The Six Essentials Of Ratings And Reviews

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Very few of us buy anything online without a little help from our friends. Whether the conversation is with friends we already know (on Facebook or Twitter) or like-minded people who have shared their experiences by posting their product reviews, online commerce has become ‘social commerce’ – and there’s no going back.

This ebook is about a new way of thinking about one of the most powerful tools in the online marketing arsenal: ratings and reviews.

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The six essentials

As you’ve probably guessed by now, we’re huge believers in the power of reviews.

Unfortunately, there are more online businesses getting this critical feature wrong than there are getting it right. The majority are still fumbling around at the bottom of the learning curve instead of zooming up it. They are:

  • Getting less than half the conversion rate uplift than they ought to be generating.
  • Limiting review volume and confining their content to too few places.
  • Failing to trust consumers and allow them to power growth.
  • Opening themselves up to invalid and fraudulent reviews

In short, too many marketers are stuck in the early days of online reviews and are getting too little for their time, money and effort. At Reevoo we’ve worked with hundreds of web marketers since the very beginning of the ratings and reviews explosion and we’ve distilled our experiences into what we call ‘the six essentials of ratings and reviews’. Some might seem obvious. Others might be eye-opening. But we guarantee that, if you address all six in your social commerce strategy, you will see dramatic gains in the metrics that matter most.

1. Coverage

Getting reviews for more of your range

Reviews help increase sales on every product that has them, whether that’s a hotel, a car, a savings account, a television or something else. So it stands to reason that lining up reviews for all of your inventory will increase your sales conversion across the board. Complete review coverage is one of the most important drivers of success. The error most marketers make is only getting significant review volume on their most popular products.

The goal must be to get reviews and ratings on all of your products – or as close to 100% as you possibly can. Contrary to received wisdom, you don’t have to leave huge numbers of products without reviews.

The problem

The main barrier to complete coverage is low review volume: you’re just not getting enough reviews overall, so your least popular products are the last to benefit. Review volume is hugely important. But, for all but the very biggest online retailers, the early model for ratings and reviews (review collection software) is far too passive to reach critical mass of review volume and coverage.

The solution

The best social commerce practitioners proactively harvest reviews, reaching out to every recent buyer to solicit their opinions. Waiting for website visitors to spontaneously contribute reviews is a low-percentage game (as low as 0.01% of visitors). Done correctly, proactively harvesting reviews instead of simply inviting site reviews can deliver many, many times more reviews – 15% of all buyers or more.

The benefits

If you follow accepted industry standards, you’ll know that visitors who read reviews are significantly more likely to convert than those who don’t. So the benefit of going from 50% to 80% product coverage is clear: more reviews across more products, contributing higher conversion rates, more return visits and higher order values.

Don’t sit back and wait for your visitors to contribute reviews – get out there and ask for them. We’ve honed our review collection process over the last six years so our success rate is way out in front of the industry average – but we’re not here to sell … just yet.

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Getting more reviews for each product

For any given product, how many reviews are enough? The data from hundreds of thousands of purchases and millions of reviews is in and the answer is ‘the more the better’. It’s easy to understand why getting (at least a few) reviews for everything you sell helps you make more sales. But the advantages of having plenty of reviews for each product are less obvious. More reviews means better conversion rates for two main reasons:

  • Increased trust – a rating of 8.5 out of 10 means a hell of a lot more if it’s based on 350 reviews than if it’s based on two.
  • Increased relevance – more reviews means more ways to present the review content. So buyers can ask for the opinions of ‘people like me’ (families with young children, for instance); or they can focus on a single feature of the product or service (show me reviews discussing value for money please).

The problem

Again, the obstacle to greater review depth is simply the inability of passive review collection software to deliver enough content. It’s true of the most popular products, and it’s a much bigger problem as you travel down the ‘long tail’ of products with fewer sales. If you’ve installed software to collect reviews, or are relying on third-party review sites, and are simply sitting back and waiting for review content to build up, you’re wasting your time – and your money. There is a better way.

The solution

Review volume matters, for both coverage and depth. It translates directly into increased revenues. So do whatever you need to do to maximise your review volumes.

The benefits

The data speaks for itself: there is a direct relationship between review depth (number of reviews per product) and sales. You’d think there ought to be a critical mass – say, 50 reviews – beyond which the uplift falls off. But you’d be wrong. It just keeps getting better.

