When you meet a customer face-to-face, and they choose to purchase a product from you, that choice is often driven by a personal connection created between your staff (or brand) and the customer. Businesses have been built on the development of these kinds of connections for as long as there have been companies selling goods.
The internet age has created amazing new opportunities but often new challenges. One of these new challenges is figuring out how to draw customers’ trust before you ever get to meet them face-to-face. Online reviews and social sharing changed the equation for consumers. No longer does someone searching for a product has to visit multiple stores to find the best product because they could immediately find “social proof” before ever leaving the house.
What is “social proof?” Social proof is the evidence from trusted sites or sources that reaffirm or help us make our purchase decisions. When we lived in an “old media” world, people looked for social proof in discussions with neighbors or from reading magazines like “Consumer Reports.” But now, in this social media world we live in today, people look to news feeds and review sites for their social proof.
Still not convinced of the importance of reviews? New research shows that almost 70% of Google users use review sites to help them make decisions. Every day, as people find themselves integrating themselves more with social media and smartphones, we will likely only see this percentage increase.
In addition, there are tangible search engine optimization (SEO) benefits to be had from quality and quantity of reviews. As you accumulate more and more positive business reviews, on-site and off-site, you will start to see your local search engine rankings improve (especially if you have done a good job formatting your site so that Google Bots can differentiate where your review content is on your site). Many search engine experts have demonstrated that external and internal reviews are a signal of relevance to Google and to other search engine companies.
How Can You Better Integrate Reviews On Your Site
You can integrate reviews on your site in multiple ways. First, you can highlight external reviews by embedding them on your site where and when it is most appropriate. If you have a page for a particular product or type of installation, embed favorable reviews from trusted sites like Yelp (social proof) on the page to move visitors into your sales funnel.
Another method of integration, create a page on your site that allows customers to directly leave (moderated reviews). Some people don’t want to go to the trouble of creating an account and leaving reviews on sites like Yelp or Tripadvisor, but they might be willing to leave a review on your site (where they have established relationships with you and your staff).
There are some extra added benefits of using one or both of these methods on your site. They can be a way of increasing the presence of important keywords on your site without those keywords appearing to be “stuffed” on your pages (because they are left by your customers). In addition, reviews provide your site with new content on an ongoing basis. And, as we have all heard over and over again when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO), “content is king.”
How Can You Better Encourage Reviews
As much as we might be reluctant to ask your customers for reviews, it has become part of the modern marketing landscape. You might have heard that review sites will penalize people for asking for reviews, but this is not entirely accurate. What review sites, mostly, hate is the providing of incentives to customers in order to ensure large numbers of positive reviews (in essence, hacking the trustworthiness of reviews and making all reviews less reliable).
Once you decide to make encouraging reviews a business goal, start creating an atmosphere throughout your company in which reviews are part of your process of sales process. You should make sure that every staff meeting or leadership meeting makes reviews an enterprise-wide priority.
A good starting place is to train every employee to close their customer interactions with a statement like “if you thought I did a good job today, it would be awesome if you left a review using my name.” When customers have a good customer service experience, the review process can become a means of showing appreciation not just for the business but also for the employee. Often, this can provide that extra motivation that moves a customer from uncertainty to the willingness to leave a review.