Why Customer Reviews Can’t be an Afterthought in 2021
If you promote your business on Yelp, Google, Facebook, or HomeAdvisor, you probably ask for customer reviews to fill out your business profile. Nice to have more reviews, right? It may have been a nice stamp of approval in the past. But today, online customer reviews play a much broader role in how customers find your business and how they think about your company brand.
As a general rule, your online business presence is an extension of your business brand. How you represent yourself and engage with your customers online is a great indicator of the importance you give to customer service offline. As a result, the many review sites in which your business profile appears are great opportunities for potential customers to learn more about your business. So it’s incredibly important to make sure that on each of these sites, you’re putting your best foot forward. Great reviews can help you:
- Build credibility and trust through social proof
- Get exposure to new customers who are browsing the review sites
- Show your competitive strength or what makes your business different
- Demonstrate your presence in your local community
We can see that having online customer reviews is an important part of building your business brand. But did you know that reviews are also a key to winning new customers?
Start At The Beginning
Let’s start from the beginning of a customer journey. When homeowners are ready to do a painting project, they usually do an online search to find a local painting contractor.. According to a recent survey, 93% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the last year, with 34% searching every day. (Bright Local) The review platforms offer a curated list of vetted service providers, but many homeowners start out with Google. You can compare some of the differences of review sites here.
Google Is King
When we search for a local painting contractor on Google and use what is known as a “category search” – like using the terms “house painter” – and we will get the following, from top to bottom: paid ads, the “Google 3 pack,” and organic results.
The Google 3 pack consists of 3 business listings that Google serves up to users, driven by algorithms which remain mysterious to many, but are heavily influenced by customer reviews. In 2015, Google switched from a 7 pack to 3, making it even more competitive for local businesses to be found by consumers. This is just one example of why it’s important to connect with experts who understand these subtle changes in how customers can find you online.
Let’s look more closely at the results, which are in relative proximity to me, the searcher. The first has 11 reviews, with a 4.9 star rating and is closest in proximity. The second has 57 reviews with a 4.9 star rating and a bit further away; and the third which is furthest away, has 91 reviews with a 4.8 star rating.
It’s only when I click on “View All” that I can see that there are many other painting contractors in close proximity to my home that I can choose from. Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t take the time or effort to “View All” and may prefer to go with the 3 pack offered up from Google.
Your Google Business Listing
Even in the best scenario when you get a great referral online or even through word of mouth, people still need to find you online. They’ll search by company name and will come across your Google listing. In my search for CertaPro Painters of North San Diego, the business with 91 reviews, I found this:
On the Google business profile, in addition to the Google reviews, it shows “Reviews from the web” which features ratings from other review platforms such HomeAdvisor, Facebook, and Houzz. And immediately below the reviews from the web, Google offers up a sample of live Google reviews for this business. So you can see that reviews are presented at just about every online customer touchpoint.
How Do These Reviews Affect Potential Customers?
Why do reviews take such prime real estate on the Google Business listing? Simply because they play a big role in converting prospective customers into current customers. When we look at how homeowners think and behave, the research shows that reviews are a key factor in their process of selecting a painting contractor. We find that homeowners:
- Are looking for reviews. A survey found that 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020. (BrightLocal)
- Choose businesses based on their rating. (Whitespark Local Search Ranking Factors Survey 2020)
- Want to see recent reviews. 73% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written in the last month. (BrightLocal)
As a business owner, you need to not only have some customer reviews, but you must have an overall high rating, with a high number of reviews, AND have reviews that are written in the last month. It’s a tall order for many local painting contractors who have enough administrative tasks to deal with already.
How Do Google Reviews Relate to Other Platforms?
As a real-life example, I currently have a home project in which I need to find a local painting contractor. For my own knowledge, I visited HomeAdvisor to see if I would get the same recommendations that I did from Google. After completing the online form, I immediately received one referral that has a total of 12 HomeAdvisor reviews, and it did not appear in my Google search at all. I later received additional referrals which were not easily discovered on Google.
In addition to HomeAdvisor, I also visited Yelp and searched for “house painter.” The Yelp results included one of the businesses shown in the Google 3 pack, with 40 Yelp reviews. And as with Google, the proximity of the business was not the driving factor. Here are the Yelp search results for comparison.
So in my short experiment, it appeared that there may be some natural cross-over on the review sites, but most often it requires intentional planning. As part of a business owner’s marketing plan, they would need to determine where they would like to focus their lead generation efforts by regularly requesting reviews and directing customers to those sites that provide the best business opportunities.
How to Keep a Review Pipeline
Now that we know that you need to get fresh reviews each month to build your online presence, how do you do this regularly? There are a number of ways to do it well, but it takes planning and must be incorporated into your business processes. Our team chatted with an industry expert who shared creative ways to generate more reviews.
You can also download 20 Hacks to Get Reviews which might inspire you to integrate some of these ideas into your operations and make the goal of getting customer reviews into a team sport.
And if you want to exclusively focus on your core business, you can choose to automate the process with apps like Signpost that integrate requests for reviews into regular customer communication.
How to Deal With Negative Reviews
While you may have a healthy number of reviews, it’s not enough to simply collect reviews. Just about every business receives a negative review from time to time. Since reviews are a reflection of your company brand, and your rating influences how customers find you, it’s important to stay on top of and monitor your customer reviews on all sites so that any negative reviews don’t have a serious impact. At Signpost, we created a guide to help contractors respond to negative reviews and help maintain their high ratings.
Signpost is an app built to help local contractors boost their customer communication to get the lead, get the job, and get the review. Our team offers a free assessment of your company’s Google presence and can show you how we’ve helped painting contractors generate more reviews.
About the Author
Christine Stewart-Fitzgerald is a marketing manager at Signpost and passionate about helping local contractors use marketing tools of the trade to boost their business. As the daughter of a builder, she’s no stranger to job sites and in her spare time, she enjoys getting inspired by traveling to faraway places that are full of color and reflect a rich history. Next stop, Morocco…