If you’re patting yourself on the back for having dozens of reviews for your main products, don’t. You need more. Unless you’ve got enough revenue.


Getting reviews for new products faster

In almost every market, new products are the highest margin products. You’ve got anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before the competition starts matching your features and driving those margins down. It makes sense, then, to get your review volume up as soon as humanly possible. That way, optimised conversion rates will be applied to the product’s high-margin ‘golden period’

The problem

The problem with new products is that they’re new. Few people have any experience with them and even fewer are ready to share their experience with others.

The solution

The ‘sit and wait’ strategy is the most painful during the first few weeks and months after launch. This is when you need to be presenting new reviews every day. Remember: new products also have the biggest barriers to purchase. Risk-averse buyers (who isn’t?) need the reassurance that only consumer reviews can deliver.

The benefits

There’s no more effective way to remove the doubts that prevent sales than reviews – and no time you need them more than just after launch, when margins are highest. Just compare the performance of review software and Reevoo’s proactive collection in the graphs below. Do you really want to wait six months to get just a handful of reviews and a negligible sales boost?

The clock starts ticking the minute you get a new product on to your website. If you get review coverage fast, you’re maximising revenues and profits. If you delay, you can hear the sound of money trickling down between the cracks in your reviews system.


Extending your review content beyond your site

By now, we hope we’ve established that review content is a precious asset. So here’s a question: why confine its benefits to just your own website? How can you extend the power of your excellent reviews beyond your site to millions of consumers who may not have visited you? You need to get your reviews:

Across the social web

More and more consumers are consulting Facebook and other social networks before they purchase. They’re looking for ratings and recommendations from friends and other purchasers – make sure they can find your review content.

In search results

The majority of purchase journeys start with search – and almost all of them will include a visit to Google or alternatives. Ratings of your products or company on search results page win you more clicks.

In stores and marketing material

Consumer reviews are the gold standard of trusted pre-purchase information. Make sure they’re available everywhere your customers are.

On online publishers

Expert reviews still play an important role in pre-purchase research. But you need to make sure the expert’s view is complemented by the real experiences of ordinary people.

On third-party comparison sites

If your wares or your business have to compete against alternatives on price or product comparison sites, customer reviews make you stand out without needing to cut prices and sacrifice margins.

The problem

If you’re using basic review software, it’s going to be hard to syndicate to all these potential outlets. You’ll need to build or integrate the social sharing tools yourself, and make one deal at a time with publishers and comparison sites – then work out how to deliver your review content and display it to best advantage on all these new touchpoints. It would be much better if all of this was pre-packaged, ready to turn on at the flip of a switch.

The solution

Find a review and social commerce partner who can get your review content in front of as many consumers as possible. Hint: don’t look for software. Look for a full-service social commerce provider with syndication and social sharing built in. Bonus hint: you’ve just found one.

The benefits

Getting your review content out there, beyond your own site, does some important things. It drives high-quality traffic soaked with purchase intent. It drives people to buy your products instead of the competition’s. It improves your brand awareness, so potential customers think of you first.

Don’t lock your review content onto your own site and confine its benefits to your own visitors. Set it free so it can start selling to millions more consumers for you.


Getting your reviews to drive more search traffic

Many people focus on the traffic that reviews bring to your site (although sales should be the main focus), but not so many people understand the relationship between review collection and traffic. If traffic is your goal, aim for deep, high-quality reviews – as many as you can get.


User generated review content is perfect for SEO because it’s in natural, consumer language and rich in keywords that help target top search terms and the long tail. And (if you’re getting high enough volumes) you can keep it regularly updated and unique on each page.

Social media

The best review systems encourage consumers to share the reviews they like with their friends on Facebook, Twitter and beyond. The result: traffic.


Remember all those eyeballs you earned by spreading your reviews? Well, those eyeballs are attached to brains that tell fingertips to start clicking.


If you’ve got limited coverage, then you’ve got limited SEO: products without reviews won’t see a traffic boost.

The problem

Review software doesn’t do much for your traffic. The passive collection method doesn’t provide enough reviews to bring your pages to the attention of search engines, or update them regularly enough to keep that attention (and the high search rankings that come with it). The reviews you do receive will be won’t cover your entire range, and they won’t be search-optimised.

