If you care about your business, then you should read this entire column. I hope you read all of my “Web Presence Management” columns from beginning to end, but this particular one shines a light on something that is, or should be, very important to you for many reasons.
Online reviews left by your customers and others have far more importance to you than you may think. It’s not just about what others are saying about you, which by itself is certainly important. But what we’re finding in our day-to-day management of clients’ web presences and from our in-depth research on this subject is that reviews also have an impact on your website’s ranking potential. Whoa!
Let’s consider that last statement from Google’s perspective. Google wants to best serve those who use their search tool. They want to not only use the keywords people enter in the search query box to help match them up with search results they feel are most relevant to those terms, but they also want to match them up with strong, viable businesses that appear to be doing a good job serving their own customers. And that means taking online reviews into consideration, both positive and negative. And, much like you wouldn’t recommend a mediocre/poor restaurant to a friend because it reflects poorly on you, Google doesn’t want to send searchers to a business that receives only three-star reviews…or worse. In addition, negative trending reviews don’t go unnoticed either and can cause rankings to slide.
Optima Automotive estimates that over 90 percent of the shops we provide web presence analyses for are completely ignoring their online reviews, or their “online reputations.” I’ve done workshops at NACE and SEMA over the past few years on the importance of this and written about it in BodyShop Business as well. Yet a large percentage of our industry is either unaware of the importance of managing their online reputations or they simply decide they don’t have time to worry about it or – worse yet – don’t care. They should. I would argue that your online reputation is priceless.
People pay attention to online reviews, especially Millennials, also known as Generation Y. According to a 2015 study by Don Schawbel, who partnered with Elite Daily (the self-proclaimed “voice of Generation Y”) on an in-depth study of 1,300 Gen Ys, a remarkable 99 percent of Millennials said traditional advertising had no compelling influence on trusting a brand. That’s backed up by research done by Marketing Land which puts that number at 90 percent. Either way, that’s millions of people who don’t trust advertising because it comes from the business. When it comes from the business, Gen Y thinks “of course a business is going to say good things about themselves.” But reviews come from their peers, and Millennials almost consider leaving reviews as an obligation to each other. A survey done by BrightLocal showed that people reading online reviews is trending up, now up over 85 percent, and 67 percent of those read up to six reviews.
Google has done their homework, too, and they see how this is going, so their response to this is to include the strength of reviews into their search algorithm. Other search engines are following suit, and therefore poor reviews will be punished.
One of the organizations we trust most for SEO research and training is MOZ. In a local ranking factor survey, MOZ revealed that search engines give online reviews approximately 10 percent of the overall weight in rankings factors. That can mean bumping you down from the top of page one or even off of page one if other SEO factors have been built correctly into your site and gotten you there. That could potentially cost you thousands in lost business just by ranking poorly.
A great way to keep track of your reviews is through something like what Optima Automotive offers: a dashboard. This allows you to see, at a glance, your reviews as they come in, complete with push email notifications: www.optimaautomotive.com/powerlistings-local-search. Also, you can set up Google Alerts to let you know any time your company name is mentioned online: www.google.com/alerts
Let’s not forget that poor reviews should be a red flag anyway. I haven’t mentioned the fact that poor reviews should cause you to look inward at problems within your organization. Not all poor reviews are necessarily legitimate, but poor reviews require you to open your eyes and consider what happened. If you don’t have a plan for continuous improvement already, this is a good place to start.
And let’s bring OEMs and insurers into the conversation as well. As we see more and more OEM certification programs and requirements, I have it, on good authority, that auto manufacturers are paying close attention to online reviews, both in their selection process and ongoing evaluations of existing partner shops. The same can be said for insurers that are making DRP decisions daily based, at least to a degree, on reviews.
So, online reviews only matter if you care… about your business, your current state of affairs and where you intend to go in the future.