According to the experts at Brand.com, reviews are increasingly powerful in shaping consumer decision-making. The company has ample information to back up this claim, including a new Nielsen study, reported by The Financial. According to The Financial, Nielsen’s latest survey suggests that “a whopping 85 percent of consumers find local business information online, where reviews, store hours, deals and maps are just a click away.” In particular, the article notes, review sites like Yelp.com hold enormous influence over consumers as they seek products, services, and brands to spend their money on. Brand.com reviews these new survey results in a statement to the press, and also offers review management tips to businesses and brands.
“The trend, for years now, has been for consumers to increasingly prioritize and trust online reviews sites, which include not just Yelp but also Urban Spoon, TripAdvisor.com, and many others,” explains Michael Zammuto, the president of Brand.com “Reviews posted on the internet are critical. As this article makes mention of, it is only natural that consumers—who spend so much time online anyway—would use the Web to seek information on different companies.”
The implication for business owners is that the quality of their reviews could dramatically impact their bottom line. Says Zammuto, “People trust what they read on review sites. According to all the research we’ve done at Brand.com, reviews and review sites are trusted even more than personal recommendations from friends and family members. As such, when a business is hit hard by nasty, one-star reviews, it will see its client list dwindle, new leads cease, and ultimately its sales slack off significantly. Meanwhile, a company with positive reviews will see its sales increase—meaning that review management is a crucial component in online brand enhancement.”
The article from The Financial affirms the influential role played by online review sites. “For starters, more than half… of Yelp users make their purchase decisions after visiting the site,” the article notes. “The figure for mobile Yelpers, however is a little higher. While Yelp visitations don’t always result in action, users report that 93 percent of the time, Yelp usage results in occasionally, frequently or always making a purchase from a local business, according to Nielsen.”
The Financial also observes that “the study also found that mobile Yelpers’ visitations to the site are more likely to result in either in-store appearances or purchases. Additionally, their purchases tend to happen sooner than the non-mobile Yelp visitors.”
The bottom line for businesses and brands, according to Zammuto, is that it has never been more critical to cultivate positive online reviews while suppressing negatives. Sadly, he says, this is easier said than done. According to the president of Brand.com, reviews are not always based in fact or reason. “Sites like Yelp.com do not require consumers to validate their experiences, so there is nothing to prevent an unreasonable consumer, with an ax to grind, from trashing your company with outlandish and totally false claims,” Zammuto explains. “In fact, your business can get hit by a negative review posted by an unhappy employee, an angry former employee, or even a team member from a rival company.”
What this means is that bad reviews can happen to any business or brand—but what happens when they do? Zammuto says there are three responses for business owners to avoid. “The first thing you should never do is post a response to the defamatory review,” he says. “Interacting with constructive criticism is one thing, but engaging a cyber-bully is something to avoid.”
Why is this? Zammuto says that commenting on a negative review can make a company’s reputational woes far more severe. “Google interprets those responses as activity, which signals that the review is relevant and valuable,” he says. “Thus, your response actually strengthens that review’s search engine traction and visibility.”
He goes on to counsel business owners against sending the links to their negative online reviews to friends, staff members, or business associates. “Every time that link is clicked, it creates search engine activity—again, making that review a stronger listing in the search engine algorithms,” he says. “Avoid the temptation to pass that link around.”
Taking legal action is something else for companies to resist. “Not only is this still another way in which search engine activity is created, but, when you get your attorney involved, it’s unlikely to be anything but a waste of time and money,” remarks Zammuto. “Lawsuits against Yelp.com are almost never won, as the site is protected under the banner of ‘free speech’.”
As such, companies are faced with just a couple of options for suppressing their unwanted online reviews. “The first thing to do is to try to proactively encourage positive reviews from your best clients and your most faithful customers,” he says. “You can send requests to customers, asking them to help you out by providing feedback, or you can leave links to your review site profiles on your invoices and in your e-mail signatures.
Continues Zammuto, “Additionally, a content marketing campaign can help fill the Google search algorithms with brand-enhancing content, making it less likely that search engine users will stumble upon those unwanted reviews.”
The other approach for companies to take is to retain the brand-building services of Brand.com. “Reviews can be a good thing for business owners, but they can also do great harm when one is not in control. Our company is devoted to helping other businesses establish their online authority, which means helping them seize control of their online reviews,” the Brand.com president concludes. “We have the technologies, the resources, and the proven strategies necessary to help business owners assume control over their online notices. The bottom line is that, at Brand.com, reviews are taken very seriously indeed.”
Brand.com reviews the online reputation management and branding needs of clients from across the world—and in fact, the firm is widely regarded as the leading online reputation management company in existence, known both for its heavy R&D investment as well as its proprietary strategies and methodologies. The company’s vision is to provide clients with total control over how they are portrayed on the Web; the firm’s client list, meanwhile, spans companies of all sizes, as well as celebrities, politicians, and lay people.