- Carl Maerz is a co-founder of Rocket Referrals.
Online reviews are hot right now. Every business knows they should be getting more of them, right?
Well, I’m asked daily “why” a business should collect online reviews, “how” they help, and “what” the process of collecting them entails. So, I figured I would just write a blog post about it for all the curious minds out there.
It’s easier for prospects to find you online
Most of you have heard of the term SEO (search engine optimization), as it tends to be a buzzword not only in the insurance industry, but just about everywhere you look. Simply put, SEO is the process of ensuring your website ranks high when people search for a related topic online.
Over the years SEO has become rather complex. The search engines (Google, Yahoo, etc.) offer different breeds of search and are constantly changing their algorithms in hopes of improving the user experience. Keep in mind that search engines are most interested in catering to the end-user (the guy or gal searching online) and not the businesses.
Just over 67 percent of all U.S. search results are from Google. Therefore most of what I discuss below, including examples, will relate to Google search.
At the end of the day, the businesses will pay to be where their prospects are – which provides Google with one of their highest revenue streams through Adwords (paid placement on search). In fact, advertisements account for nearly 90 percent of Google’s annual revenue at over $59 billion. So that’s how Google is making all that money!
Improving SEO traditionally meant finding ways to improve a business’ ranking on organic search results. Being “organic” means that the search results don’t include any pesticides or are genetically enhanced in any way. Nah, I’m joking. It means that websites appear higher in search rankings because of their relevance to the search terms, rather than being paid for.
For a business, showing up on organic search is much more productive than paid advertisements. One study showed that 94 percent of people click on organic search results over paid advertisements.
Ranking higher with organic search isn’t easy. So many factors go into how businesses are ranked including things like website keywords, number of external links to website, etc. There are thousands of companies out there that specialize on helping businesses rank higher in organic search. It is no easy task.
There is a new breed of search that is becoming increasingly relevant: local search results (essentially a subcategory of organic search). Google recently updated its algorithm (Pigeon) to rank local businesses higher in search – essentially giving them a free pass over most organic search results.
This is not to say that organic and local search aren’t related. They certainly are. Location of the business is a significant factor for organic search results. But local listings, which are tied directly to Google Maps, regularly appear at the top of the search – for example here when insurance related terms are searched for e.g. “home insurance”, or “car insurance des moines”.
Take a look at the example below of the different types of search results.
Ultimately, as a business operating within a region, the goal is to rank higher in local search results. This way you will be placed in a prominent location with relevant searches.
According to Google, three factors influence Google local search rankings: Relevance (matches search), Distance, and Prominence (how well known the business is).
A significant component of “prominence” is online reputation from online reviews. Google will take reviews from many different online sites into consideration (including Yelp, Facebook, Google, etc.) which all influence the rankings on Google local search.
Reviews help you stand out
We’ve established that collecting online reviews help your business rank higher on organic (including local) search results. The next—perhaps obvious—benefit is that online reviews will help your business stand out from the crowd.
A 2014 study by BrightLocal suggests that the American consumer is increasingly using local reviews to make purchase decisions. Their latest survey shows that 88 percent of consumers use, at least occasionally, local online reviews during the buying decision process.
The bottom line is that online reviews are an important tool for consumers to judge the quality of a business. There is currently a large opportunity for agents to stand out online. The vast majority of businesses have at most 1 or 2 reviews online. Many have none at all.
Put yourself in the shoes of a consumer searching online for whatever service you offer. Would you rather chose a rather unknown establishment, or one that has a handful of positive reviews? Research, not to mention common sense, shows that online reviews provide social proof which impact purchase decisions.
So how do you do it?
First things first, you want to ensure that your website is “with the times.” The better your website the higher you will rank on organic (including local) search.
Identify who your best clients are using the Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Collect testimonials from your best clients.
Ask those clients that gave you a testimonial to review you online.