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E-commerce News and Insights | April 3, 2020

How to Foster and Maintain Positive Online Reviews for Your Business

Shippo Snippets:

  • As more people turn to online businesses during the COVID-19 outbreak, having a positive online reputation will be even more important
  • Customers will spend 270% more when a product has at least five reviews compared to none
  • One study showed that Google reviews make up 15% of SEO ranking
  • The best way to get more reviews is to ask

The Story:

We’ve all been there: searching for the perfect electronic, sweater, or home good on the internet, scouring reviews until we find that exact piece of evidence we need. And when we find it, we click the purchase button.

And especially during these current times, are potential customers really willing to trust Judy from Ohio’s recommendation about a set of non-stick pans or Jim from San Fran’s hot take on the latest natural deodorant? In short, yes. In fact, 88% of customers are as influenced by online reviews from strangers as they are by recommendations from their real-life friends.

By this metric alone, it’s not hard to imagine how both positive and negative reviews can have a major impact on a customer’s willingness to try a new or unfamiliar product or service. Considering that 95% of shoppers will read online reviews before buying a product, it behooves high-growth companies to consider review maintenance as an important piece to the evolving puzzle of maintaining an enduring and positive online presence. 

And while maintaining a strong review portfolio is always important, now more than ever, having a positive online reputation will go a long way in instilling confidence with customers.

The Importance Of Company Reviews By Customers

Let’s cut right to the chase: Customers spend more money when a company has great online reviews. According to statistics reported by Broadly, customers spend 31% more. Another study, by the Spiegel Research Center, found that customers spent 270% more when a product had at least five reviews compared to products that had no reviews. 

Interestingly, customers are also happier. 78% of customers who read reviews were satisfied with their purchase. Perhaps it’s no surprise that well-informed customers are happier with the final outcome.

The importance of reviews stretches beyond a customer simply doing their due diligence. Shoppers want to hear from people like them. Customers are not only trying to glean product data from reviews—they want to make sure that they’re similar to your “typical” customer and that their needs and wants are understood by the brand.

High-growth online companies understand the importance of honing an ideal customer profile—take it a step further and make sure that this avatar is reflected in your online reviews. (One way to do this is by targeting different demographic sets to post online reviews—more ideas on how to generate more reviews for your company below.) 

 The tendency to trust peer reviews may be especially true with millennial customers, who are 50% more likely to trust user-generated content than materials provided by the company. Said another way, savvy buyers know when they’re being marketed to, and put just as much trust in a third-party review, social media share, or online recommendation.

Taking a step out and looking at the big picture, reputation matters. Exactly how much it matters is difficult to pinpoint, although Deloitte estimates that reputation is 25% of a brand’s market value. In an increasingly interconnected world, how online denizens view your company will absolutely make a difference in whether customers engage—and buy.  

The Importance Of Online Reviews and Search Engine Strength

Any business owner knows that search engine rankings and results are important. And reviews are playing an ever-increasing role in those search engine results.

Online reviews contribute to 15% of local search engine results on Google, according to a study by Moz. It’s difficult to know which ingredients are the most important factor, here: the number of reviews, keywords embedded in reviews, or the increased click-through rate due to positive reviews. But, no matter the precise proportions of Google’s proprietary recipe, the lesson remains—mind your reviews.

While posts on all of the major review sites matter, Google’s rankings may matter most, especially if your goal is to improve your company’s overall SEO. If you’re looking to both maximize SEO and gather reviews in one fell swoop, your business may want to consider focusing efforts on Google reviews first. 

One easy trick is to encourage reviewers to use keywords within their product reviews. For example, “this works great” is significantly less useful for SEO purposes than “this Dyson hairdryer works great.”

That said, reviews on aggregation sites like Yelp and even Glassdoor are important for SEO purposes as well. New businesses may even see such sites rank above their own website because they have what’s called domain authority. And if these sites are going to rank higher than yours, it’s important that they display good reviews. 

Will a negative review impact your ranking? Maybe. But if you have just a handful of negative reviews, there’s no need to worry. It’s much more important that you have an engaged, diverse set of reviews. No business can please everyone, and Google knows this. Though we can’t know Google’s search engine algorithm, we do know that Google tells its reviewers to bear in mind that all companies are going to get some mixed reviews. 

