What is Local SEO?
If you own a business, you’ve probably heard of search engine optimization or SEO. Its meaning is exactly as it sounds. SEO is the practice of optimizing your website to perform well with search engines.
Digital marketers use certain 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, if you want the right people to find your website through a Google search, you need SEO.
But what is local SEO? Again, the definition is pretty simple. While marketing gurus have a long list of techniques that they use to drive traffic to websites, there are specific SEO tactics that work best for local, brick and mortar businesses.
When done right, a good local SEO plan can help your business connect with local consumers and drive foot traffic to your location.
We’ve disc ussed a number of 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.
But one often overlooked factor that can have a significant impact on your local SEO is positive reviews. Consumers love to leave online reviews for products and services that they’ve used. If many of those reviews are positive, it can boost your SEO in a big way.
In this article, we will discuss:
- 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 important 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.
What’s more, 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 just scrolls on by.
So the effect of positive reviews on consumer behavior is a pretty 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? For this article, we’re going to be looking 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. That means that in order to do its job properly, a search engine needs to find the very best web pages that are 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.
In fact, not only do the search engines want to show users relevant links, they want to provide helpful information, and direct people to good businesses that meet their needs.
Imagine if people searching Bing for “dry cleaners near me” 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 yes, 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 the weight it puts on your SERP ranking on reviews.
Reviews on Google My Business 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?
Without positive reviews to increase your star rating, the answer is probably not. Why is this a problem?
There’s the obvious 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. 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 they 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?
There are a number of proactive steps that businesses can take to increase the number of positive reviews they have.
- Set up profiles on the top review websites. These include Google My Business, 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 My Business listing 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 are to do so.
- Ask for reviews. It’s that simple. You can do this in a number of 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 making 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. Simply ask them for their honest opinion as a valued and knowledgeable consumer.
- Give customers simple, easy-to-follow instructions. If the process is confusing, customers will get frustrated and give up quickly. Make it as easy as possible.
- Create touch points everywhere. Leave instructions and links to your Google My Business page on your social media profiles and website. Also be sure to encourage customers to view your when they visit your store and if they are open to it, to 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 very strict policy on the topic. Yelp does not allow for any instance where you can solicit reviews from your customers on their platform. Be sure to check out their policy so that you can be a good Yelp citizen.
Each local directory has their own policy so it is important to familiarize yourself with a platform’s policy.
All that said, Google looks to Google My Business reviews for their search algorithm, not 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, 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.
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.