Not All Publicity is Good Publicity

Why you need to manage your online reviews

Contributed by Outrank by Rogers

I was inspired to write this partly as an answer to a question that I am frequently asked by nervous clients: Do online reviews really matter?

It’s a good question. Reviews are very powerful content. People want them and look for them, so they typically show up as top results if you Google any large business. Do all of your reviews give the best impression to the people searching for your business? Probably not.

It doesn’t even have to be your fault. One bad customer experience, from one bad day, can result in a scathing review that will stand for years on the front page. To be a victim of fake reviews posted by competitors, you don’t even have to do anything wrong in the first place.

Bad reviews are impossible to prevent, but should you even care?

The plain and simple answer is, yes.

Granted, many online reviews don’t demand respect. The really negative ones often sound too over-the-top to be taken seriously. It can be easy to fall into the trap of hoping potential customers will give you the benefit of the doubt, but chances are, they’re going to trust the review.

Let’s look at some facts. A lot of market research has been collected on how consumers respond to and use reviews. Among the most shocking conclusions? That almost 90 percent of all shoppers claim their final buying decision was influenced by an online review.

That’s a huge percentage – large enough that it could mean demographic boundaries don’t matter here; no matter their age, income, or gender, your customers are being influenced by reviews.

And boy, are they being influenced. Another recent study found that nearly 70 percent of online consumers report that as few as three to four negative reviews will deter them from purchasing a product or service. An even greater percentage of consumers (79 percent) trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.

If negative reviews are appearing on the first page when you Google your business, it’s likely costing you business. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to actually do anything about them. Some review sites want a payout to remove them, and others won’t even consider removing reviews.

Good reviews are one of the best ways to fight back. If you don’t already pursue reviews from your customers by getting them to post their positive experiences online, it’s a policy that you should start immediately. It’s one great way to take back control.

As long as positive reviews are detailed and plentiful, they’ll typically outperform the negative ones over time. Negative reviews may never go away, but once they’re off the front page, only a fraction of searchers will ever see them. Collecting good reviews can be a little more challenging, but is ultimately worth the effort.

From the February/March 2015 issue.