It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that positive reviews are essential to local businesses. But do you know how they impact Local SEO? The best SEO companies do, so you need to know too.
What is Local SEO?
You’ve probably heard of search engine optimization or SEO if you own a business. Its meaning is exactly as it sounds. SEO is the practice of optimizing your website to perform well with search engines.
SEO companies use specific techniques, like backlinking and on-page content changes based on their keyword research, to help their websites rank well for their target audience in search results. In other words, you need SEO if you want the right people to find your website through a Google search.
But what is local SEO? Again, the definition is pretty simple. While marketing gurus have a long list of techniques to drive website traffic, specific SEO tactics work best for local brick-and-mortar businesses.
When done right, an excellent local SEO plan can help your business connect with local consumers and drive foot traffic to your location.
We’ve discussed several local SEO techniques that have proven effective with local businesses. To name a few: local backlinks, optimizing for mobile users, and consistently using your complete NAP (name, address, phone number) across your entire site.
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But one often overlooked factor that can significantly impact your local SEO is positive reviews. Consumers love to leave reviews for products and services they’ve used. So, if many of those positive reviews are positive, it can significantly boost your SEO.
In this article, we will discuss the following:
- How positive reviews affect consumer behavior;
- The tangible effects of positive reviews on your SERP rankings; and
- How positive reviews affect click-through rates.
How Reviews Affect Consumer Behavior
Before we get into the technical impact of positive reviews on SEO, it’s essential to understand how your customers interact with reviews.
Many consumers make purchasing decisions based on online reviews. According to a 2017 survey, a whopping 85% of consumers trust online reviews just as much as personal recommendations and 73% of consumers trust a local business more if they have positive reviews.
Moreover, almost half of consumers will not do business with you unless you have a four-star rating or better. So when people see your listing on Google, they might only see your aggregate score. And there’s a 50-50 chance that score will make the difference between a purchasing customer and another internet user who scrolls by.
So the effect of positive reviews on consumer behavior is a big one.
Tangible Effects of Positive Reviews on Search Engine Rankings
Now let’s answer our core question. How do positive reviews affect your ranking in search engine results pages? This article will look exclusively at Google reviews since we’re talking about SEO today. What’s the technical word?
A Search Engine’s Mission
Think for a moment about a search engine’s job. Internet users type in a term, and the search engine spits out a list of web pages it thinks will satisfy their needs. To do its job correctly, a search engine must find the best web pages most relevant to the user’s search terms.
If they can’t do that, people will switch to another search engine that can do the task better.
Search engines want to show users relevant links, provide helpful information, and direct people to promising businesses that meet their needs.
Imagine if people were searching Bing for “dry cleaners near me” and received a list of self-service laundromats with broken washing machines and no air conditioning. Those consumers would probably move over to Google, where the local 3-pack gives them a map with store locations, addresses, phone numbers, hours, and star ratings.
Because consumers expect search engines to deliver results that will satisfy their needs, it should be no surprise that Google bases an estimated 10% of its weight on your SERP ranking on reviews.
Reviews on Google Business Profile are one of Google’s most important ranking factors when considering who gets top billing on its results pages. (Other factors include your proximity to searchers, inbound link volume and quality, local friendly keywords in your web copy, and use of citations or outbound links from your site.)
Click Through Rates Matter and Are Also Affected By Positive Reviews
Let’s assume for a moment that your business has landed in Google’s local 3-pack for one of your keywords. You’ve managed to do this despite having no positive reviews. Will potential customers click on your link or come to your store?
The answer is probably not without positive reviews and a high star rating. So why is this a problem?
There’s an apparent reason. You want people to interact with your link because that’s how you make sales. No click. No walk-in. No revenue.
But there are SEO consequences as well. For example, if your link is taking up prime real estate in the Google local 3-pack, but it’s not getting clicks, Google starts to think it made a mistake in trusting you. They realize that your link is not meeting consumer demands and drop you from the 3-pack. They might even drop you from the first page.
What Can Businesses Do To Gain Positive Reviews on Google?
Businesses can take several proactive steps to increase the number of positive reviews they have.
- Set up profiles on the top review websites. These include Google Business Profile, Yelp, Facebook, Yellow Pages, and the Better Business Bureau. People can’t leave you reviews if your business isn’t listed, so make sure you’re there!
- Create a direct link to your Google Business Profile from your website. Be sure to use a shortened URL to make the link more accessible. The easier it is for people to leave a review, the more likely they will do so.
- Ask for reviews. It’s that simple. You can do this in many ways, but Google prohibits businesses from soliciting Google reviews from customers in bulk. That means you need to ask your customers one at a time.
One popular method is to set up an email to go out to a customer after they make a purchase. The email would thank them for their business and provide a link to leave an online review. While this violates policies on some sites like Yelp, this is perfectly acceptable by Google’s rules. The email should not steer a customer to a specific review or rating but encourage them to leave you a review with their honest opinion as a valued and knowledgeable consumers.
- Give customers simple, easy-to-follow instructions. If the process is confusing, customers will get frustrated and give up quickly. So make it as easy as possible.
- Create touchpoints everywhere. Leave instructions and links to your Google Business Profile page on your social media profiles and website. Also, be sure to encourage customers to review your store when they visit and, if they are open to it, leave their own feedback and review for others to see.
Understand Platform Rules
While Google policy doesn’t prohibit the solicitation of reviews (provided it isn’t done in bulk), other popular platforms, such as Yelp, have a stringent policy on the topic. Yelp does not allow for any instance where you can solicit customer reviews on their platform. Be sure to check out their policy so that you can be a good Yelp citizen.
Each local directory has its own policy, so it is essential to familiarize yourself with a platform’s policy.
All that said, Google likely values Google Business Profile reviews for their search algorithm more than Yelp or other platforms.
Positive Reviews Matter For Local SEO
If you own a local business, you know that you need to employ some local SEO tactics to get your website in front of potential customers. Local backlinks and optimizing for mobile and local-friendly keywords are all important.
But positive reviews can make a big difference as well. Not only do they give consumers a reason to trust your company, but they impact your rankings in search engines like Google. They also increase your chances that consumers will click your link or engage with your business once they find you online.
Are you still confused about local SEO? Give us a call! Our team at White Peak can help you build up those positive reviews and improve your local SEO to help drive customers to your business.
Tim Woda is the CEO and founder of White Peak Marketing. He has been on the founding team of five successful start-ups and his digital marketing campaigns have acquired more than 800 million customers for his start-ups and White Peak’s client companies. Tim has been featured by The New York Times, Fox News, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and more. Under Tim’s direction, White Peak was selected as one of America’s Top Digital Marketing Agencies for 2021 by MarTech Outlook magazine.