New Online Review Research: How to Get More 5-Star Ratings and Boost Revenue for Local Businesses

Online reviews are the lifeblood of local businesses in today’s digital age.

97% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses before visiting in person. With the majority of customers turning to reviews to determine where they should spend their money, stellar online ratings and reviews are now a make-or-break factor for success.

In fact, online reviews are just as influential as recommendations from family and friends.

A survey by Pew Research found that 82% of American adults sometimes or always read online reviews before trying a new place. Clearly, consumers are heavily relying on the experiences and opinions of others to guide their purchasing choices.

With so much hinging on positive online reviews, local business owners can’t afford to ignore their online reputation. By actively managing and improving review profiles on sites like Google, Facebook, and Yelp, companies can attract new customers, drive repeat business, and grow revenues.

Importance of Online Reviews for Local Businesses

Positive online reviews are crucial for building trust and credibility with potential new customers.

91% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. When customers see a business with predominantly 4 or 5 star reviews, it gives them confidence that the business provides a positive customer experience.

Reviews act as social proof that a business delivers on its promises. Positive reviews reassure customers that the business is legitimate, reputable, and worthy of their business. Without positive reviews, potential customers will be wary to try a new local business, especially if competitors have a better online reputation. Reviews allow a business to showcase satisfied customers vouching for the quality of their products/services.

86% of consumers said positive reviews make them trust a local business more. Online reviews directly impact how trustworthy a business appears. By actively managing online reviews, local businesses can strengthen trust and credibility among customers in their area.

Online reviews have become an essential part of the consumer journey.

According to TrustPulse, over 99.9% of customers read reviews when they shop online. Reviews significantly influence purchase decisions, with 88% of consumers trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

When it comes to local businesses, 95% of people read online reviews before visiting a local business for the first time. Positive reviews build credibility and can drive foot traffic, while negative reviews may deter potential customers.

With review platforms like Google, Yelp, and Facebook, the ideal number of reviews a local business should have is between 30-50. Having an ample number of recent, positive reviews helps build trust and social proof.

It’s also important to actively respond to reviews. People are 68% more likely to trust businesses that respond to reviews.

Best Practices for Soliciting Reviews

When it comes to soliciting reviews, timing is everything. The best time to prompt customers to leave a review is right after a positive experience with your business. The best time is immediately after a purchase or service, while the experience is still fresh in their mind. Send a personalized email within a few days of the interaction, politely asking them to leave a review on Google, Yelp, Facebook, or any other relevant sites. Include a direct link to make it easy for them to do so. Offering a small incentive like a discount on their next purchase in exchange for an honest review can also motivate customers to take action, just be careful not to make it seem like it’s a paid review.

In addition to timed prompts, make sure your business has review widgets installed on your website, allowing customers to leave a review immediately after an online purchase. You can also follow up more broadly via email or social media by sharing positive testimonials from past customers and asking others who have had a good experience to add their own reviews.

Just remember to always make review requests personalized, timely, and focused on recent positive interactions so they seem natural, not pushy.

Responding to Reviews

It’s crucial for local businesses to respond quickly and professionally to online reviews. According to BrightLocal, the average business responds to just 10% of reviews. However, data shows that responding to reviews can greatly impact a business’s online reputation.

BrightLocal found that businesses who respond to over 50% of their reviews have an average star rating of 4.2 out of 5. Businesses who respond to less than 50% of reviews average just 3.7 stars. Additionally, 72% of consumers say they are more likely to trust a local business that responsibly replies to reviews.

When a business responds to more reviews, especially negative ones, it demonstrates they truly care about customers’ experiences. Quick responses also give the business a chance to address concerns, offer solutions, and show their commitment to improving.

The average response time for businesses replying to reviews is 12 days. However, they recommend responding within 1-2 days whenever possible. Faster responses result in higher online reputation scores.

Getting More Positive Reviews

One of the most effective ways for local businesses to get more positive online reviews is to focus on providing an exceptional customer experience. When customers have a great interaction with your business, they will be much more inclined to leave positive feedback. Here are some tips for getting more rave reviews by wowing customers:

Train your staff to deliver 5-star service. Make sure employees go above and beyond to satisfy customers. This could include personalized attention, surprises and delights, or addressing issues promptly and professionally. Customers who feel genuinely cared for are likely to share their positive experiences. Provide staff incentives or rewards for getting reviews.

