Customer Reviews (How to Get Positive Reviews)
Customer reviews have a giant impact on sales for local businesses. This article covers exactly how to get more positive reviews, avoid negative reviews, and drive sales with customer reviews.
Customer Reviews Drive Sales
In this chapter, you’ll learn how customer reviews drive sales for your local business, regardless of your industry, geographic location, or how you market your business to win new customers.
A whopping 93% of customers use online business reviews to decide if a local business is good or not.
And 85% of customers trust online customer reviews as much as personal recommendations!
With numbers like that, there is no way to ignore the importance of online customer reviews to local businesses.
Whenever someone in your local area needs a business like yours, there’s a 93% chance they’ll check online customer reviews to decide whether to go to you or your competitors. And they’ll trust those online customer reviews almost as much as recommendations from family and friends.
Still not convinced?
Let’s look at the data.
Cornell conducted a study that found that hotels could increase their prices by 11.2% while maintaining the same occupancy and market share, simply by increasing their online customer review ratings by 1 star, from 3.3 stars to 4.3 stars.
UC Berkeley economists conducted a study that found restaurants with a 4.0 star rating on Yelp sold out 19% more often than those with a 3.5 star rating.
These studies, among others, show a clear and measurable connection between higher customer review star ratings and stronger sales figures for local businesses.
Customer Reviews Boost SEO
This chapter will give you 8 actions you can take immediately to improve your local SEO search rankings using customer reviews.
The Link Between Local SEO & Customer Reviews
Customer reviews are the #3 most important ranking factor for local SEO, just behind Google My Business signals and backlinks.
Just as backlinks act like “votes for a web page,” customer reviews act like “votes for a business.”
In many ways, customer reviews are more powerful than backlinks, because they’re endorsements of the business entity itself, not just an endorsement of a web page that belongs to the business.
We expect customer reviews to continue to become more and more important to local SEO as Google’s algorithms get increasingly better at extracting semantic meaning from customer reviews.
You can boost your local SEO with the following 8 pro SEO tips….
SEO Tip (1) Get high star ratings
Your star rating is the single most important factor in boosting local SEO with customer reviews.
Nearly half of all customers say they don’t want to buy from businesses that have a star rating lower than 4 stars.
If a customer isn’t happy enough yet to give your business a 4 or 5 star review, then you’re not ready yet to encourage them to give a review. Instead, get feedback from them to find out how you can earn a better rating in the future, before asking for a public review.
On the other hand, if a customer is happy enough to give your business 4 or 5 stars today, then encourage the customer to share their experiences in an online review.
For more details, check out the section below on pre-screening customers for all positive reviews.
SEO Tip (2) Get more customer reviews
The number of reviews you have matters.
Your star rating is not credible unless it was calculated based on a large enough number of reviews. Google’s algorithms know this.
If your business has fewer than 30 reviews, you may have a difficult time ranking in search results.
The more customer reviews you have, the lower the margin of error is for Google’s algorithms, so your star rating becomes more credible. And Google’s confidence level in ranking your business increases.
SEO Tip (3) Get the right keywords
Google doesn’t just look at your star rating and the number of customer reviews you have.
Google actually parses the language in your customer reviews to try to understand the true meaning of each review.
Politely and appropriately encourage your customers to use the kind of language that includes your targeted keywords.
SEO Tip (4) Get reviews with a positive tone
Not only does Google analyze local business reviews for their meaning, but Google also analyzes reviews using sentiment analysis.
When a customer review uses a lot of words with a negative tone (like “hate,” “can’t,” “won’t,” “disliked,” “bad,” etc…) then Google may interpret the review as a negative review, even if the star rating is high.
Likewise, if a customer review uses a lot of positive words (like “love”, “like,” “wonderful,” “happy,” etc…) then Google may interpret the review as a positive review, even if the star rating is low.
Whenever you spot a customer review that’s positive, but has a lot of words with negative tone, consider reaching out to that happy customer to politely and appropriately request specific wording changes that will convey the positive tone the customer really meant to express.
SEO Tip (5) Get customer reviews regularly and frequently
Google’s fraud detection algorithms look for sudden spikes and dips in the number of new customer reviews you get.
So avoid treating your customer review efforts like an occasional project that results in a sudden burst of reviews every now and then.
