Customer Reviews are no longer avoidable. Whether you want them or not, the World Wide Web has made it possible for customers to leave feedback about their experiences from anywhere in the World. The only way to keep up, is to get knowledgable. We're unmuddled the world of online reviews for you, all in one place, so you can learn why, what, how and everything in between. Today we'll be covering:
- Why do customers write reviews?
- Why do companies collect reviews?
- The different types of online reviews
- Where do reviews appear in Google Search Results?
- Where to collect customer reviews
- Facts & Figures
An Introduction to Customer Reviews
If you were to browse the Oxford English Dictionary for a definition of 'review', you’d find the following:
“A critical appraisal of a book, play, film, etc. published in a newspaper or magazine.”
For our purposes, however, (assuming we are all here because we are running a business with some kind of online presence), we can update this definition to:
“A critical appraisal of a company or product, published on the Internet”.
Online Reviews usually take the form of a score out of an arbitrary number (usually 5 or 10) and a comment by the reviewer to justify or support their score. Quite often, a graphical representation of the review score is shown, usually in the form of stars.
Why do customers write reviews?
The beauty of customer reviews is that they benefit both consumers and businesses.
Although there are thousands of reviews online, the shopper to review ratio is actually rather low with only 15% of customers leaving them regularly. For those that do leave reviews, what compels them to do so? Customer reviews give consumers some power; they give them a voice. Research has shown that customers predominantly leave reviews for pretty selfless reasons - they want to help other customers make better decisions or give feedback so that the business can improve. Only very rarely do customers leave feedback as a sort of vendetta against a company that has upset them.
Why do companies collect reviews?
Businesses don't just collect online reviews to make their website look pretty - there are many benefits to having stars next to your business and product name online.
Customer reviews build trust & confidence
One of the biggest topics talked about when it comes to collecting customer feedback is trust. There are two reasons for this:
- Allowing customer to freely review you showcases transparency.
- Customers are able to view your previous performances, helping to reassure them before they buy.
- Responding to reviews gives you the opportunity to provide public, after-sale customer service, showing you care about your customers.
The importance of trust for eCommerce shouldn't be underestimated - In a Reviews.io study, over 83% of shoppers stated that the presence of reviews is the most important factor in their buying decision-making process and review-related studies correlate, showing reviews to increase basket size and on-page conversions.
Customer Reviews can benefit SEO
Whether consumers are looking for the best body lotion or place to get a mortgage, chances are it'll start with a search. Search engine result pages are highly competitive places and can often be dominated by long-established companies with recognisable brand names and high Domain Authorities. SEO can improve your chances of getting noticed.
Review collection can benefit SEO in the following ways:
- User-generated content increases the amount of stuff Google has to crawl. Reviews about your business are likely to contain LSI Keywords to tell Google more about your business offerings.
- Reviews increase CTR, a ranking factor. Google prioritises listings that receive more clicks as they're thought to be a better match for user intent.
- Reviews are the number one ranking factor in Local Search Results.
Feedback improves overall customer satisfaction
Whether good bad, short or long, user-generated content can benefit both companies and customers by giving them a deeper insight.
For companies: reviews are like free testing if you like. Customer feedback can tell you so much about your products and services and help you identify areas to constantly improve on.
For customers: reviews give more information about products and services - whether the sizing comes up small or is the scent is strong. Whilst such comments may put some customers off, they'll push them towards a more suitable offering, increasing your customer's satisfaction in the long run.
Review stars increase CTR
Google Ads is getting increasingly expensive, so businesses should be looking for anything they can to keep their costs low. Reviews could be the answer. Displaying stars in Google Ads helps you stand out above your competitors. It makes you shine so brightly that you can pretty much count on an increased click-through rate, which will lower your CPC and get you more bang for your buck.
What does this mean overall? Through their many benefits, reviews reduce costs and increase sales to give you a bigger profit.
