Update: In January 2022, BrightLocal Academy released a free training course How to Create Relevant and Engaging Local SEO Reports that deep-dives into data tracking and sharing to build engagement.
Advance Your Agency is a brand-new BrightLocal series, designed to equip you with the skills, knowledge and advice necessary to take your agency operations to the next level.
This month we focus on review management – a key component of local SEO success.
Local SEOs know just how important online reviews are when it comes to gaining prominence in local search.
According to Moz’s most recent Local Search Ranking Factors Study, review signals make up around 15% of local pack factors. Put simply, having a high quantity of recent, diverse, high-quality reviews means Google’s local search algorithm is more likely to favor your business and surface it for relevant search queries.
As an agency, though, it can be difficult to explain to clients just how important review management is and what the benefits could be to their businesses.
For example, how many times have you spoken with clients who believe that online reviews will just come flooding in on their own? If only things were that simple, eh?!
In order to help your clients succeed in local search, you’ll first need to get buy-in on a solid review generation and management strategy — and that all begins with education.
In the first issue of our Advance Your Agency series, I’ll teach you just how to educate your clients on the benefits of review management. And by the end, you’ll be able to inform even the most skeptical merchants of why they need reviews.
Review Management Explained
What is review management?
Firstly, if your clients aren’t already aware, you’ll probably want to educate them on what review management is in the first place.
Review management generally consists of four key components:
- Generating reviews
- Monitoring reviews
- Responding to reviews
- Leveraging reviews.
It is sometimes referred to as ‘reputation management’, although more often than not clients will refer to review management simply as ‘bad reviews’, ‘online reviews’, or just ‘getting better reviews’ — and it can often be useful to mimic this language when talking to your client, in an attempt to demystify review management from the get-go. Whether it’s in pitch decks or phone conversations, always try to mirror the language of your client. (Not sure where to start with a review management pitch deck? Take a look at our free, white-label templates.)
Where should you get reviews?
Reviews can be gained on any site that suits your client’s business. For example, a hotel would want to generate reviews on TripAdvisor, while a lawyer would find reviews more useful on Justia, and so on. Targeting niche review sites is certainly important — after all, you’ll want your client’s business to appear anywhere that customers may be searching for them.
But, for the purpose of this article, I’m going to focus primarily on Google reviews.
Why? Well, it’s more or less a given that all local businesses will benefit from generating reviews on Google My Business — first and foremost because this is the place that customers are most likely to see first. Say I was to search “plumbers near me”, the first thing that will appear will be the local pack, complete with Google My Business reviews for plumbers — you guessed it – near me.
Secondly, GMB reviews are important because Google is naturally going to favor its own reviews above third-party sites, and therefore building reviews via Google is more likely to boost your placement in the local pack.
With these reasons in mind, focusing on Google Reviews will be by far the easiest sell.
How to Educate Clients on the Benefits of Review Management
There are near hundreds of stats I could (and most likely, will) share with you about the importance of reviews, but when it comes to appealing to clients, you’re going to want to play on the emotional factor of reviews. Any agency can spew out a handful of facts about reviews, but that should come later, once you’ve established the real-life impact reviews can have.
The Worst-Case Scenario
First, level with your client; explain to them what not having an effective review management strategy could do to their business.
Let’s use an example of what could happen when a client receives a bad review.
Here, I’ve found a recent low-rated review from a New York-based restaurant:
Now ask your client, what’s the worst outcome that can come from getting a review like this? First and foremost, you’ve got an unhappy customer – they’re not going to visit your place of business again, put any money in your hands, or spread any positive news to their friends.
But, beyond that, this customer is acting as an active deterrent to any other potential visitors. In fact, they explicitly say “Go eat somewhere else”. Not exactly a glowing review, right? And so, in the worst-case scenario, you’re losing out on potentially hundreds of customers, which means lost profit.
Well, while there’s not a lot you can do to correct this customer’s bad experience (in the words of Cher, if only we could turn back time!), with the help of review management you can improve this outcome drastically.
If the restaurant provided a response to this negative review (it hasn’t), apologizing for the customer’s negative experience, offering to look into the issue for them, and providing some kind of incentive to return, then not only might they win over a lost customer, but they’d also be showcasing their great customer service to anyone who sees the review.
