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When did you last look up reviews of a business online? Chances are, it was very recently. According to a study by Bright Local, 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020, which is up from 81% in 2019. With the vast majority of people using reviews to inform their purchasing decisions, it’s an area of your business you simply can’t ignore. 

While online reviews are important for any business, they are even more crucial for small enterprises. They help to build trust, get you noticed and reach new customers, so it’s critical that you have a strategy for gathering reviews and making sure they’re as positive as possible.

Furthermore, a study by Harvard Business School found that even a one-star improvement on Yelp leads to a boost of between 5% and 9% on sales in the short term, so every little helps when it comes to improving your review score as it directly impacts your revenue. So, here’s a deeper look at why online reviews are so important, what you can do to encourage reviews and the best sites to get featured on.

Why online reviews are so important

  • Reviews provide legitimacy for small businesses – if a customer stumbles across your website but has never heard of you before, they may be hesitant to purchase. So they turn to reviews, and if there are none to be seen, that only adds to their concern. Even just a small number of positive reviews could be enough for customers to trust you. 
  • Your SEO will get a boost – reviews count as positive content that will be picked up by algorithms and hopefully push you further up in search results. Google understands that good reviews signify a high quality product, and will push those quality businesses to the top of results.  Reviews are also likely to feature keywords related to your business, which helps Google better understand your brand and rank it accordingly.
  • They can double up as content for your social media – post a screenshot or nice graphic of a great review on the company’s Instagram or Facebook to highlight what customers love about you. This helps more people see the positive review and also fills in a spot on your content calendar so it’s a win-win! 
  • Valuable feedback – don’t forget the actual content of the reviews themselves – they can be a very valuable source of information. If you see the same concerns cropping up over and over in your reviews, that suggests it’s an area that needs improvement. They will also highlight your strengths so you know what’s working well.

How to encourage customers to leave a review

Now that we know how important reviews are to small businesses, we need to know the best ways to encourage customers to leave one. The most simple answer to this is: just ask! Whether it’s verbally, on your website or in an email, directly asking for a review can have a great success rate, but here’s some other ideas to boost your numbers.

  • Make it as easy as possible – include a direct link to your reviews page in an email, add a QR code to physical items like receipts or have a pop-up form appear on your site after a purchase. The less steps a customer has to take, the more likely they are to leave the review.
  • Respond to the reviews you receive – if customers can see that you take the time to reply to reviews, thank them for their feedback and address any concerns, they’re much more likely to leave a review themselves as they know they will be listened to and appreciated. 
  • Offer an incentive – offer a discount, gift card or even a donation to charity as a thank you. However, it’s very important to make it clear to customers that the reward is for any kind of review, not just a positive one. You’re not trying to bribe them!
  • Provide multiple options – allow customers to leave feedback in various places, from different devices and in multiple ways. This lets them select the option that suits them best and means you won’t lose the review if they’re put off by a particular process. 

The best review sites to be featured on

  • Google reviews – registering on Google My Business is a must for several reasons, one of which is that it allows reviews to be left for your company. Google reviews receive the highest traffic and tend to be the go-to destination for consumers, so it should also be the first place you make sure to get featured.
  • Facebook – reviews on Facebook are prominently displayed on your profile, so it’s very valuable to have a good amount of positive reviews here as well as your own website or other review sites. With 2 billion monthly active users (66% of which are active every day), it’s likely that a high volume of your customers are on Facebook regularly – make sure they can see why everyone loves you!
  • Trustpilot – this features a huge variety of businesses and multiple categories, so it ranks well in search results and is highly trusted by consumers. No matter what industry you’re in, you should be at home on Trustpilot. Plus, reviews from here can be easily embedded on your website.
  • Industry-specific sites – hospitality businesses should have a profile on TripAdvisor and Yelp, beauty salons can be featured on Treatwell and so on. Find out if a review portal exists for your industry and make sure you’re on it, because your competition will be!

It’s clear that reviews can have a huge impact on your small business, but thankfully it doesn’t have to be difficult to boost public opinion and get customers’ praise online. Small but regular actions can greatly increase the number of positive reviews you receive, and the knock-on effects of that can’t be underestimated. 

Contact us if you’d like more information or advice on reviews and any digital marketing.