Online reviews: how they work and protecting your brand from the negative

With digital marketing ever-evolving, it comes as no surprise that consumer behaviour follows suit. As consumers, we now look for things to back up our decisions, purchases, and ventures. Whether this is a new kettle, a trip on a new airline, or starting a new job, we turn to the same place: reviews.

Other people’s personal experiences with a business or product have clearly become a trusted source for us. With 60% percent of people allegedly looking at online reviews weekly and 93% of them claiming in a recent survey that they do affect their purchasing decision, it’s about time you got serious about online reviews for your business. But, that’s easier said than done. So, we’ve compiled together some useful insights into the world of online reviews. Read on for some practical advice for gaining organic reviews, selecting the right platform and using them — good or bad — to the best of your ability.

So how do they actually work?

If a consumer comes across your brand on social media, will they be greeted by customers singing your praises about the best experience ever? If yes, then congratulations. However, if you don’t have a great online reputation, or if you’re just starting out, all is not lost. Reviews can come in from all angles including Google My Business, Tripadvisor, Facebook, and Twitter.

One of the first aspects of reviews to think about is understanding where most of your commerce comes from. In the majority of cases, this will be through ‘local’. By local, I don’t mean Johnny Smith down the road — local could quite easily be regional — it depends on how niche and what the demand is for whatever service you’re offering. If you’re the only supplier of men’s suits for miles around, for instance, then you can be defined as local to whoever is searching for that requirement and you’re the nearest supplier.

Now, Local Search and Online Review Tracker unveiled that 67.7% of consumers say that at least half of their searches results in a visit to a local business. What’s more, according to a 2014 Brightlocal survey, 88% of 2000 respondents said they used or read reviews to determine the quality of a business. So, clearly, local reviews represent a powerful tool for businesses to utilise.

How does it affect local search?

Google My Business page is crucial when it comes to local search and local SEO.
With local businesses now rising up to the competition, reviews are there to get you noticed in the growing crowd. Google states that having reliable and positive reviews from your customers “‘will improve your business’s visibility and the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location”.

Actually getting people to leave reviews in the first place is a whole strategy in itself, and something that needs to be covered comprehensively. Luckily, the guys over at Moz have the perfect content for you to look over in that respect. You can check it out here.

Tackling negative reviews

OK, so this is a big one. Now, the basic fundamentals of gaining positive reviews without a strategy are pretty straightforward: just offer a good service and people will leave a positive review. Even if you do offer a good service though, there’s always going to be someone who wants to troll you. Now, if you’re just starting out and you suddenly see your rating plummet to 1 star you’re automatically going to want to respond a rectify the matter. But don’t. Hold fire. Take a step back, and think about how you’re going to combat the bad review.

Fake reviews

Just don’t even consider this: people can spot it a mile off. If you have a bad review and, all of a sudden, within the next hour or two you’ve got loads of positive reviews saying how amazing you are and how you’re the next big thing — it immediately looks dodgy. And people aren’t stupid, they will recognise when you’ve paid a writer to leave a review because there are certain tells when it’s not an organic review. Formal language and clear jargon are a couple of examples — they tell you something but you come away knowing nothing.

The key thing to do is actually respond to the negative review in an organic way. Address the concerns and try and remedy them. Bazaarvoice conducted some research which suggested that potential customers who see a brand respond to a negative review reported an increase of 116% in purchase intent. So, analyse the situation, approach it with a clear head, and address the problem. Don’t feed the trolls, don’t be angry or petty or start an argument, and try and take it offline after your first response. Engage with people and find out why they have beef with you.

Defensive PPC

To help you tackle any negative reviews while you build up your positive rating, it’s worth having a look at defensive PPC tactics. Now, if you’re just starting out and you’re new to the world of digital marketing don’t worry, you can discover all you need to know about PPC here.

So, what do we mean by defensive PPC. Well, the clue is in the name: brand protection. If you have a couple of negative reviews that you don’t want people to see, even if you’ve engaged with that customer and sorted any issues out, you can use PPC to drive traffic away from them — through brand bidding.

Brand bidding

Brand bidding has become a very effective strategy for many small businesses thanks to its relatively inexpensive costs. Brand-plus keyword bidding, such as “Curated + Review”, provide brands with really strong value: you know the consumer is looking for information directly related to you. It’s here that you can direct the consumer to where you want them to go with PPC far better than through SEO tactics alone. For example, if you’re wanting to direct people away from bad reviews, you can bid on various versions of related branded-plus keywords and actually own more of page one with a number of different ads. These could lead to, for instance, a positive Feefo rating (if you have one) or to a best-selling product, or to a customer testimonial page. It’s a great way of improving your conversion rates, essentially.

It’s true that consumers searching for brand-related terms are more likely to be further down the purchasing funnel than those who happen to stumble upon your business, but this is the type of traffic you want to be converting anyway.

To sum up then, reviews are absolutely worth implementing, but there is a number of different strategies and tactics to make sure you’re getting the most out of them. If you need a hand with them, then give us a shout. We’d love to help. Just remember not to post any fake ones yourself — you know how we feel about fake news.

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