Research indicates that 90 per cent of purchasing decisions are influenced by online reviews.
You simply can’t underestimate the power of social proof and client testimonials. Translate that to real estate and there is no doubt that home sellers are checking out your reviews online to determine if they will call you or one of your competitors.
In a world full of real estate agents that claim to outdo each other in sold prices and service, reviews are a telltale sign of success.
Let’s examine how you can influence online reviews to your advantage.
Establish a Presence on Big-Name Reviews Sites (but don’t prioritise them)
Websites such as RateMyAgent, OpenAgent, domain.com.au and realestate.com.au are a few of the most popular websites for vendor/landlord reviews. RateMyAgent alone has over 1,000,000 seller reviews across Australia.
Having a strong presence on each of these platforms can be useful for garnering the attention of home sellers who are generally browsing on the site or have clicked an ad on social media or via a Google search perhaps.
Social media is also a powerful tool for customer testimonials and brand advocacy. According to our Real Estate Industry Social Media Marketing Survey, 95% of real estate businesses use social media in their marketing efforts. With around 21.5 million active users on Facebook alone, incorporating social media into your company’s interactive review process can also provide additional social proof for those who are visiting your Page(s).
Why You Absolutely (100%) Need To Put More Focus On Google Reviews… NOW!
In many cases, Google is the first place home sellers go when they’re searching for a real estate agent to sell their property. Why?
Firstly, Google reviews provide the good and the bad. While the major portals are front of mind for consumers who are searching for property, I believe consumers trust Google over the portals when it comes to reviews.
Reviews on other platforms are purely transactional, meaning a potential client can only see what experience someone had with a real estate business after they’ve sold/bought/leased. And consumers are increasingly becoming aware of this…
Similarweb indicates that a significant 36.43% of the traffic to realestate.com.au in June 2023 came from organic search. This highlights that even REA leans heavily on Google’s organic search for its traffic.
Let’s think about this for a minute…
If Google is where many homeowners start their search for an agent (and it is!), doesn’t it make sense to intercept those potential clients and get them to your website instead of letting them go to a website with all of your competitors?
Google reviews are a significant search ranking factor if you want to get your brand and website seen when someone is Googling real estate agents in your service area. Reviews on other platforms, such as REA or RMA, only help their website’s Google rankings. Not yours.
According to a study by the Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), over 85% of sellers use the internet to research agents before making a decision, which highlights the importance of having a strong online presence, especially on Google.
Here are some interesting stats on just how much we all use Google:
- Google accounts for almost 94% of the search engine market in Australia.
- Google processes approximately 8.5 billion searches per day.
- Over 250K Google searches are done in Australia per day.
When someone searches for ‘real estate agents in insert_suburb‘, Google shows a number of reviews displayed in both the search results and map results for real estate businesses in the area:
Google reviews are important if you want your website to appear as high as possible on Google search results which, as we established earlier, is where most home sellers before are visiting first in their search for an agent before clicking through to any other website.
The number of people searching for ‘real estate agents’ in a particular suburb can vary depending on various factors, including population density, but take the above example… this can be as many as 1,000 people each month who search for ‘real estate agents Double Bay:
Having a good Google rating (4 stars and above) will likely increase the click-through rate to your website and enquiry. This star rating serves as a trust builder, reassuring potential clients to consider you in their agent selection process – or reassuring someone who has already signed an appointment with your agency that they made the right decision.
These stars have been shown to increase click-through-rate (CTR) by as much as 20%. Which in turn, helps boost your ranking on Google search for highly competitive search terms. See below.
Your clients will need a Google account to leave you a review. I’ve always hypothesised that this is one of the main reasons why agents put Google reviews at the bottom of their priority list when asking for reviews.
But don’t be swayed… you might be surprised to know just how many of your clients have a Google account connected to a non-Google email address (yes, this is possible).
To make things very easy for your clients, you can have them leave a Google review for you with one-click.
At the end of the day, Google doesn’t care who is leaving a review for your business. All they care about is the nature of the review i.e. how many stars, sentiment, keywords etc. The more positive reviews you have, the better chance you have of ranking higher in Google for highly competitive phrases such as ‘real estate agents insert_suburb‘. So don’t be scared to ask happy tenants, landlords, buyers AND sellers to leave you a Google review.
