You know online reviews from customers are important to your local business — but did you know just how important they are? According to BrightLocal’s latest Local Consumer Review Survey, even if your website comes up top in search results, reviews can actually be the deciding factor in whether customers click on you — or your competitor. Here’s what you need to know.
Consumers Read Reviews More Than Ever
More than half (53 percent) of consumers search online for local businesses at least once a month (up from 43 percent in 2015). After finding businesses online, more consumers are also reading reviews about them. A whopping 91 percent of consumers read online reviews at least occasionally, and 50 percent read them regularly. Just 9 percent of consumers never read reviews.
Consumers Form Opinions About a Business Faster Than Ever
It doesn’t take a lot of time for consumers to form an opinion of your business based on online reviews. More than two-thirds (68 percent) of people form an opinion after reading one to six reviews. Just 10 percent of consumers will read more than 10 reviews before deciding about a business.
What Consumers Care About in Online Reviews
What aspects of a review influence consumers’ decisions? The most important factor consumers consider when assessing a business is its overall star rating; 58 percent of consumers pay the most attention to this. Star ratings matter because they often show up in search results, so they’re easy to see at a glance without even clicking through to the actual reviews.
However, that doesn’t mean consumers aren’t bothering to read the reviews. The “sentiment” of reviews is the second most important factor, cited by 47 percent of respondents.
Last, but not least, 41 percent of respondents say the recency of reviews matters and 73 percent say reviews older than 3 months aren’t relevant.
What Does it Mean for Your Local Business?
Since most people start with the most recent reviews, and hardly anyone reads more than 10 reviews, the quality of your recent reviews is extremely important. Even if your overall rating is four stars, if the latest 10 reviews are all one or two stars, consumers may think your business has gone downhill and not bother scrolling down to those glorious five-star reviews from last year.
Google has begun placing more emphasis on online reviews. Star ratings now appear in the Google Local 3-Pack search results (the three businesses you’ll see highlighted at the top of the search results page under a map), and online reviews are also a factor in whether your business gets into the Local 3-Pack at all.
In a related study, BrightLocal found that a rating of three or more stars positively affected click-through rates of businesses in the Local 3-Pack. The higher the star rating, the more clicks the listing got. In fact, going from a three-star to a five-star rating generated up to 25 percent more clicks!
The bad news: A poor star rating can negate the positive effects of being in the Local 3-Pack altogether. The same study reports businesses listed in the Local 3-Pack that had one-or two-star ratings got fewer clicks than businesses with no ratings at all. Imagine doing all the search engine optimization to come up top in search results, only to have a poor star rating make it all meaningless.
How to Improve Your Online Local Business Reviews
BrightLocal recommends several steps to keep your online local business reviews strong.
- Monitor your online reviews regularly and respond to any negative ones.
- Ask customers for reviews so you have a steady stream of recent reviews. (Just make sure you aren’t running afoul of the review site’s rules. Read this post about what not to do with Yelp reviews.)
- Aim to generate positive reviews so bad reviews get pushed down further on the list and are less likely to be read.
- Get online reviews on a variety of review sites, such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and any others relevant to your industry or customer base.
- Encourage reviews on social media platforms, like Facebook. They can boost your chances of showing up high in search results and also strengthen your overall ratings.