Since searching has become second nature to most of us, the ability to locate company reviews has become just as simple, thanks, in large part, to Google and other search engines (vertical sites included).
Most businesses understand that reviews and testimonials are important to the growth and development of their companies. Sometimes, though, they don’t realize just how important—nay, imperative—reviews can be, and why spending the time to develop your reviews on third party sites is so crucial to their success.
#1 Word-of-Mouth on Steriods
These statistics are just the beginning. In addition to the empirical data, there are also the buyers’ decision making process principles to consider.
Let’s go through some of the main reasons why every caterer should be working on getting reviews.
One of the first things one learns as a marketing student is that the most effective and most trusted method of marketing is word-of-mouth advertising. This refers to personal recommendations and referrals from trusted sources, such as friends or family, and has since expanded to include online reviews as well. From simple Facebook status posts and Twitter tweets to comments in a forum, product reviews and online word-of-mouth testimonials are just about everywhere.
For example, take this YouTube video: United Breaks Guitars, essentially a really creative review of United Airlines. This gentleman’s experience with an airline has reached (at the time of this article’s publication) nearly 14 million viewers. Although most of those 14 million people probably don’t know this guy personally, there’s a good chance this review impacted, however shortly, their views on the United brand.
Not only has the internet given us incredible reach when it comes to sharing opinions of—and experiences with—brands across all industries, but internet directories and search engines have also given us the incredible ability to filter those reviews to reach targeted audiences. Essentially, the internet has amplified our voices to influence more potential buyers than we have ever influenced before. A company with tons of positive reviews and ratings is a powerful company, indeed.
#2 Search Engines are All About Star Ratings
Star ratings are everywhere—and they’re effective, too. In one study, research showed that restaurants with a 3.5-star rating were 63% more likely to be full than restaurants with a 3 star rating. Just a ½ star makes a huge difference! This goes to show that people believe what others are saying online, opting for the more highly-rated establishments.
While that particular stat was directed toward restaurants, we can assume some similarities between that and caterers, planners, venues and other related businesses.
Not only are star ratings important components of reviews, the actual reviews and testimonials are important as well. All directory sites have adopted their looks and designs to incorporate strong visibility for reviews and ratings. These, as we know, have an immense impact on customers’ purchase decisions.
#3 Reviews Get Exposure
Many of Google’s services and sites have integrated reviews and ratings into their design so that reviews get the ultimate exposure. Heck, even the Google Maps mobile app now displays business ratings on its listings. Saying that reviews on a site like Google get great exposure would be an understatement.
The number of reviews are prominently displayed for each catering search result. If you don’t have any, guess what shows up? “0 reviews.” Not the most inviting thing to get people to click on your business’ website over that of competitors.
Star ratings and the option to read reviews are front and center because these search engines (namely Google) are trying to give searchers the best possible feedback and results. This helps searchers choose the most appropriate link on which to click.
This is relevant for organic searches of general terms like “Caterer in Chicago,” and also extremely relevant for businesses when someone searches for a certain company name. When you Google your company name, your Google reviews instantly show up—or your lack thereof, in some cases.
#4 Reviews Give you an SEO Boost
As explained in further detail in this article, Google vs Yelp—Where Should a Caterer Solicit Reviews?, reviews give websites solid search engine optimization.
This occurs for several reasons.
1) Google makes its own rules when it comes to a Google search. When you solicit reviews on Google+ Local, and those reviews are solid, you get a little help in organic search result rankings over a competitor who doesn’t have as many (positive) reviews or interaction on those other sites.
2) Google integrates all of its services, which means that your reviews on Google+ will also show up on someone’s search in the Google Maps mobile app.
3) Vertical sites also often take into consideration ratings when ranking their results. More on Vertical sites, next!
#5 Vertical Search Engines are on the Rise
As Wikipedia tells us, vertical search typically use a focused crawler that attempts to index only Web pages that are relevant to a pre-defined topic or set of topics.
Vertical search engines are on the rise, and for the most part, they’re filled with ready-to-purchase buyers. For example, someone searching “iPhone 5 cases” on Amazon is probably looking to purchase an iPhone case. Someone searching “restaurants” on Yelp is probably looking to spend money at a place to eat in the near future. Someone searching flights on Expedia is probably looking to book a plane ticket.
Let’s take Yelp as the next example. Yelp’s search results are based on algorithms that have to do with a number of factors, two of which are the number of reviews a company has and the content of the review text. This indicates that the more reviews you have (and the better they are), the higher you will rank in relevant searches on Yelp.
In addition to impacting rankings, Yelpers can use reviews as filters to sort results based on “highest rated” or “most reviewed.” This is true for a number of vertical search engines, too, making their users’ reviews even more important.
#6 Reviews Give Buyers Peace of Mind
Reviews and ratings help buyers make their purchase decisions faster and with less buyer’s remorse. Many times, just seeing a great review on a pair of shoes or restaurant menu is enough for someone to make that final click to purchase or make a reservation. For caterers, reviews could be enough to make your phone ring, or fill your inbox with contact forms and requests for orders.
Take, for example, a caterer who has significantly fewer reviews than competitors. That company will find that potential customers with little experience in buying catering are less likely to try it out than if it was one of the more popularly reviewed caterers.
Did We Stress it Enough? You Need Reviews!
Essentially, the importance of reviews is growing and growing. While it is imperative that you begin to understand their value, it’s even more important that you begin (or continue) to build your online review portfolio(s).