Why Are Review Sites so Important?
Review sites are the modern consumer’s ‘word-of-mouth’. Because we all buy products online these days, it’s not always possible to rely on our friends’ and family’s experience. So, instead, we rely on dozens, hundreds or even thousands of other consumers just like us. We leave reviews for good service, bad service, or just because we feel like, and that’s at the heart of the online economy.
Stars and ‘out-of-ten’ ratings systems are so effective because of the way the human mind works. We love things that are quick and easy, but above all, simple. No matter what language you speak (or how many you’ve had to drink on a Friday night) you can still tell that a 4.8 star takeaway is probably nicer than the 3.5 star one down the road. It’s so simple in fact that as consumers, we’ve come to rely on reviews for almost all of our purchases, and even the difference between 4.7 and 4.8 stars can prove enough to drive business towards (or away) from you. That’s why it’s important to collect as many positive reviews as possible!
To do just that, you can use our list of the very best free customer review sites below. You can sign up for each one with your business listing so that customers can start leaving reviews for you across multiple platforms. Take a look!
Google Business Reviews
Type in the name of any business in Google, and you’ll see Google’s own star rating pop up on the right hand side of the page. Because of Google’s dominant position in search, this is the first thing that many of your potential customers see! This is completely free to do, and is often the first port of call for customers wanting to learn more about your business, since they’re likely to Google you.
Pros: The sheer number of people that will see your star rating is a huge benefit. You’ll also automatically be listed on Google Maps, and as we said, it’s all for free. It helps more customers find you, and you don’t even have to give Google data that they didn’t have access to before (if that’s something you’re concerned about).
Cons: There really aren’t any downsides to listing your business for free on Google. The only problem is that you have plenty of competition, especially in local listings. When someone searches on Google or Google Maps for a pizzeria in Sheffield, you’re going to have all the other local businesses on there too. The trick to overcome the competition is as simple as garnering more reviews, add more photos and adding as much company information as possible!
Your Website Reviews
Next, we’ve actually included your own site! Customers already trust your site for different kinds of info. Say you run a restaurant: they’ll visit your site to find out where you are, your phone number, and even your menu and prices. It’s a natural extension of that trust for them to check reviews on your site. Of course, it’s important to be honest: a customer might not believe that you have 1,150 five star reviews.
Pros: You already build trust through your site. Showcasing your reviews is a good way to use that trust.
Cons: You have to be honest, but at the same time, it doesn’t look good if you’re showing off a 3.5 star rating on your site. The same applies if you don’t have any reviews at all, or you only have a few.
Reviews on Yelp
Yelp is the biggest online review aggregator out there: that’s why it’s one of the sites you should start with. In fact, they’re so big that Boston Consulting Group reported that businesses on Yelp earned an average of $23,000 (or about £17,000) just from business they gained on the site. You won’t earn that in your first year, but the point is that as you accumulate reviews, you’ll build customer trust and start earning more. If you don’t know, Yelp works very simply: customers leave reviews, and you can respond to those reviews however you see fit. Yelp was one of the first sites to offer that kind of service, and now there are plenty of copycats!
Pros: Yelp is the biggest site for online reviews. You’ll be easy to find and will earn plenty of reviews in no time.
Cons: The average revenue increase includes businesses that advertise on Yelp, which you’ll have to pay for.
Bing Places Reviews
Bing is Microsoft’s search engine. Like Google, they offer tools like maps and business listings. Their Bing Places service is like an old fashioned directory that allows customers to leave reviews. It’s all part of Microsoft’s effort to oust Google as the royalty of online search!
Pros: Bing is the default search engine on plenty of phones, PCs, tablets and laptops (as well as Internet Explorer/Edge). It’s also the default search engine for Amazon’s Alexa, which really seems to be taking off at the moment. In short, you’re going to be appearing in plenty of searches.
Cons: You won’t get as much traffic as you will through Google, and people still trust or prefer Google to Bing. Still, you can’t complain if it’s for free!
Facebook isn’t a reviews site by default, but it is one of the many services that the platform offers. Like other sites, you can reply to reviews, and customers can access and compare star ratings between businesses.
Pros: You can message customers directly through Facebook, and they’re much more likely to see it than if you reply on- say- Yelp. You can also take advantage of Facebook’s Community feature, where you can answer common questions about your products.
Cons: Few people go to Facebook to figure out which restaurant to go to tonight. More common are customers who had a problem with their visit and find Facebook to be the easiest way to get in touch. So you’ll be using Facebook more for customer experience management than building reviews. If anything, especially if you run a big business, communicating with customers through Facebook could even become a hindrance depending on your audience. Take a look at your competition and what they’re doing with regards to Facebook: that might give you a clue as to whether it’s a good idea.
How Do I Use Them?
So, to wrap up, we thought that it’s actually quite important to explain exactly what you’d be spending your time doing on these sites. The point is to take back control of how customers view your business, by doing the following:
- Addressing customers’ concerns. Not only does this address the issue at hand, but it makes you look great to potential customers too.
- Responding to good reviews. Make a happy customer even happier by responding with a genuine, thankful message for them.
- Responding to negative reviews as well. If anything, this is even more important. Responding reasonably and offering vouchers or coupons in response to complaints makes your business look good; plus, you’re making unhappy customers happy. Win-win.
- Requesting the removal of reviews that are obviously fake. For one reason or another, some people leave fake reviews, having never even been to your restaurant or bought a product from your E-commerce site. If it’s obviously the case, most sites will remove these reviews for you, so that they don’t drag down your rating.
And really? That’s the long and short of it! We recommend that you start with one- probably Google Business- before any of the others. Google Business does so much, all in one go: it gives customers a platform to leave reviews and contact you, it links to your site and provides your phone number for customers, it lets you show customers photos of your business and boosts your presence in Google searches and on Google Maps. Plus, it’s free to set up… So start there!
Get a hang of one, and then two, before you dive into each. Responding to customer queries and complaints is a fine art, and one that can either make your business look very, very good or very, very bad. Scaling up from a slow start is definitely the way to go. It’s such a simple thing to do, but by managing your reputation- and all of it for free- you’ll be boosting your online presence in no time.