Online Reviews Continue to Assert Their Importance

As a channel marketer these days, one of your primary goals is increasing visibility in the major search engines for the local businesses that sell your brand’s products and services.  At Sproutloud we know this key component of local marketing is no easy task. There are literally hundreds of strategies on how to get in front of local customers online that range from simple tasks like claiming your channel partner’s business listings in Google+ Local, to more structured techniques like inbound linking.

With Google’s Hummingbird update defining a new approach to local search results, online reviews are playing a greater role in local search visibility. Partners having their business details such as name, address, and phone number on their local websites is not enough anymore. Consumers are looking to evaluate business or products by reading reviews – the buyer’s cycle steps of discovery and evaluation are happening instantaneously. Plainly stated, online reviews are a big part of the pre-purchase process before selecting a local business to visit.

But is it Really Worth the Time Investment?

Yes, directories and review sites, such as Yelp, are the most sought after sources for business information after search engines. Some 79% of American consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, a hefty influencer for customers deciding whether or not to pass by a local business or buy a product.

Not convinced yet? Take into account that the accuracy of local business listing information isn’t keeping up with consumer expectations, according to a study conducted by Infogroup. Consumers frustrated by inaccurate or impartial local business information (note that impartial now includes a lack of reviews) don’t give your channel partners a second chance, they just move on to another option.

What can Brands do?

Encourage your channel partners to have their loyal customers contribute to their local marketing efforts by writing reviews on their different review profiles, our CEO wrote a comprehensive how-to in a recent article. One thing he mentioned that I want to emphasize here is putting social and review profile buttons (Yelp, Google+, etc.) on channel partner websites so customers can find review properties easily. Make sure partners also know that employees’ reviews are not valid for Google and reviews coming from the same IP addresses as channel partner businesses don’t count.

Does it Matter Where I Get Reviews?

Certainly, it’s not just about getting any review anywhere, getting reviews in the right places is equally important.  Google doesn’t work with any third party reputation management company, and it has its own algorithm that tracks reviews and business mentions around the web.

In order for brands and their channel partners to accrue reviews in the right places, brands have to look at the visibility and flexibility of review engines. Visibility has to do with how the review property is tied into major search engines and how the review site feeds reviews to other sites, while flexibility permits channel partners to respond to reviews and solicit reviews.  Be sure to rank the relevance of review properties for your channel partners based on their business needs. Good luck!


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