Studies show buyers read online reviews and it affects their decision making tremendously.

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It might surprise many small business owners that consumers give so much weight to online reviews. However, according to a recent study by Zendesk, these reviews are major factors that include consumer behavior.

The study, sponsored by Zendesk, reports that 9 in 10 are influenced by online reviews. What this means for business owners is that marketing strategies must consider how a company can lead its customers to write positive reviews.

What are the most popular review sites?

To know how to leverage online review sites, small business owners need to know which sites are influencing consumers the most. The top sites are:

  1. Google Maps/Places/Local+ — It makes sense that Google is the biggest lead generator. Google uses these apps to provide content to Android mobile devices, which have the largest market share in the smartphone category.
  2. Bing and Yahoo Local — These are good lead lead generators and a good alternative to Google.
  3. Yelp — Yelp is one of the most well-known review sites out there and a good Yelp ranking can mean the difference between attracting customers and driving them away. The site also provides content for Apple Maps, the iOS alternative to Google Maps.
  4. Angie’s List — A different take on the common review site. Companies cannot pay to be featured on Angie’s List, and reviews are not anonymous.

Staying on top of online review sites

Review sites give small business owners a unique insight into the minds and feelings of their customers. It also allows business owners to do damage control when a customer has had a negative experience with the business. A chance to reply to negative reviews is often available, and there are services that guide business owners on how to push down negative reviews — some work, some don’t, so tread carefully and always try a free trial before paying for such a service.

Also, remember that responding to every review in a defensive tone is risky. Business owners should be wary of getting into an ugly argument with their customers in a public forum.

TOP TIP: Take advantage of positive reviews

Hopefully, customers are giving your business glowing reviews like these pocket knife reviews. Take advantage of this by featuring the reviews and the site that it is from on your website. This will encourage customers to read other positive reviews on the online review site and possibly post their own story of satisfaction. It is a positive cycle that can reap great rewards for your small business.