With 85% of consumers saying they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, online customer reviews on major sites like Google, Yelp and Facebook have tremendous potential to drive sales for local businesses.
In fact, study after study shows local business star ratings have a huge, measurable impact on sales. Cornell University found that hotels could increase total revenue by 11.2% simply by gaining 1 extra star in their Travelocity reviews from 3.3 to 4.3 stars. And UC Berkeley economists found that restaurants sell out 19% more often when they gain just half a star rating from 3.5 to 4.0!
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So you owe it to yourself to take your online customer reviews very seriously.
In this article, you’ll learn the 3 simple metrics that separate the successful review profiles from the unsuccessful. You’ll also learn what specific goals you need to achieve for each metric to drive sales. And you’ll get actionable tips on how to move these metrics in the right direction.
Metric #1: Quality
The “quality” of your review profile is measured by your average star rating.
One important point here: What counts is what customers see, not the actual average.
For example, Yelp shows customers a 3.5-star rating if your customer reviews have an average of 3.74stars. But Yelp shows a 4.0-star rating if the average of all reviews is 3.75.
Remember that UC Berkeley study where they found restaurants with 4.0 stars sold out 19% more often than restaurants with 3.5 stars? That study was based entirely on restaurants with almost identical averages around 3.75 stars. The study proved it’s customer perception of 3.5 stars versus 4.0 stars that matters… not the average of all reviews. So customer perception is everything!
Goal: Beat competitor star ratings, and get at least 4 stars, ideally either 4.5 or 5 stars.
A whopping 49% of consumers say they need to see 4 stars or more to prefer a business, according to a BrightLocal consumer survey.
Even if you achieve 4+ stars, you still need to raise the bar if a competitor has a higher star rating.
Tip: Raise the quality metric with pre-screening.
Pre-screening simply means asking customers how satisfied they are before encouraging them to write a review.
One highly effective technique is to follow up with each customer after you conclude business. Send them an email or text message. Thank them for their business. Let them know you value their feedback. Then ask how they would rate their experience on a 5-star scale.
When a customer gives a high rating that will lift your average star rating, seek a review. Thank them kindly and encourage them to leave a review on the review site that will most help your business.
But when a customer gives you a low rating that would lower your average star rating, don’t seek a review.
Instead, ask them how you could have made their experience better. If you can do something to turn their low rating into a high rating, go for it! If not, then at least learn from them how to make improvements that avoid future customers being similarly unhappy.
Metric #2: Quantity
The “quantity” of your review profile is measured by the number of customer reviews you have.
This metric should not count any reviews that are filtered out, such as Yelp’s notorious “not currently recommended” reviews.
A high quantity of reviews tells people they can believe your star rating. If you have 5 stars from 1 review, no one believes the 5-star rating is accurate. But if you have 5 stars with 100 reviews, everyone believes the 5-star rating is accurate.
Goal: Get at least 20 reviews.
With 20 reviews or more, only 7% of consumers say they need more reviews to find your star rating credible. And let’s face it, you just can’t please everyone, so pleasing 93% of people are pretty darn good.
Tip: Raise the quantity metric with…well…more quantity.
The key to increasing review quantity is almost too obvious: Encourage more customers to write online customer reviews.
Don’t rely on signage or—worse still—the goodwill of happy customers. Take control of your own destiny and actively reach out to customers in an appropriate way. Send a warm follow-up email or text message. Thank them for their business and encourage them to leave a review (after pre-screening, of course).
Also, maximize the number of online customer reviews you get for every 100 customers you reach out to.
The best way to do this is to make sure the link you give customers is well optimized. Give customers a link that makes it as easy as possible to leave a review. If your link is even slightly confusing, you’ll get very few—if any—reviews, no matter how ecstatically happy your customers are.
For Google reviews, it can be very difficult to get the right link. Don’t copy and paste from Google search results or Google Maps. These URLs have all sorts of problems.
First of all, they’re not in a standard format Google supports. This means some customers will experience “technical difficulties” and not see the same page you think they’ll see.
These copy/paste Google links also force the customer to a page they find confusing. Once confused, they give up and abandon the process.
Instead, use a freely available Google review link generator to generate the correct URL for your business. This link generator gives you a URL that Google supports officially…so no “technical difficulties” for customers. And the link gives customers a page that’s crazy-easy to just click a star and write a review without any confusion.
Metric #3: Recency
The “recency” of your review profile is measured by how much time has elapsed since your last review.
An amazing 77% of consumers say that a review won’t influence their buying decisions if it’s older than 3 months! In fact, 18% of consumers need a review that’s 2 weeks old or newer.
Goal: Get a new review every 3 to 7 days on average.
If you normally get a new review every 3 to 7 days, you’ll always have a review that’s younger than 2 weeks old, satisfying the vast majority of consumers.
But be careful not to get too many! Yes, you heard that right. It’s possible to get too many reviews.
When you get too many reviews too fast, you may trigger the review site’s fraud detection algorithms.
All the major review sites have algorithms to battle against review spammers. These algorithms are not perfect. They routinely filter out perfectly legitimate reviews as “fake reviews.” So don’t think you can’t be dinged for fake reviews just because all your reviews are authentic.
Tip: Systematize your review outreach.
Make sure someone is responsible for reaching out to customers on a daily or weekly basis to pre-screen them and encourage new reviews.
The best time to reach out to a customer for a review is immediately after concluding business with them. That’s when their emotions are still strong and their memory is still vivid.
By reaching out to your latest customers on a daily or weekly basis, you’ll never wait too long after concluding business to have a good chance at getting a positive review.
How to Make 2 + 2 Equal 5
Something magical happens when you master all 3 metrics for your review profile. When you beat your competitors and show excellent quality, quantity and recency, suddenly the majority of new customers searching review sites come to the same conclusion: You’re the one they want to do business with.
2 Outa 3 Ain’t Good
When you get just 2 out of 3 metrics right, the magic doesn’t quite happen.
When you get a high-quality profile with a 5-star average review rating, but not enough quantity of reviews, no one believes the 5 stars. They think your mom and her sketchy biker buddies just faked all your reviews.
When you get hundreds of online customer reviews, but have a 3-star average rating, then your high quantity of reviews makes your mediocrity very credible—backfire!
When you get a great 5-star average with hundreds of reviews, but only a couple reviews were left in the last year, most customers wonder what suddenly caused all your customers to stop saying nice things about you. (Not a good sign.)
The Magic Formula
But when you get all 3 metrics in good shape, and better than your local competitors, magic happens.
When you have a high average star rating, a high quantity of reviews, and a steady flow of recent reviews, everyone has great confidence that your excellent star rating is credible and currently relevant.
This is when the magical formula of 2 + 2 = 5 happens.
The magic comes from the fact that customer review marketing is a “winner takes all game.”
If you’re clearly the #1 best business in your local area according to your review profile, you’ll get the majority of new business that review site generates. A few scraps may fall to the #2 business, and maybe some crumbs to the rest.
So when you go from #2 to #1, the sales you can generate from review sites explodes disproportionately from every other step you took on your journey up to the #2 spot.
Wow, did you just make it to the end of this article? Way to go! Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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