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61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision, and they are now essential for e-commerce sites. 

User reviews are proven sales drivers, and something the majority of customers will want to see before deciding to make a purchase. 

Here are some compelling stats on user reviews, why they are great for SEO, why bad reviews are valuable, and how to use reviews in navigation and on product pages...

Why you need customer reviews 

There have been so many positive recommendations of the value of reviews for ecommerce, that the case doesn't really need to be made anymore, though I'll make it again anyway. 

Quite simply, user reviews increase conversions. They can eliminate any doubts potential customers may have about a product, or can help product selection. 

We like leaving reviews too. Stats reveal that 47% of Britons have reviewed products online, which suggests there is no shortage of people ready to provide their opinions. 

The stats

  • According to Reevoo stats, 50 or more reviews per product can mean a 4.6% increase in conversion rates. 
  • 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site which has user reviews. (iPerceptions, 2011).
  • Site visitors who interact with both reviews and customer questions and answers are 105% more likely to purchase while visiting, and spend 11% more than visitors who don’t interact with UGC. (Bazaarvoice, Conversation Index, Q2 2011).
  • Consumer reviews are significantly more trusted (nearly 12 times more) than descriptions that come from manufacturers, according to a survey of US internet users by online video review site EXPO. (eMarketer, February 2010).
  • According to Reevoo, reviews produce an average 18% uplift in sales

 

The SEO benefits of reviews

Improving conversions and improving customer experience should be the main purpose of user reviews, but let's not forget the considerable SEO benefits

These include: 

Fresh, unique content for search engines

Search engine spiders like unique content that is regularly updated, and user reviews are a great way to attract more content

When many ecommerce sites just use the same standard manufacturer descriptions and product specifications, user-generated content can differentiate a product page in the search results. 

This is important as it makes pages more useful to customers, and also increases the chance of ranking highly in the SERPs. 

Improve rankings for 'product name' + review

Reviews are an increasingly important part of the purchase journey for online consumers. Indeed, a recent survey found that 64% of consumers would read online reviews when purchasing technology items such as MP3 players and cameras. 

This also means that more consumers will be searching for the name of the product plus the word 'review', or related words such as 'ratings'.

If you have reviews on your site, then you stand a better chance of picking up this traffic. =

Increased CTR on results pages 

If review content is correctly formatted, then these rich snippets can help increases clickthroughs from search engine results pages. In the example below, the addition of the star rating makes the third result stand out:

According to stats from Distilled, these rich snippets can mean a 10-20% increase in click-through rates. 

Long tail targeting

The additional content generated by user reviews increases the chance of ranking well for long tail searches. 

In addition, people leaving reviews tend to use the same language that other people will use when actually searching for them. 

Key SEO considerations for user reviews

Indexation 

To ensure that search engines reach your user generated content, it must appear in text form in the HTML.  

You should also avoid a reliance on JavaScript, cookies, Flash, images, iFrames or other technologies that would limit the accessibility of any content you want the search engines to see.

Non-duplication

Though snippets of reviews could appear on multiple pages, such as on category pages, or promoted via the homepage, it is important that the full review has a single page and a single URL.  

Breadth of content

As many pages on the site as possible should feature user reviews to maximise the opportunity to rank well for this content and capitalise on long tail traffic. 

Bad reviews are valuable too... 

All reviews are valuable, and a mix of positive and negative reviews helps to improve consumer trust in the opinions they read. 

Indeed, recent stats from Reevoo suggest that the presence of bad reviews actually improves conversions by 67%.

Reevoo found that people that seek out and read bad reviews convert better, as the very fact that they are paying such close attention means they are more likely to be in purchase mode. 

68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they don’t see any negative opinions on the page. 

Too many bad reviews aren't good for business 

The benefits of bad reviews very much depends on the proportion of good to bad. The negative reviews make the positive ones more believable, but there is a point at which they ring alarm bells for consumers. 

If, for instance, a product page contains 15 reviews, and two are negative, then the other 13 look trustworthy. If that proportion changes, it's a different matter. 

Recent research from Lightspeed found that between one and three bad online reviews would be enough to deter the majority (67%) of shoppers from purchasing a product or service. 

How many bad reviews does it take to deter customers?

The tolerance of bad reviews varies depending on age groups. For example, 28% of the 45-54 age group and 33% of 55-64 year olds would be deterred after reading two bad reviews, compared with just 10% of 18 to 24s. 

