This Site Converts More Users for Businesses Than Facebook

For many customers, it’s the last stop before booking a reservation or making a purchase.
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Don't underestimate the importance of your reviews. Include review sites in your marketing strategy for a boost in sales. (Photo:one photo/Shutterstock)

Facebook may be the king of social media, but if you have positive reviews on Yelp, that site could be bringing you more business.

A 2016 consumer survey from Nielsen, commissioned by Yelp, explored the purchasing habits of about 2,000 U.S. adults and suggests that review sites drive higher conversions than search engines or Facebook. Here are some of the findings and what they can mean for small business owners.

Related: How to Use Yelp to Get More Customers and Boost Profits

74 percent of consumers searching online for a local business turn to review sites at least monthly

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“Online review sites like Yelp offer reviews from everyone who writes them, not just your social network.” -Kim Brown (Photo: Kim Brown)

To find pop-up deals or get a feel for your brand’s personality, a user may check out your social media accounts. But to learn what other consumers think of your products or services, they’re more likely to go to Yelp.

“Online review sites like Yelp offer reviews from everyone who writes them, not just your social network,” said Kim Brown, founder and CEO of digital marketing firm Centrally Human. Because reviews are open to anyone and not filtered by the brand being reviewed, consumers see sites like Yelp as providing a more trustworthy, less biased assessment of your business, Brown said.

92 percent of consumers report making a purchase sometimes, frequently or almost always after visiting Yelp

Brown said that consumer online review sites tend to be one of the final steps consumers take when they’re making a purchase decision.

Related: How to Get Positive Online Reviews

“If you think of the traditional marketing and sales funnel, customer reviews are at the end of the decision process,” she explained. “Consumers have already done research and discovery. They know what their social network is interested in. They understand what their needs are, and now they want open review feedback to make the final decision.”

42 percent of consumers who visited Yelp say they made a purchase within a day or less

With more consumers using their smartphones to get information on the go, the time between looking at a review site, coming to a decision and then making a purchase is shrinking. The number of consumers who made a purchase within a few hours after visiting an online review site jumped by 212 percent since a similar Nielsen survey in 2014.

A group of friends at a shopping mall, for instance, may use the Yelp app to see what burger joints are close by and which have the best ratings. In general, consumers searching on the fly are seeking information for immediate use.

Related: How to Respond to Yelp Reviews

One platform doesn’t do it all

“Before jumping to conclusions with the study results, remember that Facebook and Yelp serve two very different roles in the customer decision journey,” said Kristin Ferguson, digital marketing director at The Markey Group.

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Matt Smith, founder and CEO of Modmacro, suggests using social media to drive customers to your website first before then directing the user to Yelp for verification. (Photo: Matt Smith)

Facebook is designed to build brand awareness with a highly targeted audience. Yelp serves consumers at the other end of their buying journey, giving final validation before a purchase decision is made.

“For example,” she said, “you may hear about a new restaurant  or a sponsored post in your timeline, and then go to Yelp, see the great reviews and decide to book a reservation.”

Instead of trying to compare apples to oranges, she said, small businesses should use both platforms to lead consumers through the buying process.

Matt Smith, founder and CEO of SEO and marketing firm Modmacro, also feels the Nielsen study findings should be looked at through the lens of the entire buying cycle. “I have no problem believing that 92 percent of consumers view Yelp before converting, it’s just not always that case that they started their research with Yelp first,” he said.

To get more potential customers pouring through the funnel all the way from top to bottom, Smith suggested using your brand’s social media presence to take consumers to your website first, “then drive the user to Yelp for third-party verification” to help close the deal — and win you more business.

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