If you are handling the marketing for a small business, it can be a challenge to decide where review efforts should be spent.
We all know that reviews help SEO in a very real way, and why wouldn’t they?
Customers love to see reviews when they are going to select a new business for the first time. In fact, 83% of buyers claim that they no longer trust advertising, but most trust recommendations from users online (according to Local Vox citing Formstack).
Further, according to Search Engine Land, 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from real people.
The problem is, there are a lot of review sites out there, and most of them are not set up to have reviews appear on one another.
Yelp, Google, and (increasingly) Facebook, are all platforms that present customer reviews, and this presents a unique challenge. Do you ask for reviews on all three sites? Segment the kind of customers you ask for reviews on each? Disregard a platform all together?
The answer is not an easy one. Larger businesses tend to have such a large customer base that reviews on all three sites (and others) just happen and increase over time, but when you are a small business, you want to collect reviews and have an effective online presence.
Let’s look first at the breakdown of each of these platforms, and then discuss differences and information that can help you to make a good decision on where to focus your marketing efforts.
Let’s start with the toughest of the three sites (at least in my personal opinion). Yelp actively discourages its business users from asking for reviews. According to an article by Practical Ecommerce, Yelp was quoted as saying:
“Let’s face it, most business owners are only going to ask for reviews from their happy customers, not the unhappy ones. Over time, these self-selected reviews create bias in the business listing – a bias that savvy consumers can smell from a mile away.”
Further, if you’ve ever experienced this, you will know that Yelp does not post all of the reviews you get (say what?).
It’s true; they do not post all of your reviews, and for businesses that have a limited number of clients, this can be a real bummer. They have an algorithm that determines which reviews appear and in which order. T
his mostly depends on the user – it favors users that have given a lot of reviews, have photos, and have Yelp “friends.”
For example, if one of your clients goes on to give a review and the have just created a profile to do so, with no picture or information on their account, you can bet that Yelp is going to prohibit that from being posted.
Additionally, if you were to send a mass email out to former clients and ask them for a yelp review, and then a ton of people went on to write a review within the same week, you can guarantee that not all of the reviews will be posted.
Basically, according to Yelp, you should not be “asking” your clients for reviews. This can be pretty challenging for small businesses that are trying to legitimately build up their SEO and online presence. However, there are still some ways that you can get customers to review without “asking” them per say.
- Add a Yelp button to your website, which will prompt returning customers to review
- Let customers know you are on Yelp by posting something in your storefront
- Add the Yelp Review button to your email signature
Clearly, Yelp’s definition of reviews presents a challenge, but for good reason. People see Yelp primarily as a review site. Yelp holds that they only want worthy and quality reviews and that customers can sense when reviews have been forced or plagiarized.
That being said, it can be difficult to build-up reviews, but Google still takes Yelp reviews into account in search rankings. Number of reviews, rating, and comments can make a difference in your SEO.
Someone can write you a Google review as soon as they type your company name in on the search engine (score)! You can also easily send people a link to your Google review page, by clicking on “write a review” yourself and copy/pasting the link into the body of an email.
We have spent a lot of time talking about challenges with Yelp reviews and their algorithm, and I don’t at all want to claim that Google will tolerate fake reviews (they won’t), but they don’t seem to have quite the stipulations that Yelp has as far as who makes the cut.
In fact, they have an even better engine for predicting “fake” reviews than Yelp. This saves small business a lot of frustration, since their customers put a lot of time and effort into writing reviews—and it is helpful for the business to keep any one they can.
It has been predicted that Google reviews will eventually overtake Yelp reviews. They are actually fairly new to the review game, only launching Google Local Search in 2012, while Yelp has been around since 2004.
Since Google has become king for online presence, it makes sense that they have enhanced their review features over the years, as well as integrated reviews from other sites (such as Groupon, Facebook, etc) into their review presentation.
In the case of restaurants and other industry-specific businesses, critic reviews can also be included (see screenshot below).
Plus, with Google reviews being directly linked to the search engine, it makes sense that reviews, or lack their of, will factor into rankings, particularly when talking about local SEO.
Lastly, Google doesn’t have a problem with you asking your customers for reviews. You can also respond to the negative reviews you get, which accommodates or at least supplements you being able to stand up for your brand’s image in a very straightforward way.
According to the Vocus study referenced above, 68% of consumers go to social networking sites to read product reviews.
Facebook is a very easy site for people that follow you to write a review and make their opinions known. What’s more, those who are following you are likely to write quality reviews as well.
As I mentioned above, Facebook reviews are also incorporated into the Google platform, so with Facebook reviews, you really are getting two for the time and investment in one, so-to-speak. Facebook is really a platform for brand awareness, pre/pos-purchase exploration, and branding support.
The cool thing about Facebook is that people actually prefer to leave reviews on Facebook, since they are on the platform frequently. In a survey by Review Trackers, it actually beat both Yelp and Google in user preference.
Below is a screenshot of what the new Facebook reviews look like:
For even more places your business can earn meaningful online reviews, check out this article from Search Engine Watch.
Verdict: which platform to focus on?
This answer is a little complex. After reading through this post, you probably see the value in all three sites, and yes, all three sites do impact SEO and ultimately make a difference in your online presence.
As I mentioned in the beginning, larger companies have no issue getting reviews on all three but if you are a small business trying to make some tough decisions, my recommendation is to start with Facebook. It will be easy to address your following and ultimately, those reviews will be going to Google as well. Yelp should be your last option, but a great one to keep in mind as you grow.
Which review sites does your business focus on? Do you have any advice for success? Let us know your thoughts and your story in the comment section below.