User reviews have been around for a while now; yet, their importance for businesses trying to maximize their online (and offline) presence is even greater in recent years. 88% of online shoppers say they’ve been influenced by a customer review when making a buying decision.

According to Brightlocal’s 2017 survey, nearly every consumer (97%) used the internet to search for local businesses in 2017. And a significant 85% of consumers trust the online reviews as much as the personal recommendations they get from friends and family. These numbers inevitably confirm how consumers are changing their online habits, becoming even more review-savvy, and opting for companies receiving higher volumes of positive reviews on a regular basis.

Google and other search platforms are not missing on this interest and opportunity to provide searchers with valuable and relevant reviews and ratings by incorporating them on their results pages. This, on the other hand, improves businesses’ visibility online, customer trust and confidence in their service and products, as well as potential conversion rates and sales.

There are two types of online reviews:

  • On-site, first-party reviews, left by customers directly on the company website;
  • Reviews from third-party sites like directory listings or social media, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Google, Facebook, TripAdvisor, etc.

What are First Party Reviews?

First party, on-site, reviews are probably the best way for businesses to offer unbiased and plentiful user-generated content on their websites. They’ve been a staple of eCommerce companies ever since they began, and service businesses are catching up to gain that competitive edge, stand out and rank higher in the search results.

For consumers, first party reviews mean you’re offering products and services that other people have actually bought, used, and (hopefully) enjoyed. The more reviews you have, the more time searchers will spend on your site, reading through the reviews, checking your product/service pages, “telling” Google that your business and offering are interesting to them.

Additionally, it is possible to apply Schema markup to first party reviews to help generate the star rating in Google’s organic search results.

What are Third Party Reviews?

Third party reviews are reviews that are posted on sites other than your own such as Google, Facebook, Tripadvisor, etc. One of the primary downsides of on-site reviews is that customers may see them as illegitimate or not completely accurate representations of users’ opinions. Third party reviews remove this perception of bias as they reside on other websites that are not under businesses’ direct control. Free from interference, this type of reviews gives potential customers a different kind of credibility from an outside source, indicates whether a business is trustworthy, and improves companies’ reputation outside their immediate circle.

Is One Better Than the Other?

Shortly put, no. Both types of reviews are extremely important as they provide buyers with valuable information shortcuts that help ease their decisions in this increasingly crowded, noisy and competitive online environment. They’re a truly powerful tool for customers to express their love, hate, or indifference for your business, products and/or services.

With that in mind, it is essential for every business out there to develop and maintain processes that encourage and manage both first and third party customer reviews. Make it easy for your clients to leave feedback on your website as well as on outside review systems that are relevant and beneficial for your business. Send out requests to help generate more reviews, and show your customers that you take their experience seriously and truly value their honest feedback. Make sure your website also displays the existing reviews you have from other sites like Google and Facebook. Our reviews widget can help you do both and stay way ahead of your competitors.