While online review sites have been under a great deal of public scrutiny lately after several companies were found to have paid for positive reviews, the sites can still have a heavy impact on the success of your business.
A recent study by market research company Dimensional Research finds that 90 percent of consumers say positive online reviews influence their purchasing decisions. Yet according to another survey commissioned by Yodle, a New York-based Internet marketing company, small businesses do not seem to be putting enough weight on the importance of online reviews.
Yodle's survey revealed a disconnect between the views of small business owners and consumers: Only half of the 300 business owners surveyed said they think getting positive online reviews is important. Nearly one in four said good reviews are unimportant or very unimportant.
According to the survey, 52 percent of small business owners think websites that are specific to their industry are the most important type on which to get positive reviews. After that, the respondents ranked Facebook, Google+ Local, and Yelp in descending order of importance.
The study also found that 87 percent of small business owners do not ask customers to post reviews about their experiences online. Why not? Of those who don't ask for reviews, 43 percent said they simply hadn't thought to do so.
Not surprisingly then, more than two in three small business owners don't spend any time monitoring their online reviews. Another 29 percent said that they only spend between one and five hours a month doing so.
The low participation figures may a result of small business owners viewing online reviews as unfair. Of those surveyed, 61 percent said they think review sites favor businesses that advertise with them, while half of the respondents said they believe that small businesses are unfairly impacted by negative reviews compared to larger companies. Nearly half said they view online reviews as unfair to small businesses because review sites do not verify that the people who leave comments are real customers.
But regardless of how you feel about the accuracy of online reviews, customers are still reading them. So it might be time to set aside your aversion to them and focus on ways of getting good ones.