For local businesses, one “marketing engine” drives results for all other marketing efforts. Fine tune that engine and your marketing costs will plummet and sales will boom. Fail to keep that engine running smoothly and your marketing costs will skyrocket and sales will go bust.

What is this “marketing engine?” Online customer reviews.

Customer reviews are critically important to any local business. With 93% of consumers reading local reviews to decide if a business is good or bad, you can rest assured your prospects check your reviews before reaching out to your business. And with 85% of consumers saying they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, you can also rest assured your customer reviews have a big impact on whether or not those prospects turn into paying customers.

Customer Reviews Drive PPC Results

When you buy Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising from a major search engine like Google or Bing, you bid against other advertisers for ad placements. But the amount you bid is not the only factor that decides who wins each bid.

Search engines like Google and Bing have a Quality Score metric that determines the so-called “quality” of your ad. Ads with a high Quality Score win ad placements at lower bid amounts than ads with low Quality Scores, driving down ad costs.

The ad’s click-through rate (CTR) is the most important factor in its Quality Score. Ads with high CTRs have high Quality Scores.

Ads that display high star ratings from customer reviews have much higher CTRs than ads that don’t display reviews. High ratings give searchers the confidence they need to click through.

Long story short: Ads displaying high star ratings from customer reviews get higher CTRs and Quality Scores, so they pay less per click than competing advertisers with lower CTRs and Quality Scores.

For Google, you can get customer reviews to display in your ads by getting Google’s seller ratings extension. To get this extension, you need 150 unique reviews for your business and a rating of 3.5 stars or more. The reviews can come from a variety of sites, not just Google.

Customer Reviews Drive Local SEO Results

Customer reviews don’t just drive down PPC advertising costs. They also help your business rank better in local search results, driving free traffic to your website.

When your prospects look for a business like yours to buy from, Google normally lists just a few businesses at the top of the search results page in the “local pack” section. These local pack businesses get the vast majority of clicks from searchers.

Most businesses listed in the local pack have high average customer reviews. That’s not a coincidence. It’s because customer reviews are the #5 most important ranking factor for local SEO.

So if you want to rank well for local search terms and even get in the coveted local pack, consider it a requirement to have customer reviews with a high average star rating—especially on Google.

To get Google reviews that help with local SEO take the following actions:

  • Increase your quantity of reviews
  • Encourage customers to use positive words and the right target keywords
  • Get reviews on a regular and frequent basis
  • Use a variety of high-authority review sites
  • Pre-screen customers for high star ratings
  • Use schema markup to get review snippets.

Customer Reviews Drive Off-Line Marketing Results

It probably comes as no surprise that online customer reviews help get results from online marketing. But it may surprise you to learn that online customer reviews also have a huge impact on offline marketing too!

Numerous studies show that online customer reviews have a significant impact on sales, regardless of whether marketing is online or offline. For example, hotels with 4.3 stars on Yelp can increase their prices by 11.2% over hotels with a 3.3 star average, without reducing occupancy rates. And restaurants with 4 stars on Yelp sell out 19% more often than restaurants with 3.5 stars.

With 93% of consumers using reviews to decide which businesses to buy from, it’s no wonder that all marketing campaigns are either helped or hurt by online customer reviews.

Drive Marketing Success with Online Customer Reviews

Whether you use PPC, SEO, offline marketing or just good old fashioned word of mouth, your online customer reviews either help or hurt all of your other marketing efforts.

The way to make sure your reviews are working for you and not against you is simple. Just make sure you have a high star rating (4.0 or above) and plenty of reviews (at least 30) and your reviews are better than your local competitors.

By making sure your customer review “marketing engine” is humming, all your other marketing efforts will show better results.

Chas Cooper has a passion for helping small business owners get the appreciation they deserve for a job well done, which drove him to start Rising Star Reviews, a web application company that applies the lessons Chas learned during his 20-year marketing career to help local businesses get more 5-star reviews from their happy customers.