SCORE

Do you pay attention to online reviews of your small business? I hope so, because your customers certainly are.

A new survey of how Americans use the Internet when searching for businesses reports nearly 70 percent of people trust businesses more as a result of positive online reviews. That's a big change from 2010, when nearly half of respondents to the Local Consumer Review Survey said online reviews didn’t influence them or they didn't even pay attention to them.

What's more, today a whopping 80 percent of respondents say online reviews influence them just as much as personal recommendations from people they actually know. With over 40 percent of  respondents reporting they search for local businesses online at least once a month, it’s clear that garnering positive online reviews is a great way for your business to stand out.

What do consumers do after they view positive online reviews? Most (48 percent) will visit your business website; about one fourth will actually visit your business, 21 percent will “shop around” (maybe because they’re still in the research stage) and 9 percent will call your business.

But no matter how hard you work to get and monitor positive online reviews, your business website is where the rubber meets the road. The best reviews in the world won’t help you if, when customers try to take action and visit your website, they’re stymied.

Imagine this: Hungry customers are out and about, looking on their mobile phones for a place to eat. When they read a positive review of your restaurant, they try to click on your business website to check the menu, but can't pull it up on their phones. Are they going to keep trying, or get frustrated and go somewhere else for lunch?

Now imagine how different the experience is if, when they click on your website, they not only go to a mobile-friendly version of your site with yummy photos, but also see a "click to call" button that makes it easy to tap on the phone and reserve a table ahead of time. If you still don't believe me, consider this: More than 60 percent of those surveyed say they're more likely to contact a local business if its website is mobile friendly.

If you don’t think your customers are checking out reviews on their phones, think again. The survey reports that nearly 40 percent of U.S. Internet users read online reviews on their mobile phones using a browser, 29 percent do so on tablets, and 25 percent do so in a mobile app on their smartphones.

Even if customers do visit your website on a desktop or laptop computer, it's important to make sure that your website does the following things to fully take advantage of good online reviews:

  • Provides clear contact information, including your business address, hours of operation, phone number, and directions/a map.
  • Is up to date with the latest information about products, services, events and prices.
  • Promotes a positive image of your business. For example, consider posting testimonials from customers, linking to reviews and ratings of your business, and linking to your social media accounts from your website so customers can easily access more information about your business to help them make a purchasing decision.

Your SCORE mentor can help you make sure your business website is up to par and monitor your online reviews to generate positive buzz. Visit www.score.org to get matched with a mentor today if you haven’t already!