Long before the internet, when I was about to make a large purchase, I would ask family, friends and neighbors who they would buy from. Sure, I could read the promises the companies made about their products, but I am a marketer, so I read anything a company publishes with a little bit of skepticism. 

Online Reviews Changed Everything

Then along came the internet, and suddenly I didn’t even need to pick up a phone to find out what my friends and family think about the newest restaurant in town, a new model car or a local heating and air conditioning company. People share their opinions on social media, on company websites and online review sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, Angie’s List and CNet to name a few.
Online reviews are big business with more and more popping up all the time. Exploring the trend and trying to figure out what the emphasis on online reviews would mean to our customers, I dove into a recent study by Bright Local here are some of the most interesting data points and what they mean for you. 

84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation

In an age when we see each other less and less often, your customers are turning to online review sites to read about you. It is important that they find recent, positive information because 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.

So what do your customers say about you? 

Don’t leave it to chance. Develop a program to proactively ask for reviews in person, on the phone and in emails with links to the online review site. Make it easy for your customers to share positive information about you. The Bright Local study found that 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to. Based on our experience that is a little high, but even if only 1 out of 10 customers write a review, that will give you a steady stream of new information prospective customers can turn to and learn more about your business. 
Don’t be discouraged if you only have a few reviews right now. It isn’t the quantity, but the quality which makes the biggest impact to a potential customer.  When forming an opinion about a business, 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business. So focus on creating great experiences and then ask for reviews. 
I am a numbers geek and could talk about the study line by line but I won’t. If you are curious, you can read the entire report here.  

Local SEO Benefits of Online Reviews

In addition to the ability to convince customers you are the right choice, online reviews have another very important benefit. When a customer writes an online review they use the words and phrases other prospective customers are likely to use to search for your company. So encourage people to write reviews you can share on your website. You will increase your key word count in a natural way. 
In addition, local search engines which are in the business of providing people accurate and relevant information to help them make decisions on future purchases use reviews and star ratings to answer questions. That’s why Google has been actively promoting their Google online review tool. The more positive data they can collect about a company, the more likely they will be to promote that company. 
The bottom line is the more online reviews of your business on external sites and your own website the better it will be for your SEO. 
A few years ago Jared Juiett and I talked about the process of gathering online reviews. Listen Now

Thinking about adding customer reviews to your website?  Check out Peter’s blog on how to do that in simple and interesting ways. 

3 Quality Designs For Your Customer Reviews Page