Reviews are hugely impactful for local businesses at every stage of the consumer journey. Google’s heavy weighting of reviews as a local and organic ranking factor makes them a key aspect of your brand’s online visibility at the discovery stage. When customers are considering their local business options, 82% of consumers read online reviews (and 63.6% go looking for reviews on Google, more than any other platform). Right through to conversion and an in-store visit, local reviews opportunities are abundant and remain a critical piece of social validation that helps consumers feel that they’re making the right choice.
How can your brand make the most of every chance to appear, engage and convert across your hundreds or even thousands of locations? Here are five key local reviews opportunities you want to make sure you’re taking advantage of to reap the greatest possible benefits from local reviews.
1. Responding to reviews across the brand
Each review left is a potentially important interaction with a customer. Positive reviews provide compelling personal experience and detail people use to fuel their decision-making. Negative reviews are a double-edged sword; potentially damaging, yes. However, each one is still an opportunity to not only repair the relationship with the person who left it, but to show everyone who reads it in the future that your brand is listening and engaged.
Disjointed or undocumented enterprise local reviews strategy can result in reviews being missed and important customer feedback falling through the cracks. What’s more, 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews; they take note when customer concerns are ignored.
How does your brand ensure that review responses are timely and consistent, whether left for a franchise store in Omaha or a San Diego corporate store?
Enterprise organizations need a documented local reviews strategy that details who is going to respond to reviews, whether that happens at corporate or at the local level. Will you respond to all reviews, both positive and negative? Will you escalate negative reviews for follow-up? How far back in time will you go when you first implement your reviews strategy?
Of course, if you’re going to have local managers and franchisees responding to negative reviews, you’ll want to make sure their messaging aligns with your brand. Check out the dos and don’ts of responding to negative reviews here.
2. Monitoring and triaging local reviews at scale
We analyzed the review profiles of several hundreds of thousands of business locations to see how reviews volume varies by industry. Across ten major industry segments, the average number of reviews left per location was 22.5, although the range was dramatic with hotels/motels, averaging 93 reviews per location.
Even in the middle of the road, at 22.5 reviews per location per year, you can see how challenging it gets for multi-location businesses to manage their reviews at scale. A brand with 600 locations or service areas, for example, is potentially looking at a volume of 13,500 reviews per year.
Establishing a method of triaging new reviews is critical.
- Who will follow up with customers who have had legitimately negative experiences that you need to address?
- How will you identify and segment out fake reviews, then get them removed? These could be left by competitors or former employees, for example.
- What are your benchmark times for positive and negative review responses? How will you ensure those targets are met?
When you’re receiving thousands of reviews across Facebook, Google, Yelp and more, it’s critical that you use technology to monitor them. Local Reviews gives you the ability to establish custom alerts and access all reviews inside of one centralized dashboard.
3. Establishing a workflow that protects your brand
We’ve all seen business review gaffs and missteps blow up in the media, from the franchisee who can’t take critical feedback to the local manager who escalates the situation with a war of words. But review responses don’t have to be egregious mistakes to reflect negatively on the brand. Tone-deafness, obviously templated cookie-cutter responses and even poor spelling and grammar can all leave prospects with a less than stellar impression of the brand you worked hard to build.
Automating elements of your reviews strategy doesn’t mean setting the whole thing on autopilot. In fact, inside your Local Reviews dashboard, you can establish a workflow with alerts, assignments, and permissions that ensure you have a chance to review proposed responses before they go live. You can create templates that are easy to personalize and incorporate key brand messaging, too.
In this way, you can empower your franchisees and local managers to take ownership of their own local reviews profile without sacrificing brand controls.
4. Activating local reviews data
Local reviews are a rich source of customer feedback and insight that the entire organization can use—but only if you’re able to capture and activate that data.
- What are the common themes in your positive and negative reviews?
- Are there opportunities for you to reward or incentivize local stakeholders based on review data?
- How can you export customer insights from reviews and get it into the hands of the appropriate business decision-makers?
Google is trying to make it easier for brands to see themes in their reviews by categorizing responses by keyword. This is great for a single location, but you need more powerful reporting at the enterprise level.
For example, when Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group deployed Local Reviews, they were able to engage over 220 healthcare providers in the brand’s local reviews management.
Patient feedback, now based on measurable analytics rather than anecdotal and abstract suggestions from colleagues, was incorporated at every level of the organization. Star ratings and the total number of reviews grew, but so did positive sentiment about the brand. Download the full case study to learn more.
Sentiment analysis, competitive benchmarking, and data-driven insights into your top and lowest performers all help uncover new opportunities to improve relationships and brand reputation at the local level. And they’re all standard features in the Local Reviews dashboard.
5. Maximizing the impact reviews have on local visibility
Reviews account for 15.44% of your local ranking weighting and 6.74% of your local organic ranking, according to research by Moz. All other factors considered equal, reviews could be the factor to push your locations ahead of the local competition.
Getting more positive reviews is key, but Google is also factoring in the recency and relevance of your reviews, as well. Older reviews don’t carry the same influence with consumers; in fact, 85% say they disregard reviews that are more than three months old. Searchers want to read about real, recent experiences that help them understand the type of experience they may have at that location.
Soliciting reviews is a no-no—in fact, it can get you in big trouble, especially on Yelp. That means no incentivizing reviews by offering to pay for them (even in goods, services, or discounts). What you can and should do, however, is make the process of leaving a review as quick and easy as possible for your customers (ideally as soon as they’ve completed their transaction with you, while the experience is fresh). You can ask them via SMS text message to share their experience, follow-up by email, include links to the review sites you want to focus on in your social media content, and more.
Ask specific questions, in order to encourage more descriptive reviews. This can help feed valuable long-tail keyword-rich user-generated content into your local search presence, as well.
Dig deeper into the impact of online reviews and learn how to master this valuable customer-generated content format. Download your free copy of Rio SEO’s e-book, The Guide to Managing Local Reviews at Scale.