Think of it as damage control. No business is perfect, and even if your client’s business is running like a well-oiled machine, they’re likely to encounter a fair few negative reviews over time. Responding to reviews in a timely manner means you’re going to limit the amount of damage that negative feedback can do.
When explaining this scenario to your client, don’t be afraid to use one of their real-world reviews as an example. And even better, if you can compare the results with a client who has taken up review management, can you explain how it improved their results or helped them to reach their goals? Taking every opportunity to back up your argument with evidence is the masterstroke that will win you business.
If your client isn’t quite so worried about receiving negative reviews, then you’ll want to appeal to them based on the opportunities they might be missing.
How could review management take their business to the next level? What are they missing out on by not managing online reviews?
Here, I’ve used a search local to me, “plumbers near me” — and for context, I’m based in Brighton, UK.
Now, here there’s a plumber ranking in the top spot. But as a consumer, am I going to ring them? To give them my hard earned money and custom? Not a chance!
The position in the local pack might sway me if I’m looking for a low-stakes purchase like lunch, but when it comes to industries that present more risk to me if I choose unwisely, such as plumbing, I’m going to pick the plumbing business that can prove that it has the best reputation, the one that leaves a flood (pardon the pun) of happy customers in its wake. And that’s the one with the best review rating.
So, even though the business is ranking in the second position, on this occasion my custom will be going to AC Plumbing, rather than Small Job Plumbing.
If Small Job Plumbing was your client, what would you say to them? They’ve just missed out on business for the sole reason that they’ve not got enough positive reviews. This is a prime example of opportunities missed due to neglecting review management.
Once again, explaining this scenario to a client using real-world examples of their search rivals will only make it more effective. Do they have a competitor that they just can’t seem to shake? Compare the two businesses’ review profiles and see who comes out on top. How good would your client feel knowing that not only that they’ve come out on top in rankings but they’ve also beat their competitors in the process?
These are the kinds of examples that are really going to appeal to your client, so where possible, always relate it back to their own feelings and goals – you start with the emotional argument then build towards the rational.
Although I believe that review management is important for all businesses, there are definitely some businesses that will need reviews even more than others. And you’ll want to explain this to your client in a way that appeals to their specific industry.
For example, YMYL (your money, your life) businesses are much more likely to need reviews in order to gain the trust of consumers.
If you’re dealing with clients who operate in YMYL industries such as health, finance, or business, then you’re going to need to drive this fact home even more – without review management you will lose out on customers.
Again, ask your client to put themselves in the consumers’ shoes. Would you contact a lawyer, a medical professional, an account, who didn’t have a shining review profile?
Using the search query “Immigration lawyer Texas”, almost every single ranking business has hundreds of reviews with an average of 4-5 stars. Chances are, if your client doesn’t have a high review volume and star rating in an industry like this, neither Google nor consumers are going to give them a second glance. Sure, it’s a packed market, but without reviews, your clients can’t even enter the ring, let alone perform the knockout blow.
In short, if you’re speaking with clients in YMYL sectors, it’s vital to emphasize that review management is essential.
When looking at industry relevance, it’s also worth thinking about industries that are more likely to receive positive reviews. For example, Kick Point Inc’s President, Dana DiTomaso, has found that any business relating to pets is going to get heaps more positive, and more detailed, reviews than other industries.
Think about it. People love their pets, so of course, they’re going to leave rave reviews if they have a positive experience. And equally, if they have a bad experience, they’re also going to use several paragraphs to explain why no one should ever visit that business again.
Looking at a search for a Seattle-based pet grooming company, each business has hundreds of super detailed reviews. And the negative ones are just as in-depth.
As such, if your client operates in an industry like this — one where people are likely to be more passionate, for example — they’ll need to be extra-vigilant with review management. A negative review could mean lost business for years to come.
Each client’s industry will offer different benefits of review management, so, along with explaining the wider benefits of online reviews, you’ll want to focus on these more niche examples, too. Think about what you, as a consumer, want to see when you’re making a local search for your client’s business type. Putting yourselves in the consumer’s shoes and making a reasonable argument from their perspective will only enhance the case for review management.
