Reviews and Consumer Research
It seems that no matter how many roofing contractors we speak with over the years, the vast majority underestimate the value of online reviews. For years, client feedback has impacted local listings, brand perceptions, and lead generation. While we certainly understand the value of online reviews when it comes to SEO for roofers, our team at Roofing Webmasters wanted to better understand how they influence homeowner decision making.
In particular, our search marketing analytics team was eager to know just how much online reviews impacts the shopping process.
- Do consumers routinely check online reviews prior to selecting a contractor?
- What sort of ratings must a contractor have to be considered for selection?
- Where do homeowners prefer to look for online reviews, if they do at all?
- How much to consumers value online reviews stack up vs personal recommendations?
Based on old 2015 studies from Pew Research, we already knew that at least half of Americans tended to check online reviews prior to making purchases. From our own experience, we also recognized a few major channels that homeowners were likely to check prior to selecting a roofing company. However, we didn’t know the weight of reviews in the consumer purchase process.
Key Findings From Our Online Consumer Study
Our Survey Process
In this latest research project, we decided to use a new survey tool from Google. With the search giant’s extensive reach and diverse user base available for us to dig into, it was easy to connect with people in our target market. Our team got to work designing questions that would unlock the answers we needed.
We dialed down on a target demographic most likely to own or rent a home. Each survey was sent out to 300 different consumers, mixed male and female. Respondents aged 35 and above, with each base broken down into four groups: 35 to 44 years, 45 to 54 years, 55 to 64 years, and 65+ years. The surveys were spread out across each region of the United States.
In short, we achieved a very-well diversified respondent pool. Below, you can see each survey that we sent out, along with the various answer choices available.
Our Consumer Surveys
When examining online reviews for a local roofing contractor, do you check more than one source? (such as Google Reviews, Yelp, etc)
- Yes, I typically check multiple sources.
- No, I usually only check one source.
- I normally do not check reviews.
If you needed to check reviews for a home roofing contractor, which of the following platforms would you check first?
- Angie’s List
- Better Business Bureau
- Other (please specify)
Would you consider a roofing contractor for your home if they had less than the maximum 5-star rating? If so, what is the lowest rating you’d be willing to accept?
- 4.5 – 4.9 stars
- 4.0 – 4.4 stars
- 3.5 – 3.9 stars
- 3.0 – 3.4 stars
- 2.5 – 2.9 stars
- I would not consider a company under 5 stars
- Other (please specify)
Which review star rating would make you feel most comfortable with hiring a roofing business?
- 3 – 3.5 stars
- 3.6 – 4.4 stars
- 4.5 – 4.9 stars
- 5 stars, the max rating
- Other (please specify)
Important Lessons For Roofing Companies
Lesson #1: Gather Reviews From Multiple Sources.
Google examines hundreds of signals within a website to determine how applicable it is to a user’s search query. Users crave trustworthy content. Since any roofing contractor can claim to provide the “best roofing services” around, Google looks beyond the website to establish stronger credibility. That’s where reviews come into play.
“Many websites are eager to tell users how great they are….When the website says one thing about itself, but reputable external sources disagree with what the website says, trust the external sources.” – Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines
Client reviews are one of the strongest indicators of trustworthiness, and thus a critical element in SEO for roofing contractors. They can make (or break) a business. While personal recommendations still play a large role in the consumer selection process, it’s clear that more and more homeowners are looking online. According to consumer research, approximately 78% of Americans “trust online customer reviews as much personal recommendations,” at least conditionally. (Statista)
We also know from prior research that collecting reviews from multiple sources produces much better results for your online brand. That’s one reason why we encourage roofers to establish accounts in multiple citation sources. In the surveys below, we attempted to determine just how important that diversity was to consumers, and where they looked for online company feedback.
Above, we can see a majority of consumers prefer to consult multiple review sources prior to choosing a roofing contractor. Only a small percentage claimed to consult a single source, while almost 42% of the respondents normally do not check online reviews. This may indicate a preference for personal recommendations, or a tendency to use Google Search ranking as a means of choosing.
From our survey results, we realized that gender only played a slight role in a consumer’s likelihood of consulting online reviews. Women are five percent more likely to check reviews than their male counterparts, and five percent more likely to check multiple reviews sources.
However, we do see a distinct gap between generations, with younger age groups growing increasingly more likely to check reviews prior to choosing a roofing contractor.
It’s easy to see the potential benefits of creating listings across multiple review platforms. For one, it creates more ties backlinking to your website. Second, it provides validation for consumers that check multiple platforms. Even if a sizable portion of your target market relies on personal recommendations first, you can’t afford to miss out on over half of your audience just because you don’t have sufficient reviews!
