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How to Justify the Ongoing Investment in Ratings and Reviews

March 25, 2013


Just thinking of our own behavior when it comes to online research and purchase, we know how powerful and useful ratings and reviews are, as a consumer. But what exactly does ratings and reviews contribute to business? And more importantly, how do you measure it in a way that is meaningful to executives?

During a time where every penny is a prisoner, why should you bother maintaining ratings and reviews on your website?  Why not just take that money and put it into some demand generation activity instead, where you can see an immediate (albeit short-term) impact?

Recently faced with such questions, I started doing some general research on “How much is a positive review worth?”. What I found were a bunch of articles talking about fake review services that you can buy (nice!) and  “guestimate” ranges so large, that the information just wasn’t meaningful, or applicable.

So I started looking closer to home, and ways to use business-specific data to show the ongoing value of ratings and reviews. Here’s what I came up with (as a side note, the more you can link the measures back to your own company and/or web marketing KPIs, the better success you will find in convincing people of its long-term value).

1. Number of reviews viewed (read)

Website traffic is a common “quantity” metric used by businesses — the thought being that the more visitors you get, the more conversions you will likely (hopefully) get. Looking at the number of reviews that were viewed (implied as read) is also a quantity metric. This measure can help to show how much of the review content is being consumed by your visitors (ie: is the content valuable to your visitors?).

2. Conversions influenced by a rating and review

A quantity metric only ever tells half of the story. You want to support this with quality indicators such as conversion data, or ideally sales/order data. However, it is difficult to know whether a rating or review was solely responsible for a conversion/sale. In most cases, reading a review would be just one contributor within the whole customer decision-making process.

One way to try and gage the impact of the review is to look at your conversions, and filter down to see: of the conversions that happened on your site, how many had viewed a review prior to converting? This is relatively straightforward to see in analytics tools, such as Google Analytics  (providing that everything has been tagged appropriately) by having ratings/reviews set up as an advanced segment, then looking at conversions as a secondary dimension.

3. Engagement of visitors

Whilst being able to show a connection to conversions/sales is nice for the executives, there are other softer benefits of ratings and reviews that shouldn’t be ignored. Whilst “engagement” may be a soft measure, it does help to build a broader picture that isn’t just focused on immediate return. Afterall, lifetime value is also important. Good indications of engagement include:

  • Average time spent on the site by visitors who viewed a review
  • Average number of pages viewed by visitors who viewed a reviews

Then compare these numbers against the average time spent / pages viewed by all site visitors. What you will likely find is that visitors who have read a review will spend much more time on your site and view many more pages on their visit. I found that visitors who had read a review stayed 4X longer on the site and visited 3X more pages compared to the average visitor.

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