As recently as a decade ago, most people relied on word-of-mouth, or simply the fact that a company existed, as an indicator of their reliability, says Steve Wyer. However, as the Internet is increasingly integrated into our culture, online opinions, or reviews, are becoming a highly significant factor in how consumers choose to do business.
According to Steve Wyer, posting an online review is a way for a consumer to state his or her opinion regarding a company, product, or service. But, a caveat for businesses is that these online evaluations may be positive or negative. Positive reviews may offer a competitive advantage while negative reviews may be seen as an opportunity to improve customer experiences.
Online reviews, reports Steve Wyer, may have an effect on a business’ search engine ranking. When businesses advertise online, they must do so based on keywords – the terms used to find them in a search. If a business has a higher number of reviews, they will likely rank more prominently on search pages. This is advantageous, as research shows that most consumers only look at the first page, and specifically the first two to three results.
Positive reviews on websites such as Yelp may even play a role in how results are filtered. A consumer searching for a restaurant, for instance, may filter the results as “highest-rated” or “most reviewed.” Steve Wyer notes that businesses with a higher number of reviews often have a prime position in the results when compared to other well-rated businesses with fewer comments.
There are dozens of review websites, says Steve Wyer, and businesses benefit the most when they utilize more than one. Still, some lag behind on employing review sites as part of their marketing toolkit. These companies, notes Steve Wyer, are surely missing out on new business as more and more consumers each day turn to online reviews to make their buying decisions.