It also depends on the type of product on offer. A book, game or film will often divide opinion, but reviews of electrical products which highlight flaws will be more likely to deter others. 

Much depends on the context and the way reviews are displayed, which I'll look at elsewhere in this post. 

How to attract reviews from customers

Guest blogger Mike Essex has listed 20 ways to attract customer reviews, which should provide plenty of ideas. 

These include: 

Use a reviews provider

One guaranteed method of getting enough customer reviews to make your product pages more persuasive for shoppers is to use a third party reviews provider, such as Reevoo or Bazaarvoice.

Many retailers, including Comet, Tesco, and Argos use these companies to add reviews to their sites. This is a useful way to build up a body of reliable reviews for product pages which could otherwise take some time.

These reviews are also authenticated, so customers know that the person leaving the review has actually purchased the product in question. 

Drawbacks include the fact that such reviews tell other potential customers nothing about buying from your site in particular, as reviews are generally syndicated.

Email customers post-purchase

Sending an email after a customer has purchased an item to ask for a review is a good idea, but the timing is a key issue here.

You need to give customers enough time to have received the product and had to chance to start using it and form an opinion, but it still needs to be sent when the purchase is fresh in the customer's mind.

This is a tactic which has worked for M&S recently. Thanks to including Bazaarvoice reviews functionality in post-purchase emails, M&S has increased customer feedback by more than 400%

Ask for reviews on product pages

There are plenty of product pages that have yet to attract customer reviews, perhaps because the products are niche, or newly released. 

However, if you are attracting reviews from people who haven't used the product or, as is often the case on Amazon, reviews for items which haven't even been released, they may be less useful to other shoppers. 

Make the process as simple as possible

Some users may not have a lot to say about some products, or may have a limited attention span, so make it nice and easy to leave opinions. 

Offering customers the option of leaving a quick rating out of five or ten is one way, and provides a useful summary score to add to product pages, while another way to get a little more useful detail is to ask users to give different aspects of products a rating, as Reevoo does.

This also provides some useful detail for other customers: 

Reevoo reviews

Offer incentives for leaving reviews

If a customer has purchased an item, one way to get them to take the time to write a review is to offer an incentive, as Comet does here: 

This is possibly best limited to post-purchase emails, so that people aren't leaving reviews just to enter a competition or receive a discount. 

How to present reviews and ratings

It's great to have lots of reviews, but once the number of reviews gets to a certain point, it's important to find ways to organise reviews and help other shoppers make sense of them. 

Here are some ideas...

Rate this review / was this helpful? 

According to UX expert Jared Spool, Amazon's addition of the question: "was this review helpful to you?" was responsible for $2.7bn of revenue each year

By asking this simple question, Amazon's own customers are able to sort the wheat from the chaff. As Jared Spool says: 

Amazon quietly bumps the three most helpful reviews to the top. It tries to balance positive and negative reviews, so shoppers get a balanced perspective. An interesting side effect is how these selected reviews get more votes. If they are controversial (in that not everyone agrees they were helpful), their ratio goes down, allowing the most helpful reviews to bubble up past them.

This makes it a self-managing system, letting the reviews people find the most helpful to maintain their standing at the top of the list. The result is an understated implementation that works great.

Average review score summaries

Not every customer will take the time to read reviews, so showing average review scores helps them to get an idea of ratings at a glance. 

Use in filtered navigation

Reviews are not only useful on product pages, but they can also help customers in their product selection. 

If you have reviews on site, adding a filter by user rating option provides a useful tool for customers: 

Kiddicare does this, but also uses reviews and customer feedback to help customers navigate to products according to their pros and best uses:

Online reviews for in store customers

Reviews aren't just for online purchases, and many will either research online before heading in store, or use their mobiles to find reviews of the products they are considering. 

I've yet to see examples of this, but using online reviews in stores could work as a sales driver, in the same way that Waterstones and other retailers use staff recommendations. 

People are using smartphones to find reviews (and compare prices) anyway, so it makes sense to show reviews, or prompt them to visit your product pages on their mobiles and view reviews. 

Using charts to display review information

Like the average review scores, charts like this one from Amazon help users to make sense of large numbers of reviews, and get an idea of the general consensus. 

 

Show some detail

Kiddicare not only gives a rating and shows the customers' opinions, but also lists pros and cons, best uses, and asks the person leaving the review to describe themselves. 

This means that potential customers can view this useful detail at a glance, but it also means that Kiddicare can use this information in its navigation. 

