How small businesses can use online reviews to their advantage

“When it comes to marketing, reviews can be one of the most effective tools we have at our disposal. We tend to give reviews when we feel very strongly about something – so when people take time to write them up, there’s always some weight behind it. For small businesses, they’re a great way to communicate value and confidence in the service that they provide, which can help draw in prospective customers and help them make an informed decisions about any potential product or service they offer.” says Samantha Cobden of Dark Horse. 

We’ve compiled a list of ways that small businesses can utilize reviews to boost their marketing efforts from a panel of digital marketing experts.

  1. Build trust with potential customers

Natalia Gomez of Green Studio Marketing states “Consumers nowadays are researchers. Old school marketing is dead and showcasing reviews is a way to build your brand’s transparency. It says that you care about bringing an amazing customer experience, and it builds trust. Conscious consumers buy from brands that they trust. It’s that simple.”

Jordan Whitehead of Net Sixty Six says “Reviews improve buyer confidence and trust. Buyers read reviews to find out what others say about the product or service, and whether it’s likely to be of value. If a business has a good rating profile, this can attract new customers who come to expect high standards. This will lead to a reduction in customer service issues, which will result in less customer complaints.”

Jordan Martin-Smith of adds “Nearly 9 out of 10 people read reviews before buying according to TrustPilot. And almost 80% of shoppers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This really reinforces the strength of reviews, as they effectively act as online referrals for undecided shoppers.”

Sean Cope of DigiLine Marketing says “The higher number of reviews your business has, the more trusted your company appears. Customer reviews provide opportunities for customers to positively reinforce their perception of a product or service based on another person’s experience, making them more likely to take action when the review matches their internal goals for the purchase.”

Carloscar Tovar of CT Digital suggests “Business owners should always provide added value to their customers to have leverage when asking for online reviews. When you provide an extraordinary service, it is almost impossible for customers to deny a good review. And great reviews will always translate into more business.”

Larry Oskin of Marketing Solutions shares “Getting an online review or any media review is only the first step to sharing your credibility. The very best way to use online social and normal media reviews to your benefit is to create PR / media reprints to post on social media and your website! Getting media attention is important to build name brand recognition, credibility and trust.”

Steven Ruhs of Promoting Image says “Showing a directory that syncs reviews from credible sources is something that would be a good example on how reviews help people make decisions when selecting a business.”

Lisa Cutter of Amp Up My Biz shares “Did you know? The average consumer reads 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business. And there are 4 key review factors that influence their buying decision: Average star rating, total number of reviews (or total lack), timestamp of reviews and how a business responds to negative reviews. In short…online reviews = more business.”

  1. Share on social media

Isabel Pedreira of Clover Strategic Communications advises “Small businesses can share the positive online reviews that they get on their social media channels, tagging the reviewer (if known) and using them to spark a conversation regarding a product or service.”

DeJuan Wright of Decryption says “Small businesses can utilize reviews by highlighting a different satisfied customer on their social media platforms everyday, a small business can provide social proof, thus, using the strongest weapon in marketing which is positive word-of-mouth reviews.”

Ben Schofield of Green Gecko Digital states “My number #1 piece of advice for using reviews to your advantage is a method we actually use ourselves and recommend to our clients. That method is posting your positive reviews on your social media accounts. This is best done when you get stuck for ideas with social media and require a get out of jail card when you haven’t posted in a while.”

Carmine Mastropierro of WiseMedia adds “Individual reviews and testimonials can be made into graphics with a tool like Canva and shared on social media as content.”

Caitie Sfingi of Merakite says “It can be challenging to have enough content to fill a social calendar, and a well-formatted, professionally-branded post highlighting a review or positive customer experience is a great way to boost credibility and social proof.

Matthew Post of SEM Dynamics shares “If you have a collection of reviews that are highly key points of value that your business offers, you can create slideshow videos and share those on your social platforms.”

Michael Visconti of V12 Marketing says “It’s easy to create a quick graphic template highlighting the review in a design tool like Canva that’s branded to match your business. Then just share on social. Not only will the fresh content keep your pages higher in feeds, but showing off reviews may also convince other followers to leave a review, or help potential shoppers find them faster. Take it a step further and batch create a few of these and schedule them ahead of time!”

  1. Boost SEO

Stuart Cooke of Levity Digital states “Encourage your customers to include your target keywords in their review. From an SEO point of view online reviews are an excellent opportunity to improve your traffic as keywords included in your reviews on Google My Business help to improve your visibility for those terms.”

Patrick Kurowski of MarketKeep says “Reviews help your business get found online – When a person searches for stores near them your online rankings/reviews influence where your company appears in search results. The more reviews a company has across multiple platforms the greater the chance they will appear in search results.”

Justina Burkauskiene of Cargo Creative shares “Earlier this year we saw Google implement a ranking change, directly benefiting those that have implemented reviews into their website content. Not only that these businesses now get prioritized (to a certain extent, of course), but they also have the added benefit of showing up in the rich results due to the schema markup. The added stars on the business SERPs instantly indicates the social proof of the product and/or service quality and establishes trust with a business before a user even entered the website.”

