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 regarding SEO for roofers, our Roofing Webmasters team wanted to understand how they influence homeowner decision-making.
In particular, our search marketing analytics team was eager to know just how much online reviews impact the shopping process.
- Do consumers routinely check online reviews before 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 do consumers value online reviews stack up vs. personal recommendations?
Our Study Goal: Determine the Impact of Reviews on the Shopping Process.
Based on old 2015 studies from Pew Research, we already knew that at least half of Americans tended to check online reviews before making purchases. From our own experience, we also recognized a few significant channels that homeowners were likely to check before 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 design questions that would unlock our needed answers.
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 we sent out and 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 more substantial 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 most reliable trustworthiness indicators and thus a critical element in SEO for roofing contractors. They can make (or break) a business. While personal recommendations still play a significant 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 as personal recommendations,” at least conditionally. (Statista)
We also know from prior research that collecting reviews from multiple sources produce much better results for your online brand. That’s one reason why we encourage roofers to establish accounts in various citation sources. In the surveys below, we attempted to determine just how important diversity was to consumers and where they looked for online company feedback.
Consumers Checking Multiple Reviews Sources Won By a Slim Majority.
Above, we can see that most consumers prefer to consult multiple review sources before choosing a roofing contractor. Only a small percentage claimed to ask a single source. At the same time, almost 42% of the respondents usually do not check online reviews. This may indicate a preference for personal recommendations or a tendency to use Google Search ranking to choose.
Our survey results showed 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 review sources.
However, we see a distinct gap between generations, with younger age groups growing increasingly more likely to check reviews before choosing a roofing contractor.
Review Checking Habits Shift With Each Subsequent Generation.
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 numerous 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 the best places to get client feedback. As you can see in the results below, Google Reviews and Better Business Bureau are high priorities for many consumers.
Males Were a Little More Likely to Check BBB & Angie's List Than Their Female Counterparts
Younger Generations Shift Away From BBB and Angie's List Towards Google Reviews.
As we can see, each subsequent generation seems less likely to prefer BBB 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 with 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. 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 shut down 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.
Over 60 Percent of Respondents Were Willing to Try an Imperfectly Rated Roofer.
Males were especially likely to give roofers with less than a 5-star rating a shot, though most ladies seem receptive. 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 four stars, the odds of acceptance fall much lower.
Let’s see how age factors into our findings!
Once Again, We See a Dramatic Shift Between Older and Younger Generations.
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, 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.
Consumers sometimes 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!
Males Seem Slightly More Comfortable With Imperfect Contractor Ratings Than Females.
Younger Age Brackets are More Comfortable Trying Contractors With Less Than 5 Stars!
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 scores. 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 happy clients’ feedback.
Consumers in Our Study Seemed to Heavily Value Ratings in the Better Business Bureau.
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 designate off-site reviews as key sources in website grading.
On the consumer side of search, we see that roofing company reviews also play a pivotal role. We’ve gleaned a handful of valuable lessons from our surveys 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 still consider a contractor, even if they average less than a 5-star rating.
- At least half of consumers prefer a contractor with less than perfect ratings.
- Males are more likely to accept contractors with lower ratings than females.
- Younger demographics, mainly aged 35-44, are most likely to check online reviews.
SEO Lessons For Roofers
Now that you understand how critical online reviews are to your digital marketing efforts keep up the excellent work with collecting them! A deep pool of recent reviews makes it easier for Google to rank your website higher. Receiving them from various resources provides even more persuasive evidence of your company’s trustworthiness.
If you happen to suffer a few negative reviews, don’t despair.
This Client Has Done a Fantastic Job of Collecting Yelp Reviews!
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 the extra effort to ask happy customers for reviews. Too many businesses call it quits and rebrand themselves when they need to talk more with their fanbase!
There’s a right way to ask for reviews and 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 ask after the 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.