Are Real Customer Reviews Valuable to Small Businesses?

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by on September 21, 2011

Some small business owners are skeptical about using resources to get real customer reviews. They have seen a contrived or negative review about a competitor, or their own business, and notice that many small businesses have no reviews. Such observations can create doubts about value, so its not surprising if you are wondering, “Why bother getting customer reviews for my business?”

Many surveys have measured the preferences of Internet and mobile users, such as the Forrester survey which found that most users (82%) find reviews “extremely valuable or valuable “.

Another survey focused on people searching for local businesses, discovered that 71% referred to local reviews “occasionally”, and nearly one-quarter used reviews on a “regular basis”.

Oddly, two-thirds of these people said they trusted online local reviews just as much as word of mouth recommendations! As a user of customer reviews, this comparison seems a bit exaggerated, maybe most people were considering only the credible reviews.

Reviews not only build trust, they can increase clicks to, and perhaps rankings of, your website and Place Page in search results. Some business owners are concerned about getting negative reviews, from a disgruntled customer or unethical competitor, but it is a myththat a poor customer review wreaks havoc on click and conversion rates.

Customer reviews in local search results

Customer reviews with gold stars in local search results

Less than positive ratings have value, and offer the opportunity to start a constructive dialogue with your customer, to sort out the issue and possibly resolve it. Besides, prospects do not expect your business to earn only five star ratings. Should a negative review be created by a dishonorable competitor, before long it will be buried by real customer reviews.

Reviews are an important impact of social media on businesses,  not a passing trend. Following Amazon’s success, many large online retailers have fully embraced them. They know that prior to a purchase and during research, many shoppers look for online ratings and reviews.

Real customer reviews are gaining importance for local and small businesses. This month Google purchased Zagat, the premier restaurant and hotel consumer guide. “Zagat doesn’t just offer good local info. It promotes the foodie belief that good eats are worth hunting down.” says Yoni Appelbaum says, a contributor to The Atlantic Online.

Google thrives on giving searchers what they are looking for, and many people are looking for a “good value” or “best of”. Online reviews help them find it. While not all reviews are authentic, Google has historically uncovered important quality issues, and then ignored the offensive content, to the chagrin of its perpetrators.

Another important indicator, Google has been experimenting with Google Places for Portland, and five other cities. It orders local businesses by customer ratings, simply showing a store photograph, business name and address, and a link. Viewers can select from 7 local business categories – like shopping or health, fitness and beauty – or dig deeper into subcategories or preferred experiences or a neighborhood. Imagine having customer reviews that earn your business a place at the top! These new city portals are evidence that Google believes customers desire reviews and reviews offer significant value.

Consider initiating a plan for acquiring reviews for your business now. Real customer reviews can boost your search results and conversions, because Google rewards quality, longevity and valuable content with greater visibility.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John January 24, 2012 at 1:10 PM

Good or bad, you NEED to have reviews of your local business.

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Mary Brophy January 24, 2012 at 1:35 PM

John, you are so right. Some small business owners think it’s important that all reviews receive perfect scores. Most readers see through this fallacy because it seems too good to be true and their value is discounted. In fact, I read that 1 or 2 poor reviews, in a grouping of good reviews, is usually tolerated by readers. It is worse for a business to have no reviews, hurting buyer conversion and search visibility.

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