Key Takeaways from the 2016 BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey

There’s no shortage of marketing information online. Whether you’re looking to learn about SEO, paid search or some other digital marketing topic, the internet has no shortage of resources--type in the the term “Learn SEO” and Google returns more than 53 million unique results. Though the abundance of information is great, it’s also a challenge to parse through it and understand what is relevant to your website.

A standout publication that our team at Energy Circle recommends for the home performance industry is BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey. BrightLocal is a leader in the local search industry, led by Myles Anderson (@bright_local) and Ed Eliot (@ejeliot). The company has been around since 2009, a time before Google even considered using social signals for ranking. They have seen the search landscape change and have consistently been a reliable source of information.

Here are the biggest takeaways from their 2016 survey:

What the survey tells us about the Home Performance, HVAC, and Insulation industry

We’ve written about it in the past, but online reviews tend to be among the most important aspects of a home performance company’s online presence. If people are going to invite you into their home, they want be sure you’re reputable, so they’ll read positive, truthful and recent online reviews of your company. 91% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, a number large enough that it cannot be ignored.

Takeaway 1: 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation

In the past, the greatest form of advertising for home performance companies was word of mouth. If you perform a big insulation job in a neighborhood and the residents see your trucks and hear good things about your work, there’s a greater chance you would sell more jobs in that neighborhood. In 2016, however, people are doing less talking and more typing.

An overwhelming majority of people say that they trust online reviews as much as an in-person recommendation. According to BrightLocal’s same survey from 2010, 69% of local consumers trusted online reviews as much as personal recommendations. That number is 84% in 2016. This furthers the idea we’ve been talking about: that online reviews are the new word of mouth. So instead of asking people to tell their friends, ask them to leave a review on one of the popular review sites (Facebook, Yelp, Angie’s List, etc.) where a wide network of people will find it.

84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation

Takeaway 2: 60% of people say that negative reviews make them not want to use a business

Unfortunately, an unhappy customer is much more likely to go online and leave a review than a happy customer. People expect good service, but when they are disappointed or angry, they want others to know about it.

A negative review online can be a real lemon. But what do we do with lemons? We turn them into positive customer experiences! Follow this process for responding to negative reviews.

  1. Read the review

  2. Take a walk outside, chill out and clear your head.

  3. Respond to the review in a calm, polite manner. Apologize for the bad experience, say that your company strives for top quality service and offer your contact information so that the disgruntled customer can reach out to you directly.

A reasonable response shows future customers that you are willing to fix the error. A response from the business owner is an easy way to build trust and show that you care about customer satisfaction.

Takeaway 3: 73% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant

I wrestled with this one a bit. Since this survey encompasses many industries, every data point may not directly relate to our industry. If, for example, you were searching for a pair of fashionable sunglasses, then it makes sense that you wouldn’t read last year’s reviews. Getting caught in a pair of 2015 Maui Jims would be a serious social faux pas.

This, however, isn’t really the case when it comes to HVAC and home performance, since our industry isn’t as dependent on trends and relevancy as is the fashion industry. Barring new technological advances and application techniques, the spray foam service that customers received in 2015 and even back in 2010 is generally the same as it will be in 2016. The takeaway here, we think, is to make sure there’s a balance of new and old. We’ve certainly seen many companies that got over the 5 star threshold for Google stars years ago, but abandoned review solicitation after hitting that mark.

The best solution is to keep a steady stream of reviews coming through the door. Potential customers will be able to look back through a long history of established service, but also see that you are still doing quality work in the present.

Takeaway 4: 70% of consumers will leave a review for a business if they're asked to

Don’t be shy about asking for online reviews. Customers need to be reminded to leave reviews, since it might not be on the top of their to-do list. If you make it part of your process to ask people to review your work on common sites like Yelp and Google+, BrightLocal’s survey tells us that 70% of them will leave a review. In our experience and industry, 70% is high, though it helps raise this percentage to ask people for a review in a timely manner. People are more likely to respond if they are asked to review service close to when they received it, instead of months or years later.

Takeaway 5: 90% of consumers read 10 reviews or fewer before they feel they can trust a business

When we think of online reviews, we think about the most obvious examples like restaurants and vacation destinations. These types of businesses often have hundreds of reviews. If you are looking despairingly at that one Google+ review you got in 2013 from a profile that has long since been deleted, the road to 100 online reviews seems long. But no need to be disheartened! The majority of people only read 1-6 reviews. So instead of comparing yourself to the local Applebees, just try and get 5 reviews, then evaluate your process and move forward.

Takeaway 6: 59% of consumers look at 2-3 review sites before they make a decision about a business

So you finally got 5 reviews on your Google+ profile, congratulations! Give yourself a quick pat on the back and get back to work. 80% of consumers browse more than one review site before deciding on a company or a product. On a purchase as hefty as a home retrofit or an HVAC upgrade, people will likely visit even more than just 2-3 sites. Make sure your review sites are diversified.

This is straight from the BrightLocal team: “For instance, if a person is looking for a restaurant, they may only check out one or two review sites. However, if they want to hire a contractor to refurbish their house or need a cosmetic dentist then it’s more likely & probable that they will look at more review sites.”

Progression of Reviews

Like it or not, the importance of reviews is growing and growing. Google is increasingly prioritizing review sites and is even working them into the search engine results (SERPs). Make sure review gathering and management is part of your digital marketing strategy! Get in touch with our team to learn more about successful strategies for online reviews, and schedule your no-obligation marketing evaluation today.

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