The solution

We don’t want to get all technical on you here (we pay our technical teams so we, and you, don’t have to), but you need to ask your social commerce vendor some hard questions about how their reviews are optimised to drive traffic.

Can they provide you with a steady stream of relevant reviews? And how are they going to put those reviews on your site? Be very wary if they start singing the praises of micro-sites, or Flash, or any complex technologies. The best way – the only effective way – to use reviews to drive your traffic is to simply embed them in the page. If they suggest anything else, they’re selling you snake oil.

The benefits

Getting your traffic-builders right is important, because it will:

  • Increase traffic to your site from people on the point of purchase
  • Boost your search rankings, and keep them high
  • Widen your keyword reach so you get more visits from a wider range of searches

Traffic isn’t the primary reason to put reviews on your site (and beyond) but you’d be missing a trick – and a serious revenue bonus – if you ignore their potential. Make sure your choice of review solution includes search optimisation.

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Making sure your reviews are trusted

Consumers are starting to take notice: not all ratings and reviews are alike and not all can be trusted. The steady stream of bad news stories about the manipulation of online reviews threatens to undermine consumer confidence. As an industry, we need to be careful not to kill the goose that’s been laying so many golden eggs. Already, seven out of ten consumers have concerns about the trustworthiness of online reviews.

Manipulation can come from diff erent directions:

  • The crackpot who hates your company and decides to post dozens of bad reviews, even though he or she has never been your customer.
  • The well-meaning idiot who works for you or a partner and who thinks it might be a good idea to start the good reviews fl owing with a couple of fakes. (It never is.)
  • The unscrupulous competitor who decides to use underhand techniques to give their business an unfair advantage.
  • The attention-seeker who just likes seeing his or her name in pixels.

All of these do damage to your business and to everyone selling online: they undermine trust in reviews and social commerce.

The problem

If you’re opening up your website to collect and display all reviews, you’re opening your brand up to abuse and potentially eroding the trust of your customers. But you can’t simply moderate your own review content: consumers won’t believe that you aren’t quietly removing bad reviews and just posting good ones.

The solution

The ideal solution is to have your reviews independently validated by a third party – a brand that’s trusted by consumers in its own right.

The benefits

Putting your reviews in the hands of a recognised, trusted and, above all, independent expert has some real and immediate benefi ts:

  • The validation means that 100% of your reviews are from trusted sources, and your good name is protected.
  • The independence means consumers know that every review is displayed (except the obscene ones) and that no manipulation has taken place.
  • The third-party brand means the independent moderator has something to lose if they get it wrong: their reputation.

We don’t mean to be always knocking the review software guys (well, maybe we do) but this is something hugely important that no software can ever deliver. Trust is the most crucial element of review solutions and of all social commerce.


To the casual observer, all review solutions look pretty much the same. To the disciplined, informed marketer or ecommerce professional, the difference between getting it right and getting it wrong can add up to millions.

In the first days of ratings and reviews, just letting people contribute reviews was a big deal. Today, consumers have moved on and the most progressive, more successful online businesses have moved on too. The new model for review solutions is founded on three key principles:

Optimised review collection

Proactively reaching out to customers for reviews is a great leap forward – but the discipline of review collection is much more complex. Get this wrong and nothing else will go right.

Aggregation and syndication

Your reviews can only deliver their maximum ROI when they’re available to consumers throughout the purchase journey: on your site, elsewhere online, offline and on the social web.

A trusted third-party brand

It’s as simple as this: if consumers don’t trust your review content, it isn’t doing anything to help you. (And fake reviews are probably hurting you.)

This new model has gained enormous momentum among the online marketers who have taken the time to understand it. Because, whether or not they’ve waded through all the features and functionality of most review solutions, one thing is crystal clear: software alone cannot deliver on the full promise of social commerce.

Software can’t provide the volumes of reviews you need across your whole range. It can’t quickly, easily spread your review content further than your own site. It can’t provide the independent endorsement that’ll make consumers trust your reviews.

But more than this, software won’t work with you to get the most out of your review content. There’s no professional micro-moderation that removes unsuitable or offensive content at the same time as highlighting customer service problems early. There’s no support team of social commerce experts, and limited reporting – or no reporting at all – on the performance of your reviews. That’s why so many businesses are turning to the new model: it’s the only way to get the review solutions they deserve.

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