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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.

What Marketers Should Know About Online Reviews

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In this age of the Internet, lots of things are being re-thought especially the way in which we market products and services. Whether you’re a small business or a large one, the same suggestions apply.

The pre-Internet consumer would compare brands and were fully dependent on information provided by manufacturers. While some brand names still carry weight, the importance of brand names in general have diminished, with consumers favoring opinions from experts and users.

The current consumer relies on user-generated reviews, expert opinions and peer to peer information in general.

So, where does the marketer stand in all of this? While they don’t have full say over what information consumers have available to them, by working with an influence mix they can be more effective than ever.

The influence mix consists of prior preference and experience, information from marketers and consumer reviews.

Prior Preference and Experience

This applies to products that are habitually bought, like toothpaste and toilet paper. Customers are going to be influenced by what they themselves have done in the past more than anything else. These products are review-independent and feature luxury items as well.

Information From Marketers

Right in the middle, information from marketers can fall into review-independent products and review-dependent ones as well. However, someone purchasing a review-independent product is more likely to take this information into account, as they’re not looking for reviews to tell them something similar.

Consumer Reviews

The consumer’s reliance on reviews is most prevalent with products they can’t test themselves. All products follow a continuum. For example, before purchasing electronics buyers will pay close attention to what previous purchasers have had to say before taking any chances. But when buying from a chain restaurant, they rarely have reason to look it up since they already know what they’re going to get.

Market research is more important than ever. Figure out how your market is getting their information and making their purchasing decisions, and you’ll be able to decide from there the best way to follow through with marketing. With the rise of reviews, branding takes on less importance, making it easier entry for newcomers and for anyone to diversify more easily.

Did you know, 30% of U.S. consumers say they begin their online purchase research by going to Amazon.com to read through reviews? And 79% of Americans now shop online. With a market that big it’s not one you want to miss out on. Whether or not your product or service can be directly purchased online doesn’t matter. If you can benefit from reviews, make sure you’re getting them.

To properly use reviews, make note of these points:

Do:Track and quantify information from forums and review sites.

Don’t: Measure individual preferences, satisfaction and loyalty.

While some believe that reviews are going the way of the dinosaurs with more fake ones cropping up every day, that’s not truly the case. Review websites are coming up with ways to certify reviews and crack down on the fakers, making reviews more reliable than ever.

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!

How Online Reviews Impact Your Local SEO

More and more businesses are realizing the importance of online reviews when it comes to promoting their product or service, but did you know reviews also affect your Search Engine Optimization? SEO is just as crucial to the promotion of a business in 2017 because it means a boost in your ranking. For example, if someone is searching for a hair salon there are many options. But if you have the best SEO, they’ll find you first.

When you’re trying to beef up your SEO online reviews are critical to this process. Search engines love fresh user generated content, and customers love social proof. In fact, 90% of customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.

Search engines like Google or Bing are in the business of creating fast and accurate search results, and the input from real people in the form of reviews is a great way to do this. In a recent study by Moz it was determined that reviews make up 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank results.

Factors that can play into your business’ SEO include a variety of signals such as linking, keywords and categories, with reviews coming in before social media in terms of boosting your business!

Google favors high-rated sites, and in a world where customers spend 31% more on a business with good reviews, you’ll want to get a review gathering strategy in place if you don’t already have one!

A good way to do this is request that happy customers leave a review. If you’re selling online, include your request in a thank you email. At a physical store, create a flyer you can drop in a customer’s bag along with their merchandise. You can even create a landing page on your website linking to review sites for the ultimate ease of access.

Review sites that will get the results you’re looking for include:

Google My Business/

Yelp

Foursquare

Citysearch

YP.com

Try the Review Handout Generator by Whitespark and Phil Rozek if you need an easy way to create handouts for your store, then wait for the reviews to start flowing!

Asking for reviews can be a bit of a scary process, considering you can land on a customer who’s not happy with their interaction. But don’t worry—even negative reviews keep your business active from a search engine’s point of view, and as long as you respond to all negative reviews in a calm and professional manner, you’ll be just fine.

Finally, on your quest for reviews, don’t be tempted into paying for fake reviews. This is considered fraud and you could be in big financial trouble for doing it. Not to mention, it’s just better to have legitimate reviews for your business. Even if they’re criticizing you, you can learn something from unhappy customers.

No matter the size or type of business you run, online reviews are imperative to keeping it running successfully. So, go and gather reviews and see just how good the results are!

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.