For travel sites, use TripAdvisor reviews

TripAdvisor is such a well established of many people's online travel research that sites should just assume customers will consult it before booking. 

One way to keep them on site is to provide TripAdvisor reviews on product pages, with an average rating and a link to read reviews. This is what Best Western does. 

These reviews are shown further down the page s that users don't necessarily have to leave the site. 

Use reviews in PPC

Seller ratings provided by customers can be used in PPC ads to provide a quick star rating for searchers. 

Here, confused.com's ratings give it a slight edge over the rest, top position aside. 

 

Use them offline

Kia has used reviews in its offline advertising, in print ads, TV ads, and in showrooms: 

(This is an updated version of a post orginally published in 2013). 

Graham Charlton

Published 8 July, 2015 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (23)

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Nick Stamoulis

I think negative reviews can be valuable because it gives your company the opportunity to show potential customers how you handle a bad situation. If a customer had a bad experience, does your company try to remedy it (and really fix it, not just say "we'll look into it")? If you can get someone that wrote a negative review to update with a positive review, you've won major points.

over 4 years ago

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Natalie

I completely agree Nick, negative reviews can add credibility to your positive reviews and give businesses a chance to showcase their amazing customer service skills! People are actually sceptical about 100% positive ratings anyway – it instantly rings alarm bells.

What is interesting is that woman value customer reviews more than men. This is according to a study from Postcode Anywhere that found women rate reviews online as more important than men do. Find the survey here: http://www.postcodeanywhere.co.uk/online-shopping-2011.aspx

over 4 years ago

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Steve Jones

Great detail and stats on the article - be wary though of too many bad reviews. Google can scrape these onto other sites, so one bad review might soon start populating elsewhere, and they've also been shamed into manually slamming sites that had traffic strategies based on bad reviews and complaints.

over 4 years ago

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Bob

It's against the rules of the FTC to offer a perk for writing a review.

over 4 years ago

Albie Attias

Albie Attias, Ecommerce Director at King of Servers Ltd

Reviews sometimes lead to other unexpected benefits like your product going viral. Perhaps the best success story for reviews was the Three Wolf Moon T Shirt at Amazon.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8061031.stm

over 4 years ago

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louie gray

Very nice topic. Ecommerce developer must know this.

about 4 years ago

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Duckworth

I always used to read piece of writing in news papers but now as I am a user of net so from now I am using net for articles or reviews, thanks to web.

almost 4 years ago

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Sean

Reevoo and Bazaarvoice are perfect for the largest e-tailers, but the smaller guys simply can't afford to spend several thousand dollars per month. TestFreaks provide the option to write reviews as well as aggregated expert and user reviews from more than 14,000 different sources. In less than 30 minutes product scores and review snippets from the industry leading publications, user review platforms and other retail sites can appear on your product pages.

www.testfreaks.com/documents/TestFreaks_Merchant_Solutions.pdf

almost 4 years ago

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Suman

a great website for online shopping with loads of products to choose from... visit the site and tell your shopping experience

almost 4 years ago

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Henry William

I usually spend hours on the web reading blogs on various subjects. And, I really would like to praise you for writing such a fabulous post. Customer reviews are vital aspect for any business and directly effect sales. For more information you can visit Re-Vu.

over 3 years ago

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Brian

"Too many bad reviews aren't good for business"

Not true. Too many bad reviews reveal a serious problem with a product that is likely to result in a far large number of returns. A sale followed by a return is not a sale at all. Negative reviews can in this case, reduce the number of returns for a product. They also do not necessarily mean "no sale" since the customer may well look at similarly stocked competitor products that do not have that problem, and raise retailer awareness that the problem product needs reduced future restocking in favor of less problematic products.

They also add credibility since if a retailer keeps deleting negative reviews to "keep the number of bad reviews down", yet independent review sites do not, then the "review rating gap" flags consumer awareness that the retailer is "playing" the score, which then throws into question how trustworthy any of the retailers scores are, or even if the retailer can be trusted at all.

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Brian, as I said in the article, there is a balance. Lots of bad reviews should indicate a problem, and smarter retailers will listen and fix those problems or withdraw said product.

They also can increase the credibility of the positive reviews.

