four and a half stars 300x56 You’ve heard online reviews are important for your business, but just how much power do they really have? For a marketing strategy to be worth your time, it needs to generate traffic, conversions and strong customer relationships. Customer reviews can have a positive impact on all three if you understand how to incorporate them into your search engine marketing.

Customer Reviews as a Marketing Strategy

Imagine walking into a store or visiting a website at without any prior knowledge of the business versus seeking out a brand your friends love. The way you view the company will be more favorable if you approach it with the expectation of having a good experience. Perhaps because of this, 88 percent of customer trust online reviews as much as personal endorsements, and 90 percent seek out reviews before going to a business. Companies without reviews are likely to get overlooked in favor of those collecting consistent consumer feedback.

The Effect of Reviews on SEO

By providing fresh user-generated content and social proof of the authority of your business, reviews have many of the factors search engines look for when deciding how to rank sites. The unique and valuable nature of reviews also affects where your site appears in the SERPs. Google in particular appreciates value-added content, and 72 percent of customers require the kind of value found in reviews as a motivation for making purchases.

Four Best Practices to Encourage Customer Reviews

Having reviews begets more reviews if you make it easy for customers to share their opinions about your brand. Try these four tactics to gather feedback and increase your company’s visibility in search:

1. Let Customers Know Where to Review

In addition to enabling reviews on your business site, claim profiles on Google, Facebook and industry-specific review sites. Post signs at your physical store to show where customers can leave their opinions or tuck a postcard listing review options into each bag with customers’ purchases.

2. Send a Follow-Up Email

Collect email addresses during checkout at your store or allow online customers to opt in to receiving marketing messages. Shortly after a purchase is made, send an email asking for a review. Emails can be automatically generated following online purchases or sent as a targeted campaign based on consumer buying habits.

3. Ask About the Experience

Emailing a poll or posting one on social media is another way to gather vital feedback. Create a quick survey, post it on your social profiles and encourage your customers to share it with friends who are also fans of your brand.

4. Have a Contest

Offering an incentive in exchange for a positive review is prohibited by legitimate review sites, but there are still ethical ways to give reviewers some perks. Holding a giveaway in which you pick a reviewer at random to receive a prize doesn’t take review content into account and can prompt people to leave reviews when they might otherwise not bother. However, since the process is based on chance, you must be comfortable with the possibility of a negative reviewer winning the prize and be ready to follow through even if you don’t agree with what they have to say.

From brick-and-mortar retail stores to service providers, collecting online reviews can benefit any type of business when used as part of a complete marketing strategy. It’s never too late to start collecting reviews and reaping the benefits of the related boost in search engine rankings. See also The Importance of Online Business Listings & Reviews as Ranking Factors and Online Reviews: Managing the good, the bad, and even the ugly.

Let us help you develop a strong marketing strategy today, and continue to focus on gathering customer feedback to improve the visibility and reputation of your business.

See also “Yelp Business Pages and Monitoring Yelp Reviews

Image by Andreas 06 (based on Image:4hvof5.png created by WB) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons