Reviews and Referrals are the only constant in marketing

Everyone knows that marketing strategies, mediums and approaches are almost constantly in flux. There’s always something new and cutting-edge out there to connect businesses with the customers who keep them open. Every major marketing outlet has had its heyday: billboards, radio, tv spots, digital, phone books, direct mail, even plastic signs stuck on telephone posts or in client yards. You name it, it’s been successful at one point or another.

While most of these have had various ebb and flow to their dominance, there’s one marketing form that has always been steadfast and successful: referrals and word-of-mouth business.

If you have a friend or family member who tells you that a business does good work, you’re much more likely to reach out to them than if you only see their advertisement, especially as ads become increasingly frequent in our society.

Historically, this meant that a business had to rely on its customers to help promote it through grass-roots efforts. However, in our digital age today, the power of the online review is the modern transition of this traditional small-business marketing form.

Online Reviews are like word-of-mouth on steroids

Twenty years ago, if someone liked your business, they could tell a friend or two in casual conversation when it seemed fitting. Fast forward to 2016, and customers have more power than ever. A single review on a site like Google, Yelp or Angie’s List can be a small-business marketing goldmine, as the same review can be seen thousands of times by various potential customers.

Let’s face it: nearly everyone checks reviews of a business before they choose to contact them directly. In fact, marketing research in 2015 stated that as many as 88% of all online shoppers check a business’s reviews before deciding whether to contact them or not.

That’s huge! Small businesses that are missing out on the local reviews aspect are missing out on the opportunity to let their current customers share the high-quality of the business’s service with other potential customers.

How to maximize your review potential

Obviously, businesses should be actively trying to get as many reviews as possible from their current clients, but how is the best way to facilitate this online word-of-mouth?

First, you’ll need to claim, build and update your review listing pages. The most common review sites are Google and Yelp, but there’s also a plethora of industry-specific sites to explore. For legal professionals, you’ll want to be on FindLaw. For home services, Angie’s List is where it’s at. Work in the medical profession? You’ll want ZocDoc or HealthGrades.

Once you’ve gotten your sites set up, you’ll want to make sure your review sites are linked to your website. The portals you have placed on your site need to link directly to your review page, and if you can link it directly to the “leave your review” field, that’s even better.

Finally, you’ll need to create a system that ensures you’re at least asking for reviews from your customers. For most small and medium businesses, this is probably the toughest part of the process. To quote Michael Jordan (or at least the poster of Michael Jordan that always hung up in every athletics office in the ‘90s) “you’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” If you’re still timid and not comfortable asking for reviews directly, there are also several software applications that will reach out to clients on your behalf. In fact, Citywide offers such a solution to help ensure there are no missed opportunities.

Do Online Reviews Help With SEO?

In addition to the fact that your online reviews will help promote the word-of-mouth credibility that most small businesses are lacking in their digital marketing, there’s also another benefit of getting more reviews online. I frequently get asked if getting more reviews online will help improve a business’s overall Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Short answer: yes! This is particularly true of reviews on Google or other search engines, as it helps promote more relevancy to your business listing. If two businesses were set up with their Google Business listing on the exact same day and were put in with the exact same specifications, but one had more reviews than the other, there would be a significant difference in which listing would be promoted first by Google.

Even if your reviews aren’t on Google directly, getting them on another trusted review site (like some of the ones mentioned above) will also help increase the credibility and relevancy of the business’s review page, and because you’ve linked that page to you website, you’ll get an additional boost there as well.

Plus, when you get great reviews on a site like Angie’s List or Yelp, you’ll start to see the review page show up on Google searches that include your keywords or business name. It’s essentially like having another website listed on the first page of Google. Imagine how impactful it would be to a potential new customer to see your business listed in the featured Google Maps results, you actual website listed near the top of the organic section, and then also see a result for your review site page (and all with good reviews). That’s huge!

In summary

For all of these reasons, online reviews are the new currency for word-of-mouth traffic in the digital age. As businesses find more and more competition online, it will be the businesses with the best reviews and the best digital marketing strategy working hand-in-hand that will rise to the point of dominance.

So go out, claim your review pages, start asking your clients for online reviews, and reach out to Citywide SEO for more information about how to help get more online word-of-mouth traffic with your digital marketing through our review and referral management program.