There are a lot of factors that go into creating a solid and positive online presence for your business — but there are perhaps none more important than online reviews.
Online reviews matter for a myriad of reasons and can easily make or break a business. Reviews show other customers what your company is about, how reliable your goods or services and how well you can serve their needs. Ignoring the bad reviews and not soliciting good ones from happy customers can put your business at a distinct disadvantage.
So are all online reviews the same? They all play a part in the equation but there are a few different types of reviews that you should keep your eye on as you monitor customer feedback.
The Two Main Types
Third-party reviews are probably what you think of first when you are thinking about online reviews. These are reviews left by customers on websites that are not directly affiliated with your business like Yelp, Google, Facebook, Tripadvisor and so on.
These reviews are probably a big source of your anxiety when it comes to online reviews. If you aren’t monitoring your company’s activity on these sites, seeking out positive reviews, or responding meaningfully to negative reviews these sites can paint a negative portrait of your business that you have little control over.
We’ve all heard of businesses getting themselves into trouble and their review pages being overrun with negative reviews. If it wasn’t so important it wouldn’t be such a headache!
These review-based websites are also trusted by millions of people all over the country to make purchasing decisions and tend to rank highly on Google Search, which reinforces their importance.
Third-party review sites can be a real headache but they can also be a big asset for your business if you are proactive and responsive. Services like My Review Dashboard make tracking reviews across all review platforms easy and straightforward.
Taking a hand-off approach to third-party reviews can be irreparably damaging to your business.
The other major type of review is a first-party review. These are reviews that live on your website directly. First-party reviews are gathered when a customer goes directly to the business website to leave a review (or their review is solicited by the business directly).
These reviews are also important because they can be the clincher in closing the sale late into the funnel. Once the prospective customer is already on your website those good reviews could be the factor that pushes them to make a purchase, schedule and appointment or make a phone call.
First-party reviews are also helpful when it comes to SEO. If someone searches your business name and ‘reviews’ generally Google will pull reviews from third-party sites it finds most relevant, which can be horrendous if you don’t have a great rating there. But if you have a lot of great first-party reviews Google will also pull from those, which can generally be more positive and make your business look better in the search.
First-party reviews tend to also be more positive because you can solicit reviews directly from customers you know had a great experience.
Sub-Types of Reviews
The next four subsets of reviews live inside the third-party and first-party review system. A review can exist in three types at once. Most reviews on platforms like Yelp will be third-party, business and unverified reviews all at the same time. Each subset further narrows down the type of review it is.
Another subset of reviews are business reviews. Business reviews are reviews of your company as a whole. These can include everything from customer service to wait time to the landscaping in front of your store. These reviews will often be all encompassing about the experience the customer has at your business or they may zero-in on something small and seemingly irrelevant.
These kinds of reviews are what you will generally see on review sites like Yelp, Facebook and Tripadvisor. They are location-specific rather than product specific.
Product reviews can be found on specific listings for individual products. These generally only exist if your business has some kind of ecommerce platform whether on-site or on third-party sites like Amazon.
These reviews tend to be highly specific and can be a great source of feedback for specific products. These reviews tend to show up in Google Shopping searches or searches for specific products rather than in searches for reviews of businesses themselves.
How do you know if the review was left by an actual customer? Well, you don’t. That’s what an unverified review is. Most review-based sites are fueled by unverified reviews. This means that anyone can leave a review whether they were an actual customer or not.
Many sites, like Yelp, do have some algorithms in place to flag certain reviews for content but certainly not enough to ensure each review is left by a real person.
These are the most common types of reviews, especially on third-party sites.
Verified reviews on the other hand are guaranteed to be from genuine, real customers. These reviews are less common and you can generally find them in the form of product reviews on ecommerce platforms. It is much easier to solicit a verified review from someone you know has ordered and received a specific product. These tend to rank higher and be much more trustworthy but they are also harder to come by since review-based services want to incentivise customers to leave reviews and will make it as easy as possible.
Regardless of the type, online reviews are important for any business. If your digital plan doesn’t include managing and responding to online reviews it needs to be amended. Your business should be visible and responsive on all review-based platforms to make customers see how much you care about their experience with your company.
Your online reputation should always be an asset, not a liability.
Read more on how to get your business found online at BryanCaplan.com