NB: This is a guest article by Anthony Rawlins, CEO of Digital Visitor, a social media and marketing agency for travel and tourism organisations.
Forget the controversies for a moment, there is no doubt that online reviews provide significant benefits for organisations in any industry.
Earlier this year we wrote an article highlighting the power of online reviews - however in this article, we aim to strip it right back to look at the power that simply ONE review can have...
ONE review = ONE organic visitor per month
Our in-house research has found that for each review added to our clients’ website, they receive one additional organic visitor.
Let's look into this in more detail...
We all know how much search engines love new content and the core aim for any online marketer is to make them happy because it will improve your search rankings (and therefore your organic traffic). Incorporating review functionality on your website is a great way of ensuring new content is continually added to your website.
Not only will it provide inspiring, relevant content for potential customers, but reviews added regularly also gives search engines a reason to come back to crawl your site, and possibly adjust its rankings of your websites pages. If the content on your website just sits there and isn’t ever updated, search engines have no reason to re-crawl your site.
This is where the power of user generated reviews comes into play in terms of driving new organic visitors to your website.
Another important fact to consider is that now (and even more so in the coming years), search engines are rapidly integrating social data to influence rankings. This means that online reviews and user generated content are now having a significant impact in the search algorithms that determine how web pages are ranked.
For example, earlier this year, Bing announced the integration of Facebook data in its search results. So basically, Bing now pulls information from a user's social graph on Facebook to determine more personalised results based on that person’s social network – such as links or content their friends have "Liked".
But wait there - it goes deeper still. Even if the person’s friends have not shared any content related to a search, Bing will automatically prioritise content that is generally popular with the Facebook community as a whole.
So search engine optimisation is now all about improving the overall engagement and sentiment toward your brand on the web, not just building inbound links and generating new content (although many would argue that this should still be considered).
With Google launching the +1 button this year and more recently the Google + platform, it will only be a matter of time (if it’s not already happening?) before they gather all this data to affect our individual search results, making it as personable as possible.
Another important way in which a review (especially those that include rich media content such as videos and photos) will help increase organic traffic, is by increasing the browse time (more below).
Many claim that Google also ranks your website by how long individuals stay on your site. So if your visitors come to your site and leave quickly, Google will recognise this and it will negatively affect your rankings.
Having said that, if your online visitors come to your site and spend time looking at the reviews, videos and photos, Google will also recognise that and reward your site with better rankings, and better rankings means more organic traffic (not to mention, the longer you have visitors on your website, the higher the chance that they will buy something!).
A guest article on Tnooz by Josiah Mackenzie, director of business development at ReviewPro, highlighted the importance of why improving your search rankings is important for sales.
He points out that according to Google:
"...the average travel purchase online involves over 50 unique search queries and 2.5 hours of research time."
Therefore, ultimately each of these web searches is an opportunity for you to introduce your brand – but only if you are ranking well (ie. see statistics below).
Placement in search results plays a very significant role in how much organic website traffic your company receives, and this is made clearer when reading these facts from Hubspot:
ONE review = 100% increase in browse time
- The top search result on a search page gets clicked 42% of the time
- The top 3 results get 79% of the total clicks
- The top 5 results get 88% of clicks
- Only 3% of searchers go beyond the first page of results pages
Providing relevant reviews against specific products or services on your website is one sure-fire way of increasing the browse time on your website.
As we have already mentioned, Google looks at browse time when calculating how valuable a webpage is, so finding ways to increase this can be very beneficial.
Yes text reviews will certainly help increase the amount of time a visitor spends on your website, but photos and videos are far more inspiring than text, so by enabling your online visitors to upload rich media content, you will only increase their browsing time again.
Our in-house research has found that a good review can significantly increase the browse time of your online visitor on your website.
On average, our clients state an 100% increase of browse time on the pages where reviews have been integrated, with some gaining 2 – 3 minutes additional browse time; that’s more time on your website rather than your competitors website.
ONE review = ONE Facebook "Like" for your company’s Facebook page
Using a reviews and ratings application, you can also ensure that for each review added, you may also gain a Facebook ‘like’ for your company's Facebook page.
Travel companies can now create apps that when a visitor uploads content to your website via Facebook Connect (ie. they use their Facebook ID to validate who they are), they will automatically be prompted to "Like" your Facebook page.
The benefit of this is that you can consistently grow your Facebook community, and a bigger community means that your brand and your messages are being spread even further across the world wide web.
Sharing ONE review to your Facebook page = traffic back from your Facebook page to your site up to 2.5 times the number of fans per month
Generate additional traffic to your website from your Facebook page.
Most good review systems will enable you to set up an RSS feed so that any review added to your website is automatically shared to your company Facebook page. We have found our clients who regularly share reviews gathered on their website with their Facebook page, see an increase in traffic back to their company website.
Just ONE good video, photo or review shared on Facebook each day, generates extra visitors up to 2.5 times the number of page "Likes" per month. So, for example, if you have a Facebook page with 10,000 "Likes", sharing your reviews over daily can deliver 25,000 visitors to your company website from Facebook every month!
So once again, the more traffic you can drive to your website, the higher the chance you have of converting those into sales.
ONE review posted on authors wall = traffic back from Facebook
A great way of exposing your brand’s products and services to a wider audience (and not just ANY audience, but to a group of people who are interested in what the author has to say) is to ensure that any reviews posted to your website are also posted directly to the author’s individual wall/ticker.
This is the reason why Facebook has become a successful marketing tool for many companies today. As humans, we are inherently curious, so that makes us want to know everything about things that are happening to our friends. By connecting with people on Facebook, we are exposed to a variety of issues, events, brands etc surrounding that individual, and their internet interests too.
ONE review shared on Twitter = increased number of followers
As with Facebook, sharing just ONE review on Twitter will help to increase your number of followers and drive traffic back to your website.
Although there isn’t any quantitive data available on exact numbers of followers and traffic, we can be very sure from our Facebook example that the very nature of sharing relevant information to the Twitter universe will no doubt have a positive impact.
Remember the better the quality of the review, the more likely it is to be retweeted, ensuring an even greater impact.
ONE review = increased conversions
There are many case studies that demonstrate how reviews increase conversions - mostly in the retail industry.
One such report from the retail industry found that retailers and brands that embrace reviews and recommendations into their online retail strategy see a sales uplift of around 18%.
For the travel industry specifically, between 25-40% of people who leave a hotel website do so to read an online review. So publishing reviews directly against your products and services will help you keep some of this traffic on your website while increasing the probability of a direct booking right there on your own website.
Lastly, it is a well know fact that people like to buy from people they trust, so reviews also play an important role in improving consumer confidence and trust.
No doubt your customers trust you because they see you as being reliable and credible. Just as it was before social media, the best way to build credibility is through testimonials and word of mouth.
A study by Yankelovich found that 75% of consumers do not believe companies tell the truth in their advertisements. Similarly, an eMarketer study discovered that consumer reviews are trusted 12 times more than product descriptions by the company, also highlighting that when making a purchase decision, people are increasingly turning to those they trust and other consumers for advice and guidance.
If the above highlights the power of just ONE review; increased browsing time on your website, increased traffic to your website (both organic and from social networks), and increased conversions, it is easy to see the vast benefits that hundreds, even thousands of reviews will bring for your business.
How have reviews improved your business?
NB: This is a guest article by Anthony Rawlins, CEO of Digital Visitor, A social media and marketing agency for travel and tourism organisations.