Benefits of Reviews

Benefits of Reviews

Online reviews for local businesses are more important than ever. They’re highly trusted, ubiquitous for pretty much every industry, and are hugely beneficial for your business in a number of different ways, from increasing sales to boosting your local search presence. 

In an era where the internet has taken over the world, online reviews are bound to drive customers either towards or away from your business. Making customer satisfaction an essential part of your business strategy can only help your sales and profitability.

What are the benefits of online reviews?

The benefits of online reviews for local businesses span a number of different areas, but key to their usefulness is that they offer social proof, are used as a reference point for local consumers seeking trustworthy local businesses, and are a known local SEO ranking factor. 

Broadly speaking, these advantages can be split into two camps: increased visibility and increased sales. 

Why are reviews important for small businesses when it comes to winning more business?

In the modern digital landscape, there’s simply no getting away from online reviews. They’re woven into the fabric of online consumer behavior so deeply that consumers who don’t seek out, refer to, or use online reviews in their decision-making process are now in the minority.

Reviews Are Frequently Referenced by Consumers Searching for a Local Business

Small businesses are especially well-placed to benefit from a positive review profile. This is largely because 77% of local consumers always or regularly turn to reviews as a source of information when they’re researching a local business. 

This means that a strong review profile can help you to highlight your excellence, especially as consumers will see your reviews when they’re looking at your products or services. 

Reviews Help to Cultivate Trust

While reviews are just one part of the marketing mix, they’re a vital tool in establishing trust, which in itself is a prerequisite for beating the competition to sales, subscriptions, and reservations. 

For small businesses, establishing trust is a major challenge when going head-to-head with larger well-known brands, such as Amazon or Walmart. However, a lack of financial resources isn’t necessarily a hindrance, with research from Tripadvisor confirming that a positive review profile can take the place of a large ad budget. 

Related: Free Online Video Course – ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Generating and Managing Reviews

This research found that modern consumers are increasingly unlikely to be swayed into a purchase by an advert. However, over two-thirds will consult reviews before making a final purchase decision. 

Reviews are a Trusted Source of Information

BrightLocal research confirms that half of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family, while 28% of consumers trust them as much as articles penned by subject-matter experts. Reviews are pieces of information that consumers feel confident believing in, which makes them a very useful business asset.

Review elements are known to give shoppers confidence when it comes to making a purchase, with average star rating, volume of reviews, detail offered in reviews, length of reviews, and recency all useful for enhancing confidence levels. 

Positive Reviews Lead to New Business

We’ve already seen that there’s a strong correlation between online reviews and building consumer trust. Trust is a currency — it’s a means of securing a sale, a reservation, or a booking. 

Trusting a review isn’t a passive action and doesn’t happen in isolation. When consumers trust online reviews, they tend to do something. That action could cover anything from calling the store, visiting the location, buying online, or making a booking. These actions invariably lead to new business and help to grow your revenue. In fact, 40% of shoppers say that consumer reviews and photos make them more likely to buy a product from an advert.

Think of the relationship between positive reviews and new business as a revenue relationship, with the better your review profile, the more revenue you could potentially earn. 

To underline this potential, it’s worth noting that 97% of consumers will only use a local business that has more than two stars, while 40% say a business must have a minimum of four stars to win their custom. Therefore, having a range of good reviews gives you a head start in the race to secure that business over a competitor.

The correlation between online reviews and new business is really a culmination of the positive sentiment we have seen consumers exhibit when it comes to reviews.

When shopping or researching online, there’s no salesperson to turn to, so online reviews from peers provide valuable information about the company, product, or service. Consumers — especially digitally-native Millennials and Gen Z — are predisposed to trusting online reviews and take an almost crowdsourced approach to making decisions.

Feedback from peers, which comes in the form of online reviews, allows consumers to gather data, become aware of potential problems, find out what or who other people have had the best experiences with, and spend their money in line with the majority.

Responding to Reviews Gives Consumers an Insight Into Your Business

For many consumers, how you respond to reviews is very telling and can make or break the tentative impression they’re building of your brand through their research.

Almost 9 out of 10 (89%) consumers are highly or fairly likely to use a local business that responds to all reviews, both good and bad. This is one of the unexpected benefits of review management — it gives you a chance to interact with your customers, thank them for their business, learn from their experiences, and express your company culture to potential shoppers. How you handle negative reviews can also be a positive as you’re demonstrating that you take customer feedback seriously and are committed to offering the best possible levels of service.

Benefits of Reviews for Local SEO

We’ve established that consumers love reviews and, in many cases, use a good or bad review to validate their decision to do business with you. Search engines also take a similar stance.

It should come as no surprise that reviews and SEO are closely linked because they have much the same objective. A search engine wants to help its users find the right product, service, or information in the timeliest manner possible. Reviews serve to separate the good from the bad and help consumers find the best local business for their needs.

Think of reviews as crowdsourced recommendations — a four or five-star review tells a search engine that it can confidently show that business in a premium, high-visibility location.

