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We heard it before with social media: “Websites are dead! Now that Facebook has over 1.3 billion users (yes!), why bother building a website when most of your potential customers are engaging on that social media platform…”

Before throwing out the baby with the (stained) bathwater, let’s look in more detail at what the latest studies tell us about consumer behavior, and how that affects your business.

There is only one constant in our online world: change. If you’ve been around and in business over at least a few years, you will know that not only the technological and design aspect of the web changes constantly, but that the most critical change business owners need to adapt to is changes in consumer behavior.

Over the last 4 years, studies show that consumers are increasingly disloyal to brands and businesses1, researching more online before visiting a store or actually picking a product or service provider. Within that same trend, social proof and the opinion of others, whether referrals by friends or family, as well as online reviews, play an increasing role in the choices they make.

A fresh survey run by Brightlocal among over 1,000 U.S. consumers showing “an emerging pattern of confidence in reviews, and, crucially, a trend suggesting business websites are becoming less relevant to consumer decisions.”

The graphic below explains in more detail the above-described trend, but in essence here are the highlights of “what the typical next step is after a consumer reads a positive review”:

  • only 37% visit the business’ website (down from 54% in 2016)
  • a steep increase in consumers interacting directly with the business after reading a positive review
  • the more reviews a business has the higher the trust factor and the more likely the consumer’s choice will get validated
  • only 10% of consumers will continue searching for other businesses

Brightlocal - 2017 Consumer survey - Reviews and WebsitesWhile some will say I defend my own interest here, I will say that the very reason Alchemy puts a heavy emphasis on establishing a strong online reputation and implementing effective review marketing strategies for our clients is precisely because we follow consumer behavior trends and adapt the core marketing strategies to them. We do this because it works for our clients. And not just as an additional marketing strategy. This is the foundation.

Reviews and Google Local Snack PackWhen you associate this trend to recent research by Local SEO Guide showing that “reviews are now the second-biggest ranking factor in the local pack”>, and you get a strong picture of reviews becoming the de facto factor in choosing a local business to use.”

In other words, reviews help you to rank in the local search results where it matters most: the local (snack) Maps pack (ranking of Google My Business pages in Top 3 local search results – displayed right after the paid ad section on the top of a search result page).

To summarize the trend: with wider business choices available to consumers, you need to have a more effective review marketing system in place than your competitors to highlight your customers positive experience with your company.

So, should you ditch your website?

While fewer people visit your website after reading online reviews, your website is still the preferred next step. Furthermore, websites and blogs help you build authority and trust, showcasing your expertise, as well as providing valuable content for the search engines to rank your website for searches that might not trigger the “local” search results, ie the ones displaying the “Map Pack”. Finally, and not the least consideration, you have full control of the content on your website, unlike Google My Business pages. This allows you to also use it to engage consumers who are not yet ready to contact you directly and move them along the “conversion funnel”, educating them about your subject, staying in touch, until they are ready to pick a provider… you!



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