As more consumers turn to the web before buying, online reviews are making the difference between a sale and a lost customer.

More consumers are finding online reviews provide them with a wealth of information that can inform their purchase decisions. Positive reviews encourage people to try out new businesses, while negative analysis tells them it’s better to stick with brands they trust, online and off.

Yelp recently shared data from a Nielsen survey, showing that four out of five Yelp users go the site to read reviews before patronizing local businesses. This makes it imperative that marketers steer online conversations by publishing web content about their products and services, while also making it easy for consumers to quickly find contact information like hours of operation and location.

It’s estimated that 55 percent of Yelp users convert after reading online reviews, whether that entails visiting physical store locations, making purchases online or scheduling appointments. Nearly all (99 percent) have completed transactions with businesses they found on the site and 90 percent do it in the span of a week.

To optimize web presences for local search discovery, marketers must ensure companies’ contact information is readily accessible and accurate. Yelp also recommends business owners post photos of their locations online because individuals searching for local businesses spend two-and-a-half times as long on pages with pictures than listings without them.

55 percent of Yelp users convert after reading online reviews.

Brands’ web traffic might also be at stake when it comes to online reviews. Google recently revamped some local search results (displaying relevant listings in a moving carousel at the top of the page) and a preliminary study found users were more likely to click on domains with the most reviews. Therefore, it’s wise for marketers to encourage patrons to share experiences online.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.