Next, we need to determine where the best places are to get client feedback. As you can see in the results below, Google Reviews and Better Business Bureau are high priorities for many consumers.
As we can see, each subsequent generation seems less likely to prefer BBB and/or Angie’s List over Google Reviews. The 35-44 age bracket also seems much more likely to consult Yelp than previous generations. Roofing professionals can use this data to determine where they need reviews from most, and where they should be advertising.
Lesson #2: Less Than Perfect is Still Great.
One of the inevitable struggles about collecting online user feedback is the steady trickle of negative reviews. Since roofers work so hard to establish their brand and service reputation, it’s intimidating to think that a few negative reviews can damage your business. In fact, we’ve talked with countless roofing professionals dead set on starting over (rebranding) because of a few one star reviews. If you’ve been the victim of overly biting criticism, don’t be so eager to shutdown your website!
People expect a few negative reviews. Heck, even Google expects it!
As their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines say, “Almost every website will have complaints about customer service, so it is important to look at various sources and reviews in your reputation research.” Consumers are more forgiving of imperfect ratings than you think. That’s what our survey respondents seem to say.
Males were especially likely to give a roofers with less than a 5 star rating a shot, though most ladies seem receptive as well. As we can see in the chart above, there’s a broad segment of consumers willing to accept ratings between 4-4.9 stars. Below 4 stars, the odds of acceptance fall much lower.
Let’s see how age factors into our findings!
Again, we see a growing divide between the oldest and youngest age brackets. Most age ranges willingly accept ratings between 4 and 4.9 stars, which is consistent with our gender analysis. Only in the 65+ age bracket do consumers still demand a 5 star rating. There’s an approximately 50-50 chance of losing a client in that age bracket if your star rating falls below a perfect score.
In some cases, consumers actually prefer contractors with less than a maximum star rating. In another one of our surveys, we asked what star rating made respondents feel most comfortable with a roofing contractor. The results were a little surprising!
From age 35 to 64, consumers showed an intriguing comfort with sub-perfect ratings. This could be due to growing wariness towards fake and misleading reviews, most commonly associated with perfect ratings. This could also indicate a perceived association between lower ratings and cheaper service pricing. Regardless, it’s clear that many homeowners are very willing to try out roofing contractors with less than spotless ratings.
So don’t go restarting your business just yet! After all, you can keep improving your overall star rating by continually asking for feedback from happy clients.
Taking Advantage of Online Reviews
When it comes to local SEO for roofing contractors, online reviews play an essential role. In many cases, they determine whether or not your business earns a premium listing in a local map pack (which offers huge traffic volume bonuses). As we mentioned previously, Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines clearly designate off-site reviews as a key sources in website grading.
On the consumer’s side of search, we see that roofing company reviews also play a pivotal role. From our surveys, we’ve gleaned a handful of important lessons for your marketing team.
Top Lessons on Client Online Reviews
- Google and BBB are the best places to start your review collection. Facebook, Angie’s List, and Yelp are distant seconds.
- Most homeowners till consider a contractor, even if they average less than a 5 star rating.
- At least half of consumers actually prefer a contractor with less than perfect ratings.
- Males are more likely to accept contractors with lower ratings than females.
- Younger demographics, especially aged 35-44, are most likely to check online reviews.
SEO Lessons For Roofers
Now that you understand how crucial online reviews are to your digital marketing efforts, keep up the good work with collecting them! A deep pool of fresh reviews makes it easier for Google to rank your website higher. Collecting them from a variety of resources provides even stronger evidence of your company’s trustworthiness.
If you happen to suffer a few negative reviews, don’t despair!
Bad ratings are most impactful when there aren’t many positive reviews to counter them. If a handful of snarky customers are taking your star count, make extra effort to ask happy customers for reviews. Too many businesses call it quits and rebrand themselves, when all they really need to do is talk more with their fanbase!
There’s a right way to ask for reviews, and there are many wrong ways. Here are a few rules of thumb you’ll want to follow as you expand your feedback pool.
- Never offer compensation, promotions, or discounts for client reviews!
- Never try to gather reviews (paid or otherwise) from someone who isn’t a client.
- Always ask for feedback within a few days of service completion.
- Explain how reviews make a huge difference for your business.
- Ask nicely! Train your team members to courteously ask following service.
- Provide links to your best review sites on a card, text, or email.
- Experiment! Find out which ways of asking work and which don’t.
If you haven’t paid much attention to reviews in the past, it’s never too early to start. Remember the lessons above, and you’ll be well on your way to ranking up in local search. In the meantime, our team at Roofing Webmasters is always happy to enhance your website and reputation management program.
For more tips on gathering reviews, or for a professional SEO consultation, give us a call at (800) 353-5758.