Instead, treat your customer review efforts like an ongoing routine. Reach out to all new customers for reviews on a daily or weekly basis.
SEO Tip (6) Get on high-authority review websites
Google looks at more than just the customer reviews on Google Maps to determine search rankings.
Google also looks at customer reviews on all the major review websites and many lesser-known review websites.
But not all review websites are created equal.
Just as some domains have a higher PageRank and TrustRank, so too review websites have more or less authority.
Make sure you get plenty of positive reviews on all the major, high-authority review websites to rank higher in search results.
Of course, the highest-authority site is Google.com itself. So check out our ultimate guide on how to get Google reviews.
SEO Tip (7) Get on a variety of review websites
When your local business reviews have a similar star rating across multiple review websites, this sends a clear signal to Google that the star rating is accurate.
Check out the section below on “The Most Important Customer Review Websites” for a complete listing of local business review sites that are appropriate for your business.
Make sure you have a profile on a variety of customer review websites, and that your average star rating is very similar across all of the sites.
Also be sure that your identifying information is identical across all review websites, including your business name, address, phone number, and any other identifying information. Otherwise, if your identifying information is even slightly different between two different review websites, Google may not be certain that the two review website profiles represent the same business.
SEO Tip (8) Get review snippets
Review snippets show a star rating in search results.
Searchers click through search results with high star ratings more often than competing search results without star ratings.
Add schema markup to your website to show review snippets in your search results. This will give your click-through rate a boost, which Google’s algorithm sees as an important user engagement signal for local SEO.
Customer Reviews Reduce PPC Ad Costs
In this chapter, you’ll find out how customer reviews have a big impact on the cost of your PPC advertising.
The Link between Customer Reviews and SEM/PPC
Customer reviews can actually drive your advertising costs down significantly if you have strong customer reviews. But customer reviews can also drive your ad costs up significantly if your customer reviews are poor.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising costs rise and fall based on your ad’s click-through rate (CTR).
A high CTR means your ad will get premium placement and lots of impressions. A low CTR means your ad will get poor placement and fewer impressions.
But most importantly, a high CTR means your ad can actually outbid a lower-CTR ad at a lower price point!
That’s right. You can literally pay less for the same advertising placement than your competitor has to pay for that same placement, as long as your CTR is significantly higher than your competitor’s CTR.
This makes sense, because PPC ad platforms like Google and Bing make money only when someone clicks on your ad. So if your ad has a higher CTR, there’s a greater chance your ad will get clicked on, and a greater chance the PPC ad platform will get paid.
Think of it this way. Google would rather show an ad that bids $1 than an ad that bids $2 if the $1 ad has a CTR of 4% and the $2 ad has a CTR of 1%. Out of 100 impressions, Google would make $4 from the $1 ad ($1 x 4 clicks). But Google would only make $2 from the $2 ad ($2 x 1 click). So the $1 bid and 4% CTR is actually more valuable to Google than the $2 bid and 1% CTR. So naturally Google lets the $1 bid win out over the $2 bid.
And what’s one of the most powerful ways to increase your PPC ads’ CTR?
You guessed it. Customer reviews.
Customers are more likely to click on an ad that shows a strong customer review star rating like this one….
How do you get your reviews to display in your Google PPC ads? You need to get Google’s “seller ratings extension.”
To qualify for the seller ratings extension, first you need your business to get at least a composite rating of 3.5 stars from a minimum of 150 customer reviews. All 150 must come from the same country where your business is located.
You don’t need to get all 150 customer reviews on Google. You can get them across a range of review websites that Google’s seller ratings extension supports.
Check out Google’s guidelines on the seller ratings extension to find out exactly which review websites will help you qualify for the seller ratings extension. (Hint: Yelp is not on the list. So don’t make assumptions. Check the official list of supported review websites.)
Customer Reviews Drive Offline Marketing Success
This chapter will show you how customer reviews drive success (or failure) of every kind of marketing your business uses, even offline marketing such as foot traffic, billboards, ads in the local paper, or word-of-mouth marketing.
Online customer reviews have a big impact on all marketing efforts, including offline marketing, not just online marketing.
That’s because 93% of customers check online business reviews to decide if they should buy from a local business.