The different types of online reviews
Although reviews appear in many different places across many different sites, they can be segregated into two main categories:
- Company reviews &
- Product reviews
Also known as Google Seller Ratings (Google), Seller Feedback (Amazon), Feedback (ebay)
A company review is a critique of a business as a whole by its customers. Elements included in company reviews may include order experience, delivery, and customer service. Company reviews are written by customers as a result of their experience with that company. Company reviews do not include details of an individual product.
Although the content of restaurant or attraction reviews may differ, they are still seen as 'company reviews' by Google.
Also known as Product Ratings (Google), Customer Reviews (Amazon), Product Reviews (ebay)
A product review is a critique of an individual item or set of items. Elements included in product reviews may include size, fit, description, ease of use, quality, longevity or suitability. Product reviews are usually written after a product has been received and used by the consumer.
Product reviews might be shown in Google Shopping adverts, on a company’s individual product page, or as a Rich Snippet in Google’s organic search results.
Verified Vs Unverified Reviews
Not all product and company reviews are the same - some carry more 'weight' than others.
Unverified reviews These are reviews left after a purchase or experience that cannot be verified. They're collected on TripAdvisor, Amazon and Google My Business listings and can be left by anyone. Whilst common, without confirmation, unverified reviews carry little weight.
Verified reviews are those that can be confirmed as authentic. The reviewer must provide proof - usually in the form of a receipt - to verify their purchase. These carry more weight as they're guaranteed to be genuine.
Google verified reviews & Google Licensed Review Partners
The Holy Grail of reviews are Google verified reviews. These are the only reviews that will ever appear in Google Ads (also known as Seller Ratings) and Google shopping. They are collected by Google Licensed Review Partners, who send review data to Google.
Google Verified Reviews must be collected in a certain way and carry certain data to qualify. This includes being collected through a review invitation and accompanying fields such as order ID, name and email address.
When you're first learning about online reviews, things can be pretty confusing. The important thing to remember is there are really, only two different types of reviews: company and product. The complicated part is understanding the different locations they can appear and where they can be collected. We're going to tackle the former in just a moment by looking at all the different places customer reviews can appear in Google Search Results.
But first, it's important to learn how Google gathers and collates these reviews.
Review Rich Snippets
Rich snippets are specific pieces of HTML which help Google identify different types of content. They're used to tell Google when an author is mentioned, an event is happening, or when someone has left a review by providing certain fields in a certain layout that Google is able to digest, then push into the SERPs.
To show online customer feedback in the Search Results, it's Review Rich Snippets that Google needs - they give Google information such as the star-rating, order ID and more. Most of the time, you won't have to think about Rich Snippets. They are built into sites such as TripAdvisor and Facebook, and Review Platforms will do all the hard work for you too so you can concentrate on collecting and managing your reviews.
Where do reviews appear in Google Search Results?
Google Seller Ratings
Google Seller Ratings are those golden stars you see in Paid search - they appear in Ads.
In order to get reviews to show here, you must:
- Collect verified reviews with a Google Licensed Review Partner.
- Have collected 100 reviews in the previous 12 months for each geographical region you operate in, at an average rating of 3.5 or above.
Another type of star you will have seen in paid search are those in Google Shopping. These are product reviews which are aggregated from various source. They do not necessarily need to be verified in order to be shown.
Google Local & Maps
Google Local showcases Google My Business Profiles for a specific business or branch. For example, if you type "Specsavers, Leicester" in the search, the profile for the Leicester branch will appear in a big box to the right of the organic listings. Along with opening times and contact details, online reviews can also be shown here.
Type in 'Glasses shops near me' and Google will feature a map at the top of the SERPs with local opticians. These are compact versions of My Business Profiles and also contain reviews.
Organic Search Results
Just as reviews can appear in paid search results, they can also appear in organic results. If you're collecting reviews on your site, they'll appear under your website listing in the SERPs. Additionally, any reviews collected on sites such as Facebook, Yelp or TripAdvisor will also be shown under the listing for your business page.
