In today’s society, the internet is everything. Consumers can connect with each other and businesses like never before. There is beauty in this, but there are risks as well – consumer perceptions can make or break a business and customer reviews play a big part in that.

There are several kinds of customer reviews. There are also different ways to leverage customer interactions and touch points depending on your goals. To help you understand and orient to the subject, we talked with Brian Kelly, Folotrio’s chief technologist and customer reviews enthusiast. Brian has over 20 years of experience in the realm of communication data and the internet. This Q&A is the first of a series on the topic.

What are the different types of customer reviews? 

Well, you have two types of customer reviews – first party reviews and third-party reviews. First party reviews, you own. Third party reviews are owned by someone else. 

If you have a website, a place where you can house your own reviews online, there are software solutions that allow you to automate the process and ask customers directly about your service or product. Because you own the process and the feedback, you can tailor questions around areas that you’re interested in getting feedback on. 

How first party reviews work.

Say you’re a service-based company and you have a technician – I’ll use a garage door company as an example – well, they go out and do the repairs on the garage door. When they leave that job, the customer receives a text or email, preferably text, asking them to rate the service on a scale of one to 10 and give you feedback. This creates a net promoter score (NPS) that gives good insight into the customer’s experience and tells you how well you’re doing service or product-wise as a business. 

Creating synergy with third-party reviews.

Now say the customer responds to your request for a first-party review and they give you a rating of seven overall.  We know we’ve got a high net promoter score. There’s a good likelihood you would get a solid review on a third-party site. So, we immediately respond, tell them we appreciate the review and send them a link asking, ‘Hey, would you mind sharing that on Facebook? Would you mind sharing that on Google?’ We pick the domain [third-party site] where we want to share that – and there’s like 100 different sites, everything from Zillow to the Better Business Bureau. We can point them in that direction for the third-party review. And on the flip side, we can respond immediately to customer’s with concerns who give less than stellar scores. We can get that feedback to the appropriate person to research further, understand the source of the problem and respond to the customer, which is critically important. 

Why would businesses prefer first party reviews over third party reviews?

Let’s say I own a business and I have Google reviews. I take those Google reviews and I put them up on my web page.  Even though I have those reviews on my webpage, Google wouldn’t show them in the organic search listing for my webpage because they are third-party reviews and I do not own them. 

So, the difference between first-and-third party reviews really comes in play with Google search and organic listings. Google will only allow the display of first-party reviews in your listing. 

But first-party reviews are only half the equation. Developing third-party reviews on sites that matter to your customers, such as Google and Facebook, is the other half.

Customer reviews can influence domain authority and page ranking factors, too. PageRank is a factor in Google’s search and domain authority is a third-party rating system developed by the SEO company Moz to predict where your website measures in Google search rankings. It’s measured on a scale of 0 to 100 and basically assesses the influence of your site in terms of business reputation based on the quality of inbound and outbound links. I don’t think anybody has a score of 100. Google may have a 98, but 100 is kind of the ultimate. So, a third-party review coming from a high-level domain would have a higher value than a first-party review displaying on the web page of a business that is just establishing their online presence. 

And remember, if you’re Google, you own all the Google My Business reviews. Google being the owner, they’re well established. Their domain authority is very high. So those are going to mean a lot for your business in terms of click-through value and linkage. 

Are industry related (vertical) review sites as important, like Angie’s List and Dealer Rater?

I guess that goes back to the domain authority and the reputation associated with those services. I think they are a big factor. With a site like Angie’s, as a contractor or business, you can get listed for free and link to an established website with authority. So, again, a third-party review coming from a high-level domain would have a higher value than a first-party review displaying on the web page of a business that is just establishing their online presence. 

How do customer views affect your search results?

Mobile is the driving factor in the U.S. right now. And that’s because its location based. And that’s where Google is. Their attention is developing this in more depth, and really, Google is getting a lot more specific. Today, how close you are or when you go are really coming into play. 

Say I’m looking for sushi near me, the algorithm is really focused on the location of where you are, the relevance of your webpage to the query and how your webpage compares to your competition in terms of relevance and prominence. This has pushed the importance of reviews and ratings to a higher level. And this is also why brand verified answers are important. But in terms of the sushi, it’s not just looking at what the brand says, it’s looking at what others are saying too. And that is going to be something that continues to explode in algorithm changes. 

What can you do to manage search results? And what are some of the different ways you can invite customers to give you feedback? 

Reputation management software is a critical piece on that. Instead of sending out a text or an email saying, ‘How was our service?’ We can do a survey to evaluate specific areas of service. We can tailor that message to ask about specific aspects the experience. So, I think having a tool to help automate that process is a big benefit. For some folks, it’s about face-to-face communication. For example, a business might train their technicians to ask immediately for a review and hand them a tablet or iPad with the link already accessed. It’s about engaging and trying to guide the customer through the process immediately following the job and a lot of times they won’t know exactly how to leave a review otherwise. So, it’s an opportunity to engage. You can also send out an email just asking questions and providing links to different review resources. And of course, you must decide if you want to have more Google reviews or go after an industry specific third-party site that might be important in your business category.

Need some additional guidance?

If you need assistance developing a strategy and implementing a management solution to increase customer interactions, reviews and touch points, get in touch to discuss how we can help you achieve that. We love talking to business owners looking to grow: hello@folotrio.com or Brian at 904.271.0432.

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