Google, Yelp, or Facebook? Which Reviews are Best for My Business?

With an estimated 92% of customers relying on Internet research before making a purchase decision, it's increasingly important to make sure your store is well-represented online. And even if you have a great website, that's no longer enough - your customers are looking to other customers to learn from their experience. Google, Yelp, and Facebook are three of the most popular review sites, but how do you know where to start directing your customers?

Google: A Necessity for Small Retailers

While it seems that Google Business listings are always changing, there's one thing for sure - you need to claim yours. Google continues to experiment with how reviews are displayed to their users, but we've seen them show up in Google+, Google Search, Google Maps, and even Google AdWords.

Claiming your Google business listing will likely boost your performance in Google's search rankings, so that alone is enough of a reason to spend a few minutes to verify your business. While a lot of consumers start their search for local products on Google, we've found that many are using Google on the go, utilizing both Google Map s and Google Search to find a nearby business in a time of need. Having a verified Google Business listing with up-to-date hours and photos will help your store capture purchases from those consumers who forgot to pack their shoes when in town for a wedding, or need to find the nearest hardware store when they are in the middle of a project.

Since Google search results focus on local results first, strong reviews definitely help your store get noticed. In this example, strong reviews for a local running store have allowed them to win the top spot in search results over big box retailers Finish Line and Dick's Sporting Goods.

Yelp: Important for Review Junkies

No doubt that at some point in time, you've looked up reviews for a restaurant using Yelp. Despite popular belief, shopping, NOT restaurants, is the largest category on Yelp. Accounting for 23% of reviews on the site, Yelp reviews are extremely important for a large segment of customers who research a store before ever setting foot in the door.

With well over 100 million unique users each month, claiming your free listing is a no-brainer. This will allow you to update your business information, add photos, and most importantly, respond to reviews and complaints. Who is searching on Yelp? We've found that it's primarily people who are serious about making a purchase. They are looking for a unique boutique store that carries a specific line or product.

And the good news? Yelp has a strong focus on local, meaning that it doesn't take much for local retailers to win out over national chains. Take hardware stores in St. Louis for example. Local hardware stores win out for the 5 spots, with The Home Depot and Lowe's falling in line at #6 and 7, respectively.

After you claim your listing, it's worth considering how Yelp's paid services may fit into your marketing plan. While Yelp offers several paid products to help you drive foot traffic to your store, our favorites are Yelp Deals and Gift Certificates since they have no upfront cost to you. A fee goes to Yelp only when a purchase is completed.

Facebook: Social Customers have an Impact

Even though you may not be an avid Facebook user, you probably know people who live and breathe Facebook. With an incredibly active userbase of over a billion people, there are likely to be people in your local market who look to Facebook to learn more about your store through the experiences of other customers.

Reviews on Facebook are important, as fans of your business are likely to share their experiences about their store visits and purchases with friends in their network. Since other visitors to your store's Facebook page see these comments, it has a substantial impact on driving customers in your door, or away from your store. Who is looking for you on Facebook? The audience will primarily be people shopping for and researching specialty products, who also care about the fit or feel of the item. If your store sells wedding apparel and accessories, baby items, or team sporting goods, Facebook is probably a good place for you.

Here is a quick example of how strong reviews help a local retailer (BabyEarth) stand out, even though they compete against larger retail chain stores (Baby Bunting):

On Facebook, claiming your Business Page is the tip of the iceberg, but an important first step toward encouraging customer reviews. From there, it may be valuable to establish a more extensive Facebook strategy for your store. This next step will require a lot of time and energy, but don't let that stop you from claiming your Business Page and building reviews.

Our Recommendation

Since most stores have a diverse customer base, it's best to claim your free listings on all three platforms - Google, Yelp, and Facebook. It's clear that reviews on all of these platforms can significantly help local retailers win traffic from big box stores. If you're going to ask customers to leave an online review for your business, we recommend asking them to review your business on Google. A few reasons why Google is our top choice for most retail stores:

  • Businesses with 5 or more reviews on Google begin to see improved placement in Google's search rankings, so it only takes a few reviews to start seeing exponential growth in foot traffic.
  • Reviews on Google probably have the widest reach in your local community, as most people interact with at least one Google product on a daily basis (i.e. Google Search, Google Maps, etc.).
  • Google makes it easy for your to ask your customers for reviews. Here's an easy way to create a custom link that you can send to your customers.

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