As we’re slowly approaching 2020, it’s always good to avoid putting loads of time and energy into a specific initiative, like review generation, if the trend isn’t moving in a growing direction, and other important facets of digital marketing are more pressing. As you’ll see in upcoming months, structured data coupled with voice search optimization, revisiting on-site optimization, and more complex approaches to site load speed and delivery are going to be ongoing topics that high-level SEOs will likely be discussing.  For now, let’s revisit our ongoing emphasis on the generation of positive reviews for your business.

The biggest takeaway I’ve seen in the past 6 months isn’t so much that reviews aren’t growing in importance (they are) but where the reviews should be coming from.  We set up our typical surveys of 250 people asking the same standard questions we’ve been asking every 6 months for the past 2 years:

  • On a scale from 1-10, how much do reviews on Google, specifically, affect your decision to choose a local business?
  • Being that Google reviews go to a maximum of 5.0 out of 5.0, what is the minimum score they should have to be considered an option to you? (fractions can be used EX: 4.2 or 3.5)
  • What is the minimum number of reviews a local business should have on Google to be considered legitimate to you?

Working backward to add to the suspense, the minimum number of reviews people want to see was 14 a year ago, 20 6 months ago, and 23 today.  That’s a tall order for some people, including our own location we just moved to that has 12, falling short for our own practice what you preach moment.  The most common response was 10 reviews though, so if you at least meet the double-digit medium, you’re certainly on the right track. People want more social validation, and they want it from different sources.

The average minimum rating has also slowly dropped over time, which is somewhat perplexing as well.  a minimal rating a year ago was 3.9, then 3.84, and then dropping even a little bit more to 3.83.  We know these are just averages, with plenty of respondents claiming a 4.5 or higher is important to them, and our own opinion hovering at no less than 4.2.  But keep in mind that the most common response was a solid “4”, and I do believe that the biggest tenth of a difference in a rating occurs between 4.0 and 3.9.

Are Reviews on Google the Most Important?

Now for the interesting part about the past 6 months – peoples’ perception of Google being the end all be all for validating the rating of a business has shifted.  The 1-10 for the past couple years has always been around an “8” in importance, but this was the first time we saw a significant decline in importance, averaging a 6.85 out of 10 in this most recent survey.  Even when weighted partially from other balancing factors such as median and mode, the weighted still wasn’t much more than 6.94. This is officially a big difference in what we’ve seen and heard in the past.  After discussing these findings with other SEOs, the conclusion isn’t so much that reviews aren’t important.  Definitely the contrary – reviews are more important than ever, it’s just that consumers want to see reviews taking place on one than one source.

No matter what industry you’re in, there are typically at least 2 industry-specific places that review validation can occur.  Being able to “spread the love” when doing follow-ups to hopefully encourage positive reviews should occur.  While 200+ reviews on Google is certainly impressive, and we look for other factors such as a correlation with maps placement, if you’re leaps and bounds past your next best competitor in the area, it would be worthwhile to direct the attention to some other platforms for reviews.  Social validation is helpful on Facebook and (unfortunately) Yelp, and though there is no official process for Yelp nor is it encouraged to even overtly pursue a review campaign for Yelp, there are some professional businesses in the industries we work with reporting as high as one-third of all their social platform leads coming through Yelp.

We can’t expect even raving fans of our business or product to leave a review a half dozen places if they offer, so we should be selective.  It is still interesting to note that many people are not averse to leaving a review on as many as three websites, so if you’re already set with Google, you can certainly encourage other places that need improvement.

A Recap of the Review Generation Process

Since we can confirm the necessity of reviews currently and for years to come, let’s explore some of the trending approaches and information about review generation as it is done successfully today. Here are some major takeaways from each of these recent articles outlining best practices and methods we’ve thoroughly tested and adjusted over the past two years:

How Do People Prefer to Receive Review Requests?

  • Former clients and customers generally don’t mind you following up with a review request if their experience was positive
  • People are used to getting SMS/texts from businesses at this point with notifications, offers, and alerts, so reaching out via text with a review request isn’t as intrusive as we may think
  • That being said, an email is still the preferred method of follow up
  • Follow-ups are crucial for review generation systems to work. Many people don’t get around to leaving the review until the third touchpoint.

7 Ways Companies with 5-Star Reviews are Dominating the Competition

  • The third-most common use of Google My Business for consumers is reading reviews
  • Reviews have a strong correlation with placement on the local map pack
  • The more reviews you have, the more opportunities you have to share great testimonials on your website and social media
  • Many unique awards and accolades in your industry are unlocked and available after meeting certain social validation milestones

Looking to Gather More Reviews?

As you can see, reviews are becoming increasingly important to consumers who may need your services. If you’re not getting enough reviews or aren’t sure where to start our team of digital marketing experts can implement review generation strategies that make it easy to reach out to past clients. Our goal is to help you stand out from your competition by strengthening your online credibility, and generating reviews is just one of your options. Learn more about our review generation service by contacting us for a free consultation.