreachable.

Reviews impact search ranking, too. In 2014 Google updated its search engine to take into consideration the reviews from popular sites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor. So, if you’re actively getting your customers to leave reviews for your business, you’ll get more business, guaranteed. This sets off a chain reaction to in turn produce more reviews and more new customers.

Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews and interact with customers. It’s the only way your business is going to grow and survive. Give the gift of communication, and your consumers will most definitely give back!

A concept image of a magnifying glass with a wooden handle on a textured white surface showing the word authentic but magnifying the word fake resembling counterfeitting

Receiving Fake Reviews From Competitors

In this day and age, dishonest companies have been able to stoop to new lows by attempting to damage their competitor’s reputation online with fake reviews.

While it may not be immediately obvious that a competitor is attacking you, a quick check through their other reviews should give you a clue. They are likely attacking other similar businesses in the area. If negative reviews are posted on other competitor’s pages within a tight timeframe, you’ve got the start of a case.

Fake and negative reviews are tricky to deal with. Always do your research before dealing with them, or you may be responding inappropriately to someone who is simply expressing their displeasure. Remember—there is such thing as a legitimate negative review. Take these as constructive criticism, and respond politely.

Tact at All Times

When responding to a fake negative review from your competitor, practice tact at all times. Whether this negative review is legitimate or not, treat it with the same respect. Follow these steps to compose a polite and professional response:

Breathe

Literally. Breathing exercises will calm you down, so take a few deep breaths.

Don’t take it personally.

A difficult one, but part of being a professional.

Address the issue.

Start your response off by repeating their complaint. For example: I understand that you (insert situation here).

State your core values.

Inform the reviewer of your business’ core values and why they don’t match with what happened.

Make a game plan.

Tell the reviewer what you plan to do to remedy the situation. If this is a competitor leaving a fake review, you likely will not actually do this because the situation did not occur. But, existing and potential customers will appreciate seeing what you would do if it really had happened.

Say thank you.

Thank the negative reviewer for their constructive criticism and invite them back to experience your business again in a better light sometime in the future.

Even if you expect this review to be removed, there will be wait time. Writing a proper response is of value to your future clients. Don’t lose business and allow your competitor to accomplish what they came to your review page for in the first place.

Keep on Keeping on

Being a business owner will always come with its ups and downs. This is what professionalism is all about! Practice being a professional adult at all times, flag inappropriate reviews and represent yourself well.

Should Google not agree with your report, you can always escalate the situation, encourage friends and family to flag the reviews as well, and tweet @GoogleSmallBiz to hurry the process along.

Like with school yard bullying, a reaction is always what a troll wants, so give them a minimal one. In the end, you make your own reputation in the business world and can overcome anything by keeping a cool head.

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