Where to collect customer reviews
In order to show any reviews, first, you'll need to collect some. There are several ways to do this, each requiring different amounts of effort and offering varied results.
Google My Business
Every single business is entitled to a free Google My Business account.
Along with your company name, opening hours and contact information, they also facilitate the collection of Company Reviews.
Whether you've claimed your My Business account or not (we recommend this to anyone to increase the accuracy of your listing and also enable review replies) anyone with a Gmail account will be able to leave you a review. These reviews will then appear for your business in the SERPs.
Where can I display Google My Business reviews?
Google My Business reviews are collected by Google from anyone that has a Gmail account. They are unverified reviews and therefore do not show as Google Sellar Ratings. Instead, they will be aggregated with reviews from other sources and be shown in the SERPs, in Google Local searches and in Google maps.
Your own websites
One of the most obvious places to collect reviews is on your own website...but how do you do it?
The easiest way is using a Review Platform. Review Collection Widgets are easily installed onto your own site and will enable you to both show and collect reviews. There may also be other widgets available on the web, although as these are not designed by professionals, they cannot be relied upon.
If you have a team of developers, they may be able to build you a bespoke review-collection system themselves.
Where can I show reviews collected on my website?
These solutions will enable you to show reviews across Google Shopping, in SERPs and will also be collated in Google My Business Reviews. However, unless you are using a widget from a Google Licensed Review Partner and collecting verified customer reviews, you will not be able to show Sellar Ratings in Ads.
There's a reason so many companies use review platforms - they make everything so much easier. It's important to remember that not every Review Platform is the same - each not only offers different prices and technology, but some are Licensed whilst others are not.
Collecting reviews through a Review Site such as Reviews.io has many benefits including being able to send email review request to get more reviews, showcase reviews on your site in a number of ways and facilitating the response to reviews - these are just a few of the very basic highlights.
Where can I display reviews collected with a Review Site?
If your Review Platform is Google Licensed, you will be able to showcase reviews everywhere in Google - both in organic and paid search results. Additionally, some platforms will direct your customers to other review sites such as Facebook and TripAdvisor to help you maintain a consistent online reputation.
Local Review Sites
There are many other, less-sophisticated Review Sites that enable consumers to leave reviews about everything from cars to fry ups including:
They collect reviews for specific locations, such as various branches of large chains or small local businesses.
Do Local Reviews appear in Google Search Results?
The reviews on these sites vary, with some being verified and others not, however, none are Google Verified and therefore cannot be shown in Seller Ratings. They will, however, appear under your business page listings in the SERPs.
We’ve discussed what reviews are, the reasons for collecting reviews and all the different places you can collect and show them.
By now, you should have a good idea of how important reviews are for your business. Consumers search everywhere for information about you before they make a purchase. You need to be aware of and keep on top of, your reputation across a wide range of review sources. If one source of reviews is bringing your overall reputation down, it will have a negative impact on your bottom line.
Facts & Figures
Still not sure you need to collect customer reviews for your business? Here are some fun facts that might just change your mind.
- 92% of consumers read reviews before purchasing
- 83% of consumers state that reviews are the critical influencer in their buying decision
- 70% of consumers trust other reviewers' opinions
- 150 reviews are required before Google Seller Ratings are displayed
- 17% higher click through rates on PPC ads with Seller Ratings
- 28% increase in on-page conversions when displaying reviews
- 200% increase in time on site when shopper interacts with customer photos
Glossary of Terms
Here's a list of essential, review jargon definitions to help you succeed in the world of online customer reviews.
LSI Keywords: Latent Semantic Indexing are the keywords that surround your target keyword. They're words that are likely to be used on the same topic as your target keyword and help Google to identify your topic.
Rich Snippets: pieces of HTML, specified by Google, which tell Google what type of content is being featured. They enable Google to showcase this information in a certain way in the SERPs, such as event and product listings, or as reviews.