Various studies throughout the past few years have demonstrated how the business-to-business buying process has been transforming. In the past, buyers generally contacted vendors directly for more information on their services and products. Now, buyers have around 57 percent of the procurement process completed before they even speak to a vendor. A recent study by Google also unveiled that 90 percent of B2B buyers (of those who are online) use a search engine to research potential purchases. What are these buyers seeking?
Before, it was conventional wisdom that only consumers used other customer reviews to learn about different products and services. Now, business buyers are also looking for further resources like client reviews to learn more about a product or service as a part of their in-depth research process. A study by Avanade reported that 61 percent of B2B buyers look to third-party sources like reviews before approaching a business. Moreover, the same study reported that 42 percent of these B2B buyers have also reviewed a company on a third-party site.
Furthermore, how does the number of client reviews affect a company’s visibility? In a recent Clutch study, we found that doubling the number of client reviews can increase a company’s visibility by up to 60 percent.
As various studies have shown, the top results in search engine queries get the majority of views. We have also seen this well-known tendency on our directory pages. In general, the two highest positioned companies receive a significantly larger amount of profile views.
However, beyond the top two spots, we noticed that certain companies positioned lower down on the page were getting more profile views than similar companies listed one, two or even three spots above them. More specifically, we noticed that a company with a disproportionately large number of client reviews was getting a considerably higher amount of profile views than its surrounding competitors.
As a website that hosts client reviews, we know that reviews matter in the B2B buying process. What we wanted to find out was if a company had an increased number of reviews, would that improve their visibility? In response to this question, we took our own data and developed a study to examine how the number of reviews might influence profile views.
Holding all other variables constant, how does changing the number of reviews on a particular company profile affect the number of monthly profile views received by that company on our site?
In order to answer this question, we built a multiple linear regression model. Isolating the effect of the number of reviews meant identifying and controlling for the other major factors that drive traffic to the company profiles. These factors included company size, average rating, price and, most importantly, the company's position on our most popular pages.
Before running the regression, we needed to check the data for outliers. Two companies in the group were receiving abnormally high levels of profile views, as shown in this graph.
This observation matches the conventional wisdom that results pages generally have a long-tail distribution where the top few spots receive most of the attention. We decided to take these two companies out of the regression since their unique position sets them aside from the pack by definition. We also took out a third company that had a large number of reviews, far exceeding the reviews of any other company in the group. We felt these three companies were not representative of the average company on our site.
Having removed the outliers, the regression results were mostly what we expected. Position was the biggest factor when determining the number of profile views. The higher up a company was listed, the more views they got on average.
Number of Reviews
The number of reviews proved to be an important factor as well. Controlling for other variables, each additional review added slightly less than 20 monthly views to a company's profile.
As the number of reviews increases, the expected number of profile views also increases. For example, a company with 3 reviews might receive 150 profile views. Our model projects that by doubling their reviews to 6, this company could expect around 240 monthly views, or a 60% increase.
Average Rating of Reviews
Some companies worry about the potential negative effects of a single bad review dropping their average rating. However, our study did not show a significant correlation between average rating and visibility. Assuming the majority of a company’s reviews are positive, the effect of a single lower review appears to be negligible.
What Do These Results Mean for Companies?
Obviously, position is important for a company's visibility. However, position depends on various factors that cannot typically be controlled by the company. Companies can have some influence on the total number of client reviews on their profile. Firms that want to increase their visibility could encourage more clients to provide reviews.
What Do These Results Reveal About Buyers?
The model shows that buyers prefer to view profiles with more reviews. Clearly, buyers not only care about researching and reading reviews about a company, but they also care about the number of reviews that a company has.
Interestingly enough, other factors did not have as powerful of an effect on profile views as position and number of reviews did. For example, price did not have a significant impact on the number of profile views. Instead of buyers viewing companies based on a specific price range, buyers seem more interested in widely reviewed companies. This suggests that buyers care more about assuring the quality of service that they will be paying for rather than getting the lowest price for an unknown quality of service.
Similarly, our model suggests that visibility is not dependent on the average rating of reviews. As long as a company has an overall positive rating, views from potential buyers do not change based on small differences in average rating. Instead, views increase with a rise in the number of reviews.
Since buyers prefer to research companies with more reviews, encouraging past clients to provide reviews can be a great marketing strategy.