THE INCREASING IMPORTANCE OF ONLINE REVIEWS

Effective digital marketing for finance businesses

In today’s digital age, everyone wants to know everything about everyone else. Ideally instantaneously. With pictures!. The abundance of social media platforms provide the tools to do just that.

But increasingly, the social intelligence pool is extending beyond the level of who went to which party, and what everyone had for breakfast. People are talking about products and services, good experiences and bad. Facebook has even introduced a “Looking for recommendations” option.

Which all brings us back to the oldest marketing technique in the book. Word of mouth.

The digital equivalent is online reviews. 90% of consumers admit to being influenced by online reviews about a brand or a product. Indeed, the government’s Competition and Markets Authority estimate that online reviews potentially influence £23 billion of UK customer spending every year.

People want an opinion they can trust, and 85% of consumers claim to trust online reviews as much as they trust recommendations from friends and family.

The growth of social networks, and sharing of information means that any interaction a customer has with a brand could potentially be shared with an audience of millions. The power of networks cannot be underestimated.

So online reviews are now a significant part of the information seeking process that precedes a purchase. It would therefore be foolish to ignore the opportunity that they present.

Whatever your sector: whether you are responsible for digital marketing for finance businesses, business or domestic services, hospitality or any kind of product, online reviews have a key part to play.

So let’s take a look at:

  • The ways online reviews can benefit your business
  • How to generate good reviews
  • How to use and respond to reviews

The ways online reviews can benefit your business

There are three main ways that online reviews can benefit your business:

  • Establishing reputation: Online reviews get your name noticed. The Facebook “Looking for Recommendations” shown above is invaluable in bringing you to the attention of a new audience, for example on local forums. If you are also seen to engage with this audience, then this will help the perception of your brand..
  • Informing business improvement: Online reviews can contain invaluable feedback that can help you to improve your business even further. So don’t be defensive if potential improvements are highlighted, but welcome the feedback and use it in a positive way. The very fact that you are doing this will also improve perception about the way you interact with consumers.
  • Higher traffic and conversion rates: Research by Yext indicates that online reviews can increase click-through rates from SERPs by as much as 153%.

How to generate good reviews

How do you get reviews for your business? As consumers we all get fed up with continually being asked to review our experience or complete a short survey. So how can we do it?

Of course you need to encourage users to leave reviews without them feeling pressured. You have to make them want to do this, and the only way is to ensure that their user experience is so good that they will indeed want to.

Getting the first few reviews is the most difficult: once the quantity grows it encourages others to leave a review too. But don’t be tempted to try and falsify reviews. A recent BBC investigation claimed to find fake online reviews being openly traded on the internet for sites such as Trustpilot and Amazon. Tempting as this may seem, particularly to get you started, it will work against you in the end.

How to use and respond to reviews

Finally you need to decide what you are going to do with reviews once you’ve got them.

The most important thing is to respond to them. Businesses who respond promptly to all reviews are 68% more likely to raise their star rating over a six-month period.

Even if you have a negative review or a complaint, you can use this to positive effect.. If you respond politely within 24 hours this in itself can increase customer advocacy by 25%. You also have the opportunity to address any genuine issues and gently dismiss any unfounded criticism.

Also make sure that your best reviews are given prominence by Google, particularly within local search results. The Google guidelines on how to do this are listed here.

Google typically shows both first-party and third-party reviews in SERPs. First-party reviews are those from your business’s website. Third-party reviews come from other sites such as Google My Business, Yelp or Facebook.

First-party reviews will be given star ratings by Google in organic SERP results. Google’s rationale for doing this is that it gives potential customers a current and transparent view of your business.

It is therefore even more important that you get good reviews in order to gain maximum value from them. Again, this comes back to offering customers an experience that delights them so much that they simply have to tell everyone about it.

It should come as no surprise that, even in today’s digital world, word of mouth still matters. But what an opportunity lies before us if we apply all the tools of technology at our disposal to multiply its power and harness it to build our businesses.