What does your current approach to reviews look like? Do you simply provide great products and services and hope it’ll be enough to persuade customers to take action when they’re satisfied? What about negative reviews? Do you incorporate them into your customer service strategy, or do you go on the defense whenever you receive one?

You may not realize it, but every aspect of marketing can be strategized. That includes review marketing. That’s why in this post, we’re going to cover everything you need to know to create your own review marketing strategy.

The Five Pillars of Online Reviews

Consumers are more connected now than ever. At any moment, a local customer can whip out their phone, input a search term related to your industry in Google, and find out everything they need to know about your business without ever visiting your website (at least that’s how they see it).

One thing customers have instant access to are reviews, especially your average rating. This is just one example of the importance of online reviews and how they can make or break your business. In fact, according to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey for 2018, 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses. That number jumps up to 95% when we specifically look at consumers age 18 to 34.

86% of people read reviews of local businesses.

You may kill it when it comes to the offline aspects of business, but if all you do online is publish a few posts on social media every month, you’re not truly utilizing digital marketing to its full potential. If you want to stay ahead of the game, you need to move parts of your marketing strategy online. If you ask us, there’s no better aspect of online marketing for local businesses or small national brands, to focus on than reviews. Why’s that? Because of how much they impact potential customers’ perception of you and how they influence other aspects of online marketing, such as search ranking.

Systems make everything easier since it makes repetitive processes easier to do in a consistent and purposeful way.  We’re going to show you how to create an online review marketing strategy, or system, so you can make things a little easier on yourself and your business. However, in order for you to better understand what it is you should be focusing on, you need to learn about the five pillars of online reviews.

They are:

Aggregate Star Rating

Your aggregate star rating is the average of all of the scores you receive on any given platform. As I said, it’s one of the first things customers see when they look up your business online. As such, your number one goal should be to keep your star rating as high as possible.

How high, you ask? Well, according to BrightLocal’s survey, 57% of consumers only use businesses with and aggregate rating of four or more stars. That should give you an idea of how important star rating is.

Number of Reviews

The importance of aggregate rating probably wasn’t news to you. What you may be surprised to hear is that the number of reviews you have is important to customers as well. In fact, consumers read at least 10 reviews before deciding whether or not they’ll use certain businesses, according to BrightLocal’s survey. So if your business has less than 10, they may feel they don’t have enough information to decide to go.

Plus, the more reviews you have, the more popular your business will appear to new customers. It also gives you more potential to increase your average star rating. Search ranking may also be improved by having more positive reviews on the right platforms.

Quality of Reviews

Another commonly overlooked aspect of review marketing is the quality of the reviews your business receives. This matters to customers and search engines alike. Google, in particular, uses reviews left on its own platform as a ranking factor.

Review quality has to do with the way the review is written. A high-quality review doesn’t necessarily need to be several paragraphs long. It does, however, need to be written in complete sentences and should feature some type of keyword relevant to your business. Your replies to reviews can also factor in here as well, so be sure to write thought-out replies and throw in a keyword or two.

Examples of low-quality reviews include “this place was awesome,” “this restaurant sucked” or any review that has a rating but no text.

Frequency of Reviews

This is a bigger deal to Google than it is to users, though it is a growing concern among customers. It has to do with how often customers leave reviews for your business on any given platform. Google specifically looks at frequency on its own review platform. If reviews aren’t published frequently enough, it sees that as a lack of interest in a particular business and subsequently ranks it lower than other businesses in the area.

As for customers, 40% of consumers only look at reviews written within the past two weeks, according BrightLocal’s survey. That number is up 18% from their 2017 survey.

Review Platforms

An astonishing 91% of consumers aged 18-34 trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, according to BrightLocal’s survey. It’s important for you to receive the majority of your reviews on well-known and trusted platforms, such as Google Reviews and Facebook Recommendations. Reviews published on your website aren’t nearly as credible.

91% of people 18-34 trust reviews as much as personal recommendations

Using a variety of different platforms also gives you more opportunities to be discovered by new customers. Plus, some platforms have more weight than others, such as Google and its influence over local SEO.

Now that you have a better understanding of the most important aspects of online reviews, let’s learn how to put it all together.

How to Build Your Online Review Marketing Strategy

Your review marketing strategy is the process you’ll use to manage your business’ reputation online. This includes monitoring mentions of your brand across multiple platforms, encouraging customers to leave reviews and responding to negative and positive reviews alike efficiently and effectively.

It should be noted this strategy is nothing more than a guideline you can take, build off of and transform as your own. Let’s start with online reputation management so you can gauge where you business is at in this department.

Keeping an Eye On Your Reputation

You should be monitoring mentions of your brand and your performance across several platforms. If this is your first time taking a good hard look at your reviews, you should conduct an audit while you’re at it. All you need to do is make note of the review platforms your business is featured on and record your average ratings, the number of reviews you have, as well as how often you receive reviews. You could also research your competitors to see if your business has a review page on each of the most popular review platforms in your industry.

For ongoing monitoring, use tools like Free Review Monitoring, Google Alerts, and Zapier to keep an eye on mentions of your brand, especially on social media. You should also make browsing your business’ most popular review platforms part of your weekly routine.

Ask for Reviews

One of the most effective ways to ensure your business receives reviews on a regular basis is to ask for them. This is where a tool like Starfish Reviews comes in handy. While it can’t guarantee you reviews, it will give you opportunities to collect reviews from customers who otherwise wouldn’t have left them.

Other than that, you can let customers know where they can leave reviews when you speak to them in person. You can also use reviews in marketing materials, and link to them on your website. Check out the footer of our site (below), where we link to the platforms we’d like to be reviewed on.

Respond to Negative Reviews

Responding to reviews is a major part of managing your reputation online, but tread carefully when it comes to responding to negative reviews. It’s best to have your business owner, manager or best customer service team member handle these types of responses.

Always start by addressing the reviewer by name and thanking them for taking the time to write a review. Respond to any claims they made by owning up to your mistakes, providing explanations and sharing insight on how your business plans to improve.

If a negative review is vague or even blank, invite the customer to speak to you privately about any concerns they have. Also, stick to your most popular review platforms if you’re pressed for time, and don’t discount negative responses on social media platforms without rating systems.

Responding to Positive Reviews

While responding to negative reviews can help you mitigate potential negative reaction, responding to positive ones can help you form long-lasting relationships with satisfied customers who might have otherwise not returned to your business.

Start your responses in the same way as the negative responses, but give a little insight on anything your customer praised and share anything you have planned for the future.

Cleaning Up Poor & Fake Reviews

I’ve mentioned low-quality reviews throughout this post, but fake reviews can be just as troublesome. You should work toward removing or improving both of these in your strategy.

We already talked about improving low-quality reviews by asking your customer to elaborate on short or blank reviews. However, if you spot a fake review, such as one that features details not related to your business, you’ll need to report it to the review platform to hopefully get it removed.

Final Thoughts

Incorporating review marketing into your overall marketing strategy may seem daunting, but it can be a gamechanger for your local SEO efforts. Again, this was just a basic outline. You can add to it, subtract from it or even adapt it as you learn more about review marketing.

Be sure to read our post on how reviews help local SEO if you’d like more information on this subject.

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Lyn Wildwood

Lyn is an expert freelance WordPress blogger. She brings many years of WordPress content writing experience to the Starfish Reviews team.