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Navigating the Waters of Online Review Sites

Posted October 16, 2015 by EnerBank USA


In the era of online reviews, understanding when and where reviews appear has become a necessity for home improvement contractors to succeed online. With online review sites, review apps on every smartphone, and massive social media clout, consumers can confront your business from almost any angle.

Monitoring what is being said about your business requires constant and diligent effort. It doesn’t have to be overwhelming.

In this article, we set out to establish some benchmarks and offer guidance for organizing a strong consumer review strategy.

To gather this data, we selected the top five home improvement contracting companies on Consumer Affairs (a consumer news and advocacy organization and leading review site), and we analyzed all customer reviews for each company across four major review sources: Consumer Affairs, Yelp, Google+ and Facebook.

Each review site comes with its own manner of assessing a positive versus a negative review, providing key data that contributes to the overall online presence of each company.

Consumer Affairs: Of the four review sites, Consumer Affairs has the fewest reviews and users. This low number is most likely due to its sole use for reviewing businesses. Other social media sites like Facebook and Google+ have a reviewing function, but that is just one of the many things they do. However, such limited features can also be a strength. We found that individuals who leave reviews tend to be higher paying individuals or companies. As a result, reviews left on Consumer Affairs tend to be long, very detailed, and provide an abundance of helpful information to potential customers. It is a less used, but extremely useful review resource, so plan to spend some time building reviews here; it will be worth the effort.

Yelp: As far as consumer reviews are concerned, Yelp is king. Its influence is so large that the majority of reviews found on Yahoo and Bing are pulled directly from Yelp. As the go-to review site for the average consumer, there are more than 140 million reviews left every month. Because of the large user base and accessibility, reviews on Yelp range from a quick blurb to multi-paragraph rants. The reoccurring trend seems to be the longer the review, the lower the rating.

Google+: Although Google hoped for more, Google+ has become primarily a resource for business page listings. Google+ is more commonly used than Consumer Affairs, but it has fewer users than Yelp and Facebook. Similar to Consumer Affairs, Google+ reviews tend to have very specific and offer helpful feedback. Google+ is also a platform that Google keeps a close eye on, due to the fact that Google+ ratings are taken into account in Google’s search algorithm, so budgeting time and effort to maintain positive reviews on Google+ is a must.

Facebook: Facebook is by far the most popular, and inversely, the least helpful. If the company is set as a local business on Facebook, consumers are able to leave a star rating comparable to other review sites. Unfortunately, many Facebook business pages use third-party rating apps, so the data is difficult to gather and hard to rely on. Additionally, with Facebook’s famous “like” button, often people opt to simply “like” a page or a post without feeling the need to say more. All that being said, Facebook is the easiest way to interact with consumers, build a brand, cultivate loyalty, and more. So give Facebook the time it deserves, but be sure to combine efforts on Facebook with the other consumer review sites.

Company Ratings Synopsis

The average number of 5-star ratings for the home improvement businesses we looked at, across all the review sites, hovers around 50 percent. If your company is meeting or exceeding that 50 percent benchmark, you should consider that a success.

For the average percentage of 1-star ratings, we found some differences between review sites. Facebook has the lowest number of negative interaction compared to the other review sites. This can be attributed to the fact that Facebook is used for much more than just a means to review a business. If an individual feels an overwhelming urge to leave a negative review, they are likely to do it on one of the other sites better known for consumer reviews. Google+ also has fewer negative interactions, for reasons similar to Facebook. The negative review percentages on Google+ are higher than Facebook, though, because of its smaller user base. Both Yelp and Consumer Affairs have just over 25 percent negative interaction. As they are both purely for consumer reviews, this is a good goal for which to place the negative benchmark for your company.

What Now?

Four of the top five companies we looked at had very little negative feedback and an overwhelming number of positive reviews. Results like this produce a top-rated business. However, one of the companies we looked at (whose name will remain anonymous), had far more negative reviews than positive, with 80 percent of their reviews on Yelp placing them at only 1 star.

How can a company like this rank in the top five?

The answer is simple: they responded to every single negative review. The responses were personalized, written by an actual person, and each response aimed to provide a solution to the source of the complaint. Because of this relentless effort to continually meet the consumers’ needs, they developed successful brand loyalty that resulted in higher rankings.

Each review site has a similar interface for commenting and responding, so the focus should remain on the consumers. Staying on top of consumer reviews across multiple platforms will take time, but it will definitely be worth the effort. Read the reviews, listen to what people are saying, and put forth the best solution. Showing your customers that you care is not only a good way to keep them happy, but it shows potential customers that you’re more concerned with them than your bottom line. Always aim for positive reviews, but when negative reviews do come, solve the problem.