One of the biggest challenges many small business owners face is finding a way to stand out from the competition. Oftentimes, they don’t have large marketing budgets. They need to find cost-effective ways to create awareness, build trust, and drive sales. Building a presence on online review sites like Google and Facebook is a good jumping-off point, but if you’re just starting, the task might seem a little daunting.

What are the 5 keys to a better online presence?

  1. Have a presence on the right sites
  2. Steady overall star rating
  3. Recent reviews
  4. High frequency of reviews
  5. Quality review content

The key to a balanced online review presence is consistency across all of your different listings. This is even more important now that Google is pulling in reviews from around the web into its knowledge panel. Consumers can now see at a glance how balanced your reputation is. Because of this, we suggest emphasizing the following areas when building out a balanced online review presence.

1. Have a presence on the right sites

The first characteristic to focus on is having a presence on the right review sites. There are so many online review sites and business directories out there that it can be difficult to know which ones you should claim. A great place to start is verifying your business on Google, which shows reviews in Google while users are searching. One thing you can do is ask your customers how they found out about your business or where they go to conduct research online. Additionally, HubSpot has put together a list of the top-50 directories to give you a headstart on your search.

We suggest avoiding online review sites your customers aren’t familiar with or they don’t frequent. Your customers are going to specific review sites for advice because they trust them. And what we learned from a recent survey is that nearly 70 percent of consumers won’t trust sites they are unfamiliar with.

Once you know which sites will deliver the most value, you can start the real work of building a consistent presence. You will want to use the same contact information, description, and photos. Then you’ll want to start collecting reviews, which leads us to the next characteristic to focus on.

2. Steady overall star rating

As mentioned previously, Google is pulling in reviews from around the web into its knowledge panel. This makes it easy for online searchers to notice inconsistencies in your online review presence. This is probably most noticeable in your overall star ratings.

It might look a little fishy to a potential customer if you have a star rating in the upper 4s on Google but the low 3s on Facebook or another trusted review site. Your star rating isn’t going to be what pushes customers to make a purchase, but a bad or inconsistent star rating can drive potential customers to the competition.

3. Recent reviews

Another characteristic that is important to potential customers is how recent your reviews are. Your service is going to change over time and the older your reviews are, the less trustworthy they will be. In fact, 73 percent of consumers don’t trust online reviews that are older than 3 months with 22 percent of consumers not trusting reviews that are older than two weeks.

4. High frequency of reviews

When customers see a lot of reviews coming in on a regular basis, it gives off the appearance that your business is popular and instills trust with potential customers. Additionally, the recency, frequency, and quantity of your reviews have a direct impact on your local search ranking. And the higher you rank in local search, the more visible you become to your audience.

5. Quality review content

The final characteristic of a balanced online review presence is high-quality review content. A lot of times the quality of content is overlooked by businesses as they strive to improve their star rating and collect as many reviews as possible. Doing so could be a mistake.

According to the Podium 2021 State of Online Reviews, the content of a review ranks as the most important factor that influences whether or not a consumer engages with your business. Additionally, 82 percent of consumers say that the content of a review has convinced them to make a purchase.

The best way for businesses to ensure they have high-quality review content is by asking customers to review a specific aspect of their business. A lot of times consumers don’t know what to say when leaving a review. Asking for specific feedback should give them the inspiration needed to leave a review that is valuable both to the business and consumer alike.

Stay focused

All five of these characteristics on their own are important. But if you truly want to have a successful online review presence that helps you get found, get chosen, and get insights, you need to find a way to incorporate all of them into your strategy. The key is to stay focused. You’re not going to have the best online presence overnight, but given time and persistence, it’s a goal that is definitely within reach.

Matt Boyce
Matt Boyce Head of SMB Marketing

Matt Boyce is a marketing and business professional at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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