Are All Review Acquisition Platforms Created Equal?

I think that such a loaded question as this could be equated with Are all HVAC companies created equal? The answer is obvious but, still, the topic of our discussion today is as important to you as the follow up question is to your potential clients – What sets them apart? There are a few dimensions you should take into account when considering your options.

  • Ease of use & automation
  • Where do the reviews go?
  • Does it do post-request vetting?
  • “Fringe” benefits
  • Who do these reviews actually benefit?

Before we dive into these, for full disclosure purposes, let me say that we are huge advocates for Nearby Now as well as resellers of the review acquisition platform. We believe it’s the best balance of all these dimensions and have been using it for over five years.

Ease of Use & Automation

This is one of the biggest obstacles we face – How do we get it to work easily? It needs to be something that can be incorporated naturally into your day-to-day activities. But, I would ask you, could something be over-automated? The answer, from my perspective, is absolutely yes! Some platforms send out review requests automatically without the tech asking the customer for a review, shortcutting the process. This, while easier, handicaps the results significantly. Automated requests normally net somewhere around a 5-11% review response rate on a real good day. A system that involves the tech asking for a review with an easy way to guide the customer to leave one, will produce about a 50% response (or 5-10 times better)! We know this because that is the average we see in our customer base for all our clients using Nearby Now through us. I feel like that, in and of itself, justifies the approach we preach. But, if you’re not sold yet, I pose this question to you: Which of the following experiences would mean more to you as a consumer?

Experience A — Just getting an email out of the blue, or

Experience B — Having your comfort hero ask you to share your opinion of the top-notch service you just received because it’s one of the ways they are evaluated during their performance review.

Which experience meant more to you as a consumer? Which one seemed more personal? Which one reinforced a relationship and laid the groundwork for a lifelong customer? Which person told more of their friends about their experience and felt better about it long after you leave? Don’t forsake long-term success for short-term convenience. Sometimes things are hard for a reason – because they are worth it

*Some dispatch software programs offer to automatically send out Nearby Now review requests (or other review requests) automatically. While that is more convenient, you then need to make sure that the natural human inclination to forgo the human-touch part doesn’t slip by the wayside.

Where do the Reviews Reside?

There are a couple of different destinations where reviews can end up. You have:

  • Your website
    • JavaScript widgets (which many times Google can’t read)
    • Automatically inserting the reviews as HTML and coding them with Schema (which Nearby Now does)
    • Manually inserting the reviews as HTML and coding them with Schema
  • Google
  • Angie’s List/HomeAdvisor, Yelp, etc.
  • In your email inbox

Your Website: Having the reviews go directly onto your website is fantastic but you need to make sure the reviews are on your website in a way that isn’t exclusively being loaded in via a javascript widget. Additionally, for SEO purposes, it’s important that the reviews are coded as Schema so Google can distinguish them as a quantifiable review versus just a worded testimonial. Review content helps your website to rank better as Google loves to know what people think (there’s a revelation). This is where an automated review process like Nearby Now comes into the picture – it makes the process way easier by doing this the right way in a more automated fashion. We are a strong believer in having a system like Nearby Now being one of the best platforms that correctly integrates reviews, as well as natural keyword content, into your website. It is crucial to remember that the way the reviews are embedded will directly impact your success.
(How I rate this: Okay to Great, depending upon implementation)

Google: Getting reviews on your Google My Business (GMB) listing is quite important as well, considering that as much as 70% of decisions happen without ever leaving Google search. Not much more needs to be said here—so make sure that whatever process you use will also feed your clients who have a Google account into Google’s review platform, like Nearby Now does.
(How I rate this: Great)

Angie’s List/HomeAdvisor, Yelp, etc.: While these may seem like they’re all well and good, there is a downside when compared to the previous review destinations. They don’t necessarily help you to rank better or elevate your local exposure. Getting reviews on these platforms exclusively means that you’re helping their website to rank better instead your own – not exactly ideal. And, it’s widely known that Yelp will help certain types of reviews to “float” on their listings which isn’t exactly favorable, either. While many people utilize these platforms to find contractors (especially in coastal and metro areas), I want you to be educated on the inherent risks of focusing on them too much. The primary risk is that clients using this system to read reviews are automatically offered your competitors’ reviews to look at as well.
(How I rate this: Mehhh)

Your Email Inbox: While getting positive feedback via an email may give you the warm fuzzies, putting it on your website doesn’t do very much for your website’s prominence in search engines. Now, some could argue that you could schema the review manually—which is true—however, there are some serious dangers involved.

