It’s well-known that customer reviews drive business by increasing brand trust, but do those 5-star reviews matter for your business’ search engine optimization (SEO) efforts? The answer is “absolutely”. With over 90% of consumers using the internet to find local businesses, many business owners don’t realize the SEO effects those reviews can have.

A 2019 survey shows that 97% of consumers read online reviews for businesses and that 91% of consumers say that positive reviews make them more likely to use a local business. As a matter of fact, according to that same survey, 76% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends. With online reviews being so influential, it’s up to businesses to tap into their potential.

Google uses user-generated content to improve your ranking

There are a lot of factors involved in Google’s search rankings. Positive online customer reviews indicate to search engines that consumers trust your business. So while Facebook, Yelp and other platform reviews can help your SEO results, focusing on Google is where you will see the most SEO benefits. 

When Google crawls your site it reads the content that it finds there to understand the nature of your business: the type of business, hours of operation, location and other details.

What you may not know is that up to 15% of Google’s search algorithm is generated by review signals: quantity (the number of reviews you receive), velocity (how often you are reviewed), and diversity (reviews from different users). 

Whether you use customer reviews on your website, generate them on Google My Business or both, Google utilizes the keywords found there for SEO.  Since the reviews which are not on your site are user-generated content, they provide unbiased details and keywords, which contributes to your local SEO ranking.

Google’s Knowledge Panel is the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) that assists customers with researching local businesses by consolidating the information from Google, Facebook and other sites, allowing customers to see information about your company without ever actually going to your website. 

But if you’re receiving positive reviews regularly it’s more likely potential customers will choose your business and click through to your business website.  Since SEO rankings are also influenced by click through rates, positive reviews can play a large part in that.  More click throughs can mean a higher ranking in Google’s search results.

Generating positive reviews improves local SEO

Since 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, and 52% of 18-54 year-olds surveyed say they always read reviews, generating positive reviews and managing your online reputation are more important for your local SEO than ever. Only 53% of people would consider using a business with less than 4 stars. 

Since Google reviews are free, for a small business this type of marketing can provide an incredible ROI by generating new customers and gaining customer trust. The only cost is the time spent managing and responding to reviews. Alternatively, you can implement an online review management platform like Podium to consolidate and simplify managing all aspects of your online reputation.

68% of consumers will leave a review if asked to do so which makes it a smart choice to make leaving that review as seamless as possible. Using a platform that streamlines the process and makes it easy for your employees to invite customers and for your customers to leave reviews will increase uptake considerably. A really effective platform will utilize text messages for invitations since this method results in a much higher response rate than email based platforms.

What do I do if I get a negative review? 

Google makes it extremely difficult to remove a negative review, even if you can prove that the person in question was not even a customer. Best practice is to reply to every review to explain your side, but only in a very factual way. If, for example, the reviewer was not a customer, you can say something to the effect of “we searched our records to research this situation and make it right, but we couldn’t find a record of the sale. Can you get in touch with us directly by phone or email? 

We want to make sure every customer has a great experience.” If it was a genuine clash, refrain from leaving an emotionally charged “backlash” comment. It will make your business look bad, no matter how in the right you believe you are. Just explain your side of the argument logically, and have someone who is not attached to the situation review your reply before you post it. Google suggests that posting regular responses to reviews – the good and the bad – is the best practice it recommends. While Google rarely signals exactly how its algorithm works, if it gives you a best practice to follow, you should be doing it as there is a high chance it figures into its algorithm. 

Utilizing the tools to promote positive customer interaction is an SEO best practice every business should use and encouraging customer satisfaction by earning 5-star reviews ensures that your local SEO ranking remains as high as possible.

ion8 has partnered with Podium, an online review management platform that helps to boost online reviews using text messages to improve response rates. ion8 is an all-in-one business consultancy with an experienced team of digital marketing experts ready to review your site and discuss all of the ways to optimize your SEO. To find out more about everything that ion8 can do to improve and manage your online reputation, contact us today.