Before the rise of digital advertising, word of mouth was the single most important factor in the success or failure of a business. The reputation of a business could take a serious hit if too many people complained about it. These complaints would spread and, in turn, tarnish the business’ reputation within the local community and beyond. The impact of word-of-mouth on businesses has only grown stronger over time. The only difference is brand reputation is now almost entirely digital. Google Reviews are a prime example of the new form of word-of-mouth that has emerged online. Do local reviews impact Google search rankings?
And, what is the connection between SEO and Google reviews? Read along to understand the impact Google Reviews have on search engine rankings.
Google on Local Reviews & Ratings
Customer reviews aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when we think of search engine optimization. Reviews don’t get much attention because there are many other major SEO focus areas to sort through, like content creation and link building. And yet Google Reviews do more than just help you rise in the local search results. They can alter a customer’s experience in its entirety.
Google’s algorithm takes into account three main factors when determining the ranking of local business results:
Google will prioritize relevant results that are physically close to you. Beyond physical proximity, reviews are an important trust signal that can help Google determine which business offers the best solution for that searcher’s needs. An Italian restaurant that has received hundreds of five-star ratings and reviews, for example, will rank higher than a similar restaurant in the same area that has received fewer positive reviews (given that all other optimizations are the same).
Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking and more positive reviews and ratings can significantly boost your business’s local ranking.
Google Reviews can help in increasing search engine rankings and boosting local SEO in general but it is important to keep in mind that Google’s organic search algorithms are entirely different and much more secretive. Even so, many marketers think that star ratings and reviews play a role in Google’s organic search results, as well.
The Importance of Responding to Reviews
Responding to Google Reviews can strengthen your brand’s reputation in the eyes of consumers. According to a local consumer behavior survey conducted by Rio SEO, 77% of local consumers expect a response from the brand within 48 hours if they contact them via a business listing or website.
And according to Google, “Responding to reviews demonstrates to customers that you read and care about their opinions. Your company’s online presence and foot traffic can benefit greatly from honest, positive feedback from satisfied customers.”
While responding to that customer, you are not only helping them but every person who searches and reads your response from there. Local SEO can be significantly improved by responding to online reviews. Further, this increases the likelihood of your company appearing in the Google Maps 3-pack; the top three results below the map on a local search result.
Responding to reviews can be difficult in industries where mistakes have serious consequences, such as the legal, healthcare, and financial sectors. Therefore, ensure you have a strategy for protecting and removing any sensitive information that may come up in a review. See Online Reputation Management for Regulated Industries 101 to learn more.
Tips for Review Response at Scale
Each year, as more consumers worldwide come online and become comfortable engaging with businesses in the space, there’s a significant rise in the number, scope, and significance of online reviews.
The people who give you good reviews are the ones who genuinely care about you and your success. Never ignore a positive reviews from customers without responding. These folks have taken the time to compliment your company. Not only would they appreciate a thoughtful response, but ignoring reviews tells prospective customers you aren’t very engaged with your audience.
Brands like yours have a unique opportunity as review volumes and importance grow: by responding to as many reviews as possible (even negative ones), you can boost customer engagement, fortify your brand and reputation, and retain as many customers as possible.
However, responding to customer complaints in a way that is personalized and authentic is essential. You must respond quickly across multiple review platforms while addressing the concern (regardless of its validity) and defending your values.
In most cases, customers upset enough to write a negative review do so soon after the event that caused them trouble. They will also anticipate a relatively quick reply from you. It’s a decent thing to do, and it helps keep things from getting worse.
In addition to a speedy response, value should be placed on all feedback, including negative comments. Even negative comments can help improve the product and future customer experience. This information should help your team identify and address the bumps and frustrations that customers face when interacting with your brand regularly.
Handling Reviews When Managing Multiple Locations
Handling reviews at scale is not an easy task. You need an online review management platform that keeps track of new reviews in one place and notifies the right people so they can act accordingly. Customers may be reviewing your business on a dozen or more different third-party review sites. At an enterprise scale, manual monitoring is impossible.
How to Get More Google Reviews
According to the results of Rio SEO’s annual local consumer behavior survey, the average person reads six reviews before visiting a business, and many consumers trust online reviews as much as, if not more than, personal recommendations.
Nearly half of all American adults (49%) say they consult online business reviews before purchasing a local establishment, according to a recent survey conducted by a third-party.
Moreover, local consumers reported putting more trust in reviews posted directly on the brand’s website than in reviews posted on third-party sites like Google, Yelp, or Facebook.
Your customer testimonials should be displayed prominently, not on a separate page. Put reviews front and center wherever readers contemplate your brand as a solution to their problems on your website. This means that local businesses absolutely must incorporate them into their Local Pages.
Timeliness is Key
Business owners should try to follow-up as soon as possible after interacting with a customer so that the interaction is still fresh in their mind. One benefit is that you can spot customer service problems early on and fix them before negatively affecting future interactions.
Ask in a Way that Makes Sense for Your Customers
If your email follow-ups aren’t generating many clicks, try sending some text messages instead. Statistics show that most recipients (82%) always read their text messages.
Be sure to remind customers to rate and comment at key points in their journey with your company. You can display a QR code, link to your preferred first-party or third-party review page, or otherwise make the ask at a variety of touchpoints, including curbside pickup, transactional emails, in-store, and appointment follow-ups.
Take Customers to the Review Page as Efficiently as Possible
Create a simple process for customers to follow to leave a review. With the help of URL parameters, you can redirect users from your Local Pages to the “Leave a Review” panel in Google Business Profile.
Making the Most of Existing Reviews
The majority of local consumers (63%) said that first-party reviews displayed on a brand’s website are likely to influence their purchasing decision, according to Rio SEO’s annual local consumer behavior survey.
Reviews given by customers on a company’s Google Business Profile can have a significant impact on its organic rankings and can be thought of as a form of amplified word-of-mouth advertising. Google’s local and organic search algorithms put a lot of trust in how you’re perceived in local reviews.
That means that the number of reviews, the recency of those reviews, and the overall tone of those reviews all play a role in whether or not your locations show up in the moments that matter, even before the reviews themselves affect a potential customer’s final purchase decision.
When potential customers are deciding whether or not to visit your establishment, reviews prominently display compelling, external validation of how exceptional you are.
Including a star rating next to a search result is just one more perk of using review schema markup. For this reason, our Local Pages always include the reviews schema.
It’s not enough to merely solicit feedback and wait for glowing testimonials to pour in. Nearly half of local searchers trust a company more when they see its representatives responding to customer feedback and interacting with them. As you respond to brand reviews from multiple locations, use these guidelines as a starting point to develop a method that works for your company.
Learn more about the significance of online customer reviews and how to effectively utilize this form of user-generated content. Check out Rio SEO’s free e-book, The Guide to Managing Local Reviews at Scale.