There’s no getting away from it: online reviews are crucial to small businesses. Think about it – how many times have you skipped straight to the reviews section of a website to find out if a product is worth buying? Or looked at a business’s Trustpilot rating before making an enquiry? 
 
Many of us are more influenced by reviews than we realise. A recent study found that online reviews are becoming increasingly important to consumers, with many trusting them as much as they would a personal recommendation. On top of this, the amount of people trusting traditional advertising is decreasing, so it’s more important than ever to ensure your business is actively collecting online reviews. When it comes to these reviews, three is the magic number. You don’t want your latest customer review to be more than three months old, as this will seem outdated to consumers. Also, consumers tend to favour businesses that have a 3-star average rating or higher.  
 
In both cases, three is the limit you need to remember! You might be thinking that 3 stars seems like a surprisingly low rating, but studies have found that too many positive reviews can make a business seem less credible to potential customers. That’s why any and all reviews, both positive and negative, are so important for your business. 
In fact, there are a whole host of reasons why reviews are crucial to the success of small businesses. We’ve narrowed these down to the top four explanations, to help you better understand just how much reviews could help your small business: 

1. Reviews help to establish you as a reputable brand 

With well-known brands, customers know what to expect and likely have their own opinions and experiences that are tied to these businesses. When it comes to your small business, potential customers may be unsure of your reputation and whether you are a credible brand – this is where social proof comes into play. 
 
Reviews help to legitimise your business to anyone discovering your brand for the first time. They may not be comfortable making a purchase or engaging your services without knowing that you are trustworthy, and so feedback from other customers will provide them with the reassurance they need. Reviews can therefore be an extremely powerful asset to your small business, helping to bolster your credibility, influence customer decisions, build confidence in your brand, and show why you’re a better choice than your competitors. 
 

2. Reviews make it easier for your business to get found online 

One of the lesser-known benefits of collecting online reviews is that they can help with your search engine optimisation efforts, particularly if you’re a local business. Google takes many factors into consideration when determining where sites should rank in the search results, and for local searches, online reviews are considered to be one of the key factors when it comes to deciding which sites appear first. If you are a local business, the more reviews you have – particularly if these contain your keywords and the town or city that you operate in – the higher you are likely to rank
 

3. Reviews provide valuable feedback about your business 

The reviews you receive don’t just provide prospective customers with useful information about your business; they also present you with an invaluable insight into what’s working well and which areas still need improvement. 
 
Testimonials are a brilliant way to track overall customer satisfaction and hone in on what your target audience really want from your business. If there are any issues, you’ll be able to resolve these by addressing them when you respond to the customer – and then taking the necessary steps to improve your products or services accordingly. This proactive approach will help you to deliver a positive experience time and time again, building customer loyalty and boosting your online reputation. 
 
Your reviews will also give you a better idea of what your brand’s key strengths are, as these are the things that customers will mention again and again. You can then use this to more effectively market your business by drawing on your strongest selling points. 
 

4. Reviews help you market your business for free 

As a small business, word of mouth referrals are likely one of your most effective marketing tools, and with good reason. In an increasingly digital world, online reviews are akin to a recommendation from a trusted friend, with consumers relying on reviews more and more to help them with purchasing decisions – and trusting these reviews as much as personal recommendations
 
This means that when your happy customers leave you glowing testimonials, they’re effectively doing your marketing for you, and each review will keep doing the work for you long after it’s posted. When marketing budgets might be tight, this kind of user-generated content can go a long way to boosting your business – and the more people that discover and use your business, the more reviews you’re likely to receive, so the cycle will continue to promote your brand over and over. 
 
 
So, there you have it, the key reasons why reviews are so important for your small business. 
 
Now, knowing why reviews are so essential to your business’s success is one thing, but securing them in the first place is quite another. If you’re struggling to get your customers to leave positive reviews for your business, read on to discover our top tips for how to get more online reviews: 
 

Make it easy for your customers to leave you reviews 

The easier it is for someone to leave feedback about your business, the more likely they are to do it. Direct happy customers to your chosen review platform with a direct link sent via a personalised email, or ask people in person by providing them with simple instructions, such as searching your business on Google and leaving a quick review there. 
 
It’s also a good idea to provide customers with a prompt, so they have an idea of what to write about – this way, you might also increase the number of keywords that are included in your online reviews. For example, “Tell us what you love most about your brand new sound system”. 
 

Choose the right moment to ask for feedback 

When asked to leave a review, most customers are more than willing to do so. Taking the direct approach and asking your customer to share their thoughts is a really effective way to generate more reviews, but it’s important to time it wisely. 
 
Typically, the best time to approach a customer for a testimonial is when you know they’re satisfied with the service they’ve received from you – for example, if they make another purchase or engage your services again, mention your business on social media, or refer someone to you. Let them know that you value their opinion and would appreciate them helping you get the word out about your products or services, and many of your customers will be more than happy to do just that. 
 

Meet your customers where they are 

If you want to get more online reviews, it helps to make your business available to customers wherever they typically spend their time online, especially in the spaces where they go to learn more about the products or services they’re considering. 
 
This means creating a profile or getting your business listed on as many popular review sites and platforms as possible. This includes places like Google My Business, Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Trustpilot, etc. The more places you appear, the more reviews you’re likely to collect. 
 

Respond to every review you receive 

It’s important that you acknowledge every review you receive, whether positive or negative. When someone’s left you a brilliant review, show that you appreciate them taking the time to share their experience with you and thank them for their feedback. When other customers see how grateful you are, they will be more inclined to leave a review themselves. 
 
Responding to negative reviews is a must, as this will help you to neutralise any bad sentiment about your brand and work towards a resolution, thus turning your customer’s experience into a positive one. This will also help to improve your reputation in the eyes of prospective customers, with 70% of consumers saying they’re more likely to use a company that responds to negative reviews. 
 
As you can see, online reviews are vital for the success of small businesses, so we hope this has provided a valuable insight into how they can help your business – and how you can encourage your customers to leave them in the first place. 
 
If you’d like more information about how to manage your business’s reputation online, download our free guide here. Maintaining a professional online presence is key to the continued growth of your business, so if your current website isn’t fit for purpose, it’seeze are here to help. We offer bespoke, secure, and affordable websites for brands from every industry, and can help you get ahead online with a professionally designed website that really helps you stand out from the crowd. 
 
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