So no matter how your potential customers find you, your online customer reviews will have an impact on their decision to walk through your doors (or not)—even if they find you through traditional offline channels like foot traffic or word-of-mouth referrals.
The net result is that your average marketing cost to acquire a new customer—aka your customer acquisition cost (CAC)—will drop significantly if positive customer reviews convince people to give your business a try.
And likewise, your CAC will rise if negative customer reviews make customers lose trust in your business.
The Most Important Customer Review Websites
Customer reviews boost sales, but only if you’re focusing on the customer review websites your prospects visit. In this chapter, you’ll learn how to prioritize the most important websites. You’ll also get a complete list of major local business review websites to make sure you’re focusing on the right ones.
How to Pick the Most Important Customer Review Websites
Not all customer review websites are created equal. Some review websites will have a big impact on sales for your local business, while others will have no impact at all.
So how do you know which review websites are most important to your business?
The answer varies for different businesses, especially in different industries or geographic locations.
The best way to answer this question is to ask the people in your community (especially your existing customers) where they go to find online reviews about businesses like yours.
Having said that, in most cases the most important review websites are Google (for SEO reasons) and possibly Yelp and/or Facebook.
And in many cases, an industry-specific review website might be one of your most important review websites. For example, TripAdvisor might be important for hotels, Avvo for law firms, and Zillow for real estate agents.
So our general advice to local businesses is this:
Focus on Google and either Yelp or Facebook (if you think your customers use one of these regularly) and the #1 review website for your specific industry (if one exists).
One word of caution about Yelp: Yelp is probably the most unfriendly review website for business owners, so make sure you’re aware of the dangers of Yelp business reviews and how to avoid them.
Check out this list of major review websites that might be important to your local business. (Within each industry group, the customer review websites are listed in order from the ones that get the most web traffic to those that get the least traffic.)
The list below is only a partial list of top sites. For an even more in-depth list of sites, check out our article on “180 Business Review Sites,” including advice on how to prioritize the few that are most important, and how to claim listings on the rest to boost your local SEO.
General (Covering Most Industries)
3 Keys to Drive Sales with Customer Reviews
This chapter will give you the 3 keys to driving more sales by using customer reviews: quality, quantity and recency. By the end of this chapter, you’ll know exactly what metrics you need to track and what specific targets you need to hit to be successful.
The 3 Key Customer Review Metrics
The 3 simple keys to successfully driving sales from customer reviews are… Quality (Your star rating) + Quantity (The number of reviews) + Recency (How new your most recent reviews are).
You know you have a strong review profile that helps you drive sales when you have a high star rating (quality) from many customers (quantity) including several recent reviews (recency).
But what specific metrics determine if you have high quality, high quantity, or good recency?
Here are the answers to these key questions….
How many stars should a business have?
More stars than your local competitors and no less than 4.0 stars.
Almost half of customers say they need to see at least 4 stars to want to buy from a business.
But if your business has 4 stars and your local competitor has 5 stars, guess who will get the lion’s share of business.
So if your competitors have more than 4 stars, then you should not stop at 4 stars. Instead, shoot to match or beat the competition’s star rating.
How many customer reviews should a business have?
As many as possible, but at least as many as your local competitors and no less than 20 reviews.
At 6 reviews, over one third of customers will think you don’t have enough reviews for them to make an informed decision about your business.
At 10 reviews, 14% of customers will not think you have enough reviews for them to make a decision in your favor.
At 20 reviews, that number falls to only 7% of customers.
Ultimately, you should shoot to get as many customer reviews as possible. That’s because the quantity of customer reviews affects how prominently your business appears in the search results of major customer review websites.
Even if your business has a 5 star average, it could get buried on the 8th page of search results if it only has a small number of online business reviews.
Here’s an example of a 5-star business that’s buried at the bottom of page 8 in search results, because it has only 1 review.
How recent should customer reviews be?
At all times, at least a couple of your online reviews should be no older than 2 weeks old.
Almost 1 in 5 customers (18%) consider customer reviews irrelevant if they’re older than 2 weeks old.
And an amazing 77% of customers think customer reviews are irrelevant if they’re older than 3 months old.
Shoot to get 1 review every 3 to 7 days on average to make sure your prospective customers always consider your online reviews relevant.
