Into the weeds: Here’s a closer look at review sites and sizing up your competition

The most important place to land online reviews for most companies is their Google page. We discussed it here. But the online landscape changes quickly, and your business and marketplace are unique to you. By making your own assessment of your competition and review sites, or asking us to do it for you, you will find the opportunities that are unique to your situation.

And it never hurts to know more.

There are a lot of sites where reviews can go. We know from experience that Google, Yelp, Facebook and Amazon are the top options. Amazon is its own ecosystem. People who work Amazon online stay within that world, for the most part, and already know where they want more reviews.

And generally speaking, until you hear differently in the news, Google is on top. You can almost never go wrong starting there.

The fuller landscape can be found doing a search on Google (where else?). Here is one good article among many: https://www.vendasta.com/blog/top-10-customer-review-websites/ .  It features this chart:

The chart in the linked article lists the Top 10

They have it ranked by U.S. Alexa ranking, which is roughly the popularity or traffic of the website. Like in so many other arenas online and otherwise, the fall-off is dramatic. The “80-20 Rule” applies here, with the disproportionate amount of traffic concentrated in the top 3 players (here it’s more like 70-30).

Another way to look at this easily is to do a Google search of your product or service in your marketplace. In the search results page, scroll down below the Maps box for now and notice the review sites in the results.

When I search for Dentists in Wilmington, NC, I see HealthGrades.com at the top, a review site. There are several dental practices as well as OpenCare.com, another reviews site that I had never heard of. In each profession there are these more specialized review sites. But unless you see Yelp or another big name at the top, I would start with Google.

When I search for plumbers, I see AngiesList and HomeAdvisor in addition to Yelp. This is as expected. I would still focus on Google first in this case, although Yelp would not be a wrong call. AngiesList and HomeAdvisor are not pure review sites, as both have a pay-to-play “freemium” model. If you have a plumbing business, these sites will charge you for “featured listings,” and for leads that they also sell to your competition. 

Once you have picked a review site to focus on, the next step is to do a competitive analysis and set a reasonable goal with time frame. If you’re going to focus on your Google page, your competitive analysis includes
– how many reviews you have
– what is your star rating
– what are these numbers for your competition
– how many reviews should you be shooting for
– what is a reasonable time frame for achieving this goal?

Taking each question in order:

– If the number of reviews you have (the number in parentheses) is in single digits, you’re actually in luck, especially if your star rating isn’t what you would like. It’s mathematically much easier to “average up” your star rating when you have fewer reviews. Also note that new reviews are on top. This “pushes down” a bad review, or even moves it to the next page. 

– Look at the reviews of your competitors. I generally find reviews at two levels, with a large gap in between. Looking at the Google pages of dentists again, I found several that had between 200-600 reviews. Most of the others were 0-100 reviews. So you can see who has programs in place and who is taking a more organic approach. It’s worth noting that many dentists use practice management software that solicits reviews.

– How many reviews should you be shooting for? If you are trying to average up from a bad review, do the math to determine a good target. Usually 10-20 reviews will do it. If you’re trying to step ahead of your competition, and they don’t have 500+ reviews, do the math and set the goal for 5-10 more reviews than the competition. .

– What is a reasonable time frame for achieving this goal? You can figure out your rate of return if you count your requests per week vs. reviews gained. Reaching your goal in 12-20 weeks is not a long time. Remember, you probably have gone 104+ weeks (2 years) or more to get where you are.

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