Online reviews are essential to businesses in the 21st century.
Just think about the last purchase you made – did you see a review before you committed? Did you check out the star ratings of a local takeaway before deciding if it was ‘safe’?
We’re going to assume you did and thus already know to some extent how powerful reviews can be.
Although reviews are powerful, they can also be a tricky field to navigate. Like with a lot of online platforms, there can be a temptation to join every single one to make sure that you’re getting reviews from every corner of the planet.
But, in some cases, this just won’t be worth your time and effort and could actually do more harm than good.
So, to help you navigate the world of reviews, we’re going to dive into why they’re important, how to make the most of them, and crucially, we answer the question: “Are review websites worth it for small businesses”.
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Why reviews are critical for small businesses
First of all, let’s dive into why reviews are so important for businesses with some pretty astonishing facts:
98% of consumers read reviews for a local business, and 49% of them trust consumer reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family.
That means that nearly every single customer or client that you have will have looked at an online review before trusting you, and nearly half of them would have trusted that review more so than their mother’s own personal recommendation. That’s some pretty powerful stuff right there.
But if that’s not enough to convince you already, here are the top 3 reasons why the answer to the question “Are review websites worth it for small businesses” is a big yes!
1. Reviews help establish you as a reputable brand
Reviews add that level of ‘trustworthiness’ that you can’t get anywhere else. They are social proof that other people have used your business and services, and more importantly, they had a great experience.
There are currently 5.6 million private sector businesses in the UK. Now, when it comes to just picking one from the thousands of possible options available, people need a reason to trust you enough to pick yours. Reviews are living proof of this, and the more you get, the more people are willing to take a chance on you.
2. Reviews help customers find your business
One of the benefits of review websites, particularly those for particular sectors (which we’ll get to later!), is that they provide a different way for customers to find your business. Let’s say, for example, that you need a plumber.
Unless you’ve used a plumber recently and already know their name, it’s more than likely that you’ll either ask friends or family or search for a plumber using websites like Checkatrade. Here, you can read reviews from past clients and make sure that the plumber that you use is someone that can be trusted and won’t just leave you with a leaky toilet and a hefty bill.
Without those websites and reviews, you would have never heard of the plumber before. That’s how some people will find your business.
3. Reviews provide valuable feedback about your business
Not all reviews are good. But that, in itself, is a good thing for your business. For potential customers, reviews are a way to make sure that your brand is trustworthy and gain insight into what experience they can expect by using you.
For your business, reviews are a great way to find out what customers are liking about your product or service and, more importantly, what can be better. They are a valuable tool that you should be utilising to make improvements and help plan for the future.
Not all reviews are great for your small business
Now we’ve covered the basics of why your business needs reviews, it’s time to go into more detail about what kind of reviews you should be chasing, which ones will help you grow, and which ones might end up causing more damage.
And before you guess – no, it’s not ‘good reviews are good, bad reviews are bad’. It’s a lot more nuanced than that.
Fundamentally, reviews need to be legitimate. If your business is on a review website with 500 5* reviews and not a single negative comment, people are going to assume that your reviews are fake. This blows a hole in the whole trustworthy appeal and means that all the hard work you’ve put in on honest reviews is wasted.
Interestingly enough, consumers tend to favour businesses that have a 3-star average rating or higher. This is because these ratings showcase both good and bad sides to your business and make for a much more ‘real’ sense. Rather than aim for a 10/10 and delete all the bad reviews, aim for an 8 or 9 out of 10 and let them shine (in a good way).
In addition, reviews need to be current. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t let the latest customer review be more than 3 months out of date, as this will seem too outdated to customers and might even make some question if you’re still in business or not.
Are review websites worth it for small businesses?
Review websites can absolutely be worth it for small businesses as a way to promote the trustworthiness of your business and as a marketing tool. However, like most marketing methods, it needs to be used in moderation using the best practice rules which we’ve outlined above.