If you are annoyed at all those scathing reviews from ex-tenants (whether they’re true or not) or you’re worried that those reviews are tarnishing the reputation of your entire business, you can’t simply delete them. But here’s something you can do… bury them in a sea of 5-star reviews.
Your presence in Google depends on it and you should be putting far more emphasis on Google reviews than you’re likely doing right now.
What’s the best way to get rid of negative reviews? Bury them in a see of good ones.
For many home sellers looking for an agent, Google is (and will be for the foreseeable future) the first place they go. It pays to put time and effort into your presence on Google, especially if you’ve let it go for some time in exchange for other sites on the web.
“But the major portals and review websites provide great social proof”
Even if you add a logo to your marketing material, showing where the review was written (to build your credibility on that particular platform), the person receiving or seeing that collateral will either:
- Go to Google and search your name
- Go to Google and search your company name
- Go to Google and search “real estate agents <insert_suburb>”, or
- Put it in the bin
Either way, consumers are trained to use Google as their first entry point for everything searched online. The websites they visit will be determined by what Google shows them.
In the least likely scenario where someone Google’s your (or your company’s) name, this is where it can pay to have a presence on the major portals and ratings and reviews websites as an ‘endorsement’ from a third party right there in Google’s search results.
It’s even better if your website ranks above these other platforms, so the traffic is coming to you!
Can third-party websites “sync” with my Google Reviews?
If you’ve been told by a third-party website that your reviews on their platform can be ‘synced’ with your Google reviews, this is not true.
Only reviews left on your Google Business profile contribute to your Google reviews and act as a ranking factor for your business and website.
Quickly Respond to Reviews, Good or Bad
Customer reviews should be approached as a two-way street. The name of the game is being receptive. Set aside time every day (or at least, weekly) to monitor the platforms where your company is listed and the ones you’re not.
Type “Your Company Complaints” into Google and see what comes up. Reviews about your brand could be happening on websites you never knew existed.
Take the company in this video for example and an actual review from productreview.com.au, where they have over 100 one-star reviews (ouch!).
Online reviews are a spectator sport.
If you receive a negative review and you don’t respond, what does that say about you and your brand? Forget whether it’s true or not. It will reflect poorly on your brand. If you do respond but don’t receive another response, you still win. People will see that you’ve taken time out of your day to acknowledge the review, good or bad, and you will be rewarded for it.
Regardless of the customer input, do not procrastinate on your responses. A quick reply indicates that you value customer input and are committed to resolving any issues. Following a review, be sure to thank them for their input.
For extra points and to really show that you care, ensure you respond with your name. Not “from the marketing department”.
Attentiveness to both the good and bad reviews shows you are truly dedicated to improvement based on customers’ opinions and reactions. Responding to a negative review is not always an easy task. However, how you phrase your message is very important in demonstrating your brand value.
The truth about online real estate agent review platforms
If you rely on the internet for new business opportunities (which you do!), then you will, to a large extent, also rely on reviews. Whether we like it or not, the internet has allowed us to say what we think about any company or individual.
Whilst reviews can be a mixed bag and won’t always be entirely positive (learning how to respond to negative reviews warrants an entire article all of itself), they have become extremely important in how they influence the purchasing and business decisions we make online every day.
While other platforms might make it easier for you to collect reviews from clients (although this is debatable), or you’re not collecting Google reviews for some other reason, you’re very likely missing a huge number of potential sellers who aren’t clicking/scrolling past the businesses at the top of a Google search result with high-quality and a higher number of Google reviews over their competitors.
Take this business, for example – one of our clients at Stepps who transacts 30-40 sales every month. This business maintains a strong presence on other review websites, arguably stronger than any other agent in their marketplace, in addition to Google (with over 700 reviews).
But when it comes to which channel generates the most vendor leads directly, Google wins by a long shot (with +$300k in potential GCI over a 30-day period).
Maintaining a strong presence on other platforms besides Google is great for building social proof, but you can’t deny the power of a strong presence on Google for the millions of Australians each year who start their agent comparison process with a Google search.
The goal of your online reviews should be to establish more positive visibility and credibility of your brand as soon as possible in the agent selection process.
So choose the channels that make the most sense to you – the ones that will help you portray the brand perception you want permeating the local market.