How to Spring Clean Your Business’s Yelp Reviews

springReviews are an increasingly important way that customers engage with a brand, product, or business. A good review can win over potential customers the same way that a negative review can do the opposite. A constant stream of positive reviews on your Yelp page suggests that your business is popular, successful, and well run. At LinkNow Media, we believe that in the spirit of spring, it is always a good idea to do some spring cleaning. This includes putting in order strategies to increase positive reviews on Yelp. The following are some easy ways to encourage new positive reviews.

Encourage New Reviews

The best way to encourage your clients to review your business is by providing great service and asking them about their experience upon completion. Speaking with your customers in person about their opinion of your service allows for an opportunity for you to remedy any disappointments or concerns before they make it to the internet. After speaking with your customer, gently encourage them to write a review if they are so inclined, and thank them graciously for their patronage. This will make your clients feel appreciated and as if their opinions are valued and taken into consideration.

Respond to Challenging Reviews

The best way to respond to challenging customer reviews is to firstly wait 24 hours before responding. This will give you sufficient time to approach the situation with intellect rather than emotion. The second tip is to let go of any defensive tendencies you may have to show your point of view. It’s not about your defense, it’s about the client’s perceived experience. Lastly, just go with it. Accept your client’s criticism with kindness, grace and dignity. Offer your sincere apologies and hope they will give you another shot. If you have lost them, at least you have demonstrated your ability to extend kindness and generosity to other potential clients who may have read this online interaction.

LinkNow Media always recommends that you choose which reviews to respond to wisely. Address reviews with specific complaints, or that seem genuine and not mean spirited. This will more likely be worth your while as opposed to engaging with an internet troll.

Share Positive Reviews!

If there is a particularly glowing review that made an impression on you, feel free to publicly thank your customer for being so generous with their words! Trust us, it won’t go unnoticed.

Is Asking for Yelp Reviews Hurting Your Small Business?

waffleIt’s a fair assumption to make that anyone who owns a business knows a thing or two about the importance of having a good rating on Yelp. Positive reviews from satisfied customers are enough to win over someone who has no idea where to go for breakfast, a haircut, or an oil change. It comes as no surprise then that many business owners urge happy customers to go to Yelp to share their experience. After all, the more people writing positive reviews, the higher the rating, right? This might not be the case. Yelp themselves discourages business owners from asking for reviews because asking people for reviews creates a bias. Because really, would you encourage an unhappy customer to write a review?

Whether you agree with their point or not, reviews that have been strong armed are likely to be flagged by Yelp’s recommendation software. So, here are alternative ways that you can get happy customers to write a review about your business.

Add a Review Badge

The last thing you want is to offer discounts or freebies as incentive for customers to write reviews. Not only does this run the risk of being flagged, it’s bribery. Let others know you’re on Yelp by using a review badge. Once your business page is set up, you’ll notice that you’ll have the option of adding a Review Badge to your website. This is a great way to drive traffic to your Yelp page from your website.

Choose Your Words Wisely

We’ve all been there – a waiter asks how everything was, and you respond by saying it was good, even when it wasn’t. Or a hairdresser asks if you like your new haircut, and you say yes, but it’s the worst haircut you’ve ever received. The point here is that unless someone is throwing you flowers, there is no way of knowing if someone had a pleasant experience or is just being polite. Only when someone is over the moon about your service or product should you drop a hint to leave an online review.

Share Reviews

Even if someone doesn’t write Yelp reviews, they rely on Yelpers to get a better idea about where to spend their time and money. So, throw them a bone. If you got ‘em, flaunt ‘em. Don’t be shy to share Yelp reviews on other social media platforms, like Facebook. You also have the option of posting all your reviews by changing the settings in your Yelp account. All you need to do is check the “connect to Facebook” option under the “External Services Settings.” This will prompt you to allow Yelp access to your business Facebook account. If you choose to display all your Yelp reviews on your Facebook wall, be sure that you respond to all reviews, both positive and negative. You can brush up on appropriate ways of responding to negative reviews by clicking here.

Add the Yelp Icon to Your Signature

If you are like most businesses these days, you communicate with clients via email, whether for business updates or sending out campaigns. The average person is not going to your business or enlisting your services with the end-goal of writing a Yelp review, so they might need a nudge to follow through on doing so. A small Yelp icon in your signature is like a call to action.

Provide Exceptional Service

The single best way to get positive reviews on Yelp is by providing your customers with excellent service. This might sound obvious, but it can be easy to lose sight of good old fashioned customer service when your main focus is getting a 5 star-rating on Yelp. This could cause you to be overly enthusiastic, or worse bothersome. Give your customers a delightful, stress-free experience and positive reviews will come rolling in.

 

Is Yelp Hurting Your Business?

chipsYelp is a social network that allows users to rate and review businesses. For over a decade, consumers have considered this local directory-style site a helpful source for finding new restaurants, stores, hairdressers, mechanics, and more. For some business owners, however, Yelp is anything but helpful. Many have accused Yelp for favoring businesses that have paid for advertisements and punishing those who have not.

