Think your online reputation management can wait?
Although personal referrals still reign supreme, there’s no mistaking the up-trend in home buyers and sellers scouring online reviews to find a real estate agent. This makes monitoring and managing those reviews more important than ever.
Millennials (age 37 and younger), who make up a reported 42% of home buyers, are the ones using online reviews the most.
In a comprehensive independent blinded real estate market study conducted by Lieberman Research Worldwide® for Zillow Group, 61% of Millennial buyers and 65% of Millennial sellers are likely to evaluate online reviews when looking for an agent. The average for all buying and selling populations hovers around 50%, though 62% of all first-time home buyers said they consulted online reviews when looking for an agent they can trust.
In a recent article on Forbes.com, author Cory Capoccia suggests that online reviews are the “best thing that ever happened to small businesses,” and likens them to a tractor beam that pulls prospective clients to your business – invaluable for small businesses on a tight budget. These reviews act as word-of-mouth referrals or endorsements that can make or break (or at least seriously hamper) your business.
Positive Reviews Create a Sense of Trustworthiness.
Dr. Robert Cialdini, author of the classic business marketing strategy book, Influence, writes that consumers are always looking for what he calls “consensus.” As one of his Six Principles of Persuasion, Cialdini says we look to the actions of “similar others” to determine our own, and that we use known data and information to influence our decisions. It’s partially the “bandwagon effect,” where people do something because everyone else is doing it, but more than anything, it creates a sense of trust.
BrightLocal, a company dedicated to helping businesses grow through online search exposure, performed a study to see how landing page reviews affect trustworthiness. They showed landing page websites of 3 local businesses (a plumber, a real estate agent, and a florist) to a group of panelists, and they A/B-tested each business’ landing page both with and without an easily-visible 5-star customer review. BrightLocal’s research showed that 15% of panelists felt that the websites without a review were untrustworthy. In contrast, 83% said they felt like they could trust the businesses whose landing page featured a glowing, 5-star review front and center! Furthermore, 74% of those who saw the review said they would contact the business. (Read more about BrightLocal’s study here.)
More (and better) reviews get you more clicks.
Google, Facebook, Zillow, and RateMyAgent love businesses with lots of reviews. The more reviews you have, the higher you will rank higher on their platforms, making it easier for your potential clients to find you, which in turn, will lead to more business. In fact, Status Labs, a reputation management and PR firm, claims that going from a 3-star to a 5-star rating delivers businesses 25% more clicks from Google.
Which are the best review sites?
According to ReviewTrackers’ 2018 online review survey of statistics and trends, Google crushes the review market, with 6.3 out of 10 consumers checking Google reviews before contacting or visiting a business, more than any other review site, though Yelp and Facebook (even though it isn’t an actual review site!) still rank pretty high on the list. Google has the corner on the market when you use the search engine to find reviews on local companies, too, because Google shows you its own review in the search results before you even click on the 3rd party review site. (Smart!)
BrightLocal has formulated a list of top-performing real estate review sites (including helpful notes, like whether it’s paid or free) which you can find here.
Of course, having testimonials or “social proof” on your own website and landing pages is key as well, as we saw in BrightLocal’s experiment with landing page reviews and trustworthiness.
We hope you’re convinced that online reputation management should be a daily consideration and top priority in your marketing plan! But how do you harvest consistently positive reviews? We’ll explore that subject in our next blog.