Review Signals Play a Critical Role in Local Pack Visibility 

It’s hard to overstate the benefits of Google reviews when it comes to Local Pack visibility. Reviews play a vital role in the success or failure of local SEO strategies. Therefore, having a strong local SEO presence is non-negotiable if you want to ensure the long-term success of your business.

To be in with a chance of securing custom, you need to be highly visible to local search users, and for that, you need plenty of reviews. Review signals, including quantity, velocity, diversity, and star rating make up the second-most important Local Pack ranking factor

According to the Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, review signals make up 17% of the search engine decision-making process when it comes to Local Pack rankings. When factoring reviews into algorithms, experts say that metrics such as the number of reviews a business has, the velocity of reviews, and the diversity of reviews received are all taken into account. And, reviews are only growing in importance, having gone up from 12% in 2014 to 17% in 2021.

Having reviews on a number of review platforms, lots of positive sentiment within the reviews, and having product or service keywords within the text of reviews have also been identified as competitive difference-makers by a panel of local search experts.

Google also confirms that the star rating and frequency of the reviews your business receives makes a difference to your search position, saying, “High-quality, positive reviews from your customers can improve your business visibility.” 

Reviews Tick the Quality Box for Good SEO

Building better search rankings isn’t just a case of impressing the automated bots. Google also relies on its human quality control team. 

This makes strong reviews an even more valuable SEO tool. Search Quality Raters can consider review content when deciding whether a business meets the required standards of expertise, authority, and trust needed to rank well.

Why are ratings and reviews important?  

While you’ll inevitably gather online reviews for your brand if you take a hands-off approach, it likely won’t come anywhere near to the volume and freshness of reviews you need to enjoy the local SEO and business benefits outlined.

Regularly acquiring ratings and reviews has a direct impact on how successful your business can be.

Consumers Expect to Read a Lot of Reviews

First up, prioritizing the acquisition of online reviews means you’re much better placed to meet or exceed consumer expectations. The volume of reviews you have matters to today’s consumers, with 69% saying the number of reviews is an important factor. Also, 69% class the range of review sites used by your business as important.

We know that trust strongly impacts sales, so you need to have a large enough stock of reviews to get your prospective customers to feel they have enough information to put their trust in your business.

Consumers Value Quantity and Freshness

From a purely numbers-focused perspective, local consumers value quantity of reviews highly, but they also want to see fresh reviews, with recency of reviews important to 73% of consumers. 

Google Wants You to Have a Lot of Reviews, Too

It’s not just consumers who place importance on a large number of reviews — Google does, too. This is especially important if you’re a Google Ads advertiser because you’ll need at least 100 reviews to activate the seller ratings ad extension.

If you aren’t adding enough reviews on a regular basis, you run the risk of your potential customers moving onto the reviews of your nearest rival and seeing your local SEO rankings slip.

A Poor Reputation is Very Dangerous

We’ve seen all of the positives that come with prioritizing online review management — increased trust, a better reputation, more sales — but the flip side is that a poor reputation is just as impactful, but in a much more harmful way. Negative reviews can convince a consumer that your business can’t be trusted to deliver the standard of service or product quality that they expect. 

A poor review is also easily accessible via search engine results, and unless you successfully get it removed, it will show on the review platform itself, too. These are all potential routes to undermining every single consumers view of your business.

If you’re proactive about reputation management and regularly monitoring online reviews, you’ll be able to offset some of this damage by quickly (and appropriately) responding to negative reviews. You can find our step-by-step guide to replying to negative reviews here.

Customer Feedback Gives You Valuable Insights You Can Use to Improve Your Business

In essence, an online review is simply a description of an experience. It’s one consumer explaining to others how they found your business, the quality of the product or service they received, and how it was to deal with you.

Online reviews are inherently valuable because they put you in your customer’s shoes. This gives you real-world insights into how your business can better serve those it relies on for survival. While they’re the reviews that all business owners dread, negative reviews can actually be the most useful of all.

If you run a hotel and guest reviews routinely mention ‘slow check-in’, for example, you have a heads-up that your process likely needs fine-tuning to ensure a more positive first impression.

What are the advantages of online review sites?

Reviews will happen whether or not you make them a priority for your business. We live in an age where consumers treat online reviews as the norm, rely on them to make purchase decisions, and create an impression of new businesses.

Online reviews are the modern equivalent of a word-of-mouth recommendation and, as such, are incredibly valuable assets that you can leverage by being proactive. 

Online review sites provide a dedicated home for your customer ratings and feedback, along with a range of tools to manage your online review profile. Review platforms, such as Facebook, Google, Yelp, and Tripadvisor are well-known to consumers, and these platforms enable you to gather feedback that you may otherwise not have access to.

There’s no doubt that consumer expectations are high in this area, and that can be daunting for any local business owner or marketer. You need a constant influx of reviews, a high quantity of reviews, new reviews added daily to compensate for older reviews losing value, and even available resources for responding to reviews.

Review platforms make some of those tasks easier by providing a dedicated ecosystem to collect, publicly respond to, and manage your online reviews. 

Jamie Pitman
About the author
Jamie heads up BrightLocal's content team, ensuring we produce insightful articles, research and resources that enable businesses and SEOs to get even better results in local search.