11 minute read

How important are online reviews?

More than 80% of people trust them, according to BrightLocal research. Another study by Jay Baer and co-author Daniel Lemin, in their book Hug Your Haters, found that online reviews rank second—behind only friend and family recommendations—among the critical sources of information driving a consumer’s decision on a product or service.

When it comes to millennials, well they trust online reviews MORE than they trust friends and family.

Real estate agent reviews are big business. There are entire websites dedicated to them and the major property portals have invested vast sums of cash into building and promoting their own agent review products. Then there’s Facebook reviews, Google reviews, Trustpilot reviews, Net Promoter Score software and the list of channels goes on and on.

There is also a number of reputation management platforms available now that allow a business to post reviews to multiple platforms at once.

So with all of those choices for collecting reviews, which ones should you focus on? Which ones yield the greatest impact? Should you be collecting reviews on all of them? How do you even do that?

Here is a look at the big players and our top tips for getting the most from your online reviews.

Google Reviews

Google reviews are a major search ranking factor.

Meaning, the more Google reviews you receive, the more likely your website will appear higher in Google search results to locals who search for phrases such as:

  • <insert suburb> real estate agents
  • <insert suburb> property managers

If you’re not ranking high in Google search results for these two phrases, you are missing out on a tonne of potential new business from vendors who are ready to sell, or at least, are starting their agent selection process.

Take the phrase “double bay real estate agents” for example. This phrase was searched up to 1,000 times on average per month over the past year.

Source: Google Keyword Planner – 22 April 2019

Also worth noting, is that 86% of people who search this phrase scroll past the ads at the top of Google and click on the ‘organic’ search results (the non-paid results).

Source: MOZ Keyword Explorer – 22 April 2019

That’s potentially 1,000 homeowners per month who looking at the local real estate businesses at the top of the organic search results or in Google’s ‘Local 3-Pack’.

Many studies have shown that the more Google reviews you have the more likely you will appear higher in Google’s Local 3-Pack as well.

Building and maintaining a healthy presence on all review platforms is important to staying more visible than your local competition. But none more important, and impactful, than Google in our firm opinion.

A strong Google reviews presence gives you instant visibility to the thousands of potential vendors who use Google to start their agent search. Plus it gives all other pages of your website a boost in search rankings.

As an individual agent, you can create your own Google My Business profile in order to start collecting Google reviews for yourself, however, without your own website, or if you don’t link your profile to your agent profile on your office website, it’s very likely that Google reviews will not provide much benefit to you other than to display them to people searching only your name.

Also, you must adhere to the terms of service outlined by Google for individual practitioners. The rules are different for contractors versus full-time employees and we’ve seen some agents have their Google profile shutdown, losing all their reviews, because they didn’t adhere to the rules. There are also rules for multi-office locations as well. So best you read the T&C’s and play it safe.

Extra Tip: We strongly recommend the agency principal is the administrator of the Google My Business account to ensure it cannot be compromised by former staff or agents.

When it comes to Google reviews, local real estate businesses as a whole are more likely to benefit from the increased exposure than individual agents, however, the benefits are ultimately passed on to the agents within that business. The more Google reviews that are collected by all team members, the more each team member benefits. As the old saying goes, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’

Aside from ensuring they are from genuine people, Google doesn’t care who your reviews are from. They only care about the number and sentiment of reviews you collect. Therefore, we recommend garnering reviews from your entire network – tenants, landlords, tradespeople, vendors, local businesses, sponsorship recipients and others. Every bit helps.

For added benefit, ensure you are responding to every review – good or bad (here are some tips).

In fact, bad reviews give you an opportunity in disguise. Potential vendors do read your Google reviews so what does it say about a business that doesn’t respond to its reviews? It says loud and clear “we don’t care”, and it’s hurting those businesses big time.

Many real estate agents and agencies prioritise other platforms over Google reviews because it’s ‘easier’ to leave a review on other platforms, given that people require a Google account to submit a Google review. But don’t let that stop you. You’d be surprised at how many people have a Google account with a non-Google email (yes, this is possible).

Just check out the screenshot below and the noticeable difference between a business that prioritises Google reviews and one that doesn’t. Which website would you click on?

Realestate.com.au

Relatively new to the ratings and reviews game, realestate.com.au’s individual agent reviews are integrated into their agent comparison portal as opposed to a standalone reviews/rankings portal – such as available on other websites.

Agents are ordered by the number of sales in a specific suburb rather than the number of reviews they’ve received and there is currently no ability to sort agents based on the number of reviews. Further, it doesn’t appear that the number of reviews that an agent receives has any impact on their rankings.

Furthermore, the buyer or seller is required to create an account before leaving a review and realestate.com.au requires verification from the agent that the person leaving the review is on the contract of sale, prior to approving the review being published.

These checks and balances, to ensure that only genuine reviews from buyers and sellers are displayed, is a good thing. However, when it comes to reviews, we strongly believe the more information you provide to the reader, the better. That means giving full (real) names, address of the property and, where possible, a photo or video of the buyer/seller or the property.

Obviously, there are situations where this information cannot be disclosed, but in cases where you are permitted to display this information, it makes the review far more believable and impactful. More grounded, if you will.

Realestate.com.au reviews don’t currently display the address of the property or the names of the person leaving a review, and they don’t currently give you, or the client, the option to do so even if you wanted.

Furthermore, and interestingly, there is currently no ability to leave reviews for agencies on realestate.com.au.

