Most marketers understand that online reviews have a significant influence on consumer purchasing behavior. According to a 2013 Nielsen study, 84 percent of consumers cited “word-of-mouth recommendations” as the most trusted source of influence when considering a brand. Following referrals, the most trusted sources that drive perceptions of a brand is the company’s website (69 percent) and online reviews (68 percent). Whether your business operates via a brick and mortar location or exclusively online, you need to monitor what people are saying about you and constructively respond to ensure your online business reputation is positive.
Recently I was asked by a marketer whether or not I would recommend including online reviews on their company website and if so, would I suggest filtering out bad reviews? Because every client is different with unique objectives for their website and variables to consider, SA does not have a one-size fits all policy or position on this specific topic. From a website optimization perspective, there is value in sharing reviews through your company website – to what degree is the question.
Here are some general guidelines we encourage our clients to consider when adding online reviews on their website.
1. Virtually yours. Your website is the online equivalent of a physical store, showroom or place of business. Think of the end-user (UX) when deciding how to present your content, products or services to visitors, ensuring that it is presented accurately and, when applicable, aligned with brand standards. Where does it make sense to display your reviews? Your website is the only space you truly own online, so maintain control over it.
2. E-commerce or information – that is the question. The gauge for displaying online reviews filtered or unfiltered (within reason of course) depends upon the purpose of the website: Are you trying to inform someone about your products and services or make an online purchase? If the website is an e-commerce site, it is expected that you present all reviews of that product (good and bad); think Wal-Mart, eBay, Amazon, etc. However, there is no expectation or obligation to display content on a brand information site that besmirches the very same product or service the website was developed by the brand to promote.
3. Two sides to every story. As mentioned earlier, 69 percent of consumer trust what they read on a company website, while 68 percent also trust consumer reviews. If you are going to allow reviews to appear on your website, especially negative reviews, it is critical to publish your response. A negative review or comment on your website is very similar to a person holding a sign in your showroom; simply tell your side of the story in a non-combative way. The goal is to defuse the situation, not inflame it.
4. Threshold of pain. If you decide to include positive and negative reviews on an information site, you should pre-determine what your tolerance for criticism is. Few will believe that you are a perfect 5-star with every customer, so a few 4 and 3 scores is expected. However, if someone is scoring you a 1 or 2 rating, it may be best to connect with that customer and resolve the issue offline versus allowing them to create a negative feeling about your company when prospects are doing their research on your site. Allowing extremely negative reviews to remain on the site can have consequences not only on sales, but also on the morale of the people working for you.
5. Read all about it. If you decide to limit the reviews displayed on your site to a minimum score or higher, you should preface them with a statement such as “Read what our satisfied customers have to say…” or similar. Use a graphic element to draw attention to them and keep them reasonably fresh without using a call-out plugin that can potentially slow the speed of your site.