Which 3rd party review sites are worth your effort?

Jason Norris | Jun 30, 2017 Jason Norris 06/30/17

Online reviews matter to brands and customers alike—93% of customers say online reviews impact their purchase decisions. There are hundreds of sites where customers can let their voices be heard—Yelp, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are just a few. There are even niche sites collecting feedback for specific industries. And when it comes to managing all that feedback, brands can quickly feel overwhelmed. How can you reduce the noise and focus your efforts where they matter most?


For multi-location retailers, restaurants, and c-stores, it’s key to pay attention to sites that map to specific locations. That gives you the best insights into how your customers are actually being served across your brand. It also helps narrow down which review sites you should be monitoring. A recent study asked customers which online review sites they’ve visited in the past year when making a decision about where to spend—81% named Google, 59% consulted Yelp, and 49% went to Facebook. On top of that, 87% of consumers have accounts with or apps affiliated with “the big three.” Clearly these are the most important sites for your brand to monitor for customer reviews. But each of them operates a little differently.

Yelp falls behind

Yelp has historically been the powerhouse in the rating and review space, especially for the restaurant category. But over the past few years, we have seen a shift in the trend. Yelp is still a key player—they have excellent brand equity and a dedicated, engaged community. And Yelp reviews still affect a company’s online reputation, even though they are steadily becoming less and less relevant in terms of volume. Two of the biggest names in tech—Google and Facebook—have picked up the pace in proactively pushing for consumer reviews. And now, these two sites are driving much of the new volume in this space.

Facebook has power in numbers

Facebook hosts both national and local pages for different brands and businesses. Consumers will see different content and features depending on which kind of page they visit. The national brand pages are more for general information about the brand—typically you’ll see current national campaign messages, advertising, national promotions, new menu items, and more. On the local pages, content is tailored to specific locations or regions, and customers can check-in and leave a review about the specific location they visited. Facebook boasts the largest online community—around 2 billion visits per month worldwide. That kind of people power gives them pretty serious clout in almost any space they want to enter—and customer reviews are no exception.

Google rules search

Not only do Google search results drive traffic to websites, but they drive foot traffic to physical stores, too. Near Me searches are growing at a staggering rate, and Google Reviews are at the front and center of these searches. They have put a strong emphasis on online review content. According to MOZ, review signals (velocity, quantity, diversity) play a significant role when ranking the Google Local 3-Pak (featured at the top of many searches) and organic listings. It’s no question Google’s impact on web and foot traffic is unparalleled—and to put it simply, any business with a local presence is losing revenue if they aren’t properly optimized for Google.

Focus your efforts

SMG’s research shows the shift in which company’s reviews are growing. Below is an example of review volume in the fast casual space by source. As you can see, Google and Facebook have grown tremendously over time to establish themselves as the dominant players.

Blog_6.30 v2

The ratings and review space can feel overwhelming—especially when you’re already managing so many aspects of your brand perception as it is. But being proactive about establishing a foundation for listening to and using review content to your benefit can help you manage the chaos. The chart above makes it clear that focusing on the two biggest drivers in the industry—Google and Facebook—will serve your strategy best. Once you’ve gotten a handle on how each one works with your brand, and the different insights they provide, you can continue to expand your scope to other sources as your strategy evolves.

Learn more about what managing online reviews means for your business by checking out our webinar.

Jason Norris
VP, Social Solutions

Customer Experience Update