RateMyAgent

This is obviously the go-to platform right now for many agents. RateMyAgent is easy for vendors and buyers to sign up and use, and it provides agents with a tonne of social proof if they’re crowned ‘No. 1 agent’ in their local market.

RateMyAgent recently announced a new integration for customers on paid plans to connect their RateMyAgent account to their Google My Business page – allowing agents/agencies to effectively turn RateMyAgent reviews into Google reviews.

We strongly believe this integration provides a win-win for both agents and the office they work in. It gives agents the visibility and social proof that comes with RateMyAgent’s platform, but also the SEO benefits of Google reviews for the agency.

Facebook reviews

Customer reviews have become a spectator sport and the most emotionally charged reviews are often on social media. Especially the negative ones.

There is no shortage of negative reviews on real estate company Facebook pages from ex-tenants who haven’t received their bond back in full or a disgruntled buyer or seller.

Facebook gives people a megaphone to spread their experience far and wide, very quickly, unlike any other review platform. And this is partly the reason consumers love to complain on Facebook – it gives them a spotlight on a very public stage.

But are Facebook reviews all that important for real estate businesses or agents?

If you have a highly engaged audience on Facebook, and those fans visit your business page regularly (not just see your posts in their newsfeed), then Facebook reviews might provide some amount of social proof to anyone visiting your page.

But engagement on Facebook business pages today is extremely low (less than 2%) and more than 80% of people who ‘Like’ a business page, never actually visit the page itself. So Facebook reviews, in our opinion, don’t deliver a significant return (or exposure) based on the effort that you’re likely putting into gathering them. There are other places on the web, dedicated to real estate agent reviews, that people are more likely to use in their agent selection process.

Testimonials in video form, on the other hand, can be extremely effective on Facebook and other social platforms. Storytelling through video can be a powerful and less ‘salesy’ approach on Facebook as opposed to textual reviews. Plus, videos can be boosted and advertised to a much larger audience. Facebook reviews can’t be.

If you’re receiving more negative reviews than positive, then consider disabling Facebook reviews from your business page altogether. Disabling reviews on your Facebook page will allow you to focus your efforts in fewer places on the web, but be far more effective.

Your Website

Your website is the only place on the internet where you’re not competing for attention against other real estate agents.

Your reviews should be placed strategically throughout your website to capture the attention of potential clients at the right time.

The least visited page on a real estate website is a dedicated testimonial page. And the majority of people visiting the page are the agents within the office. We know this because Google Analytics tells us (ask your web developer to generate a report for you).

Instead, consider placing reviews in prominent positions throughout your website – on your home page, service pages and agent profile pages. Where you’re telling people why they should list their property with you, your reviews should be in close proximity as confirmation of the experience others had with your services.

Some platforms, in their terms and conditions, prohibit you from copying reviews from their platforms to your website so be conscious of this before you start putting reviews from other platforms onto your own website.

Some of those platforms, however, do provide the ability to integrate the reviews from their platform to your website by using ‘widgets’ that are embedded onto your website to display your latest reviews. But be careful with these also. Often these widgets, if clicked, will drive people off your website back to the website of that third-party – where you’re competing for attention against every other agent once again.

If you must use third-party review widgets for your website, be sure to find a solution that keeps your visitors on your website for as long as possible.

Video testimonials, to accompany your textual reviews on your website, will add that extra level of believability and effectiveness if people can see and hear your happy clients.

Extra Mentions:

TrustPilot: A popular global review platform that allows businesses to be listed free with minimal promotion but charges them for extra marketing and other services. In more recent times, independent investigations have revealed Trustpilot have fake reviews (and questionable tactics) on an almost industrial scale. Be wary!

Productreview.com.au: An Australian based consumer-facing review platform for many different services, including real estate, where readers can rate reviews on how helpful they were in their purchase decision making. Consumers aren’t afraid to tell-it-how-it-is on this website if you know what I mean, so it pays to check if you or your agency are getting a mention.

In summary

Just like you don’t need to be on every social media platform to be successful in real estate, you also don’t need to focus all your effort on getting reviews on every online platform. This goes for agents and agencies.

However, it does pay to monitor all websites that showcase real estate agent/agency reviews to respond where necessary.

Some of the leading agents in Australia don’t use third-party review sites at all, but instead, have a high number of visitors to their own website. So they use only their website to display reviews to potential clients and this is completely fine.

On the other hand, some have built their success locally off the back of their rankings on third-party review sites. The only challenge I see with this, however, is that the hardest part about being number 1 in your area on third-party platforms, is staying there. And if one day you’re not, what else have you got?

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. For this reason, Google (and your own website) should be at the top of your priority list. From there, use the platforms that make the most sense to your marketing strategy.

The goal of your online reviews should be to establish more positive visibility and credibility of your brand and 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 in the local market.

Author: Josh Cobb

Phone Number: 0427 184 183

Email Address: josh@stepps.com.au

Stepps was founded by Josh Cobb in 2014. Josh has advised more than 100 brands since starting the company and hundreds of agents who have attended his workshops. He is the host of the popular Real Estate Pros podcast, oversees digital strategy for top performing real estate agents and teams, and travels the globe with several international speaking engagements each year.

Recently, Josh was named as a finalist in the 2017 REB Awards for Industry Thought Leader of The Year and the winner of  Brisbane Young Entrepreneur of The Year 2017 – Marketing, PR & Events.

In addition to web development and digital strategy consulting, the company also runs Stepps Media, a fast-growing education company that produces an iTunes top-ranked podcasttraining events, email and webinars.