Small Businesses Underestimate Importance of Online Reviews

Nearly 70 percent of small business-owners said they don't even spend any time monitoring for online reviews.

Many small business owners are not recognizing the importance of online reviews despite the buying decisions of 90 percent of customers being influenced by seeing positive online testimonials, according to a survey of 300 small business owners across the United States, which was sponsored by local online marketing specialist Yodle.

The survey revealed just half of respondents think that it's important for their business to receive positive online reviews and almost one in four (23 percent) believe that it's unimportant.

More than six in 10 small to medium-size business (SMB) owners (61 percent) think that review sites favor businesses that pay to advertise with them, while only 10 percent don't believe that to be the case.

Half of SMB owners also opined that small businesses are unfairly impacted by negative reviews compared to larger business, and only a fifth of survey respondents contradicted that opinion.

Additionally, 43 percent of respondents said that online reviews are unfair because they do not verify that people who leave reviews are actual customers, with a similar number (41 percent) "not sure" if they're unfair.

"We commissioned this survey to examine how small business owners are adjusting to 90 percent of consumers putting considerable stock into online reviews," Court Cunningham, CEO of Yodle, said in a statement. "Our study has found a significant disconnect between small business owners and consumers. A large number of small business owners don't see positive online reviews as important and are not receiving them, and are also inactive in a number of other areas where they would benefit from doing more."

Although seven in 10 consumers have a more positive view of a company if they see them responding to an online review according to the Bazaarvoice Conversation Index, less than half of Yodle’s survey respondents (43 percent) who receive reviews actually do this.

Nearly 70 percent of small business-owners said they also don't even spend any time monitoring for online reviews and all but a handful of the remainder spend just one to five hours per month on this activity.

In addition, just 14 percent of survey respondents post customers' reviews to their websites. The remaining SMB owners that have received reviews and have a website (37 percent) said they do not post this content.

More than half of survey respondents (55 percent) said don't receive any online reviews, while about one in five (19 percent) get an average of only one to five reviews per month. Just under a quarter (24 percent) of small business-owners said don't know if they receive online reviews.

Despite the low number of reviews that small businesses are receiving, only 13 percent of owners are approaching their customers about posting reviews. The biggest reason for not approaching customers, cited by 43 percent of respondents, is "I haven't thought about it".