With 92% of customers reading testimonials and reviews while considering a purchase, and 88% of them trusting online reviews just as much as a personal recommendation, it’s clear that this kind of social proof is a significant driving force in nurturing customer trust and increasing sales.
But the benefits of reviews don’t stop there. They also drive traffic, both by increasing SEO through building trust and authority and, in the case of affiliate reviews, by driving customers to your site.
Reviews clearly play a pivotal role in sales, marketing, and branding — but how can you begin to strategically incorporate them into your own marketing strategy to earn trust?
Why are reviews and testimonials so important for SEO?
Online reviews are an essential factor for the SERPs, accounting for around 15% of ranking factors for local businesses. And why not? Independent reviews of your brand let Google know whether or not your website serves its customers sufficiently.
As a result of Google’s 2014 Pigeon update, third-party review directories are an important consideration for the SERPs, to the point that some business pages rank higher than their actual website counterparts.
Alongside this, Google also displays these review pages alongside your own website, showing prospective customers how trustworthy your brand is in the SERPs.
In short: reviews matter for your SEO—a lot.
How can you nurture and manage reviews and testimonials?
You know why reviews and testimonials are so essential for SEO, but how do you nurture and manage them? Here are my five tips for getting started.
If you don’t ask, you don’t get
The best way to get reviews and testimonials for your business? Just ask.
Once your customers have made a purchase with you, reach out to them and ask them to leave a review. It’s best to give it a day or two before you do this—this gives them time to use their purchase, and they’ll still have that joy-of-purchase glow.
Keep it simple too. Don’t overload customers with lots of questions. A short and simple survey with a scale of 1-5 for answers is fine, with some space left for a few short responses.
If your customers haven’t responded, give them a gentle reminder to chase them up in a day or two, but don’t be pushy—you can’t force a good review.
Be transparent and human
There’s nothing more disappointing than broken promises. Waiting anxiously for the delivery of that dream product and it not being quite what you were expecting — we’ve all been there. Avoiding such a situation for your own brand starts with being transparent and honest about what customers should expect from your business.
This starts at the very first introduction to your brand. Avoid sales jargon, dishonest marketing and hyperbolic statements about your products and services. Promising the world but falling short in your delivery is a sure-fire way to encourage negative reviews from your customers.
Instead, look to manage expectations in a realistic, honest way. Opt for clean, clear communications and set realistic outcomes so every customer knows exactly what they’re getting.
Be honest about potential problem areas, but take care to emphasise the solutions.
Provide top-notch customer service
A few extra seconds of effort can be all it takes to make a customer’s day, helping to establish the kind of loyal (and vocal) advocates you want for your business. After all, how can you gain trust and loyalty from people who just feel like a number rather than a customer?
Create a set of customer service guidelines with clear internal service level agreements (SLAs), committing to a high level of quality for your customer care.
Put clear frameworks and templates in place for customer service management, spanning complaints, common queries, praise, and so on. These help standardise responses, ensuring every customer receives the same level of care and attention when interacting with your brand.
That’s not to say that customer service isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, of course. Personalisation is key in communications, but guidelines and SLAs help speed up the process and keep it consistent so you can deliver stellar customer service time and again.
Respond to positive and negative reviews
Engaging with online reviews is a critical step in building a positive online presence and encouraging other customers to feedback on their experience. This, in turn, further promotes trust in your business, not just with those existing customers, but new ones too.
Responding to reviews is the perfect opportunity to leverage your online reputation, but getting this right can be tricky. How do you respond to a negative review? Why reply to a good review? Here are a few key tips to take to get you started.
Let’s begin with responding to a good review:
- Always thank the individual personally for leaving a review. Appreciation and personalisation goes a long way — and it’s just polite!
- Make sure you mention your business name in your response. This will help with SEO and ensure that when customers research your business, positive reviews are at the top of the pile.
- Use it as a marketing opportunity to introduce the customer to another product or service — this helps with upsell when the customer is in a positive state of mind, as well as highlighting other areas of your business to potential new customers too.
- Encourage another action, whether that’s coming back to your store again, spreading the word or letting them know of upcoming offers you think they’ll love. Keep the momentum going as much as possible.
But what about bad reviews?
- Apologise and sympathise, showing humility in your opening — you want them to feel acknowledged and listened to.
- Unlike the positive review response, try to avoid mentioning your business name in your response to negative reviews. This ensures they receive less attention in the SERPs than your positive reviews.
- If you receive a negative review on social, take the conversation private as soon as possible by directing them to your dedicated customer service help desk. This helps prevent any negative publicity from customers airing their grievances in public.
Create a loyalty program
Consumers are prone to comparing offers and prices across brands — it’s a natural part of the buying process. But they can also be very habitual in their shopping behaviours, and loyalty programs are the perfect way to capitalise on this and ensure your brand stays in your prospective customers’ minds.
A survey on customer loyalty by the Data & Marketing Association found a significant demand by consumers for incentives, such as free gifts/treats, location-based discounts, and gamified rewards. Little incentives like these, delivered through a loyalty program, give your customers that warm fuzzy feeling and nurtures loyalty into the bargain.
Further to this, 67% of consumers surveyed agreed that their trust in a brand improves when these incentives have a sense of exclusivity, something loyalty programs are perfect for conveying.
So if you haven’t set up your loyalty program, adding a quick and easy sign-up method could be the perfect gift for your website this year.
Building customer trust is an essential part of your business strategy, and it’s not something you can sit on your laurels with either. It requires constant care and attention, but the overall rewards are well worth the time and effort.