Pay extra attention to service and quality during a customer’s first few visits. Make an outstanding first impression by exceeding expectations. First-time customers are a great source of reviews. Follow up after their first purchase to make sure they were 100% satisfied.

Make it extremely easy for happy customers to leave reviews right away. Have review cards available for customers to fill out onsite. Send follow-up emails with a review link after purchases. Add review buttons to your website, social media, and email signatures. The simpler you make it, the more reviews you’ll generate.

Run occasional review generation campaigns offering incentives for reviews. You could provide a discount code to customers who share feedback. Or enter reviewers into a contest for a prize. Just make sure incentives aren’t the only focus, or you may get biased reviews.

Promptly resolve any issues that may be causing negative reviews. Dissatisfied customers who have their problems corrected are good candidates to update their reviews to positive. A quick response and fix can turn detractors into promoters.

Responding to Negative Reviews

Negative reviews can be damaging for a business if not handled properly. However, by responding professionally and working to resolve issues, businesses can often turn dissatisfied customers into brand advocates.

The first step is to acknowledge the problem and apologize for the negative experience. Let the customer know you appreciate them taking the time to leave feedback. Next, publicly respond detailing how you plan to resolve the issue. Offer to take the conversation offline if needed to rectify the situation.

Responding promptly shows customers you care and are listening. Thank dissatisfied customers for giving you the chance to improve. If appropriate, offer a refund, credit, or free services to make amends.

Provide contact information in your response and make it easy for the customer to reach you. AThe goal is to turn a negative interaction into a positive brand experience.

Key Review Sites for Local Businesses

When it comes to online reviews, certain sites tend to be more influential for local businesses. Focusing on building reviews on these high-authority sites can give the biggest boost to your online reputation and SEO.

The top review sites for local businesses include:

  • Google My Business—Having lots of positive Google reviews is critical, since these are prominently displayed in maps and search. 
  • Yelp—With over 200 million reviews, Yelp is the top independent review site. High rating and review volume here is influential. 
  • Facebook—Reviews on Facebook pages can build social proof. It’s also easy for customers to leave reviews there.
  • Industry-specific sites—Focus on top sites in your sector, for example, Houzz for home services.

Monitoring and building your reputation on these high-authority sites should be a priority. Having a strong presence with lots of positive reviews acts as social proof and boosts SEO.

Online Review Management Tools

Businesses today have many software options to help manage their online reviews across the web. Here are some of the top tools and platforms:

Review management software allows you to monitor reviews, analyze trends, generate review requests, and publish top reviews across various sites. These tools offer both free plans and paid subscriptions with more advanced analytics and automation.

Google’s free Google Business Profile platform allows you to view, respond to, and manage Google reviews specifically. You can also access insights on how customers find your business on Google.

Social media management tools make it easy to monitor and respond to reviews on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other networks.

For reputation management companies offer monitoring across review sites, social networks, directories, forums, and more. They can give you a comprehensive view of brand mentions.

By leveraging the right review tools, local businesses can streamline online reputation management and focus on providing great customer experiences.


Online reviews are absolutely critical for any local business looking to build credibility, attract new customers, and boost revenue. The statistics clearly show that consumers heavily factor in reviews when making purchasing decisions both online and offline. By focusing on providing exceptional customer service, soliciting feedback, monitoring review sites, and leveraging review management tools, local businesses can reap the benefits of positive online reviews.

The key takeaways for local businesses are:

  • Invest time and effort into getting more online reviews, as they directly impact sales and search visibility.
  • Train staff to proactively request reviews after positive customer interactions.
  • Respond professionally to all reviews, thanking customers for feedback.
  • Fix issues that generate negative reviews as soon as possible.
  • Use review monitoring software and automated tools to streamline reputation management.

With a strategy to generate more online reviews, local businesses can build trust, attract more customers, and significantly improve their bottom line.


Ian Kirby has been working in digital marketing for over 15 years. Having worked both with and for digital marketing agencies and in-house with multiple companies, he has a specific interest and expertise in online reputation management, online reviews, and the implementation of business systems. Ian’s writing, videos, and interviews have garnered millions of reads, views, and listens.


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