When it comes to spending your marketing budget, there’s an abundance of options to evaluate which can be overwhelming. Digital marketing in itself can be a minefield to tackle as a business owner, particularly with new mediums popping up all the time.
Online reviews are a low-cost, low-maintenance way to improve your digital presence and make the most of your guest’s voice. When it was just TripAdvisor, online review management was a simpler time. Now with Google Reviews, Facebook, and Yelp making a play for market share, which platform deserves more of your attention?
First of all, why focus on your online reviews? Here are some key takeaways from a study conducted by Brightlocal:
- 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95% of people aged 18-34)
- Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business
- 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past 2 weeks – up from 18% last year
- 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars
- 80% of 18-34-year-olds have written online reviews – compared to just 41% of consumers over 55
- 91% of 18-34-year-olds consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
- 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews
There’s no doubt about it, a positive online reputation can convert travelers into customers. Additionally, according to Forbe’s Councils Member Gary Capoccia:
“In the past, small businesses had to rely on inefficient “push” methods to attract new customers. If you buy a radio ad, for example, the message has to do two hard jobs: Convince the customer to spend money with you and create urgency to do it now, before distractions take over.
When a consumer uses a review platform like Yelp or Google My Business, the decision and urgency to buy are exactly what prompted the person’s search. If traditional advertising is a megaphone that enables businesses to shout and see who’s listening, review sites are tractor beams that pull consumers toward local businesses precisely when they’re actively looking to spend money. That’s an invaluable opportunity for small businesses with tight — or non-existent — marketing budgets.”
So, which Review Platform is King?
Even though Tripadvisor currently holds a majority of the market share at around 16% (according to Datanyze), Google My Business have been experiencing the most significant period of growth in the last 7 years. Why is this?
- Google is a massive search engine with an extensive infrastructure already in place. Every time someone searches for a local business, they’re given the opportunity to leave a review.
- Google wants to reward those who are embedded in their network. This means that your online reviews improve your SEO, as well as your overall rating stats!
- Google My Business supports a native integration with Android, allowing them to get their reviews in front of a lot of travelers.
- According to the same Brightlocal study cited above, 68% of consumers would consider leaving reviews for businesses if prompted, which Google has been doing a lot of recently.
Google Reviews still only hold around a 6% market share, with Facebook trailing slightly behind with just over 4%, and Yelp at around 2%. The struggle with Yelp is that they have a strict “no solicitation” policy when it comes to reviews –
“Please don’t ask your customers to review your business on Yelp. Over time, solicited reviews create bias on your business page — a bias that savvy consumers can smell from a mile away. You should also never offer compensation (discounts and freebies count too) in exchange for reviews.”
– Yelp website
Google has also cracked down massively on “Review Gating”, which is when a customer fills out a survey and, if they score high enough, are asked to post a review online. But if the customer scores the business too low, they are only asked to provide private feedback. There are many companies that offer these services claiming to be able to radically improve your online presence in a short period of time, but if caught, Google deletes all of your reviews without warning while keeping the money you invested in their platform. Ouch.
It’s not – you should ask 100% of your clients for reviews, good or bad. And trust in the knowledge that you’ll have so many positive reviews, that the bad ones will be drowned out. Wherewolf’s automatic emailer allows you to do this effortlessly, with a custom-branded follow-up inviting every guest to share their experiences online. But you also have the power to delete individual email addresses, should something out of your control arise.
Remember – genuine and constructive negative feedback is beneficial for your business’ growth and allows you to improve the experience you offer. If you feel that someone has waged a malicious campaign on your business, Google has a system in place where you can log in to your Google business account and retrospectively flag fake reviews to be taken down, which seems to operate fairly. Having spoken to around 1000 tour and activity operators over the last year, the opposite seems to be true with Tripadvisor, who rarely removes reviews, fake or otherwise.
I have 1.5 million reviews, what now?
Like a bonsai tree, keep your engagement levels high and make sure to respond to reviews – positive or negative – in under a week. 45% of customers say they are more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews, so there’s no reason why you can’t turn a negative into a positive by showing prospects that your business can evolve with customer feedback.
What’s the verdict?
I hate blogs that end with ambiguous results. After reading through paragraphs of information, you don’t want to read “it depends, every business is different..”.
My vote goes to Google Reviews being the dominant force in the marketplace in the next 2-3 years. With their already intact infrastructure in place, leniency for review requests, and their fairness in false flags, I think they are doing all the right things for both the customer and the operator.
Fortunately, keeping your social media platforms updated with regular high-quality reviews is a breeze. You just make sure you’re providing the awesome experience – Wherewolf will do the rest.