Online reviews and recommendations are appearing virtually everywhere, including Facebook. Not only does Facebook now display ratings and recommendations on business pages, customers can quickly and easily enter their own. This particular entry into the online review site has an important implication: When a user posts a review on Facebook, that review will show up in their friends’ news feeds.

Reputation Marketing is getting local. Sites such as Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, Facebook, and various local business directories have emerged, all wanting to become the next local destination for local searches.

Google is a great example of this. By attracting businesses to create Google My Business pages and interact with consumers, Google knows that many of these businesses will buy ads or take advantage of its Offers program. Google has invested in several areas including delivery services, wallet applications, and loyalty programs as part of its Google My Business expansion.

According to the Maritz Research 2013 Online Customer Review Study, respondents noted that they try to “read a range of reviews” and that if there are not enough reviews, they don’t take it seriously.

Consumers are increasingly relying on reviews from other customers to make buying decisions. Another important study, BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2017, found the following:

• 97% of consumers looked online for local businesses in 2017, with 12% looking for a local business online every day
85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
• Positive reviews make 73% of consumers trust a local business more
• 49% of consumers need at least a four-star rating before they choose to use a business
• Responding to reviews is more important than ever, with 30% naming this as key when judging local businesses
68% of consumers left a local business review when asked
• 79% of consumers have read a fake review in the last year, but a worrying 84% can't always spot them
• Yelp & Facebook are local consumers' most trusted review sites, followed by Google &
• 32% of consumers read local reviews on mobile apps this year (a growth of 14% from 2016)
Consumers read an average of 7 reviews before trusting a business

A 2013 survey by ZenDesk, The Impact of Customer Service on Customer Lifetime Value, customer service stories are spread widely - especially bad ones. 95 percent of respondents said they had shared bad customer service stories while just 87 percent shared good ones. 35 percent used online review sites to share those bad stories while just 23 percent used online review sites to share good ones. 88 percent of respondents claimed that online review sites impacted their buying decisions.

Nielsen’s 2015 Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages report reveals another trend: Word-of-mouth recommendations remain the most trustworthy (80 percent) followed by trust in advertising on branded websites (70 percent) and online consumer reviews (66 percent).  These figures edge out editorial content in newspapers, television advertising, email messages, and other forms of advertising.

Another important trend involves cracking down on fake reviews. In September 2013, the New York Attorney General’s Office busted 19 companies for creating fake online reviews, a practice known as “astroturfing.” Review sites want real reviews, too. They use a variety of techniques to filter out fakes or highlight the legitimacy of the reviewer. For example, Yelp uses filters to suppress about 25 percent of submitted reviews that appear to be potentially fake while Amazon includes “Amazon Verified Purchase” alongside reviews written by customers who purchased the item directly on Amazon. Culling suspicious reviews, cracking down on companies that submit fake reviews, and proving the authenticity of individual reviewers, work together to ensure the overall integrity of the online review ecosystem.

Finally, Reputation Marketing actually plays a role in SEO. Google is increasingly listing third party review sites along with the businesses consumers search for. It’s becoming important for local search as well. Optimizing reviews with the product or service name, city, and relevant keywords can influence search results. Likes, shares, recommendations, Twitter mentions, check-ins, and other social signals also influence search engine results.

Online reviews and social media are here to stay. They are highly trusted by consumers and are playing an increasingly important role in influencing buying decisions and SEO.