Google and other online reviews are powerful. These days, when a person is in search of anything from a good pizza to a stroller to a plumber, they’ll turn to the internet—and, more specifically, to online reviews for businesses and products they may be considering. It’s no secret that online reviews hold a lot of clout.
In fact, research has shown that 91 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. That means that the advice and experiences of strangers on the internet can be just as valuable in helping a potential customer make a purchase as the advice of friends and family.
Business owners with great Google ratings and reviews can see increased traffic to their storefronts and websites. A handful of good reviews goes a long way, especially for local businesses—and so do poor reviews. Reviews on platforms such as Google, Yelp, and Trustpilot can make or break a company’s reputation. The importance of online reviews leaves many business owners, and customers for that matter, wondering, how do Google reviews work, and can you actually trust them?
How Do Google Reviews Work?
Google is one of the most popular and trusted platforms for business reviews. Google My Business is Google’s listing network for business owners, who can register and verify their business with Google and include contact information, website link, and hours. This listing also hosts Google ratings and reviews. Customers leave a review by signing into their Google account, searching for the business, finding it in the search results, and leaving a review tied to their personal account.
Once someone has left a review, the owner of the business listing will receive an email notifying them of the review. Some business owners send their customers a link to the listing to make it easier to leave a review.
Can Internet Reviews Be Trusted?
How reliable are Google’s reviews? What about those found on other popular platforms? Unfortunately, Business Insider reported that 20% of Yelp reviews are fake. Fake reviews are all too common. They may be left by a competing business wanting to damage their reputation, or by friends and family of the business owner wanting to be supportive. Often, customers who had a bad experience may be more motivated to leave a review than someone who had a positive experience. All of these factors may skew Google ratings and reviews, as well as those found on other platforms. Many customers take online reviews with a grain of salt.
Luckily, there are steps businesses can take to promote positive, authentic reviews from everyday customers. It helps to ask customers directly for reviews, emphasizing that it will help other people find the business. Small business owners may need to remind customers, asking once in person and sending a reminder email or text after a day or two. They may even consider offering a discount or other incentive in exchange for an honest review.
Are online reviews important?
The value of online reviews to both customer and business cannot be overstated. Number and quality of Google reviews and ratings are an SEO ranking factor—meaning, the more reviews, especially positive reviews, your business has, you’ll get a nice boost up on the Google search engine results. As many potential customers use Google to research their options when looking for, say, an electrician or contractor, ranking high in their search results will mean a lot to a business owner.
Online reviews are also important simply because people trust them. Fake or not, biased or not, online reviews for businesses influence purchasing decisions for better or for worse. Customers read an average of 10 online reviews before trusting a local business, and 57 percent will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars. Businesses, especially small and local, should make getting Google reviews a priority.
Online reviews serve customers as well—they can get a feel for how a product or business has worked for other customers and avoid pricey or poor service, plus make sure they understand and can benefit from what the business is offering. Getting a better idea of how things worked out for people in the recent past will help them commit to a purchase or service provider.
Overall, Google reviews and ratings benefit everyone—as long as, of course, they are reliable. Customers will have a better experience if they keep in mind the factors that may lead someone to leave a review—everything from business incentives to exceptionally poor service—and businesses can encourage authentic and trustworthy reviews by promoting and asking for them.