We’ve spoken to several companies lately spending outsized portions of their digital marketing budgets on pay-per-click advertising with a minimal focus on the impact organic search results could have on conversion rates and lead generation. In fact, experts estimate companies will spend $135 billion on pay-per-click advertising in 2016, with some high-purchase intent search terms like “insurance” averaging more than $50 per click.

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Google processes 40,000 searches per second, every second of every day, so paying to control the message at the top of key SERPs is an attractive proposition. But here’s a simple truth that smart marketers have always known: no amount of advertising can compete with word of mouth, which, in the age of the internet, means customer reviews.

Here are four reasons managing customer reviews in organic search is smart strategy to add to your digital marketing arsenal so you extend your marketing reach beyond AdWords.

1. AdWords ads miss 70% of potential leads

Pay-per-click advertising can be an effective tool for capturing consumers who are ready to purchase, but do you have enough of those customers each month to sustain and grow your business? Consider the following statistics from Hubspot:

  • 70% of the links users click are organic search results, not paid search results
  • 75% of search users don’t scroll past the first page of organic search results

That’s a lot of potential customers skipping right over your AdWords to the organic results, which brings me to the next point…

Did you know that nearly 90% of consumers consult online reviews in organic search before making a purchase? And they trust customer reviews more than advertising. In a consumer survey by Reevoo:

  • 52% of respondents said friends’ recommendations influenced their buying decisions
  • 48% said consumer reviews
  • Only 24% of people said they trusted advertising

So if you run the PPC campaign at Esurance, and the third organic search result for your company name is “452 complaints and reviews about Esurance” with a sub-2-star rating attached, your pay-per-click ad dollars would be better spent partnering with third-party review sites to raise your rating.

3. Partnering with review sites helps paint a complete picture

We know that customers who are happy with their experience typically won’t go out of their way to share their story, which results in an imbalanced view of the customer experience that fails to paint the whole picture of what a brand could offer a potential customer. When brands partner with ConsumerAffairs, we help them collect customer reviews paint a picture of the whole brand experience — the good, the bad and the ugly. And we do the extra work to verify reviewers and their stories, regardless of rating, to give our audience the most balanced and authentic vision of what they could expect from the brands on our site.

4. A better reputation means better lead conversion

Google estimates that companies with positive (but not perfect) reviews and ratings in organic search experience a 17% rise in click-through rates, and according to Target Marketing Magazine, organic search traffic has a 25% better conversion rate than equivalent pay-per-click traffic. Who wouldn’t want that?