Local Reviews | Shopping Local and Understanding the Importance of Local Reviews
Local Reviews | Shopping Local and Understanding the Importance of Local Reviews

Shopping Local and Understanding the Importance of Local Reviews

We’ve all heard it time and time again, “shop local”, “support local businesses”, or “shop small businesses”. The common thread between all of these comments is that they are used as a means to encourage and entice consumers to shop at the stores in their local areas. Another method that has been found to be highly effective in supporting local businesses is local reviews. 

What exactly are local reviews, and how and why are they so effective? Why should you care about getting local reviews? How do you get local reviews? Whether you are a new business owner, or you’ve been around for a significant period of time, the importance of local reviews has not changed. Over time, the only thing that has changed is how reviews are collected and how they are managed. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll have a deeper appreciation and understanding of local reviews and why you should want to get reviews for your business. 

Table of Contents: 

What are Local Reviews 

Why are Local Reviews so Effective 

Why Should You Care About Getting Local Reviews

How to Respond to Online Reviews

How to Get Local Reviews 

How to Manage Online Reviews

What are Local Reviews? 

Chances are at this very moment, while you are reading this article, someone in your local area is looking up your business, talking about your business, calling your business, or even coming into your business. Those who have recently visited your business might be telling their friends and family members about their recent experience as either a recommendation or a warning about doing business with you. 

The idea of telling others about your experience with a particular business is nothing new, just the way in which others learn about your business has changed. For years, the way that others learned about your business both positive and negative, was through word of mouth. Someone would have an encounter, good or bad, with your business and then they would in turn tell their friends and family and the cycle would continue. 

Nowadays thanks to the internet, online local reviews have replaced the traditional form of word of mouth. Customers are now taking to the internet and leaving reviews, positive and negative online for other potential customers to see. These reviews can be found on traditional sites such as Google, Facebook, Angie’s List, and more; instead of just telling those they personally know, online reviews allow them to tell the whole world about their experience. 

The thing that makes local reviews different from other online reviews is that they are geographically confined to a specific area, hence local reviews. In addition to being geographically defined, they also can help in local SEO; when customers use local keywords, those with higher reviews can be ranked higher in the search results. Simply put, local reviews help create and review local businesses within the same geographical area. 

Why Are Local Reviews So Effective? 

By now, you should know that getting reviews is critical to growing your business and finding new customers. These reviews can come from a variety of sources, but for the purpose of this article, I am going to focus primarily on local reviews and what makes them so effective.  

When conducting an online search, it can be more beneficial to see results that are local to your area, especially if you are searching for a local business or service. For example, if I were to search “Donut Shop”, I would be extremely disappointed if the results that appeared were for a donut shop in New York City instead of my local area. Because Google and most other search engines know that users are looking for information on businesses and services local to them, they cater the results to your geographical area. 

Now is where local reviews come into play. Because search engines are able to base search results on the intent of the search and not just the search terms used, they can then filter, and rank results based on reviews. The more reviews that a business has compared to others in the results, the higher it will rank in the search results. When I searched for “donuts near me”, the results showed the business with the most stars, aka reviews first, and went down in sequential order from there. 

Not only are local reviews important for helping you to rank higher in search results, so that more customers can find your business, but they are also important in helping establish credibility for your brand. According to an article published on qualtrics.com, a whopping 93% of customers read reviews prior to making a purchase. This is due in part to the internet which has made it possible to research products and find multiple websites where they can get what they are looking for. As a result, when reading reviews, customers are looking for positive experiences from other customers before they commit to making a purchase. 

Even if you don’t have an online store for customers to buy directly from, you can still benefit and should be invested in getting and attracting positive online local reviews. A vast majority, if not every business nowadays has a website, whether it is an eCommerce site or not, they have a website full of information about their business and the services that they offer. Along with having a website, meaning that they have an online presence, where they can get reviews, whether they solicit them or not. 

That is what makes local reviews so effective, is that whether they are solicited or not, they get people talking about your business. The more people you get to talk about your business, the more your brand becomes well known and familiar so that customers are more inclined to spend their hard-earned money on your products or services. 

Why Should You Care About Getting Online Local Reviews? 