Sean G of Netlab Marketing advises “Positive reviews play a huge role in local SEO, and if you can find a way to have your customers use your keywords in their review—that can help your SEO exponentially. For instance you could say to a customer hey, we work hard to make sure our customers are 100% satisfied. If you’re happy with our service, we’d love it if you could leave us a review on Yelp or Google. Don’t forget to mention I’m the best plumber in Chicago!”

Gareth Bain of Got Legs Digital states “In terms of ranking high on customer searches, it follows that your brand gets more exposure the more customers talk about you. Therefore, your brand name will come up on top of those very valuable search results.”

Michael O’Grady of Verdict Digital Marketing suggests “Get clients to leave reviews that include things such as location, reason they hired you and service performed can really help boost your SEO by associating your brand with those keywords. It also helps clients that are unsure what to write, leave you a review.”

Brian Martin of Teamwork Solutions Group adds “You’ll notice Google will bold certain terms under your business profile. So if they use terms like city and name of the service it can help  you rank!”

  1. Use negative reviews to your advantage

Nathan Hughes of Diggity Marketing says “Do not delete negative reviews. Instead, reply to them professionally. It builds a positive image of your business.”

Brynn Gibbs of Ink Link Marketing adds “Nearly 90% of survey respondents stated that they read business owner’s responses to negative reviews and 46% of people stated that they are more likely to visit a business that responds to negative reviews.”

Kinga Edwards of Brainy Bees shares “You’ll want to respond quickly to any bad online reviews, apologizing to them and mentioning what you have done or will do next time. Chances are these people will actually give you the second chance and become your loyal clients, with an amazing back story to your relationship.”

Joy Miller of TBH Creative states “Here’s the good thing about negative reviews—receiving a few bad online reviews can help build authenticity. Negative reviews give your leads an idea of what’s the worst scenario if they decide to buy your company’s product or service. If your online reviews are five-star reviews, your leads may question their credibility. Reviews become pointless if your endorsements read as fake. How else can they help? Negative reviews give you an opportunity to improve and show off your customer service, too.”

  1. Respond to reviews

Austin Furey of Concept states “If someone says something nice about your business or an experience they had, simply responding with a thank you for the kind message can go a long way in building trust with prospects. No matter what the feedback is… respond! This will help you stand out.”

Jayna Patel of Pivotal Marketing advises “Always reply to reviews whether they be on TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook or a different platform, regardless of whether you’re responding to a negative or positive review.

If someone is making a complaint in a review I would recommend remaining as professional and diplomatic as possible, without apologising as that admits wrongdoing. Acknowledge their feelings and address them directly by name to show you’re taking it seriously and the review isn’t a templated response. Thank them for taking the time to leave a review and offer a solution. For example:

We are saddened to hear you had a bad experience using our company but thank you for taking the time to leave a review. We strive for continual improvement in the service we provide and place a high importance on what our customers think. Please contact [insert right contact details] so we can work to resolve your issue directly. Thank you [company name or employee name].”

  1. Boost your Google My Business listing

Spencer Grey of Grey Tech Digital advises “Google my business is a tool for businesses to manage their online presence across Google. When you search for a business or service online first the Google ads show up then Google my business listings. A lot of this can impact the ranking of your Google my business listing but one of the biggest things is your reviews. The quality and the quantity of the reviews you have.”

Kaare Long of a Cue Creative Consulting states “Online reviews provide incredible organic search results, especially on Google. When you make an effort to obtain Google reviews, these reviews provide natural SEO and Google will prioritize your business with the key words in your Google business profile. Organic SEO is still the #1 way to get positioned in a favourable placement on the search engine.”

Dom Cooper of Vu Online says “Google is trying to return localised results for its users to save them hassle, this is based on the location of your Google My Business listing, and if your industry is anything like mine there are loads of companies vying to be found.

To gain extra visibility, Google wants to see you engaging with your Google My Business listing, through updates and importantly reviews – because these are authentic 3rd party opinions we all trust.”

Dean O Toole of Daysack Media shares  “Try to encourage your clients to be as detailed and descriptive as possible in their review and to mention the services carried out and to mention their town or city if possible. This helps boost their local SEO signals for specific search terms naturally.”

Jack Gallagher-Bohn of Bohn Digital states “Optimal SEO practice states It’s best to acquire reviews through Google My Business, due to Google being the most popular search engine. As the reviews also appear first thing on the 1st page, top right (Google My Business) & or the Google Maps search results when searching for said small businesses name.”

  1. Add to a website or landing page

Hilary Reiter of Redhead Marketing & PR says “Businesses can reshare and highlight online reviews in social media posts, on their websites, and in email newsletters.”

