Reviews are a necessary aspect of keeping businesses honest. Consumers deserve the ability to access resources that help them make informed decisions when purchasing products and services. These resources are more available to consumers than ever before thanks to technology like the internet and smartphones.

Whenever people want to try a new restaurant, they almost always pick up their phone, open a web browser, and search for results, usually through Google’s search engine. This process yields a long list of star ratings and other reviews describing how customers like the particular restaurant. This informal process isn’t only applicable to restaurants; virtually any business, large or small, has reviews posted about it online.

Your business’s online “presence” is a combination of its visibility on popular internet sites, its ranking in search engine results, and how it’s perceived by the people researching or encountering it in cyberspace.

For some local businesses, establishing an online presence seems either unnecessary or far-fetched. However, once businesses realize how vital a good online presence is to effective marketing in today’s world, regardless of the size and scope of your business, they’re quick to adopt practices that improve their presence online.

Gathering reviews is a key component in the effort to expand your business’s online presence. If collecting reviews seems like extra work for both you and your staff, you might be right. But with only a little more effort and the help of powerful review gathering software, your business can collect and share reviews easily, building your online presence and expanding your clientele base.

Below are some of the reasons reviews are an essential part of your online presence.

1. Everyone Reads Reviews

With magazines and newspapers rapidly disappearing from the public space, online reviews are one of the few places to read consumer reviews. And it’s not as if people are neglecting to take advantage of online reviews as a resource. Research shows that 95% of customers read online reviews.

If consumers are reading online reviews before making almost any purchase, the responsibility of businesses is to provide their customers and potential customers enough reviews to make an informed decision about their specific product or service. Spending only a small amount of additional time on gathering reviews and having them posted on the right sites and forums is a chance to access the broadest readership in history.

2. People Trust Reviews

Some business owners might still be skeptical about the usefulness of online reviews. Even if people are reading reviews at a prolific rate, they couldn’t be taking them seriously. Or could they?

The numbers suggest that the vast majority of consumers trust online reviews. 84% of them trust reviews as much as a personal recommendation. So, in a certain way, online reviews are just as important as the word-of-mouth recommendations small businesses have relied on for decades.

If customers trust the reviews of your business they’re reading online and those reviews are overwhelmingly positive, they’re likely to trust and frequent your business. It’s a simple formula that emphasizes the power of online reviews.

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3. Reviews Bring New Customers

A natural consequence of people reading and relying upon online reviews is that businesses can attract new customers by bolstering their online presence with reviews. At a time when people trust online voices to the same degree that they trust their own family and friends, it’s imperative to utilize review sites to bring in new clients.

In the past, many of the most dependable new clients came through word-of-mouth referrals. While these references are still important, information and opinions travel more quickly over the internet. Since people are turning to their smartphones to get the trusted opinions they formerly got from peers, businesses should likewise recalibrate their marketing outreach to embrace online reviews.

4. Positive Reviews Boost Revenue

An expanding clientele base, if scaled correctly, brings about a boost in revenue. A study¹ published by Harvard Business School found that a one-star increase on Yelp improved the revenue of restaurants by between 5 and 9 percent. This improvement was seen disproportionately in independent restaurants rather than chains.

This research bodes well for other small and independent businesses. Local business often has a difficult time exerting its influence when chains and corporations have seemingly limitless resources available to them. However, if small businesses are able to push up star ratings on review sites, they’ll see the benefits in their customer base and profit stream.

5. Sheer Numbers Matter

Some small businesses are just starting out and don’t quite have the confidence to ask for reviews. They want to establish an online presence, but maybe think their organization isn’t running as smoothly as they’d like before beginning to collect reviews.

Although it’s ideal to optimize your online presence with excellent reviews, your business shouldn’t forsake reviews if it isn’t getting the exact types of reviews it wants. Many of the biggest companies in the world get middling reviews and still prosper. That’s because just getting people to talk about your business online is productive.

6. S.E.O. Is Review Dependent

S.E.O. is an acronym that stands for search engine optimization. It’s basically the process of improving a business’s online presence to search engine users. The algorithms used by companies like Google and Microsoft depend partly on review sites for how they place business in their local search engine result rankings.

Both quality and quantity are factored into the equation for determining your business’s ranking. Things like news articles and original website content help improve your SEO performance, but so do online reviews. The most effective businesses garner reviews that are both overwhelmingly positive and numerous; for better or worse, winning the internet is a bit of a popularity contest.

7. Reviews Share Customer Expectations

Gathering reviews isn’t only about gaining more customers and more profits. It’s also a great way to hear the thoughts of real customers. If you hadn’t noticed, people feel very free to be much more direct online than in person. While this direct communication can sometimes be overbearing and downright offensive, it also gives you better access to what your clients really think about how you run your business.

Understanding what customers find to be your strengths and weaknesses is central to managing employees, developing policy, and perfecting your product. Without the feedback of customers, you’re forced to rely on yourself and your team. This option allows for some improvement, but doesn’t provide the holistic approach that good online reviews do.

8. Direct Engagement with Customers

Along with giving you more direct access to what your customers really think about your business, reviews let you engage with customers more frequently. When you encounter reviews online, your first course of action should generally be to thank customers for their willingness to share their insights. By expressing gratitude, you generate good rapport, even with those who may have problems with your business. This opens up the conversation to what can be done to improve your services.

As you discover reviews across multiple sites, you and your team should find the most positive and negative reviews in the bunch. Identifying these helps further develop an online presence. The proper course of action from here diverges a bit.

9. Reviews Create Customer Loyalty

Glowing reviews are an opportunity to share customer enthusiasm on your website and other social media platforms. Once you get the approval of the reviewer, you can use real testimonials to improve your reputation or gather more feedback.

As consumers see positive reviews in places other than review sites, like on social media, they develop brand loyalty. People want to frequent businesses that not only provide quality services, but value and appreciate their customers. Sharing positive reviews builds your brand online.

10. Fight Fake Reviews

Negative reviews, as previously mentioned, are just a fact of life on the internet. However, when they go too far by being unnecessarily offensive or totally dishonest, it’s crucial that your business address them.

A few negative reviews is healthy and demonstrates your business’s authenticity. This doesn’t mean your business should tolerate outright lies. Reporting suspect reviews to site administrators prevents you from being hurt by competitors or other entities looking to harm your online presence.

Weave Enhances Your Online Presence With Reviews

Now that you know how important reviews are to establishing a strong online presence, it’s equally important to understand how modern technology can aid you in this process.

Weave’s combination of hardware and software solutions allow you to promote your small business, get discovered by new customers, and keep the old ones coming back. It enables you to collect reviews by sending requests to customers. It also lets you monitor and track reviews across multiple platforms, including Google and Facebook.

Watch a free demo to discover how Weave can enhance your online presence with reviews.