How to Get More Positive Customer Reviews
In this chapter, you’ll learn how to get more positive reviews from your happy customers, avoid negative reviews, and get valuable feedback privately.
Establish a daily or weekly routine
Reach out to new customers to encourage new online business reviews in a systematic way at a specific time every day or every week.
Don’t wait any longer than 1 week, or you’ll have sudden spikes and dips in the number of customer reviews you get. This will cause you to have time periods when you lack recent reviews.
Worse yet, sudden spikes in your number of customer reviews can also trigger the fraud detection algorithms of most major customer review websites.
If that happens, you may start to lose many of your past reviews as well as your new reviews as the review website starts filtering them out as potential fake reviews—no matter how truly authentic they actually are.
Also, if you wait more than 1 week, your conversion rates will drop rapidly. Customers tend to respond to requests for reviews at much higher rates when their experiences with your business are still fresh in their minds and their emotions about those experiences are still strong.
Keep track of how many new customer reviews you’re getting, so you know what your conversion rates are. Then you’ll know how many new customers you need to reach out to every day or week in order to achieve your goal of getting 1 review every 3 to 7 days on average.
If you find you need to improve your conversion rates, try sending follow-up emails or text messages. People are often too busy and forget your initial request. You may be able to double your conversion rates simply by sending a couple of follow-up’s to customers who don’t reply to your initial request for feedback.
For help automating your daily or weekly routine, so it takes very little time and effort, try a free trial of the Rising Star Reviews web app.
Pre-screen customers for positive reviews
Ask customers how they would rate their experience with you on a 5-star scale before you encourage them to write a review on a public review website.
Every time a customer writes a 1-star review, you need another 7 customers to give you a 5-star review just to get your overall average back to 4.5 stars.
So why encourage a customer to give you a review if you don’t know yet if you’ve earned a positive review?
Instead, pre-screen each customer. Ask the customer privately how you did.
If they give you 5 stars in their private feedback to you, great! Encourage them to share their experiences on the customer review website that you most need to strengthen.
But if they give you a star rating that’s lower than your current average star rating, then don’t encourage them to write a review. Instead, ask for feedback. Specifically, ask what you could do to earn their 5-star review in the future. The advice they give you may just be far more valuable than yet another 5-star review.
For help pre-screening customers and either encouraging a public review or collecting private feedback, try the Rising Star Reviews web app, which makes this process very easy and uses best practices for optimal conversion rates.
How to Deal with Negative Customer Reviews
Learn how to turn lemons into lemonade in this Chapter by finding out how to handle negative reviews when they strike. By the end of this chapter, you’ll learn how to delete negative reviews, get them changed into positive reviews, mitigate the damage of a negative review, and drown out negative reviews with positive reviews.
The 4 Ways to Deal with Negative Reviews
Negative reviews happen to the best of businesses. You just can’t please everyone every time. And sometimes people leave fake or unfair negative reviews even when you’ve done everything possible to help them.
There are 4 ways to deal with a negative customer review:
- Delete the negative review
- Change the review from negative to positive
- Mitigate the damage with your reply to the negative review
- Drown out the negative review with positive reviews
Delete a negative customer review
In most cases, you won’t be able to delete a negative customer review.
If the review was written by a legitimate customer in an appropriate manner, the review website will most likely not allow you to delete the customer review.
However, if the review violates the review website’s policies, then you may be able to get the review website to delete the negative review.
For Google reviews, check out our detailed guide on how to delete a Google review. It includes a list of policy violations that you can cite to get Google to remove a negative review.
For Yelp reviews, check out Yelp’s guidance on the kinds of reviews Yelp will remove. If you have a negative review that violates Yelp’s policies, report the review to Yelp.
For all other review websites, search the site or Google for their content policies. All serious review websites have policies for the kinds of content they will (and won’t) allow in customer reviews. And they also have ways of allowing people to report abuses of those policies.
Change a negative review into a positive review
Can’t get a negative review deleted? If you can’t delete a customer review, the next best thing is to make the customer happy enough that they update their review from negative to positive.
Use these 6 pro tips to maximize your chances of turning that negative review into a positive review:
Tip (1) Act fast
Customers are more likely to change their reviews if you respond lightning fast to their needs.
Don’t let them stew in their juices while they’re unhappy with you.
