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A guest post by Al Morentin —

Most local business owners greatly underestimate the importance of customer reviews and maintaining a 4+ star rating on Yelp and Google.

Reason being, the internet covers the entire world and their small business serves a local community.

So, why would online reviews matter to a Studio, Gym or Wellness Center that serves a local town or community?

Well, not only do online reviews matter, they help your business in 2 critical ways.

2 Reasons Why Yelp And Google Reviews Matter

There are 2 main reasons why online reviews, especially those from Yelp and Google, matter to your Studio, Gym or Wellness Center.

  1. They are important to search engines and listing sites such as Yelp, Google and Bing.
  2. They matter to the dozens of potential customers in your area who search online for your services every month.

Why Online Reviews Matter To Yelp, Google, And Bing

I was at a conference earlier this year and one right after the other… Yelp, Google and Bing stated that online reviews are now one of the major “trust factors” that they use to gauge a business’ relevance in the marketplace.

And, it makes sense. These search engines and listings sites are real businesses looking to make a profit.

The goal of the search engines and online review sites is to give highly credible recommendations to businesses that you will love.   They want you to have a very positive experience so you’ll keep coming back to them for more recommendations.

Because of this, they do everything they can to serve up the most relevant businesses to their visitors.

And, they look to what other consumers are saying (or not) about your business to determine whether you are relevant — or not!

In other words, Google, Yelp and Bing trust what others say about your business more than what YOU say about your business.

So, getting and maintaining a positive 4+ star rating across the internet will help you to not only rank higher in the search engines, but also increase the visibility of your business online.

This results in more traffic, more engagement, and more customers walking through your doors.

Note: online reviews have an even bigger impact to the visibility of your business on mobile devices.

This is a really important factor, considering the fact that the majority of online searches for your local business happen on a mobile device.

Why Online Reviews Matter To Your Potential Customers

As previously mentioned, local business owners greatly underestimate the importance of customer reviews and maintaining a 4+ star rating on Yelp and Google.

Because of this, those Studios, Gyms and Wellness Centers that embrace online reviews and work to maintain a positive star rating will enjoy a competitive advantage in their marketplace.

The Facts You Need To Know

Since 2010, BrightLocal has performed an annual Local Consumer Review Survey.

This annual survey is an exploration into how consumers both read and use online reviews. It seeks to qualify the value that users place on reviews that they read and how this impacts their opinions and actions when searching for a local business to use.

BrightLocal Survey results for 2015:

  • 92% of consumers now read online reviews
  • 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1-3 reviews
  • Star rating is #1 factor used by consumers to judge a business
  • 44% say a review must be written within 1 month to be relevant
  • Only 13% of consumers consider using a business that has a 1 or 2 star rating
  • 68% say positive reviews make them trust a local business more

Key Takeaways:

Pretty much everybody who has access to the internet reads online reviews.

Even the business owners I know who say they absolutely hate Yelp and wish it didn’t exist… These same business owners will turn to Yelp to form an opinion about other businesses, such as restaurants, etc…

Star Rating is the #1 factor used to judge your business:

This means that you are first judged by star rating. If you’re star rating is sufficient, then your prospects will consider reading what others have to say about you. If not, they immediately move to the next business in line.

44% say a review must be written within 1 month to be relevant

Your prospects want to not only see good reviews, but also recent reviews in order for them to know that you are still relevant and in the game.

68% say positive reviews make them trust a local business more

Your prospects that are searching for your services in your area are looking to and trusting what complete strangers say about your business.

In other words, consumers are turning to Yelp and Google to get recommendations and referrals to local businesses.

So, your potential members and clients make crucial buying decisions based off of what others say about you on Google and Yelp.

What About Referrals?

While customer referrals are still highly regarded among business owners, they are not immune to the wrath of Google and Yelp.

In today’s digital age, referral strategies and other business building promotions have an extra step involved in their process.

What is that extra step?

Checking your reviews on Google and Yelp.

Think about it, if your friend recommends a business to you, you’ll most likely search for that business on your phone to see where it’s located, what services they offer, hours of operation, and what others are saying about that business.

In other words, no matter how a prospect finds out about your business (referral or otherwise), they are going to research your business online before making first contact with you.

Closing Thoughts

The goal of this post is to help you understand how the landscape has changed for marketing your Studio, Gym or Wellness Center.

Google, Yelp and Bing are relying on a variety of “trust factors” that are directly related to user (consumer) experience to make recommendations about your local business.

And, some of the most impactful trust factors they are looking for are online reviews.

I am invited to several conferences throughout the year discussing these very topics: mobile marketing, google maps optimization and review management.

While they are all important to your local business, the one that is talked about and stands out the most is Review Management.

The specific things the search engines look for in your reviews are:

  • Your overall star rating
  • The number of reviews you have
  • The quality of your reviews (relevance of what is being said)
  • Consistency over time (having recent reviews)

So, to answer the original question…

Yes! Reviews on Yelp and Google really do matter to your local business.

And, the Studios, Gyms and Wellness Centers that embrace online reviews and take the time to implement systems to maintain a positive star rating, will enjoy a competitive advantage in their marketplace.

Which results in more customers and more revenue to your business without spending a lot of extra effort or time.

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Al Morentin is an expert in Review Management and the owner of Fit Gear, a digital marketing agency serving the fitness and wellness industries. Fit Gear provides automated systems and processes that help you generate more clients and more revenue without spending extra time or effort.