By Carl Maerz
HOW MANY GOOGLE REVIEWS DO AGENTS NEED?
The number may not be as important as you think
Let’s face it: This Internet thing is here to stay. And, as the World Wide Web matures and evolves, so do the people who use it. Ever since the launch of the Internet a couple of decades ago, people have been going online for guidance on where to spend their money.
This may seem scary to some independent agents. A local agency with a stellar reputation could be overshadowed by a tech-savvy newcomer—or worse, by the steady bombardment of online ads from the big guys who claim to save consumers a bunch of money.
Today people expect reviews to be recent, authentic, and plentiful. Google expects the same.
The good news is that independent agents are perfectly positioned to benefit from this radical shift in consumer behavior. Today 86% of consumers say they read online reviews for local businesses. Over recent years the number of consumers who search locally for insurance also has increased significantly. This means agents should gather as many online reviews as they can as quickly as they can, right? Nope.
Before we delve into how agents should be collecting online reviews, let’s first address where they should be getting reviews. The answer is Google. More people use Google than any other search engine. Facebook recently shifted away from star rating and now just asks users if they would or wouldn’t recommend a business, with the option to leave feedback. This may work when searching for a local art gallery or gelato shop but not with insurance, where people prefer a quick and easy way of separating the wheat from the chaff. From here on when I mention reviews, I’m talking about Google reviews.
Most agents know they should be collecting reviews. They’re a good thing. They help attract quality leads online. The best approach to collecting online reviews is slow and steady. The myth is that the sheer number of positive reviews is what will attract the greatest number of leads. The truth is that the number of reviews an agency has does matter—just not nearly as much as you might think.
What needs to happen for a local agency to score an online lead? First, let’s say that a consumer named Sally searches for insurance on Google. Top Drawer Agency pops up early in her search results, most likely as one of the top three listings. Sally is sufficiently satisfied with the number of reviews and star rating to click on the Top Drawer listing. She browses the reviews briefly, checking how recent they are and how impactful and trustworthy they seem. If convinced, she then navigates to Top Drawer’s website to make her final decision on giving them a call. This sounds like quite a journey, but it’s really quite simple. If your agency wants to get more leads online, your Google business listing should be brimming with discoverability, clickability, and authenticity.
Discoverability. Forget right field: You’re not even in the ballpark if your listing doesn’t appear on the first page of Google when someone searches for insurance. Discoverability is also known as search engine optimization (SEO). Reviews have a major impact on increasing local SEO, but other considerations are important, like ensuring consistency of your agency’s name, address, and phone number. Google uses an algorithm to rank listings. The algorithm is updated frequently, and its specifics are known only to Google. It’s clear that Google has its finger on the pulse of how consumers read and interact with local reviews.
Today people expect reviews to be recent, authentic, and plentiful. Google expects the same. More points are given to business listings that have a steady flow of reviews as opposed to those that get a whole bunch all at once. To gauge the authenticity of the review, Google favors meaningful comments from real people. The total number of reviews also matters to Google, although the business listing with the most reviews is not a shoo-in for a top-three spot. According to the 2018 Local Consumer Review Survey conducted by BrightLocal, an online SEO company, last year consumers read an average of 10 reviews before making up their minds. In terms of discoverability, there is no golden number of reviews an agency must receive for Google to like it. A lot depends on competition from other local agencies. As a rule, Google tends to favor agencies with 15 to 20 reviews.
Clickability. When Sally found Top Drawer on Google, she didn’t have to click on its listing. She could have moved on to the next agency, maybe the newcomer down the street that has more reviews and more stars than Top Drawer. Clickability is measured by how enticing a business listing is to an online prospect. Attracting that first click depends on an agency’s number of reviews and its star rating. If a listing meets the threshold of four to five stars and 10 to 15 reviews, it is well positioned to garner a click.
Authenticity. As we’ve seen, business listings with lots of positive reviews are likely to get clicked on first. From here, Sally scrolls through the reviews to decide whether she can relate to them and how much she can trust them. She also wants to ensure that the reviews are recent so they reflect the business as it is today. According to the BrightLocal survey, 85% of consumers believe that reviews older than three months are no longer relevant. The best reviews include helpful feedback with specific stories or examples and are much more powerful than a one-liner or no comment at all.
Collecting quality authentic reviews is about developing relationships with clients and making it easy for them to review you at the right time. After consumers are satisfied with your reviews, over half will visit your agency website to dig a little deeper. The bottom line: Your agency needs a clean and appealing website with tons of client testimonials to sweeten the deal.
Carl Maerz is the co-founder of Rocket Referrals, an automated communication strategy that helps agencies improve their referrals, retention, reviews and relationships. He aims to help local agencies leverage their advantages over direct writers by replacing common industrial myths with relevant and practical advice. Contact Carl at email@example.com.