There are many different reasons why you should want and care about getting online reviews for your business. Nowadays, where we are living in a digital area, where we get all of our information online, reviews are essentially online advertisements for your business. Reviews are essentially your online reputation, on full display for everyone to see and read for themselves. 

In addition to being a representation of your online reputation, online reviews are also key in helping to get you noticed amidst all the online noise and traffic, increase sales, improve search engine results rankings, inform your business of strengths and weaknesses, and entice customers to pay your business visits and make a purchase. Online reviews are so important and powerful because they are putting the power of word of mouth into the hands of your customers. 

As of 2021, studies have found that 93% of customers read online reviews before they purchase a product, and 94% of all purchases are made of products that have an average rating of 4 stars or more. What these numbers are essentially saying is that if you don’t have reviews or they aren’t very good, your business may suffer or stagnate. Whether you like it or not, online reviews are becoming more and more important to the growth and reputation of your business. 

Why Should You Care About Getting Online Reviews? 

There are a lot of reasons why you should care about and be invested in getting online reviews, aside from increasing sales. Online reviews can help your business in a variety of different ways, including increasing your online presence, improving search engine rankings, and ultimately improving sales.  

  • Increase Online Presence: arguably one of the biggest benefits of online reviews is that they help you to get noticed by a larger audience online. Even if you don’t have an eCommerce website, having an online presence helps to grow your audience with your local customers. When people leave a review for your business, either positive or negative, they are kickstarting a conversation giving your business a reputation and a face. When you interact and respond to the reviews that you get, you are helping to grow your online presence and conversation based on a single review. When you do this over and over, customers who are researching your business will notice and want to experience what you have to offer them themselves. 
  • Improve Search Engine Rankings:  online reviews can be extremely beneficial with search engine rankings, especially on Google. Moz Study claims that online reviews account for 15.44% of Google’s ranking factors, which means the more reviews that you have, the higher you are likely to rank in the results.  Because Google places such an emphasis on online reviews, when a search is conducted the results will include not only the title, name and description of the website, but Google also includes a 5-star rating (i.e., reviews). 

Not only do reviews help you to rank higher on Google, but they also can help you locally as well. When searching for a business on Google Maps, viewers will see reviews along with the Google My Business information. In fact, directly under the business name, will be the 5-star rating as determined by customers and their online reviews. 

  • Improve Sales: reviews can be instrumental in helping increase your sales, as they can give potential customers confidence in making a purchase. This can be the deciding factor between making a purchase and looking elsewhere; if customers are on the fence about making a purchase, reviews can give them the final nudge to commit and make the purchase or to walk away. When customers are able to read about other customers’ personal experiences through reviews, they feel more confident and more informed about making a purchase. 
  • Improve Your Business: Additionally, reviews can help you to know how to improve your business in all aspects. If a customer has a negative experience with your business, and leaves a negative review, you are then aware of the issue and can address it and make changes. The same goes for positive reviews, if customers leave a positive review about their experience, you’ll know where you’re exceeding and what your customers appreciate and are expecting from your business. Reviews help you to find the gaps in your customer service and find ways in which you can improve and be better for current and future customers. 

How to Respond to Online Reviews

Hopefully by now, you have a good understanding of reviews and how important they are to your businesses success and ability to grow and reach new customers. In addition to knowing and understanding just how powerful reviews can and are, it is equally important to know and understand the importance of reviewing and managing your online reviews. 

A lot of business owners believe that so long as they are getting reviews, that is all that matters, and they don’t need to do anything with their reviews. This common misconception could not be farther from the truth. Getting reviews is the first step to attracting new customers and growing your business, but they are also a prime opportunity for you to show your current and future customers that you do in fact read and respond to every review, taking the feedback that you receive to improve and become better. 

While it might be tempting to smile at the positive reviews, and only respond to the negative reviews, it is actually going to be beneficial to respond to both positive and negative reviews. When you respond to all the reviews that you receive, you are engaging in conversation with your customers and demonstrating that you genuinely care about their opinions and want to ensure that all your customers have a positive experience. 