However, a lot of bad reviews over a period of time, with no obvious resolution of the issues raised in these reviews, will hurt sales.

about 2 years ago

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Shahriar Khan, Canada's Top Web Design/SEO/SMM/SME Company! at poweredby247

PoweredBy247.com offer a variety of Web Services, including, but not limited to: Web Design, Web Development, PHP, PHP5, HTML, HTML5, Python, Code Igniter, MySQL, SEO, SMM, SEM, Google Adwords and all kinds of online marketing support.

http://poweredby247.com/

almost 2 years ago

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luca t, Co-Founder at CliniqFinder

reviews are vital for every type of sales online for all products and services. Customers reading a review are already half way through purchase so if you have positive reviews your chances of conversions increase dramatically. I have experiences this with my own services, I get the best quality traffic from reviews.

over 1 year ago

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Kaysi Sams, Realtor at Real Estate Sales

I'm puzzled by the question "How many negative reviews would you have to read before changing your mind about buying a product or service?" Wouldn't this be in the context of the total number of reviews? For example, if there are 1000 reviews and ten are bad, versus only five reviews and two are bad.

almost 1 year ago

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katie stephey, Marketing at Gun Storage Solutions

I have a manufacturer that has about 20 products listed on our site. We have product reviews available. One product has 10+ reviews. Some products have only 2-5 reviews. About half of the products have zero reviews. Is this still a valuable tool for our customers? We are worried that these products that have zero reviews will deter people from buying them because they don't look popular or like no one buys them. We are in that awkward stage as we build reviews and wonder if we are shooting ourselves in the foot with little to no feed back on some products. Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

12 months ago

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Sarah Gracia, Blogger at NABD

Both positive and negative reviews are important factors for any business. It helps the same to groom overall. But I completely agree with Graham that lots of bad reviews should indicate a problem but by handling them strategically, we can effectively use them to our advantage.

11 months ago

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sfdsfasdf adsafasdf, afsdf at asdf

Thank you for good review. It's really helpful for finding the best product. I will go buy some product like this.

Friends if you want to buy the best high quality handbags please check on this link: http://linktrack.info/.1dqp1

10 months ago

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Stephanie Gwazoo, Multi-Media Specialist at Gwazoo

This is a great article! Hadn't even thought of reviews in content purposes for SEO and other Ranking engines like Alexa. These are great ideas! We will have to start putting these into place here at http://gwazoo.com

7 months ago

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Luiz Centenaro, Consultant at eCommerce Cosmos

Thanks Graham! Great article with practical tips for anyone considering reviews. I think they are extremely important for SEO but you should definitely test to see if they increase conversions. Many of the stats came from review companies themselves with no reference to statistical significance for their revenue/uplift calculations.

7 months ago

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Jen Nichol, SEO Specialist at Freelancer

I couldn't agree more that product/consumer reviews are very important.

Studies show that product reviews on your web store increases the likelihood of purchase. Just like Amazon , people depend on product reviews before they begin to purchase.

In this article , it mentioned about how we can attract people to leave reviews on our web store. Some of the method in my opinion is a little conventional .

So how do we exactly do this effectively? It is undeniable that all start-up businesses face this problem. Even new websites that promote various products are fighting this battle.

I found this website and I think it has a very unique and has an efficient ways to get consumer reviews.

Not sure how to explain it in short , check out this video to see how the service works and how to increase your revenues

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k9tJmm3u08

Hope that help.

5 months ago

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Fahad Al-qahtani, student at CCCO

With the development of e-commerce, nowadays, almost everything is available in the shopping malls can also be found online. Online shopping has become so popular and it is very convenient for this busy life. That is the reason why online shops are booming in business today. However, everything also has two sides, and online shopping is not outside the rule. When you shop online, you can’t see the product physically and can’t try it on until you receive it. You must wait for the product to arrive, sometimes it takes months. Sometimes you will need to pay higher price for shipping than for the product. And, one thing that everybody is worrying about is being under risk of online fraud. Please become a smart consumer, take all advantages of online shopping and making it serving your lives effectively. Raising your awareness about security, using tools to verify payments such as ‘Verified by Visa’ or ‘MasterCard secure code’… to protect you from fraud.

about 1 month ago

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andrea olivo, d at d

HiGraham thanks for the toughts.... i have a question for u ... do u konw IF in the automated list created by Amazon for the Top Customer Reviews the metric is just "how many people voted useful the review" OR as i smell there is something more .. let say a n algorithm which enroll the list? apparently seems correct the first but i didnt search a lot to validate the ipothesis .... sorry for mistakes ... italian is my first language :) ciao

11 days ago

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