Brady Werkheiser of Webstacks states “Repurpose user-generated content from review aggregation sites by highlighting your aggregate rating and/or number of 5-star reviews above-the-fold on your home page. Our brains are like heat-seeking missiles looking for any signal to either trust or abandon a new company’s website. By immediately establishing your small business’ trustworthiness using real customer ratings and reviews, you remove doubts and allow visitors to browse your website with peace of mind.”

Jessica Farkouh of VitalUP Marketing adds “Reviews are the first thing customers look at for reassurance before buying a product or service. Being able to have social proof with reviews and testimonials from previous customers gives your business credibility and provides customers with a sense of trust when making a purchase.”

Miles Liedtke of Digital Dream Team says “Because people will trust your brand and product more with strong ratings and reviews present, the most important usage tip is to make sure the reviews are not hidden way down the page – make sure you place ratings and reviews high on the page near your product. As an added bonus, but along the same lines, I highly recommend using reviews on home page hero images.”

Mark Verwoert of Markd Agency states “Use reviews to strengthen your landing page. Trust is the most important factor when you want a customer to buy your product or service. They don’t know you yet, so they base their trust on the opinions of others. That’s why it’s highly beneficial to place reviews on your landing page and start building trust from the second they land on your page. Small tip: make sure your customer reviews include real names and pictures because otherwise, it will look like you made it up.”

Stephanie Bernardo of Spiralytics shares “Some of our ecommerce clients have integrated review sites like Trustpilot to showcase the ratings their customers leave in real time, while others have reached out to customers to feature them in their blog.”

Stephanie Marie Marketing adds “One tip for small businesses to use online reviews to their advantage is to add them as a carousel to their site to help with customer acquisition.”

  1. Sprinkle reviews throughout your marketing material

Andrea Chiesa of Huppyz suggests “We suggested to one of our past clients to make cartoon type figures of their customers who left a review, to create a fancy graphic bubble with a review on it, to show on social media, the clinic’s TV in the waiting room, and on their website as well.”

Manisha Khadanga of Salted Social shares “More often than not, Influencers or media outlets are skeptical before giving out a link to a new business. Products and services that are backed by multiple positive reviews can help show these influencers, PR teams and journalists, just how much customers love to use, and trust your brand.This small tip can help build that initial credibility and in turn help grow the brand exponentially.”

  1. Stand apart from your competitors

Lane Rizzardini of Marion Relationship Marketing says “Online reviews are a great way for small businesses to stand out from one another. If a consumer is researching several different companies, and all things are equal, there is a good chance that the consumer will choose the company with the higher number of reviews.”

Blake Baxendell of DentaMarketing advises “Online reviews hold so much weight these days and can be the deciding factor between you and your competitor. It helps as a deciding factor based on your star ratings and how many people review your business. Not only is it a possible deciding factor, but Google heavily weighs it now for your website rankings.”

  1. Use a review widget

Josiah Atkins of Prospect Bacon says “One simple tip for using online reviews to your advantage is having a simple pop up at the bottom of your form or landing page with great customer reviews. You can also screenshot those same reviews and testimonials and bake those right into your email marketing, landing page and website. Showing reviews this way is a great way to build trust for those “on the edge” leads/buyers for your business.”

  1. Place in paid ads

Kendall Lemmen of Evenbound shares “An important part of marketing a small business is getting your name in front of the right audience and getting them to trust the quality of your products or services. Before they make a purchase, prospective customers love to see what other people are saying about you. By placing a direct quote from a positive review into your ad copy or graphic, you’re putting that information right in their face, without them even having to search for it. They may not have even heard of your company before, but now you’ve pulled them in to learn more.

At our agency, we’ve found this to be really effective because it combines an outbound marketing strategy (paid ads) with an inbound marketing strategy (online reviews). Paid ads get the information in front of the right people, and online reviews build their trust — creating the perfect formula for lead conversion.”

James Michael Chiong of JC Digital states “One way to use reviews for boosting marketing efforts is to create testimonial content from them. These can be used via organic and paid content, as well as expounding more on the case studies around those clients through blog articles.”

  1. Boost conversion

Sean Dudayev of Frootful Marketing says “The one big benefit of online reviews is the increase in conversions. Reviews tell potential customers that others have used or experienced your products or services and they will be more likely to make a buying decision with you than if you were to have no social proof at all. Reviews are one of the best ways to increase conversions and if you don’t have them, you’re letting a lot of valuable traffic go to waste.”

Adriana Cowdin of Dekaf Digital shares “One tip for how small businesses can use online reviews to their advantage is to have them tied to products/services. For example, if you’re selling an online fitness course, tie reviews directly to the landing page for that course and you’ll absolutely see your conversions increase.”

  1. Use them to gather customer data

EJ Archuleta of Archuleta Group says “We like to mine reviews for content marketing. Reviews can tell us customer pain points as well as what makes them happy. With this in mind, we can create high converting content for our clients, that focuses on solving problems and making clients happy.”

In conclusion, when it comes to building trust and credibility as a business, reviews are a powerful tool that not only helps create buyer confidence, but also helps to boost your local SEO.