If you’re not sure how to respond to the reviews that you are receiving, the good news is that you are not alone in that regard. There are things that you can do to ensure that your customers feel heard and validated, even a simple “Thank You”, can go a long way. Here are a few other suggestions on ways in which you can respond to reviews in a positive and meaningful way. 

  • Responding to Positive Reviews: Everyone likes it when they receive positive reviews and feedback for what they are doing, so responding to these reviews is fun and relatively easy to do. This gives you an opportunity to connect with your customers and thank them for their input, showing them that they really do matter to you and your business. When customers take the time to leave a positive review, it goes a long way in showing what really matters to them. Show that you really appreciate it by acknowledging what matters to your customers matters to you to. Your customers will notice that you took the time to respond, giving you a few extra brownie points, along with showing that there is a real human working behind the scenes and not just a faceless website that is void of human interactions. 
  • Responding to Negative Reviews: Like it or not, every business is going to receive negative reviews at some point in time, whether they are justified or not, they will happen. When they do come, it is imperative that you respond, you have the opportunity to correct their grievance and try to make it right, learn from the experience and move forward. The National Association of Retail Marketing Services claims that when a “business resolves its issues quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy customers will return”. The way in which you respond to negative reviews will say a lot about your business, giving you the chance to win them back for a do-over. It might cost you to correct or rectify a negative comment, but it can cost you even more if you choose to do nothing. 

How to Get Local Reviews

Getting local reviews is a lot easier than you might initially think. It can be as simple as asking customers to leave a review online, or you can step it up by offering an incentive for leaving a review. The possibilities are endless, you just have to get people talking and the reviews will come. Encourage and participate in user generated content, to get people talking and sharing your business with others. By definition, user generated content is any content text, videos, images, reviews, etc. that is created by people rather than brands. Anytime customers talk, or post online about your business, they are creating user generated content. 

A popular way to get local reviews is to simply ask customers if they wouldn’t mind leaving a review online regarding their latest experience with your business. It can be as simple as sending customers a text with a link to a website where they can leave a review or offering a discount in exchange for posting a review. Most often customers will be more inclined to leave a review if they’ve been asked to do so or have been offered an incentive in exchange for their time. The more customers you can get to leave a review, the more user generated content you have, which means that there are more opportunities to get people talking about your business. 

Recently, I heard about a local competition in which people were invited to nominate their favorite businesses throughout the area for a “Best Of” competition. Following the nomination period, there was a couple of weeks where all the nominees were compiled into a list, organized into categories, and people could go and vote for who they thought was the best business in that category. At the end of the voting period, a gold and silver winner was announced, per category, based on the number of votes that were received. 

This type of competition encourages customers to vote for those who they feel are the best, it’s a different way of getting local reviews. Businesses that win the competition can then use the status as part of their advertising for the coming year. Being able to claim that you are a winner of the “Best of” competition, allows for businesses to announce that they have a lot of positive local reviews, which was reflected in the votes they received to win. It is a great way to get people talking about a specific business via user generated content. 

The way in which you get reviews and get people to talk about your business is only limited by your creativity. Once the conversation is started, it can and generally does keep going for the foreseeable future. 

How to Manage Online Reviews 

Online reviews can come from a variety of sources, such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, Angi’s, etc. With so many different sites allowing for customers to leave a review about their experience with a business, as a business owner or manager, it can be daunting, overwhelming, and super challenging to manage all these different review sites, if not impossible to do. This is where having a review software can really be beneficial, as it allows for you to respond and manage all your reviews, regardless of where they come from. 

This can be especially important for those businesses who rely strictly on local reviews to attract new customers. As was stated earlier, local reviews are defined by a geographical area that is in close proximity to where the search inquiry originates. Being able to manage and respond to reviews, especially local reviews, can really go a long way in demonstrating to your customers that you care about your business and what your customers are talking about. 

LocalReviews.com is an online review management software that helps you to get online reviews and makes it extremely easy to manage your reviews. As the name implies, they specialize in helping businesses get local reviews from those who are within the same geographical area. Stand out from your local competition and grow your business by investing time into getting local reviews and seeing how your business can grow and benefit as a result. 

Author: Ashley Christensen, Senior Editor at Local Reviews, LLC