What our clients are telling us
And this is coming through loud and clear: Google - unsurprisingly - is by far the main influence in driving traffic to your website, so that's where you need to make sure you have reviews (and a great score); next, before making contact, they check your own website and you need to look even better there - and have more reviews.
Barely a day goes by when we don't speak to a client who says "It's the reviews on our site that are driving new business."
The customer journey in detail
First: they conduct a local search (since over 70% of such searches are made on mobile or tablet, all the illustrations here are on those platforms, but the same goes for desktop and laptop):
Google like reviews - and it's rare for a client of ours to appear outside the Google 3-pack. HelpHound's Dialogue is not about SEO, but driving reviews to Google doesn't hurt it! And when Google get around to ranking businesses by score and location they will be ready.
Then they choose the individual business:
the score (here it's 4.9) and the number of reviews drive the potential customer to the rich snippets - or straight to the business's website
Then they scroll to read the rich snippets - and see your score (again):
a great score - that's 4.5+ in the context of Google - and three excellent rich snippets (even better if, like these, they are accompanied by photos rather than avatars) further increase the likelihood of a click-through to the business's website
Then they may even read the full Google reviews:
Keep the reviews coming - a business last reviewed a year ago does not create a great impression.
For low value purchases such as a meal in a restaurant the search may simply end there, but for higher value - hotels, for example - and very high value transactional decisions (legal, financial, estate agency and so on) the search invariably moves to the business's own website, where they see our client's HelpHound module:
They then read more reviews:
The wording next to our logo is found reassuring and encouraging in equal measure
And - at this point in the journey - they respond to your call to action (phone or email).
The customer journey is simple: google the business - read reviews. If impressed*: visit business's website. Read more reviews. If even more impressed: make contact.
That is why it is so important to ensure a positive presence on both Google and your own website - great reviews (and a great score) on Google will channel your prospective customer to your website where more great reviews prompt them to initiate contact.
Note: Of course, if your other marketing is driving visitors direct to your site, the reviews you host there become even more important.
*'Impressed': this works both ways. If you have negative reviews (or no reviews) on Google you will be giving your potential customer the wrong impression. Review management is no longer optional for engaged businesses in 2016.