There are a myriad of search engine optimization (SEO) practices to look at when trying to improve the local search engine rankings for your business. Google, Bing and Yahoo each have their own algorithms that attempt to bring the user the most relevant and useful information possible when performing a search, but one relatively new (and very important) factor to consider is ratings/reviews. Now, of course, reviews have always been important for you and your business – nobody wants a bad review – but ratings and reviews are now factored into where your website might rank in search. But, they need to be procured in a manner that’s search engine friendly and SEO approved. Let’s take a look at how to accomplish this.
Why Reviews and Ratings Are Important
Ratings and reviews are a huge conversion factor for getting users to click through and make a purchase. Obviously if you have 5 stars and a ton of reviews, then your business will be seen as trustworthy. And that’s what its all about in today’s online marketing world, isn’t it? The power has shifted from the days of you telling the consumers what to purchase, now to the consumer telling other consumers what product or service is credible. One way that this is happening is through customer ratings and reviews. Establishing this trust is crucial for your brand, but algorithms in search engines have now created reasons for SEO-minded local businesses to encourage reviews and ratings as well. Check out some reasons why:
Google Maps Featuring Reviews
Google’s map search layout prominently shows ratings and reviews to help give users immediate feedback to help them make a snap decision.
Ratings & Reviews Can Influence Rankings
n local search, ratings and reviews do impact rankings for at least three types of searches; map searches, the local carousel and mobile searches.
Google Maps says outright that the “highest-rated” businesses near you will be returned when you search with local intent.
A study performed by Digital Marketing Works, and later quoted by Search Engine Land, found a “very strong correlation” between reviews/ratings and where you placed in the Carousel. Of course, there are other factors at play here, but it makes sense to me that Google would display the “best” businesses first to increase user satisfaction.
With mobile device searches, review counts and average ratings affect ranking and are prominently displayed.
So, with this in mind, how do you get reviews and ratings the right way for the purpose of SEO?
Find out What Review Sites Google Pulls from Your Specific Industry
Every industry is different, so you want to make sure you find out what review sites that Google will consider in ranking for your business category. Try doing a Google search and look at the other local listings that are showing up for your intended search term. Take a look at the review sites that Google links to repeatedly for your competitors and then go obtain reviews with those sites.
The Obvious: Have Great Customer Service
You need to have happy customers to survive, and if your customers are happy, you will get good ratings and reviews. Nobody wants a negative review.
Don’t Pay For Reviews
Though it may be tempting, Google forbids giving incentives for reviews.
Encourage Customers to Write Reviews
Encourage your customers to leave reviews using a soft-selling approach. Make suggestions in your newsletter, ask customers after a good experience or put up review-site logos in your place of business.
Display Reviews in Your Place of Business
More soft selling … display reviews where customers can see them. This tells customers that you not only value their reviews, but also provides proof that your business deserves praise. Bonus … it subtly lets customers know what review sites you are utilizing.
Don’t Force Users to a Particular Review Site
Having reviews distributed evenly among various review sites looks most natural to both search engines and users alike. If all of your reviews are one site, Google will suspect that you have fabricated the process. Give your customers a choice of several review sites. It would only be natural for Google to give preference to Google reviews (probably true), but don’t ignore other industry review sites (See #1 above).
How Many Reviews is Enough?
You don’t need that many reviews – just enough to stand out amongst your competition. Getting a bunch all at once looks unnatural, but so does having 200 reviews compared to your competitors’ 2. Closely monitor how the competition is doing with ratings and reviews and get enough to stay ahead of the pack.
There are many software products out there that can help you to manage your reviews (e.g. Google Alerts). But, you can also do Google exact match searches (inside quotation marks), social media site searches and so on. The point being, monitor your online reputation.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, there are over 200 factors (Google) that are considered when deciding on your SERP (Search Engine Results Page) ranking. Ratings/reviews are just one of the factors to be considered, but in my opinion, one of the easiest to handle yourself. Simply garner some positive online reviews from your customers and that’s it! Google, Bing and Yahoo will do the rest of the work for you. What are you waiting for?
Bruce Clay on Local Business Reviews.