July 24 2013
Understanding Online Reviews for B2B Companies
Why Online Reviews are Important
Online reputation management has become a significant part of an integrated online strategy. Gone are the days where businesses shied away from being reviewed on the internet for fear of negative exposure. Reviews are a vital part of the B2B conversion process and the B2B customer is more discerning than ever. In fact, the average B2B customer uses four online sources while shopping for his or her business purchase1.
Reviews are also critical in a search engine optimization strategy: the number of reviews and the positivity of those reviews are two of the three biggest factors in local search rankings. In the current version of Google Maps, rankings become even more important, as users can opt to filter listings by reviews. Star ratings, whether through organic markup or on paid search ads, do wonders toward improving click through rates. On average, ads with Seller Ratings get a 17% higher click-through rate than the same ads without ratings.
How to Obtain Reviews
B2B reviews do not almost naturally appear, like those of a favorite restaurant or boutique. Simply, you must ask for online reviews. Start with asking your most loyal, trusted and happy customers for a review, and be accommodating with simple instructions. Your timing is crucial: the ideal time to ask is as a follow up to when customers have made a purchase or you have supplied a service. How you ask is also important, in person or over the phone will bear more results than a mass email. Leveraging your current social media channels, having a call to action in your email signature or on your website’s thank you pages are all additional ways to gain more reviews. But take caution…
How NOT to Obtain Reviews
It’s important that you’re careful about how you acquire online reviews. To be published through the strict review filters, your reviews must seem natural. When a business who has never received a review suddenly gets twenty in a day, it can raise a red flag. Not under any circumstances should you write fake positive reviews or solicit reviews. This includes incentivizing your customers to leave a review with a product, service or through a contest. Do not try to deceive the system; it can backfire! In the past, Yelp has added a “consumer alert” on profile pages of businesses caught purchasing reviews. Looking at the terms of service/review policies for various services will help guide you (Google+ Review policy and Yelp’s Terms of Service).
Where to Obtain Reviews
Google+ and Yelp are generally great places to get reviews, but they will often filter out reviews from first time or infrequent reviewers. Plus, if your customer does not already have a Yelp or Google account, he/she might find that there are too many hoops to jump through to register. Don’t be discouraged, review filters and account registration are in place to allow for genuine and trustworthy reviews. The review filter algorithms continue to change and over time a filtered review may be published. With these obstacles in mind, you should employ Phil Rozek’s “Zigzag Approach” to obtain online reviews. In this method, the business owner asks “diagnostic questions to determine where a customer should review you.” Is your customer an active Yelper? Does he/she have a Google account? Where have they left reviews in the past? Is there a review site that is common to your business? If this isn’t their first review rodeo, you should be optimistic that they will leave a review and it may be published. If they are new to online reviews, you should request where they would feel most comfortable publishing. A Facebook recommendation, though it may have little benefit in the search engine results, is better than no recommendation at all, and can even be shown in your Google maps results.
How to Handle a Bad Review
Unfortunately, bad online reviews can come with the territory. You should take customer feedback, both good and bad, and learn from the experience. TopSpot also recommends that businesses do not try to repress, but rather respond to their poor reviews. Express empathy with the customer’s situation and remain sincere. If applicable, offer the customer to give the business another try. A business’s response to a bad online review is important: a BrightLocal survey reported consumers are doing more research now than ever before; 59% of consumers will look at two to three review sites before making a decision about a business. Being an attentive business can be a strong signal of trust. If a business shows they care about their online reputation, it’s likely they will care about a customer’s experience.
Display Your Own Online Reviews
Having optimized, creative reviews featured on your site is a way to showcase positive feedback. Publishing reviews from your customers is a great tactic to employ if your business had struggled with its online reputation and you need to combat any bad reviews in your organic branded searches.
1) Have a “Testimonials” or “Reviews” page on your website. By publishing your own customer’s reviews, you have more control over the content and can bypass the hassle of review sites. TopSpot likes video testimonials: they are personal, compelling and as media can rank on their own. We even feature customer testimonials throughout our website and have a dedicated testimonials page!
2) Do not attempt to scrape (AKA copy) positive reviews from other review sites. Instead, you can choose to integrate the reviews if the site has an API. Alternatively, you can link to your review sites.
3) Use Schema.org mark-up. When collecting reviews from clients, ask them also rate you on a 1-5 scale. You can then use structured data to create a star rating system, which could potentially be displayed in your organic search results.
Your online reputation is extremely important. Ask your customers for reviews, but be strategic about how, when and who you ask. Be sure to follow the rules of review sites. Pay attention to what is being said about your business online and respond when necessary. Be sure to highlight the positive customer experience on your website through creative, optimized online reviews. Remember, excellent customer service will improve your conversion rate!
1 Source: Google & Compete B2B Customer Study, June 2012.