The power of online reviews for accountants is increasing. In some sectors, they already carry enough clout to make or break a business. You’ve probably seen some of the news stories about fake reviews (both good and bad) on TripAdvisor and one law firm has even brought a libel case over a negative review (see the story here).
93% of consumers say online reviews influence their purchasing decisions – and that doesn’t just mean the likes of restaurants and hotels. As with the law firm above, online reviews can seriously impact professional service firms too.
Why you can’t ignore online reviews
Prospective clients looking for an accountant will almost always do an online search. How you appear in the search results is a critical factor when they’re deciding whether to contact you or one of your competitors. If you show up on Google with 5 stars under your firm name it’s a huge tick in the box; if you have a 1 star rating, it’s unlikely they’ll be getting in touch. Even a decent but unremarkable 3 star rating will do you no favours if your competitors rate higher. So it’s worth putting some effort into getting some 4 and 5 star reviews.
Which review sites are most important for accountants?
The big hitters are Google and Trustpilot. They have millions of reviews between them and are the go-to sites for anyone checking out a company.
There are numerous smaller review sites such as www.ukaccountingfirms.co.uk. A high star rating on one of these is good news of course, but they don’t have the clout of the big sites and will have far fewer visitors.
Google collates data from trusted external review sites (such as Trustpilot and Feefo) as well as Google reviews themselves to define your rating. So it pays to focus on Trustpilot and/or Feefo as well as Google .
Feefo for accountants
Rather than a review website, Feefo is a customer feedback platform that works from within your business. Basically, you use the platform to ask your clients for a review. Since only your genuine customers can provide a review, there’s no risk of fake reviews popping up and affecting your reputation. However, unlike Google and Trustpilot there is no free option to use Feefo, so you have to decide if it’s worth the cost.
Find out more https://www.feefo.com/.
Trustpilot for accountants
The difference between Trustpilot and Feefo is that Trustpilot is a public site, so anyone can leave a review for you whether or not you are registered. That’s fantastic if you get great reviews; not so good if the reviews are negative. So it’s a good idea to at least claim your business profile, then check regularly for any new reviews so you can respond.
Trustpilot has paid plans as well as the free option, giving you varying levels of customisation and resources. The free plan allows you to claim your Trustpilot profile, respond to reviews (very important – see below), get notifications of new reviews and invite client reviews from within the platform. It also gives you access to widgets for your website to display your reviews (you can filter by star rating so only 4 and 5 star reviews appear). This is a great way to add testimonials to your website and enhance your credibility.
Find out more https://uk.business.trustpilot.com/.
Facebook reviews for accountants
If you have a business page on Facebook, you may already be using the Review function. Previously, it was a simple system similar to other review platforms – choose a star rating and add any comments. This is now changing to Recommendations. When users visit a business page and click on the Review tab, they are asked whether or not they recommend the business. Facebook provides some suggestions as to why you do/don’t recommend or you can leave your own comments.
Your Facebook rating is on a scale of 1 to 5, like other review platforms, and is based on the number of people who recommend you. So to get a good rating you need as many people as possible to recommend you. Currently, Facebook displays a mixture of Reviews and Recommendations as the new system rolls out but eventually Reviews will disappear altogether.
With millions of people using Facebook every day to connect with friends and family, Recommendations are an easy way to extend your reach.
Google for accountants
As with almost everything online, when it comes to reviews, Google is the major player.
You’ve probably noticed that some businesses that appear in Google search results have a star rating under their listing. This is based on online reviews for the company, both on Google itself and on other review sites, as mentioned above.
A high Google rating really boosts trustworthiness and credibility and helps you stand out from your competitors on the results page. A poor rating not only puts off potential clients, it actually affects where you appear in the search results as it’s one of the factors used by the Google algorithm.
How to get those Google stars
First, you have to claim your Google My Business listing. If you haven’t done this already, find out how here – https://support.google.com/business/answer/2911778?co=GENIE.Platform%3DDesktop&hl=en.
Complete every section of your Business Profile and include as much detail about your firm as possible – the more Google understands about what your firm does, the better it is for SEO (search engine optimisation). Use keywords, photos and videos and for maximum optimisation, update the content regularly.
Once your profile is set up, you’ll start to appear on local search results and maps so this is a very effective – and free – way to get your firm found on Google. This is becoming increasingly important as more and more users never click anywhere beyond the search results page (what’s known as a ‘zero click search’). Google is adding more and more information about a business on the search results page so users can find what they need without even clicking through to your website.
Ask your clients for a review
Once you’re all set up, start asking your happy clients to post a review. The key to doing this successfully is to make it as easy as possible. So send them a direct link to review you, rather than making them search you out online (this applies to all review websites, of course, not just Google). Google has a helpful review form which you’ll find on the home page of your Google My Business account – look for the ‘Get more reviews’ section and then click on ‘Share review form’ to get the link.
Note: one obstacle to getting Google reviews is that reviewers have to have a Gmail account in order to post a review. If your clients aren’t on Gmail, ask them to review you on Trustpilot instead. Once you have your Trustpilot profile set up, you can upload a list of your clients and use the platform to send review invitations.
And of course, the other key is to be systematic about asking for reviews. Make it a part of your internal processes to ask for a review whenever you complete a piece of work – as long as your client is happy, that is!
Making the most of your online reviews
So, you’re all set up and those lovely 5 star reviews are coming in thick and fast – what’s next? How can you make the most of your great reviews? And how can you minimise the impact of negative reviews?
When you get a great review, respond on the same platform with a personalised message to say ‘thank you’. It shows that you really appreciate your clients and helps to build your online reputation. Don’t leave it too long to respond though, as that feelgood factor dwindles the longer you leave it. Both Google and Trustpilot have the option to send notifications when someone posts a review for you so you (or your team) can respond in a timely way.
And of course, share your 5 star reviews on social media, on your website, on email footers and in your marketing material. Show the world how amazing you are!
It’s horrible to get a bad review, particularly if you feel it isn’t justified. But an online slanging match is not the way to handle them.
It may be tempting to ignore a bad review and hope it will go away but that just looks like you don’t care. As with your good reviews, the key is to respond quickly to any negative comments and then demonstrate that you want to rectify the situation. Acknowledge that the reviewer isn’t happy and offer to see what you can do to put things right. Try to take the issue offline rather than trawling through the problem in public.
If you can resolve the issue and the client is happy with the result, ask them to remove or update their review. When a review moves from 1 star to 5 stars it’s a great feeling! More importantly, it demonstrates that you are willing to work with your clients to find a solution.
Remember that you can report a bad review if it’s defamatory or breaches other guidelines. It isn’t always easy to get reviews removed, but it’s worth trying if you can’t find another way to resolve the issue.
Online reviews for accountants may be new, but they’re here to stay and they are important. In our fast-paced, digital world a glance at your star rating on Google or Trustpilot may be the first thing busy people do when deciding which accountant to contact. So get your practice noticed in the right way and start building up those 5 star reviews.