Search Engine Rankings: Why Reviews Matter for Your Bottom Line

September 26, 2013

For consumers, the development of review sites such as Google+ for Business, Citysearch, Insider Pages, and Yelp have largely been a great development. It’s easy to quickly find out about the quality of service or products at a specific store or restaurant. It’s also simple to vent your frustrations with a bad customer service experience or give praise for exceptional service. But the impact of customer reviews on your business is significant because they carry a lot of influence and many business owners are unclear how to make the most of this trend. Here’s what you need to know about why reviews matter for your search engine rankings and your bottom line, and how you can develop a strategy to put customer reviews to work for you.

High levels of customer visibility

At the local level, customers frequently check reviews for stores, restaurants, bars, and be locally seo reviewsservices that they’ve never tried before. One study estimates that 90% of consumers will visit a review site before making a purchase. The impact for businesses is major because you no longer directly control the messaging that a majority of your prospective customers sees before you have a chance to market to them. In fact, after the all-important optimization work it takes to get your business to rank on the first page of searches, reviews are the second most important factor in turning potential customers into converted customers. And more customers translates to more revenue. Therefore, it’s essential that you encourage happy and returning customers to leave a positive review on relevant sites.

Frequency, recency, and sentiment all matter

How often are you getting reviews online? The frequency of reviews is an important factor in how Google views you. A business with a regular stream of reviews on a site such as Google is likely to be seen as more credible than one that gets an occasional review. How recent reviews are also matters. Older content is weighted less than reviews posted in the last few months, so getting reviews online needs to be an ongoing focus of your business. Finally, Google is able to measure the sentiment of reviews. Did the reviewer love your business or did he or she hate it? The key here isn’t just that Google may penalize you for bad reviews (although they may, as the algorithm continues to develop). It’s also hard to control which reviews show up earliest in the search results for your business – so prospective customers may see negative reviews before glowing ones. That’s why a review strategy is imperative for your business.

How can businesses improve reviews and encourage good reviews?

It’s never okay to purchase reviews or post fake reviews of your business. Google’s be locally seo reviews2sophisticated algorithm is able to quickly ferret out fake reviews, and you can face serious penalties for doing so including being banned from Google. Instead, focus on using a proactive ethical approach to capture all the benefits of genuine customer reviews.

  1. Give great service: Great reviews start with happy customers. If you’ve identified a problem or trend in your reviews, start by addressing that. Sometimes simple things such as a bit of customer service training or revamping how you ship products will address recurring issues and organically turn the trend of reviews that you’re receiving from negative to positive.
  2. Offer follow-up to unhappy reviewers: Following-up with customers who have posted an unhappy review is a must. Businesses that can quickly and transparently resolve a customer service issue online are seen as responsive. Many customers watch this with interest: an apology for a bad customer service experience or a business taking an extra step to right a wrong is often enough to overcome concerns about a bad review.
  3. Keep contact information current: Ensure that you’ve gone through the process to claim your page on each of the major review sites. At a minimum, ensure that your contact information and address are correct. Where possible, take advantage of opportunities for richer profiles. Consider adding a description, photographs, your logo, and other SEO information that may help you appear in search results. In addition to responding to negative reviews, take the time to thank people for good reviews.
  4. Ask customers to post reviews: Take the time to ask your customers to post reviews. This can be done in several ways. Include a request for a review on your priority site on your receipt or packing slips. Have a link that makes it easy for people to leave a review on your website and on emails that you send out after a purchase. Don’t be afraid to make requests verbally, in a friendly and non-demanding way, especially when they share their appreciation of your product or service with you. If you see an obviously happy customer, ask them to take a minute and let the world know.
  5. Leave reviews for businesses you encounter: Many businesses offer services to one another with some even having a long-standing business relationship. Set a good example by rewarding companies you do business with and give them a review. Let’s say a plumbing business has a regular auto mechanic who works on their company vehicles. In turn, the owner of the auto shop calls on that plumber to repair a broken water pipe. If the auto repair shop consistently does a good job, the plumber can leave a positive review and may even earn one in return for his plumbing job, although these reviews should always be the real deal based on an actual business transaction or series of transactions over time. After all, it’s all about credibility!

Reviews are playing an increasingly important role in local SEO and in expanding a business’s customer base. Companies that are working to get the attention of local customers can make significant progress by paying attention to reviews and encouraging happy customers to post on their behalf. A smart review strategy is an ongoing component of building positive word-of-mouth for your business.

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