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Online reviews and ratings are powerful tools for gaining customers’ trust and managing online reputations. Some marketers predict online reviews will soon dominate online reputation management and digital marketing.

“A positive reputation is one of the most powerful marketing assets a business has to convince new customers to contact them,” states the latest Local Consumer Review report from BrightLocal, which provides local SEO tools. “The social proof contained within reviews and star ratings helps consumers short cut their research and make decisions faster and with greater confidence than ever before.”

A Dramatic Shift in Online Reviews

BrightLocal has noticed a dramatic shift in the role of online reviews in consumer’s decision-making process since it started the survey in 2010. Online reviews and ratings are on the rise: 53% of consumers search for local businesses at least one time per month compared to 43% in 2015.

The BrightLocal survey also reveals that:

  • 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
  • 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to.
  • 90% of consumers read fewer than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business.
  • 54% of people will visit the website after reading positive reviews.
  • 73% of consumers think that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant.
  • 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
  • 58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important.

Obtain Reassurance from Others

Online ratings have proven to be effective tools for establishing trust between consumers and businesses, concludes research from the Wharton School of Business. “It is natural that people want to have reassurance from other users so that they can make sure that they don’t waste their money on bad products or bad service,” Chen Jin, a researcher affiliated with Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management, told Knowledge@Warton. “It is the rating system that makes the crowds available, that brings complete strangers together to conduct business activities.”

How Marketers can Benefit from Online Reviews & Ratings

In a Business 2 Community article, Brook B. Sellas, founder and chief digital strategist of B Squared Media, offers advice on how marketers and businesses can benefit from online reviews.

Ask for them. Request online reviews soon after the transaction. “For services, strike while the iron is hot, like after a particularly good coaching session, or once the deliverables have been met with glee by your client,” Sellas urges.

Use them as testimonials. Use reviews on your website, highlight them in organic social media posts and favorite or pin to the top of social media profiles especially good ones. (Make sure you obtain permission before publishing.)

Advertise your associations. If you belong to an association or have certifications, promote those badges to gain trust and show credibility on your website.

Other Recommendations

Highlight media mentions. Showcase media stories on your website and/or feature top websites/blogs that have mentioned your business positively. You can use a media monitoring service to find recent media mentions about your business. Use only headline and snippets of feature articles or secure the publication’s permission in advance to avoid any copyright issues.

Mention clients. Display the logos of reputable companies that you’ve worked with. Again, secure their permission in advance to use their logo.

Bottom Line: Online reviews and ratings provide huge benefits to both consumers and businesses that embrace online reputation management. More consumers are commenting on review sites and the sites are spreading across industries. The increasing use of online review sites is one of most important and overlooked digital trends, some say.