The direct link between revenue and reputation is so clear that brands who do not pay attention to reviews risk missing out on improved search performance, better click-through rates and, ultimately, more sales.

That is the warning from reputation management specialists Yext, passed on to attendees of a recent Econsultancy webinar on how to maximise your reputation and build trust with reviews.

Reviews are self-evidently an important guide for marketers as to how well their products and services are being enjoyed by customers. Testimonials or complaints are vital because, according to a 2016 study by Gartner/CEB Global, 52% of consumers who switch brands cite a bad customer experience.

The advice from Yext is that reviews are happening, whether brands like it or not. In fact, its figures show a six-fold increase in reviews between 2015 to 2018. Failure to engage with this huge brand feedback channel is not an option because those companies who do help customers by proactively responding to reviews see their star rating improve.

These experiences, good and bad, make review sites even more important to brand than checking out tweets and posts. According to recently-published research by Kantar, consumers trust them above social media.

The advice from Yext is reviews are happening, whether brands like it or not. In fact, its figures show a six-fold increase in reviews between 2015 and 2018. Failure to engage with this huge brand feedback channel is not an option because those companies who do help customers by proactively responding to reviews see their star rating improve. This leads to an uptick in organic search performance and can provide a significant boost to click-through rates (CTR) in search marketing.

From links to answers

The search point is particularly relevant now there is a shift from people interacting with a list of links to instead being increasingly offered an answer. According to recent data from Jumpshot, more than half of Google searches don’t result in clicks anywhere on the search results page, whether to organic search results or to a paid ad.

Voice searches from smartphones and smart speakers are adding to this trend, as voice assistants cannot work with a list of hyperlinks, but instead require an answer to be read out. As customers become more accustomed to seeking recommendations and then asking where an item is stocked locally, voice may come to the forefront of how brands are discovered.

Hence, the advice from Yext is brands need to look to proactively helping customers. Engaging with reviews brings improvements to star ratings, search performance, and digital advertising CTRs, and Yext has the figures to back this up.

Responding earns half a star extra

Savvy executives understand that ratings and comments are both a way to understand consumers better and a way to address any concerns they are voicing. Time is of the essence here because 40% of consumers expect to hear back from a brand within an hour if they raise an issue through a review, according to Yext.

Responding is not only good for resolving issues, it is the building block of satisfied customers. According to the 2013 Connecting with Customers Report from Liveperson, 82% of consumers say getting a speedy resolution is the number one priority in rating a business for good customer experience.

Taking this proactive approach has a significant impact. Business that respond to reviews see a quarter star up lift in their ratings and those that responds to more than three in four reviews see a half star uptick.

Stars boost marketing

It is important because business with four or five stars see a 9% improvement in their local search ranking compared to those with two or three stars, Yext figures show. It stands to reason, given that the search giant wants to prioritise products and services consumers like over those they do not enjoy or are non-committal on.

Yext also found that businesses with a review snippet that displays a star rating on the search results page (SERP) receive a staggering 153% increase in click-through rates.

It is not just search that sees a rise. Whatever the marketing channel – be it social posts, paid ads, checkout pages or marketing emails – businesses featuring a good rating score see a 10% to 20% improvement in click through rate (CTR).

And that’s what Yext describes as the virtuous circle. Businesses who engage with reviews see their star ratings go up. This improvement can be used in marketing to encourage more engagement and, one would hope, an uptick in sales. This then leads to more reviews which, when responded to, start the process off search improvement and click-through improvements all over again.

The takeaway from Yext is businesses that see reviews as a means to respond and be helpful to customer feedback will reap the reward, particularly if they push home the improved star rating in adverts which gain far more traction. Conversely, those who ignore this direct link between reviews and reputation driving revenue miss out on a golden opportunity that rivals are likely to take advantage of.