The Facts About Review Management
Once you’ve laid the groundwork — sharing relevant examples, appealing to your client’s emotion, and highlighting the overarching importance – you’ll probably want some stats and cold, hard evidence to support your points. This way you’re ensuring you appeal to clients who want to hear a story as well as those who just can’t get enough graphs and charts.
As always, it’s important to align the content of your pitch to what your client’s goals are, so you don’t waste time on sharing statistics that don’t help your argument.
Do they want to rank better in local search?
Do they want more conversions (website clicks, calls, etc.)?
Or do they need to do some good old-fashioned reputation management (managing and responding to negative reviews)? Depending on what goals you identify with your client, your approach will likely differ.
For example, a business wanting more conversions might want to know how reviews correlate with website clicks. Alternatively, clients only interested in ranking higher will need information on local ranking factors.
So, familiarize yourself with these stats, all of which come from reputable sources of research (including yours truly!)
Online Reviews Influence Consumers’ Actions
Our Local Consumer Review Survey showed that a whopping 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and what’s more, after reading a positive review, 32% of consumers say they’ll go directly to the business’s website.
If that doesn’t scream “conversion metric”, I don’t know what does!
Online Reviews Lead to Website Clicks
Again, highlighting the conversion power of reviews, our Local Services Ads Click Study found that review ratings are the biggest driver of clicks in local SERPs. So, need more site traffic? Get yourself some reviews!
Plus, with the rise of zero-click searches, review ratings are one of the key differentiators to help your client stand out in the local pack. Even if they’re ranking in the top three, think about it: is a customer more likely to click the business with 200+ 4-star reviews, or the one with just a handful?
Online Reviews Lead to Sales
Is your client looking to make more sales? Well then, they might like to know that, according to the Spiegel Research Center, the purchase likelihood for a product with five reviews is 270% greater than a product with zero reviews.
Similarly, Location3’s research shows that improving your review star rating by 1.5 could equal as many as 13,000 more leads.
Of course, these numbers will differ based on your client’s industry and other factors, but nonetheless, are they willing to risk missing out on these potential gains?
Online Reviews Build Trust
If your client is more concerned with building consumer trust, they’ll probably want to know that 91% of consumers say that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business, and that showcasing reviews on your website increases consumer trust.
Consumers Need High Review Ratings to Commit
As consumers continue to navigate a world filled with spam and fake reviews, they’re growing increasingly skeptical. As a result, it should come as no surprise that 35% of consumers will not use a business with less than a four-star rating; consumers read an average of 10 reviews before trusting a business; and 58% of consumers view recency as the most important review factor (Source: Local Consumer Review Survey 2019).
So, without a regular stream of high-rated reviews, your client will be limiting their potential buyers by a great deal.
Consumers Don’t Trust Outdated Reviews
You might also encounter clients who agree that “yes, reviews are important”, but also insist that their two-year-old, five-star review profile is sufficient to win the business of today’s skeptical consumer market.
That means getting a fresh stream of reviews should be among your clients’ top priorities. Having a shiny five-star review profile doesn’t mean a whole lot if it’s not up to date.
Responding to Negative Reviews Increases Visits
Responding to negative reviews is valuable for a whole host of reasons, as we discussed earlier, but it might be worth telling your client that as many as 45% of consumers say they’re more likely to visit a business that responds to its negative reviews. So if your client isn’t responding to those bad reviews, they could be missing out on yet more footfall.
Prepare to Answer These Questions
As a marketing agency or consultant dealing with local business reviews management, there are likely to be a few queries that pop up time and time again. Here, we’ve provided a series of review-related questions you can expect to encounter, and some tips to help you answer them.
“Why should I care about online reviews?”
Here, the answer will vary depending on the goals you’ve determined with your client. But, put simply, you should care about reviews because:
- They’re a local ranking factor
- They build consumer trust
- They help with conversions
- You can’t afford not to
“I manage multiple business locations; how can we deal with review management at scale?”
This will be a common query if you’re dealing with multi-location businesses. The likelihood here is that this client is already feeling overwhelmed. After all, the bigger the business, the more internal hurdles and restrictions there are likely to be.
Here, the answer is simple. Generating reviews for your multi-location business is non-negotiable. If your competitors are doing it (which they almost certainly are), then you need to do it too.