Does Yelp Pick Favorites?

Yelp uses an algorithm to filter reviews as an effort to red flag reviews that appear to be fraudulent and to display reviews that appear to be relevant and trustworthy. According to Yelp, their software looks at a variety of signals to measure quality, readability, and legitimacy. They deny any alleged claims accusing them of  having any bias.

As far as the filtering goes, however, the algorithm seems to more lenient with negative reviews, hiding positive reviews under the not recommended section at the bottom of the page, many of which, are often from legitimate, satisfied customers. This is where small business owners grow frustrated.

You Should Be On Yelp!

If someone is searching for good, cheap tacos, they’re likely heading to Yelp. If someone is looking for a laundry delivery service, they’re heading to Yelp. If someone is curious about a new clothing boutique, they’re heading to Yelp. It isn’t hard to see – scrolling through reviews on Yelp is usually someone’s first step in the buying process.

Despite the ambiguity that surrounds Yelp’s filtering algorithm, it’s in your best interest to create a profile. If consumers aren’t going directly to the site, they are using the Yelp app, and if they aren’t using the app, they’re going there from a Google search. Yelp typically shows up on the first page of Google for searches related to the company name or service, so it is extremely helpful in building your web presence.

What About Negative Reviews?

In a perfect world, you’d only get words of praise. The fact of the matter is that you’ll get a handful of bad reviews. Where these are displayed is out of your control, but responding to them is in your control, and that is something you should do.

At LinkNow Media, we’ve pointed at the importance of responding to negative reviews  in the past, and the same points can be applied to addressing an unsatisfied customer on Yelp. Acknowledge what the customer is saying, offer a sincere apology, and find a solution to their specific problem. A negative comment is always an opportunity to show how far you will go to satisfy a customer.

That’s not all. You can incorporate them into your business operations. You know what they say: you can’t fix what you don’t know is broken. Look at Yelpers as a free improvement squad there to point out what’s working and what isn’t.

Final Thoughts

There is no denying that that Yelp reviews play a very important factor in how consumers make decisions. How Yelp’s filtering algorithm will evolve in the coming years is anyone’s guess. One thing is for certain, though – people are generally good at spotting fake and authentic reviews. The more scrutiny that is placed on Yelp’s software, the more likely people are to check out hidden reviews.

3 Reasons Why You Should Share Yelp Reviews on Facebook

yelp yelpFacebook is a great platform for enhancing your brand image, sharing ongoing promotions, and building meaningful relationships. If you manage your company’s Facebook page and post regularly, you are likely already doing these things. However, can you be doing more? If you have a Yelp profile, you should consider sharing your customer’s positive reviews with your Facebook friends. This is one area that many businesses shy away from because it involves tooting your own horn, but you shouldn’t be afraid to share what others are saying about you, especially words of praise.

If you don’t like the idea of boasting your achievements, here are three reasons that might change your mind:

Your customers will love it!

Yelpers take writing reviews very seriously. They see it their duty to help others by sharing their experience with your company, regardless of if it was positive or negative. So, what’s in it for them? Besides perks, like free food at restaurants, Yelpers don’t really get paid. Putting a Yelp reviewer in the spotlight is like giving them a virtual slap on the back. They will love the limelight, and this exposure has the potential to opens doors of opportunity.

It’s free and easy advisement!

Word of mouth is still the best form of advertisement, and it won’t cost you a cent! Plus, Yelp makes sharing reviews via Facebook as easy as clicking a few buttons. All you need to do is log in to your business account, go to “Account Settings”, click “Change Settings” in “External Services,” then click “Connect to Facebook.” From there, all you need to do is log in to your Facebook account and click the “Allow” button. Now, all of your Yelp reviews will post to your Facebook wall. That means negative reviews, too. This something that every business will have to deal with at one point or another, even businesses with high ratings. Look at it as an opportunity to show your customers that you will go the extra mile to find a solution and fix a problem.

Others will follow suit!

Sometimes all it takes is one happy customer for positive reviews to spread like wildfire. A positive review can encourage a Facebook friend to comment or head to Yelp to share a similar experience. Sharing your Yelp reviews on Facebook grants you access to an audience you couldn’t reach on Yelp alone. Keep in mind, if you don’t want to automatically share reviews, you can always copy and paste the review as a status.

Closing

While Yelp may be more popular for those in the food and beverage industry, any business of any size can benefit from creating a Yelp profile. Once created, your customers can easily find your business location, post reviews and photos, and rate your business! Let them do most of the legwork. You work hard enough!

 

 

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