Online Reviews: The Local Marketing Tool You Cannot Ignore

Over the weekend, I had to call a towing service after my husband’s car broke down a few blocks from our house.

I quickly searched for “towing services” and received a number of results that were close to our location.

The search results included a Google map that showed each company’s location and the number of Google reviews and rating for each company.

Here’s what it looked like:

Google reviews

If you look at these search results, which company do you think I selected?

If you guessed Ab Collier Towing, you would be right.

No, they were not the first company listed. But, they were the one with the most positive Google reviews.

I quickly looked at the reviews for Ab Collier and they were overwhelming positive. I also noticed that the company is close to my location, so they were the perfect choice.

I never visited the company’s website or connected with them on social media channels. I simply selected the company based on their Google reviews.

In fact, when looking at the competing towing companies, most of them have far superior websites. And one company even has an active Facebook page.

But, when it came to making a quick buying decision, I trusted the reviews from customers.

The Power of Online Reviews

Think about the times you have to choose a doctor, hire an attorney or look for a florist. How do you make that decision?

Oftentimes, we turn to recommendations from our friends and family to make buying decisions.

But, when you’re in a hurry or if you want to do some of your own research, whom do you trust?

The recommendations from other customers.

Although we trust reviews from friends the most, one study showed that 46 percent of customers trust customer reviews. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

If you’re looking for a larger B2B solution, such as technology company or architecture firm, you probably won’t hire a company simply based on reviews. However, you might be more inclined to click on the link for companies with higher ratings.

That’s why local companies simply cannot ignore the power of online reviews – especially Google Reviews. It’s a powerful marketing tool that can help open the door for prospects looking for your solution.

Getting Started with Google Reviews

As you noticed in the example above, Google reviews show up with map search results for non-branded keyword searches (i.e. “Nashville Towing Service”) and even when people search for your company (“Ab Collier”).

That’s why Google reviews are so important.

But, before people can start leaving reviews for your business, you must verify your company through Google Places for Business.

Once you’ve done that, you can now manage your reviews from Google Places. Last week, Google announced that they are rolling online reviews into Google Places for Business. This makes it much easier for businesses to read and respond to reviews all in one place.

Then, once you’ve verified your Google Places page, there are a few important things to point out regarding Google Reviews:

  • It takes at least four or five reviews before Google will start displaying the stars next to your company name.
  • You cannot post reviews for your customers. They must post reviews through their own Google account and on their own computer. That means, you cannot set up a kiosk or computer for them to log reviews.
  • You can encourage customers to leave reviews, but you can’t pay them or hire companies to write fake reviews. See more guidelines here.

If you need help getting started with Google Places and Google Reviews, here’s an excellent primer that walks you through it.

And, here are some additional tips to help you optimize your Google Places page to get more traffic.

Don’t Ignore Other Online Review Sites

Although Google Reviews have a big impact on search results, it still makes sense pursue customer reviews through other sites such as Yelp, CitySearch and the Better Business Bureau.

And, depending on your industry, there might be other websites you should focus on. For instance, attorneys should pay attention to Avvo and Lawyers.com and restaurants should remember OpenTable, Zagat and Trip Advisor.

You can also collect customer reviews through your social media channels.  That can be another way to offer social proof for potential customers.

How to Ask for Customer Reviews

If you want positive customer reviews for your business, you must ask for them. Although some customers will write reviews without prompting, you will get better results if you request reviews and testimonials as part of your process.

Here are some tips to help you get more testimonials and online reviews for your business. The key is to make it easy for customers and ask when the time is right.

If you don’t make online reviews a priority, you could easily be losing business to companies that are focused on shining in this area.

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  • Neicole Crepeau

    The one thing I’d note is that because companies have been found to buy reviews, I actually take the time to read them to see if they look fake, if the people’s profiles look real, if they are obviously written by non-English speakers, etc. It sucks that companies are buying fake reviews, but many also feel mistreated by companies like Yelp. And reviews have become so important, they are sometimes willing to go to any length. However, if discovered, that can really backfire on a company, so I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Great point, Neicole. It’s sad that we can’t take the rating or number or reviews at face value because so many people are scamming the system. Thankfully, in my case, I read the reviews and they all shared stories of wonderful customer service. My experience proved to be similar. I think you can typically tell the authentic comments from those that are bought.

      • http://www.ltc-associates.com/ LTCA INC

        I was going to make the same remark as Neicole– that I also take the time to read the reviews (to ensure there’s no fakes) and don’t simply get “awed” by the stars.

        There’s an additional reason beyond simply phony reviews (which I think are probably overhyped than exist in reality)– it’s to glean useful, actionable information about the product or service.

        For instance, we were choosing a new laptop for my wife just last week and someone on Amazon gave a particular model 4 stars instead of 5. Upon further review, we discovered the reviewer LOVED the laptop itself but couldn’t give 5 stars because she was having so much difficulty learning Windows 8. As a commenter corrected her, she probably should’ve given the laptop 5 stars (so as not to mislead future shoppers), and written a separate review of Windows 8 (the operating system that ships with virtually ALL new laptops nowadays) elsewhere. THAT’S why you have to read the entire review…