As an agency, you can do things to help here, such as providing your client with the right tips, tactics, and tools, but however they choose to execute it based on their business structure, review management needs to be done.
“We’re doing fine without active review management, so why should I care?”
Every once in a while you may encounter a client who’s actually doing okay, and generating a steady stream of positive reviews. Regardless, that doesn’t mean review management should be entirely neglected, it just means there might be different benefits at play.
Ask your client, “Don’t you want to know what’s being said about your business?”. Review management is just as much about listening to customers as it is looking good on Google. Being proactively involved in review management not only means being able to listen to feedback, but it also means having more control of the conversation.
What are people saying about your brand when they think you’re not listening? And how can you influence the conversation?
“I work in an industry that doesn’t really get reviews. What can I do?”
Let’s face it — there are some industries that are going to struggle with online reviews more than others. I can’t imagine many people eagerly reviewing their DUI attorney publicly, can you?
If that’s the case for your client, you’ll have to work more closely together to determine a successful review strategy that works for their vertical. In a situation like this, it’s key to illustrate that though the project may be more challenging, it’s also more likely to be even more rewarding.
If you’re in an industry where your competitors aren’t getting many reviews either, then having just a handful more reviews could be the difference between you getting chosen over them.
“Can you get rid of my negative reviews?”
There’s always one! Some clients may want you to work wonders and magically remove all of their negative reviews from years’ past. But sadly, not only would that be against most sites’ (definitely Google’s) guidelines, it’s also not possible.
Though it might be tempting to shield your client from the truth, it’s really important to be honest and transparent with your clients here. Do not promise to delete their negative reviews! Instead, work on responding to them, building more positive reviews to push the negative reviews down, and bringing that average star-rating up to something to be proud of.
“My customers don’t do business online. Do I still need reviews?”
Your current customers may come to your storefront to do business with you, but that doesn’t mean they’re not online. And more importantly, it doesn’t mean that other potential customers aren’t going to find them online.
That said, there can still be plenty of value found in taking tactics offline. Google My Business even provides a marketing kit, so businesses can create in-store prompts for reviews and showcase customer feedback in store.
So, businesses can still benefit from in-store conversions from online reviews and can encourage reviews from in-store customers, too.
- Appeal to your client’s emotion: how can reviews transform their business, their quality of service, their lifestyle, their day-to-day?
- Highlight the competition: show your client that their closest competitor is doing review management, and they need to, too
- Be honest: don’t promise to transform a client from position #10 to position #1 overnight
- Do your homework: understand the industry your client is working in and what review sites will resonate most with them
- Explain the facts: use reputable research statistics to support your claims
- Understand your client’s goals: have a clear idea of what your client wants to achieve with review management
- Don’t be afraid to go offline: if clients think review management won’t suit their business or audience, find out the methods that will work for them – even if that means taking marketing offline
Having a review management strategy in this day and age is absolutely necessary to achieve success in local search — whatever your client’s unique goals may be. Your client needs to know that if their competitors are doing it, they should be too.
If you use the process above, I’m confident that you’ll be able to win over even the most apprehensive client, and easily sell them on the endless benefits of online review management.
If you’re looking for more supporting material to help you educate clients on the importance of online reviews, we’ve got you covered.
- BrightLocal: White-label pitch decks
- BrightLocal: 40 Online Review Statistics for 2020
- Google My Business: Help getting reviews on Google
- BrightLocal: Online reviews live Q&A
- BrightLocal: How to Sell and Deliver Reputation Management
- BrightLocal: Local Consumer Review Survey 2019
- Moz: Local Search Ranking Factors
- BrightLocal: Online Reputation Management Survey
- Spiegel Research Center: How Online Reviews Influence Sales
- BrightLocal: Impact of Review Ratings on CTR
- Location3: Positive Google Reviews Improve Paid Search Conversion Rates
- Harvard Business School: Reviews, Reputation and Revenue
- ReviewTrackers: Online Review Survey
- PatientPop: Online Reputation Survey
- GatherUp: Online Reviews Study: Restaurants and Reviews
- Harvard Business Review: Replying to Customer Reviews Results in Better Ratings
We’ll be back next month with another Advance Your Agency to help take your organization to the next level.
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And don’t forget to let us know your experiences with review management in the comments below!