Remember, at the end of the day, SEO is a process of providing the most useful information to the public. 

How To Handle Negative Reviews

Have you ever read product reviews that are so cheery that you become suspicious? You’re not alone. 

No reasonable person would expect a company to have dozens of reviews without the occasional Negative Nancy logging in to vent their frustrations. Without some dissent, reviews appear to be manufactured and untrustworthy.

There’s no way around it: getting a negative review can sting, especially as you’re building out your cache of reviews. But, it’s healthy to take a shopper’s perspective on the matter of negative reviews. No one’s reading reviews to get the company’s rosy take on its own products—customers want the scoop, for better or worse.

And it turns out that having a negative review in the mix may actually help sales! In fact, “perfect” or five-star ratings may actually hurt customer conversion. The sweet spot seems to fall somewhere between four and 4.7 stars, with customer conversion falling off as the rating inches closer to five stars and below four.

What should you do about negative customer reviews?

In some cases, it’s best to just let a negative review slide and move on. This may be especially true if the review was regarding something that has nothing to do with the overall quality of the product.

For example, imagine a reviewer who states that a shoe is too wide on their otherwise narrow foot. This is not an indictment on the quality of the product—and may even provide useful information to another potential buyer. Plenty of customers are looking for useful information that they may ultimately find in a negative review!

That said, if a particular review is deemed as imminently damaging, there are steps you can take:

  • Flood that platform with new reviews to bury the negative review and increase your average rating. Remember, even a negative review won’t sink the ship, so long as most customers appear to be happy.
  • Simply respond! When a business responds to an angry review, subsequent ratings increase, according to a study by Harvard Business Review. Here are some templates you can use.
  • Make it right by the customer. After offering an exchange, refund, store credit, or other incentives, you can consider asking the customer to remove the review. But never demand that they take the review down.

Another option is to preempt negative reviews by providing the  ample customer service necessary to resolve issues.

Although getting a negative review can feel like a gut-punch, it’s never a good idea to take it personally. If anything, negative reviews can be an immensely useful learning tool, allowing you to refine your product. Just maybe, one of those negative reviews will hold the feedback your business needs in taking your product from good to great. 

How To Get Positive Reviews

If you know that your customers are generally happy with the product or service that you provide, the name of the game is to simply get more reviews, in general. Here’s how to get more reviews for your business. 

  • Offer an incentive for writing a review. The possibilities are endless, here: offer exclusive discounts, loyalty points, sneak previews for new offerings, or contest prizes to reviewers.
  • Ask for it! Don’t underestimate how much consumers want their voices to be heard. Consider adding a request for review as part of the business’s automated follow-up email sequence.
  • When you ask for reviews, keep it simple. The more cumbersome the process becomes, the less likely the customers are to write a review. Don’t ask for more information than you need.
  • If your business is new and currently without reviews, consider exchanging free product for a review. Don’t forget to direct these customers to websites like Yelp, Google, and Amazon.

Building up your base of reviews may feel like a task of David and Goliath proportions, but it will surely be worth your effort. People are shopping online more than ever, and even when they’re not, they’re reading online reviews. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever been in Target and looking up online reviews on Amazon for something you’re about to buy!)

Even if your business operates in the direct-to-consumer space, online reviews on sites other than your own absolutely matter. In fact, many customers find reviews that aren’t cherry-picked by the company to be much more trustworthy and therefore important in the decision to make a purchase. 

It won’t happen overnight, but neither does building a business. 

Yelp Provides $25 Million in Support to Local Independent Businesses During COVID-19 Outbreak 

Yelp has announced that it will provide $25 million in support to local businesses affected by COVID-19. Qualifying businesses will get free access to Yelp page upgrades and other features to be able to better communicate to the public about the services they offer. For more details on the program, visit Yelp

Also, to help businesses navigate the current climate, Google has provided guidance in regards to communicating and updating details online. Explore Shippo for solutions in optimizing and streamlining your shipping operations.

Amanda Holden is a personal finance writer, speaker, and educator. Through her business, Invested Development, she teaches young women (and anyone who has felt left out of these important conversations) about money and investing. She writes a blog called The Dumpster Dog Blog, which is scrappy and fun finance education for young women.

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