How Online Reviews Can Make or Break Your Business
Your customer is staring at the screen, hovering over your buy button, and they can’t shake the feeling that they might be about to waste their money.
Finally, their cursor slips back to Google, where they throw “…reviews” at the end of the search query. They don’t come across anyone talking about your product, but instead find few about a competitor.
If people can’t find what others are saying about your product or service, then this scenario is a daily reality for your would-be customers.
Traditional advertising is losing its advantage. People have always trusted their friends’ opinion, and now, just about anyone can be your customers’ friend online.
As consumers we’re predisposed to respond to recommendations, rather than promotions. We trust honesty, skeptical of sales copy. Above all, we want be convinced by people like us to give in to our temptations.
If someone is considering handing money over to you, it means they’re tempted. They will look for reasons to buy.
All you have to do is give them reasons they feel they can trust, which means they can’t come from you.
The Secrets To A Lucrative Review Campaign
Review campaigns are efficient converters if done correctly.
In order to translate into increases in sales, they need to be optimised in four ways
- Schema Markup
- 3rd Party Reach
- Reputation Management
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
1. Schema Markup: Make Your Reviews Impossible for Google to Ignore
People don’t link to reviews, so how are we supposed to get ours some visibility in the search results?
Schema markup and social signals are all the search engines really have to go by.
We’re covering social signals in section two, so here’s an overview of what you need to know to have your reviews indexed and properly organised to make them accessible to search engines.
Schema.org markup is the metadata convention that the major search engines (Google, Bing, and Yahoo!), agreed to use as the standard way to make web content more accessable to them.
Implemented properly, it makes sense of, and helps to organise structured data structured data.
Use the “itemscope” attribute in a <div> tag to tell the bots that everything in this division is about one particular “thing”, which you’re about to specify.
<div itemscope> </div>
Use the “itemtype” attribute to link to Schema’s page about reviews, telling the search bots where you’re getting your markup from. This leaves it looking like this:
<div itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/Review”> </div>
Finally, add an “itemprop” attribute to this tag, and every other tag within it that you want the machines to understand. The itemprop name for a review is simply “review”, so our division ends up like this:
<div itemprop=”review” itemscope itemtype=“http://schema.org/Review”> </div>
Let’s look at an example taken from the Schema.org webpage on reviews.
5 stars – “A masterpiece of literature”
by John Doe. Written on May 4, 2006
I really enjoyed this book. It captures the essential challenges people face as they try to make sense of their lives and grow to adulthood.
<div itemprop=”review” itemscope itemtype=”http://schema.org/Review”>
<span itemprop=”reviewRating”>5</span> stars -
<b>”<span itemprop=”name”>A masterpiece of literature</span>” </b>
by <span itemprop=”author”>John Doe</span>,
Written on <meta itemprop=”datePublished” content=”2006-05-04″>May 4, 2006
<span itemprop=”reviewBody”>I really enjoyed this book. It captures the essential
challenge people face as they try make sense of their lives and grow to adulthood.</span>
You can go further into the world of Schema.org markup and make full use of all the attributes and properties that it offers you, but the above is all you need to get started and to label the essential elements of a review in a way the search engines will understand.
If it’s all a bit daunting there are a few markup generators out there which you might want to try-out.
A bit of Schema markup makes your reviews stand-out in the search results. Searchers prefer to click on links that have a picture and/or a line of stars next to them which will have a huge impact on your click-through-rates. If you’re running ads in Google Adwords, why not give your landing page every advantage it can get?
2. Persuasion: Turn Customers into Spokespeople
Ask and you’ll receive.
Companies are constantly leaving opportunity on the table when it comes to reviews. It’s anyone’s guess as to why, considering how easy it is to tap this resource. Take this chance to get an edge.
There a a few ways to go about it:
Follow up email. You have your customers’ email addresses, so make use of them. Make it a simple one-click-at-a-time process, perhaps with the words, “Are you satisfied with our service?” and a binary option below, which opens up a fast-loading page with the words “…almost done.” at the top, and a single extra box to fill in a quick reason for their answer. Don’t ask your customers to fill out a survey. Most people imagine they’ll be committed to pages of questions.
Calls to Action. Where would it be appropriate in your site to ask for a review? Perhaps at the end of a tutorial blog post that helps your customers solve a common problem? Blog comments are better than nothing, but perhaps it’s worth directing people’s attention to something a little higher in return.
Social Media. People like to talk. And nowhere do they talk more online than on social media sites. On-site reviewing presents a mental barrier. The customer isn’t used to your domain, or your interface. It’s new and scary. But they’ll turn around to tweet in the next moment without hesitation. There is opportunity in the connection you have with the social web, and exploiting it can be as easy as tweeting, “Tell us what you think.” Consider having a section of your site that displays the best tweets you’ve ever received.
Incentivise. Asking nicely works on some people. Others need a little more of a push. Stay well away from gifts that could be construed as paying for reviews (i.e. discounts on future purchases), as this will discredit the reviews that you do manage to get. We’ve been trained to be suspicious of internet content at the best of times, so do everything you can to maintain trust. A good alternative is to offer a prize draw, or to donate to a cause. Any kind of incentive is risky to your reputation with not-yet-customers, so to be safe keep these offers to follow up emails and make it very clear that the incentive doesn’t depend on whether the review is positive or negative.
3. 3rd Party Reach: Have Spokespeople Everywhere Online
72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, as long as they find them on an impartial review site such as Reevoo or Epinions, or on the marketplace site where they reached your brand, such as Amazon or Google Checkout.
Google Shopping seller ratings are aggregates of ratings pooled together from all relevant review sites on the web, including reviews left on your own site, so long as you’ve implemented Schema markup properly (see above).
While social media can be powerful, the highest return on time investment will always be spent on the sites where people go specifically to talk about products and services, and to either persuade or dissuade others from using yours.
Enter into these targeted conversations and take an active role.
Answer people’s questions or deal affectively and professionally with concerns that are raised, and don’t be shy about linking to pages that list your product or service. Remember, 3rd party reviews are seen as more trustworthy, so encourage them!
4. Reputation Management: Use Everything to Your Advantage
A bad review will help you.
Consumers who go out of there way to read bad reviews are 67% more likely to convert than the average shopper, and 30% suspect censorship when there are no negative reviews to be found. I know I fall into that category.
A caveat to this is that if the majority of reviews are negative, the impact is of course to deter most potential customers. There is a balance.
In order to strike it, we need to manage our online reputations by tackling negative reviews head on. Listen to what’s being said, as the feedback alone can be invaluable. To stay completely on top of it, keep a spreadsheet of negative reviews. This way, you can search and compare what customers wish were different. See what’s cropping up repeatedly, and if it’s clear something needs to change, you can now allocate resources to solving a problem that you can be sure will boost your business in the future.