We live and we market our companies amidst an ocean of online reviews. They stream in from all sides. It is available to us in heavy doses, from the time we wake up until we hit the sack at night. Consumers are searching for towers, plumbers, restaurants, mortgage brokers, and everything in between. Recent studies show that more than 85% of consumers consult and rely on online reviews to help them make the right call. These consumers have come right out and said, “Yes! I am influenced by online reviews.”
As reviews have gained importance, Google, the largest information and data aggregator in the world, is shifting the focus of their search algorithm to heavily weigh reviews in ranking search results. To understand what impact this trend has on marketing, one must realize how search engines have evolved over the past ten years. At the turn of the century, with limited information and metrics, Google took a best guess as to what a user was searching, providing a list of 10 blue links.
Several years ago, the platforms Google Places, Google Maps, Google+, and Google My Business began their evolution to where they are today. The search giant has now shifted its priority to displaying verified information first—with review content as a close second—on the Google Knowledge Graph; the helpful sidebar that highlights information when making a Google search. Location has now become the center of search, and a simple query for “flowers” will no longer just display 10 websites that are perhaps relevant (sometimes including irrelevant results such as “what flowers are native to Indonesia”). Instead, Google now provides a Google Maps and Google My Business powered map with local florists, highlighting their reviews.
Last November, our leadership attended Location World in NYC, a meeting of minds for the leaders of companies that drive the adoption of best-practices when it comes to online reviews. The consensus was clear: Google has modified search results to prioritize Google-friendly business profile information, and Google IS NOT taking review ratings from any ONE source. They have taken control by algorithmically balancing reviews from ALL Google-friendly sources, and displaying them in the Knowledge Graph.
You may be wondering, “What does that mean to us, and as marketers where do we go from here?” For consumers looking for a product or service for the first time, Yelp and Facebook— two of the leading industry lead providers—are only as relevant as their ability to prominently show up when someone is searching for said product or service. “Where do most consumers search?” Google! What this means to us is that we have a new set of rules to play by, and that we need to adopt guidelines to make our clients successful at showing up first. Knowing we need to influence Google search results, here are the most important new review metrics alongside OMG National’s new Review Stream 3.0 (RS3) solution:
- First-Party vs. Third-Party. Repopulating third-party reviews on your website is becoming a thing of the past, as first-party reviews now can directly affect search results. With the latest Google update, the search engine has empowered businesses to do their own review publishing ONLY when operating within Google’s Developer framework. RS3 lets you solicit and publish first-party reviews to your website, increasing the relevancy of the online property, and allowing your website to trump competitors in local search rankings.
- Relevancy Through Recency. Having 20 reviews in the last month on Facebook does not help you if you don’t have a single review on Yelp within the past year. RS3 helps you balance where both positive and negative reviews go to make sure reviews are distributing across review platforms.
- Respond Instead of Remove. The industry is flooded with review technology that specifically caters to suppressing negative reviews (our still available Review Stream 2.0 does just that!) However, you must ask yourself, is being number one on Google more important than having a 4.9 rating when someone shows up and looks for you? RS3 has a set quarantine time that gives you time to respond so that you don’t have a naked bad review online. Businesses are human, mistakes happen, it’s about how you address those mistakes that will make all the difference when someone finds you first during their next search.
OMG National is currently including the deployment of Review Stream 3.0 with all OMG Partner, Partner Plus, and Partner Premier marketing programs. Don’t forget to check out our exclusive webinar this month where we will share a whole host of tips and tricks designed to increase the right kind of reviews, adding maximum impact to your marketing plan. Don’t get left behind in 2017! Click below to reserve your seat today!