Why Do Customers Write Reviews?

Who are these people who write reviews on websites like Yelp, Amazon and Angie’s List? And why do they have so much power over your success?

Contrary to some opinions I’ve heard, online reviewers usually aren’t just disgruntled customers or dishonest competitors in disguise. They view themselves as part of a community that plays an important role in helping consumers make wise choices.

Remember that these online review websites are companies, and they have a business interest in encouraging reviewers. The more reputable and helpful their community is, the more successful the company will be.

For instance, Yelp recruits active reviewers to engage in its ‘Elite’ program, offering special free events and perks to this group. You can see from my Yelp profile that I participated in this community for awhile:

Why do customers write reviews?

On a smaller scale, some companies offer sweepstakes giveaways or discounts to customers who write reviews. And we can never neglect the allure some feel of developing a following, being considered a community leader or creating a reputation as an expert (even if it’s just expertise in local restaurants).

Because online review companies develop authentic communities, your customers trust the reviews they read, and they make purchase decisions based on reviewers’ opinions. So be nice to the reviewers and encourage your loyal customers to make their voices heard.

The Diversification of Search (and Your Marketing Budget)

In the near future, Google might not be such a hot-shot in the web marketing world.

That’s crazy!” you might think. Indeed, Google has been the major research resource for the vast majority of web users. And today, Google still accounts for 66.2% of all search-engine use, with Bing-powered search a distant 29.1%.

Diversify your search marketingIt seems that Google’s serious competition won’t come from Bing (at least, anytime soon). As a web marketing expert helping businesses reach their customers on the Internet, I see that competition coming from a very different field.

The big secret is that search is so much bigger than Google or Bing. Often, navigating a Google search can be frustrating as the user tries to grope after the right search phrase to get his intended result. For instance, consider a search for a professional speaker that only results in displaying high-end audio equipment.

This search inconvenience has given rise to many niche-search products built into commerce and social media sites. On Amazon.com, customers can search categories with pre-defined criteria that makes sense, like size and type of shoes. Yelp is organized by geography, so if a user is vacationing in Savannah, GA, he can get the local scoop on that city.

With so many shopping and social media options, web users are diversifying their search methods for more personalized results.

Here are some stats on a few special-interest sites that compete for search traffic:

  • 901 million users search Facebook to find their friends and favorite brands.
  • 161 million users conduct 4.2 “professionally-oriented” yearly searches on LinkedIn (such as recruiting or networking).
  • In a month, 89 million U.S. customers visit Amazon.com to buy or comparison-shop.
  • 71 million users search Yelp for information and reviews about local businesses.
  • 50 million visitors search TripAdvisor to plan vacations.
  • 10 million women search Pinterest to find the absolute perfect wedding hair or yummy appetizer recipe.

How Search Diversification Affects Your Marketing Plan

All of the above sites provide businesses opportunities to communicate with users and buy advertising. Marketing plans are beginning to reflect interest in these offerings, with businesses diversifying their web marketing budget to include a variety of advertising and communication efforts across different sites relevant to their own customers.

If your business happens to focus exclusively on Google AdWords for web advertising, it might be time to look into diversifying your web marketing. With the right social partner, you’ll likely reach more relevant customers, who are looking for a more personalized experience and are ready to engage with your brand.