Photo from AZIMA

It’s no secret that customer reviews become content for search, in both local and national results. Online reviews have an influence on ranking and relevance, but most importantly, they can impact convergence.

When you think about customer reviews, you probably weigh their value by how they can influence search engine results. Often times, reviews are overlooked for their ability to generate leads. Reviews—negative or positive—provide future customers with insight into why they should or shouldn’t purchase your product or service. Businesses with online reviews have significantly more conversions.

Asking for online reviews is typically considered reputation management, which can imply that there is a problem to manage with your customers and reputation when there isn’t. In his Arizona Interactive Marketing Association talk, “The Voodoo of the Five-Star Review,” local SEO expert Mike Blumenthal explained that he prefers to think of online reviews as “reputation development” instead, providing businesses with an opportunity to deploy a process and increase your overall number of reviews.

For those unable to attend Blumenthal’s lecture, here are my top takeaways to help you add value to your online reviews and utilize customer satisfaction in your search marketing efforts:

Leverage herd behavior

“Prime the herd” by tapping into friends and regulars and ask them to help start the conversation on the review sites. Other customers are more likely to comment or add their review if you get it started. Negative and positive responses are geared towards future reviews.

Suck less, and ask for reviews

If you’re really lucky and really good, for every 100 customers, you’ll receive 1-3 reviews. Create ample opportunities to get feedback from your customers in the store/location before they leave and remind them that you value their input on online review sites.

Give them choices

When sending out a post-service email, it’s best to give the customer more than 1 (but less than 5) ways to add their reviews. For instance, consider setting up profiles on Yelp, Google My Business, and one other option so you can give the people options for how they choose to leave a review.

The five-star fallacy

The average customer doesn’t expect to see a perfect reviews score. In fact, a five-star review can often look fake to customers. In fact, research shows that about 4.5 stars are the ideal average for purchase probability. Additionally, younger consumers actually prefer a 3.5-star rating for businesses.

Develop a complaint process

There is huge ROI in dealing with complaints. By intervening early, you can head off problems and have insight into what you can improve on. Create a plan for dealing with complaints and decide how you will respond to all types of reviews.

Respond to reviews

40% of reviewers expect a response. Whether you’re replying to a positive or negative review, try to add value or important details in your response so other readers can derive more information from it. Look into the issues that the customer has brought up and explain your solution to the problem. If the review is positive, thank the customer and reinforce something positive that they have said.

Review incentives

If you provide review incentives in any way, you must note that in the review itself. In 2013, the New York Attorney General cracked down on 19 New York-based companies that were posting fake reviews online. Among those affected was a teeth-whitening company that was fined $10,000 for offering a $10 coupon to customers that posted a review.