Focusing on getting reviews from customers online should be one of your top priorities, whether you run a local business or a global one. Online reviews are a form of user-generated content – you can’t create them yourself.

There are many places you can get online reviews – on your own website, your GMB profile, local citations, social media, and online marketplaces. It’s important to get online reviews on all possible channels and platforms, but no matter where they show up, here are six reasons why they are crucial for your business.

1. Potential Customers Really Value Online Reviews

Did you know that 91% of consumers read reviews before making a purchase? While that might only show you how many customers read reviews and not how much they value those reviews, here is another statistic that might shock you: 84% of customers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations from family and friends.

Yep, that’s right – people value reviews from strangers on the web as much as they value personal anecdotes from people they are close to in real life. If their sister or friend speaks highly of a product or service, they’ll be more likely to trust it, and the same applies to random people who express their satisfaction online.

Not only that, but customers value online reviews so much that almost two out of three customers say they will not buy products from brands that censor online reviews. They look to online reviews to inform them about a product’s quality and reliability. A censored review profile obscures the truth and prevents them from trusting the product.

Don’t think that online reviews are only critical on platforms like Amazon and eBay and that businesses with a physical presence can rely on walk-in traffic. Eight out of 10 consumers consult online reviews for local businesses – yes, people do their research before visiting your business.

2. Online Reviews Make You More Visible in the Digital World

Research by the Spiegel Research Center at Northwestern University indicates that products with five reviews drive 270% more conversions than products with no reviews. Products and businesses with no reviews are virtually invisible to consumers.

Most consumers, when looking for local businesses on Google Maps or Google, will pay little attention – or none at all – to businesses that have zero reviews. That’s particularly true if other businesses are showing up with lots of reviews.

It’s hard to trust a business with no reviews – it’s hard to even know if it’s a real listing and that the business really exists. Online reviews give you the most important thing in the digital world: visibility. People will start paying attention to you if you have online reviews.

You don’t need to have thousands of reviews, either. The majority of customers say that they have a higher trust in products with 11-50 reviews. Aim for a minimum of 11 reviews, but you don’t need to stop there. Also, get reviews on as many platforms as possible, including on all your local citation profiles, providing the platform supports reviews.

Examples of platforms that support reviews include TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google My Business, Facebook, and many others.

Reviews on Google My Business are particularly critical because they help your website rank. Businesses ranking in the first three spots of Google have 47 Google reviews on average, so you don’t need thousands or even hundreds of reviews before they start providing powerful SEO benefits.

Furthermore, as I mentioned, online reviews drive engagement and cause people to pay attention to you. By encouraging reviews, you’ll increase your click-through rate and get more sales. Since 74% of businesses have Google reviews, not having reviews makes it almost impossible to stand out.

3. Online Reviews Give You Some Online Clout

Online reviews give you clout! Chasing clout online is something that many businesses are familiar with. We all want to be listened to and respected – we want people to notice us and pay attention to what we’re doing.

While there are plenty of ways to get clout, including being featured on famous podcasts or by prominent bloggers in the industry, online reviews effectively provide online clout as well.

When it comes to clout, both user-generated reviews on sites like GMB and independent reviews by bloggers and YouTubers are critical. However, the latter type is a bit more effective for giving you clout.

If you can get bloggers and YouTubers to talk about your products and give you reviews, that’s the very definition of clout – especially if that blogger or YouTuber has a sizable following.

While platforms like Google My Business have strict rules about incentivizing reviews, the same doesn’t apply to independent bloggers and vloggers.

One way to incentivize reviews is to send free products or samples to bloggers influential in your niche in exchange for reviews. Ask them to be honest in their reviews and provide their true thoughts. If you provide services instead of selling products, you can give them a discount or a free service.

Another way to incentivize reviews is to create an affiliate program. An affiliate program rewards people for sending customers your way by giving them commissions on the sales they bring you.

Either way, third-party reviews not only help you get clout, but they also give you more visibility. When someone reviews your product on their YouTube channel, whether they are trying to send you sales or not, people will hear about you, click on the link they provide, or search for you on Google or social media.

If people review you in their Instagram stories, they might @mention you, thus sending new followers your way and helping you grow your profile. Finally, reviews on social platforms like Facebook help you get more likes, engagement, and followers.

4. Social Proof Can Increase Your Conversions

The bandwagon effect is a term that refers to our tendency, as humans, to follow the crowd and do whatever other people are doing. If public opinion leans a certain way, people will tend to adopt those opinions and beliefs. We all want to be accepted by our tribe or the group we are in, and we have evolved to care what others think of us.

That helps us understand why social proof is so important in marketing. Having a lot of glowing reviews will show people that other people value you and think you are great. That will cause those newcomers to adapt to public opinion and think highly of you as well. In turn, that will lead to more conversions.

5. Online Reviews Help You Understand Your Customers Better

Online reviews aren’t only critical for getting more clicks and sales. One of the main benefits of online reviews is that they help you better understand your customers. You can glean important information from both negative and positive reviews.

Negative reviews help you understand where you went wrong and where there is room for improvement. That part is obvious, though how to respond to negative reviews is a topic for another article.

However, even positive reviews help you learn a lot about your customers. Some positive reviewers might leave some constructive criticism at the end of the review, saying they were satisfied overall but pointing out some ways you can improve.

That kind of constructive criticism is perhaps even more important than negative reviews, as taking it into account can help increase customer retention rates.

Furthermore, even positive reviews that have no criticism altogether provide an opportunity to learn about which parts of your service made your customers happy. Are people constantly mentioning a certain aspect of your service or a certain feature of your product as part of what made them satisfied?

If so, that can give you some guidance on where to focus your efforts, which new features to introduce, and so on.

6. Online Reviews Snowball and Help Generate More Reviews

Finally, an awesome thing about online reviews is that they have a snowball effect. When your business has no reviews, getting people to leave the first ones can be difficult.

However, once you get the snowball rolling down the hill, to speak, it will start picking up more snow. More people will pay attention to your product and end up buying it, and more people will end up leaving reviews.

People might also want to join in on the conversation and reaffirm what others are saying or add to the reviews of others.

The same applies to reviews from third-party bloggers and YouTubers. When a few bloggers start reviewing your product, others will want to review it as well to drive traffic away from the other bloggers’ sites to their own.

Getting your foot in the door and getting those first reviews is the most difficult part, but everything will become easier after that.

Final Thoughts

If you don’t yet have any online reviews, it’s time to start getting them. Encourage customers to leave their feedback on platforms like Google My Business and Yelp. Respond to both positive and negative reviews – consumers typically look at the company’s responses in addition to the reviews themselves.