In an age when the competition has become even more vicious for small businesses, online reputation management is one of the key ways you can set your business apart from others.
For several years, Google’s algorithms have been cracking down on websites they deem to promote less-than-savory content. In the same vein, online businesses have been trying to crack what makes Google tick. However, as we steadily move towards an increasingly digital world, we do understand that Google is constantly updating its formula to better serve internet users (see our post on the Top 7 Local SEO Factors).
Google is extremely adept at following consumer behavior and trends, the way they pose a query, and what influences their buying decisions. As consumer behavior changes over time, so does Google’s algorithm which evolves to meet the consumer needs.
As such, search engines love online reviews as a deciding factor for search engine ranking because consumers heavily rely on online reviews. In fact,
93% of users report that online reviews help them decide whether or not they should buy from a certain page or website.
Although many businesses neglect to actively engage in managing their online reputation, these days this SEO strategy carries more weight than ever, so much so that
User review signals on business rating sites account for an estimated 15.4% of local search engine rankings.Source: Moz
When you think about SEO, online customer reviews are not the first things to come to mind, what with other focus areas like keyword research, content marketing, and authority link creation. However, they definitely should, especially if your business is a local one.
Here is a breakdown of some of the ways user reviews affect SEO results.
Google Trusts Online Customers Over Businesses
We know that creating quality, high-authority backlinks for our online business can be a strong factor for determining whether or not a website deserves to show up on the front page of the search engine results. When your online business receives a link from a credible site, Google sees it as a form of endorsement and a sign of trust, and rewards the site with improved visibility by ranking it on top. The same is the case with online reviews.
Google assess your business’ online reviews to check whether your brand is adequately meeting the needs of your customers, and if it is worth giving it a good ranking. When your website has a lot of positive reviews, it sends a signal to the search engine that the site is not just real and active, but also provides positive user experience and solutions to customers’ problems.
A few moderately negative reviews are also good for business. That’s because it not only gives your website a feeling of authenticity (it’s too-good-to-be-true if 100% of your users love your products/services) but also provides the business with an opportunity to solve the issue and create better relationships.
However, too many bad reviews are a sign that your services are not great, which can cause your search engine rankings to go down.
User Reviews Help Search Engines Understand Your Brand
Search engines command bots or “spiders” to crawl your website so that they can read, gain insight, and help connect customers to your business. The more content you add to your website, the more Google has to read and the better it understands what your business is about.
When a customer creates reviews on your website or business listing (such as Google My Business, Yelp, and Facebook Page), they will be naturally describing the characteristics of a product or service to Google. This can help the search engine understand your website better by filling in any information gap, and increase the chances for better rankings.
This is the reason behind why search engine results are so accurate – and they don’t show you cosmetics shops when you are searching for “beauty salons near me.”
88% of consumers have read online reviews to determine the quality of a local business.Source: SearchEngineLand
Great Reviews Translate to Improved Click-Through-Rate
Imagine if you were searching for a local burger joint and the Local Pack (that’s the section that displays a listing of your local businesses on top of the results page) comes up with three businesses with 3-star ratings and one with 5-star rating. It is pretty easy to guess which ones of the restaurant you are most likely to choose.
In other words, the better your user reviews and ratings, the better is your click-through-rate (CTR). An improved CTR over a long term has a positive impact on the SEO of your website. When a large amount of traffic lands on your website via the search engine, Google assumes you have something valuable to offer and gives you better rankings.
This means more visibility for your site, which will mean even more conversion for your business.
Every one star increase in a Yelp rating means a 5 to 9% increase in revenue.Source: Harvard Magazine
Reviews Can Improve Specific Product Rankings
Do you know that reviews can help improve not just the overall ranking of your site but also the ranking of your individual product and services pages?
This can be done by adding a visible review system in your product or services page that shows up on your search engines. This way, you will be reaching customers at the most crucial time: when they are specifically shopping for that product and are ready to make a purchase.
If your products have great reviews and ratings, similar to online pages, Google will rank your products high in the search results.
73% of customers think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant.Source: SEOResller
Online reputation management is especially important once your customers start offering their feedback through reviews. If your business is doing well, it shouldn’t be too difficult to manage your online reputation.
There are a lot of ways you can benefit from user reviews and one of the best ways is to incorporate reviews over the entirety of your website. To make sure you do not miss anything when someone mentions your business online, sign up to Google Alerts to get notified. This can help you take a more proactive approach to reputation management.
Responding to reviews leads to improved sales and revenue.Source: ReviewTrackers
If you do get a negative review, do not lose your cool or demand the publisher take down the post. This can actually make it seem you are hiding something from your customers, and can even aggravate the writer of the review enough to post your reaction to the review on social media platforms.
Instead, you should take this as an opportunity to fix whatever is considered not right with your operations. This can lead to better customer care, stronger policies, and better products and services. Taking the negative review as positive criticism can help you meet your customers’ needs better and earn long-term loyalty — which can translate to better search engine rankings in the long run.
If you’re looking for a proven strategy to get recurring, organic traffic to your site, simply request a free analysis of your website, region, and keywords.