Do your monitor customer reviews published about your business online? With review sites like Google Local, Yelp, Angie’s List and Bing Places becoming more prevalent, it’s important for small businesses to keep a watchful eye over what customers say about them. Even if your business only has a few customer reviews published online, those reviews could affect your operations in multiple ways.

Your Customers Trust Them

Online reviews provide an unbiased view of your business’s operations, so consumers trust them more than statements or promotional material that your businesses publishes. In fact, one survey found that 84 percent of consumers trust them as much as recommendations from family. When a consumer reads a review of your business, it will sway his or her purchasing decision as much as a recommendation from a family member. This can either help or hurt your business, depending on whether it’s a positive or negative review.

More Than Nine in 10 Consumers Read Them

Statistics show that 92 percent of consumers today read online reviews, up from 88 percent in 2014. Most of the leading review sites now feature mobile-friendly websites or mobile apps, which consumers can use to quickly find reviews via a smartphone or tablet. As mobile devices continue to dominate the internet, we’ll probably see even more consumers searching for and reading online reviews in the future. To take advantage of this trend, you must monitor online reviews published about your business.

They Drive Traffic to Your Website

In addition to attracting walk-in consumers to your business, online reviews also attract traffic to your website. When someone reads a review of your business, he or she may visit your website to learn more about your business and what it offers. Most online review sites allow businesses to display their website URL, making it easy for users to find and visit your business’s site.

They Influence Local Search Rankings

If you want your business’s website to rank for relevant local searches, you should encourage customers to publish reviews of your business online. According to Moz, the number of reviews a business has as well as the quality and diversity of those reviews play an important role in the business’s local search ranking. You can test this yourself by searching for a local business on Google. At the top of the search results — in Google’s local pack — you’ll probably discover business listings with lots of positive reviews. To achieve a similar high local search ranking for your business, encourage customers to leave online reviews.

Competitors May Leave Fake Reviews

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for competitors to leave fake online reviews to discourage consumers from buying a business’s products or services. If a competitor is losing customers to your business, they may create fake accounts on review sites and leave negative reviews about your business. The only way to stop this is by actively monitoring and managing your business’s reputation online. If you believe a negative review is fake, report it to the site on which it was published.

 

Not all negative reviews are fake, however. When a customer leaves a legitimate and genuine negative review of your business online, consider emailing him or her to see if you can resolve the problem. You can consider the possibility of working with an email marketing agency to set up strategies to contact and resolve the problems of those who may have issues. With a little work, you can often turn a scathing negative review into a positive experience.

 

Online reviews aren’t going away anytime soon. On the contrary, statistics show they are becoming an increasingly popular tool consumers use to make buying decisions. As a small business owner, you should keep an eye on reviews published about your business to ensure they are genuine and honest.