Jump on their problems quickly to show you’re on their side and actively working on a way to make them happy.
Fast response times go a long way toward customer satisfaction.
Tip (2) Sympathize
Sincerely feel for the customer.
Care about the customer’s ultimate satisfaction.
And let that sincere concern show in your interactions with the customer.
When customers feel like you truly sympathize and you’re on their side, they open their minds to alternative solutions you might offer, even if those solutions are not the ideal solution they originally wanted.
As long as a customer isn’t convinced you’re on their side, they will maintain an “us vs them” mentality, which will block them from ever wanting to revise their negative review.
Tip (3) Stay positive
Always use a positive tone in your review replies and other interactions with an unhappy customer.
Stay focused on their satisfaction, not on what went wrong or who’s to blame.
Tip (4) Take responsibility
Don’t play the blame game or make excuses, even if the customer truly is to blame.
Instead, own responsibility for the customer’s ultimate satisfaction and sincerely seek solutions that will help the customer, even if the ultimate solution is to refer the customer to another business that can help them better than your business can.
Tip (5) Fix problems
If you can directly fix the customer’s problem, great! Do it!
But sometimes that isn’t possible.
Even if you can’t fully fix the problem, do your best to make the customer as satisfied as you reasonably can.
Sometimes this means offering the customer information rather than a solution. Other times it means recommending other businesses or products.
Tip (6) Ask Politely for the Update
Once you’ve turned an unhappy customer into a happy customer, it’s time to ask for them to revise their customer review.
Don’t be too pushy when you ask them to revise their review. Use soft, appreciative language, like this…
“Hey Mary, sorry again for the inconvenience this problem caused you. I’m so glad we were able to fix things for you. If you decide we’ve done a good enough job that you want to revise the review you left on Yelp, I’d be very grateful and appreciative. If not, I understand. Either way, thanks again for your business and your patience.”
Notice that the request includes a link. That link goes directly to the customer’s online review, making it as fast and easy as possible for the customer to update the review.
Mitigate the damage of a negative customer review
Sometimes you can’t delete a negative review and you can’t convince the customer to update it to a positive review.
When that happens, you can still minimize the damage a negative review does to your reputation by replying to the review.
The #1 principle to keep in mind when you reply to a negative review is this:
The people who will read your reply in the future are just as important as the customer you’re replying to today.
Don’t just write your reply directly to the unhappy reviewer. Write your reply for the “audience” of countless future prospects who will be reading the review and your reply before they decide whether or not to do business with you.
This is your chance to show the world just how devoted you are to customer satisfaction.
Use the same tips listed under “Change a negative customer review into a positive review” to demonstrate to future prospects that you’re exceptionally focused on customer satisfaction. Show that you’re highly responsive to customer needs, you take responsibility, you fix problems, and you sincerely care about your customers.
Even if you don’t convince the customer to change the negative review, you may convince many future prospects that your business is the kind of business they can trust.
Unfortunately, although you can turn lemons into lemonade with a great reply to a negative review, the review will still hurt your average star rating.
To mitigate the damage a negative review has on your star rating, keep reading….
Drown out a negative customer review with positive reviews
Your average star rating influences future customer buying decisions more than any other aspect of your customer reviews.
A single negative review can cause a lot of damage to your average star rating.
If you get a single 1-star review, you’ll need 7 new 5-star reviews just to maintain an average of 4.5 stars. And if you want to get to an average of 5 stars, you’ll need 15 new 5-star reviews to offset that 1-star review. That will bring your true average up to 4.75 stars which rounds up to 5 stars on many review websites.
So how can you make sure you get lots of positive reviews without also attracting more negative reviews?
Simple. We’ve already covered it. Check out the section above on “How to Get More Positive Customer Reviews” and pay special attention to the tips on pre-screening customers for positive reviews.
When you pre-screen customers and ask only the happy customers for reviews, you’ll stop gambling with your reputation and gain more control over your average star rating.
And when you get private feedback from pre-screened customers who aren’t ready to give you a 5-star review yet, you’ll start learning from your customers exactly how to make permanent improvements to your business that will earn you many 5-star reviews in the future.
When you pre-screen customers, you always win. Happy customers boost your average star rating, and unhappy customers help you improve your business in the future.
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