As a recommendation, we’d suggest only signing up for a very select number of review websites. Less is definitely more here, as the reviews that you do get will be condensed into one place, making your rating a lot more realistic and ultimately ensuring that no website is littered with out-of-date reviews that you don’t have time to update.
Also, when asking for reviews, the last thing you want to do is get your customers to rate you on every platform available. Most customers are happy to leave a single review, not 10.
Our top picks for review websites would be to:
- Set up a Google Business Profile;
- Sign upto TrustPilot.
A Google Business Profile (previously called Google My Business) is the little box of information that comes up on the right-hand side whenever you search for a business on Google. It’s free to list (a bonus for small businesses!) and includes key information, such as your location, opening hours, website, and contact information. And, more importantly for this guide, it also has a feature to let customers leave reviews for you.
This is a great one for small businesses to use to get themselves more visible on search engines, as the more reviews you get, the higher you’ll rank on Google. It’s also a good idea to get a rating for your business out there without customers having to do extra digging.
Pst, if you want some more tips on how to get visible on search engines, we’ve got you covered in this blog on how to promote your business on Google.
Trustpilot is one of the most used review websites in the UK, so this makes it a great pick for any small business. What’s more, because consumers are already using it, the reviews that are posted here are more likely to be trusted by consumers. In addition, Trustpilot has great integrations available that can be used on most website builders, allowing you to link your rating on your website.
Are specialist review websites worth it for small businesses?
As we’ve said earlier, less is more when it comes to review websites. But that doesn’t mean you’re limited to Google or Trustpilot (or either, if you don’t think it works for your business!).
When it comes to reviewing websites, the best way to think about where to sign up is to think about where your customers are and where they’ll be looking for you. For example, if you get a lot of business through Facebook, then using Facebook reviews can be a really beneficial move for your business.
If you work in a specific industry or niche, then there are also specific review websites where potential customers might be looking for your business. For example:
- If you work in Trade, then CheckATrade could be great at drumming up new business.
- If you offer software, you might want to sign up for G2 or Capterra.
- If you run a local bed and breakfast, or a cafe in a popular tourist destination, then TripAdvisor might be up your street.
If someone could be using that website to find you, then it might be worth signing up. Otherwise, don’t waste your time and focus on getting reviews on the sites that you are already active on.
How do you get reviews?
It might sound strange, but the best way to get reviews is to just ask for them. In fact, 68% of customers will leave a review if asked.
If you have an email address, try sending an email 1-2 days after your customer has purchased to ask how the experience went, including a link to review the website that you use. If you run a cafe or traditional brick and motor store, try giving out cards to your customers as they purchase with links/QR codes to your review page.
If you’re struggling, you can also try incentivising reviews. For example, you could put in a prize draw for everyone that reviews or give someone a discount on their next purchase.
What happens if you get a bad review?
When you get a bad review or feedback, the first instinct might be to panic and try to hide, run or delete the review. But honestly, bad reviews can be a good thing for your business if you handle them correctly.
The best thing to do when you get a bad review is to respond promptly and professionally. If a customer has an issue that can be easily resolved, ask them to get in touch and tell them how you’ll resolve it. For example:
- If their order came damaged, ask them to email their order number and a picture to you, and you’ll replace it.
- If they didn’t get a reply from you, tell them you’re sorry, ask them to email again, and they’ll get back to you as soon as they can.
If the problem is a bit vaguer, i.e. “I didn’t like it”, then ask them to expand on the problem, tell you which part didn’t work, and you’ll look into making the service better. A bad review isn’t the end of the world, it’s a chance to prove that you’re actively going to fix problems and make your business better.
And if you’re not convinced about responding to bad reviews, remember that:
- 89% of consumers are ‘highly’ or ‘fairly’ likely to use a business that responds to all of its online reviews.
- Up to 70% of complaining customers will give the business another shot if their concerns are resolved.
Just make sure that your responses are personal and actively trying to fix the problem.
Need more online business advice?
Now that you know the answer to the question” are review websites worth it for small businesses”, you can keep improving your business with our articles.
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