The people (and search engines) have spoken: Online reviews are the make-or-break element to your digital marketing success.
Wait, you may be saying. Make or break?
The answer is yes. Word-of-mouth advertising and social proof have always been the strongest testaments to a business, product or service. It’s no different now in the digital age; in fact, as information becomes much easier to collect, share and discover, word-of-mouth advertising is more potent than ever.
Here are a few things you should know to set your legal, medical or dental practice up for success.
Reviews REALLY Matter.
Consumer behavior has shifted. As the public becomes savvier in recognizing claims written by advertisers, they turn instead to authentic reports from their peers to confirm they are making the right decision. According to a 2016 report from Biznology, 81% of consumers report that they do their research online before making a purchase, and 77% of online shoppers use reviews to make their final purchase decision.
As a consumer yourself, you probably check reviews before you buy products on Amazon or go to a new restaurant; undoubtedly your prospective customers are doing the same when seeking out your services. In fact, upon reading positive reviews, 27% of people state they will call or visit the business immediately without even visiting the company’s website to learn more.
That is to say, for many consumers, a peer review is the single most important factor in a purchasing decision.
Search engines like Google have recognized this shift toward social proof and are adjusting their algorithms, for the local pack especially, giving more weight to companies that have:
- A large number of reviews
- Recent reviews
- A large number of positive reviews
- Responses to negative reviews
Remember that the search engines answer to the consumer – their job is to provide the most informative, most relevant and most trustworthy information they can to help the user complete their search. As such, if consumer behavior demands reviews to make a decision, then it shall be so.
For a visual representation of local pack ranking factors, check out this graph by Local SEO Guide:
Reputation Management Is More Important Than Ever
As the reach of your practice expands, so too does its reputation. And with so many sites offering customers the chance to review their experience with a business online, keeping track of all your reviews and responding accordingly can seem like a daunting task. Nevertheless, digital reputation management is important: BrightLocal reports that 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and that reviews for healthcare or medical services are the third most researched, after restaurants and hotels.
And it’s not just Google reviews that matter: Customers cite Facebook and Yelp as the two most trusted review sites overall. If you have not yet claimed or created profiles on these sites, do so immediately.
It is possible for customers to check in at and leave a review for a business that does not have an official Facebook page. Therefore, if you are not managing your own profile, you are leaving your reputation in the hands of the masses. This is problematic because a disgruntled customer may be more likely to leave an unprompted review than a satisfied customer. Without management across all profiles, you are leaving your reputation – and therefore your rankings – in the hands of your unsatisfied customers.
A Bad Review Isn’t the End of the World
With all research stressing the importance of obtaining a large amount of positive reviews, receiving a review that is less than stellar can feel like a swift kick in the gut. But don’t panic: negative reviews can also help your rankings and reputation when handled appropriately.
It’s safe to say even the best of us have bad days, and not every customer will be pleased with your practice all the time. The first step in handling a negative review is to expect one here and there. Remind yourself that it is normal, and stay calm.
The second step is to respond to the negative review. Your emotions may say otherwise – you may not want to justify their claims with a response. However, it’s important to remember: responding to a review is not for the benefit of the person who left it. It’s for the other potential customers who are researching your business.
BrightLocal’s 2017 consumer review survey reports that 30% of respondents view a company’s response to reviews as a key factor when judging the business. By responding in a calm, brief and level-headed fashion to even the most egregious of claims, you demonstrate professionalism, concern and approachability, and your prospective customers will take note.
Keep Reviews Authentic
There are a few hard and fast rules to follow when you set your sights on increasing your rankings:
- Never buy fake reviews. Not only do 79% of customers say they have spotted a fake review in the last year, but if Google recognizes just 1 fake review, your site will be penalized heavily or even removed from Google listings entirely.
- Don’t incentivize reviews. In Google’s eyes, offering a gift in exchange for a review is the same as buying one.
- Employees should never leave reviews. This is against Google’s policies, and the risk of a penalty is simply not worth it.
- Don’t solicit a ton of reviews all at once. Red flags will be raised if there is suddenly an influx of reviews on your Google listing.
- Avoid writing reviews from within your office location. Search engines can recognize when all reviews come from a single IP address, or even from the same Wi-Fi.
Slow and Steady Wins the Reviews Race
Consistency is the best bet when it comes to harnessing the power of reviews. Seventy-seven percent of consumers don’t pay attention to reviews older than 3 months old, so ongoing review acquisition must be a part of your marketing strategy. Let it become part of the checkout routine for your practice, and train employees to ask for reviews naturally and confidently.
Page 1 Solutions offers a review platform that will not only streamline this process, but also provides a buffer against negative reviews while allowing you to easily manage reviews from across the Internet through a single link.
Page 1 Solutions President and Owner Dan Goldstein says:
“The key to making our reviews platform work is integrating it into your checkout system. You have to make asking about the customer’s experience part of the protocol. Once you ask, if the response is positive, ask if they would mind sharing that feedback online. If they say yes, tell them you will send them a link and ask whether they would prefer to receive it by text or email.”
Happy customers are happy to leave reviews, and 68% do so when asked.
Asking for positive reviews is more important than ever, and Page 1 Solutions can help you make the process easy for all involved. Contact your Internet Marketing Consultant at 800-368-9910 to add the Page 1 Solutions review platform to your site!