  1. You must ask for an “X out of 5” rating to quantify the review, or else it’s just an anecdotal testimonial.
  2. If you pick and choose which ones you want to share on your website, you’re technically misrepresenting the public’s opinion of you and that’s called “review gating/vetting”. A big no-no in Google’s eyes.

(How I rate this: Probably about as useful to your ranking as an inflatable dartboard)

Does it do Post-Request Vetting?

Picking up after our last point, Google has a firm “all-or-nothing” stance on reviews if you’re marking them up with review schema. This means that once you ask for the review, you have to post all of them. You can’t choose not to show bad ones. This is because the schema provides an aggregate review rating, the operative word being aggregate. If Google catches you cheating (and it’s happened to businesses before) there are can be long-term, significant consequences. We’ve seen more than a handful of review platforms go this route: Were you satisfied with your service today? Yes or No.‘Yes’ would lead you to a review window which results in a schema-coded review on your website and ‘No’ would just send feedback to the business via email. To be clear, this is a blatant violation of Google’s Guidelines.

“Fringe” Benefits

Search Engine Ranking: One of the biggest considerations I see contractors overlooking (or being blatantly lied to about) is using reviews to impact search engine ranking. Now, many platforms claim that their review widgets impact ranking, but the overwhelming majority do not—at least not for your website (more on this in our final thought). This is where the review schema comes into play again. Suffice to say, no review schema = no significant ranking impact. If your reviews are only being loaded in via a JavaScript widget, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re out of luck. Likewise, as I mentioned before, a review without schema is just looked at as a textual testimonial on your website and is not quantifiable for review rating. (Is there an echo in here?)

Everything Else: Here’s some food for thought in sizing up any other review options: Does the system help you improve your perception on Facebook? Does it send you ongoing ranking reports as to how your reviews are affecting your company’s ranking? Does it give you easy access to the info that your customer shared when they completed the review so you can use it for future marketing? Does it genuinely help you establish meaningful long-term relationships with your customers? These are all important questions that often get lost in the sauce when you’re deciding what platform to use to get reviews.

Who do these Reviews Actually Benefit?

Okay, so we went over a lot of this in the Yelp, Angie’s List section before, but I have another nugget for you. We’ve found over the past few years that review content pages specifically account for about 2-5 of the organic options Google presents on page 1 of a local service search (e.g., AC repair). That helps more than it helps your brand. The website that receives the review is the website whose ranking improves. On the other hand, if your website is the one with the review on it… you get the picture. 

Another thing to consider – Reviews which you receive on a platform aren’t technically your intellectual property. They’re the property of the platform. So when you push your clients to a review platform, know in advance who owns their reviews if you want to use them in your marketing.

“Just as the work you do isn’t easy and it necessitates dedication and effort, reviews are the fruit of all that investment.”

Who Can I Trust?

I’ve given you a lot to consider in the past few paragraphs. Clearly, your review strategy should not be decided on a whim. Whatever review acquisition platform that you decide to go with, make sure there’s no long-term contract obligation and make sure there’s a money-back guarantee. If it’s as good as someone claims it to be, they should be willing to put their money where their mouth is and be able to give you more than a “you’ll do great” expectation. That’s another thing… Reviews are hard work. Just as the work you do isn’t easy and it necessitates dedication and effort, reviews are the fruit of all that investment. It might not be easy. Not everyone on your team may be eager to get onboard with the thought of it, but it’s something that you should be doing because, if you don’t, your competitors already are. This isn’t a battle where you can afford to sit on the sidelines.

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