When it comes to online reviews, there are two major factors that shape your online reputation: quality and quantity.
The quality of your reviews is typically summed up by your average rating — a number between 1.0 and 5.0 stars. Your average rating is usually displayed next to your review count, the quantity of reviews that your business has generated.
According to numerous studies, average rating and review count are by far the two most important factors for online reputation. They’re among the most influential ranking factors for local SEO. And they’re proven to increase click-through rates and conversion rates with consumers.
But when it comes to developing a strategy for online reviews, many brands and business owners aren’t sure what they should prioritize.
Is it better to focus on quantity by generating as many reviews as possible? Or is it better to focus on quality by keeping your rating as high as possible? And in either case, what’s the best way to make that happen?
At Qiigo, our reputation management experts see a lot of businesses prioritize their average rating over their review count. These businesses do everything they can to get their rating as close to 5.0 stars as possible — even if that means generating fewer reviews.
But as we’ll see in this post, quantity of reviews matter a lot more than many people assume. And that 5.0 star rating you’ve worked so hard to maintain? It might actually be hurting sales more than it’s helping.
Which Matters More: Review Count or Average Rating?
The first thing to keep in mind about online reviews is that quality/quantity isn’t an either/or equation. Both play a crucial role in your online reputation. With only one or two reviews, a perfect rating won’t do your business many favors. And if you’re swamped with negative reviews, it doesn’t matter how many you earn.
To maximize the impact of online reviews, you need quality and quantity. But between the two, which matters more?
Many businesses assume that quality trumps quantity in the minds of consumers. These businesses would be happy with a 4.8 star rating based on four or five reviews. In fact, they’d prefer that 4.8 star rating with fewer reviews to a 3.8 star rating based on 20+ or 30+ reviews.
That’s a mistake. In reality, the 3.8 star rating is more valuable for your business thanks to its higher review count. Google will rank your business higher in local search results, and consumers will be more likely to convert.
That’s because, generally speaking, it’s more important to have lots of reviews than to have a high average rating.
In fact, one recent study found that businesses with high review counts earned 54% more revenue than their competitors. The same study found that businesses with optimal ratings also earned more revenue, but only by 28%.
Why Quantity Beats Quality for Online Reviews
What makes quantity more important than quality for online reviews? According to Qiigo’s own experts, there are a few different reasons:
- Consumer Trust. Average ratings aren’t as accurate with a small sample size, and consumers recognized this. As a result, they trust average rating much less when businesses only have a handful of reviews. One survey from 2018 found that users did not trust a business unless it had 10 or more reviews.
- Detailed Feedback. Customers don’t simply look at your average rating and review count. They also read your reviews, looking for detailed feedback from satisfied and dissatisfied customers. Businesses with low review counts will have few, if any, in-depth reviews.
- Search Rankings. Google knows that searchers are looking for products and businesses with high review counts. Because of this, it rewards these products and businesses with higher rankings in search results. This further tilts the scales toward businesses with lots of reviews.
- T.G.B.T. Ratings. Multiple studies have found that the best average rating isn’t 5.0 stars. Instead, it’s somewhere between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. Ratings above 4.5 stars tend to be viewed as “too good to be true,” causing sales to decline. In fact, businesses with 5.0 star ratings tend to perform worse than those with 3.5 star ratings.
How to Optimize the Quality and Quantity of Your Online Reviews
When managing your online reputation, you’ll want to optimize review quality and review quantity. Here are some tips on how to do precisely that.
Focus on Generating More Reviews
Every business should have a strategy in place to generate online reviews. The fewer reviews you have, the more important this will be. At minimum, you should have at least 10 reviews each on both Google and Facebook. And ideally, you can get that number upwards of 50.
But even if you have 100+ reviews, you’ll want to keep generating feedback. Otherwise, you won’t have any recent reviews, which can be just as bad as not having a lot of reviews in the first place. Without recent reviews, you’ll slip in search rankings and customers will be less likely to trust your business.
So, take the time to encourage your customers to leave online reviews for your business. And don’t be nervous about unintentionally generating a few bad reviews! Businesses that email customers asking for reviews typically see higher average ratings, not lower ratings. Plus, a few bad reviews will actually help your business.
And don’t focus solely on one review platform. Businesses that claim listings on multiple review platforms (Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc.) report 54% more revenue than those that focus solely on one review platform.
Monitor and Respond to Your Reviews
Businesses that respond to reviews more often and more quickly have stronger sales on average than those that reply rarely or weeks after a review has been posted. What’s more, they tend to generate more reviews and boast stronger ratings than their competitors.
If you want to respond to reviews in a timely fashion, you’ll need to keep close tabs on your reviews. This can easily slip through the cracks if you operate a small business, which is why most businesses rely on third-party providers to monitor their online reputation.
In addition to tracking your reviews, you’ll also need a system in place for how to track and respond to reviews, including protocols for who responds, when they respond, and how they respond to different types of reviews.
(You’ll also want to make sure you’re tracking and reporting any reviews that appear to violate terms of service, including fraudulent reviews and reviews that contain abusive language.)
View Negative Reviews as Opportunities
A lot of business owners will do anything to avoid bad reviews. But the occasional negative review can actually benefit your online reputation.
Without any negative reviews, your average rating can creep over 4.5 stars. When that happens, customers start getting suspicious, and conversions drop off. Also, negative reviews can actually encourage conversions.
If someone makes an unreasonable complaint about your business and you respond in a positive manner, customers will see that you’re transparent about negative feedback, responsive to complaints, and manage service issues constructively. If you respond this way, many customers will also see why the complaint was unreasonable in the first place, which will increase their confidence in your business.
That said, many small businesses struggle with how to respond to negative feedback. So make sure you have a system in place for handling negative feedback. (If you’re unsure how to do this, download our guide on how to manage bad reviews.)