Consumers’ purchase decisions are largely impacted by online reviews and public customer feedback. These influential sources of information also play a very important role in local search. Earlier this month, Google announced a change to its search results that will take reputable critics and publishers into consideration while searching for restaurants and bars. Because of this update and the impact online reviews already have on consumer purchase decisions, it is in the best interest of companies to utilize the online feedback of their businesses to drive their local search ranking.
Online Reviews and Local Search
A local SEO report by Moz determined that online reviews are one of the top seven factors that influence where and how a business appears in local search results. Certain aspects of online reviews, or “review signals” are used as ranking factors for local pack and organic results. This includes:
- The number of reviews your organization has
- The speed at which the reviews are generated
- Your business’s numerical ranking
- The diversity of sites where you have reviews
- The authority of people writing reviews about your business
Also, according to Moz’s report, these “review signals” can be a more influential factor than “social signals.” Google has identified three primary factors that are taken into consideration for local results:
Relevance or how well your business listing matches what users are searching for. Having complete, detailed, and up-to-date business information will improve your relevance, and match your listing and content to relevant local searches.
Distance is the proximity of your business listing’s indicated location and/or service area on Google to the location term used in a search query. The location term is the user’s location and is determined by location information about the device used to search with.
Prominence refers to the offline and online prominence of your business. Certain businesses, such as famous museums or landmarks, are more prominent offline. Online prominence is based on the information about your business that is available on the web. This includes online reviews, as well as online scores and ratings.
Improve Your Local Search Rankings Using Online Reviews
Claim Your Business Listing on Google My Business
The first step to improve your local search rankings is to get your business on Google. In order to do this, your business listing must be created or claimed using Google My Business.
There are other rating websites where your business will get reviewed or rated, including TripAdvisor, Facebook, Citysearch, Foursquare and Yelp. However, having a Google My Business account with your business claimed is crucial in order to optimize your local search ranking.
Claim Your Business Listing on All Relevant Review Sites
Once your business listing has been claimed on Google My Business, start generating a presence on other relevant sites. Yelp, TripAdvisor, Citysearch and Facebook are broad listing sites to begin with, but it is also important to create a presence on industry specific listing sites, such as Zomato (restaurants), DealerRater (automotive), and Healthgrades (healthcare providers).
By creating or claiming your business listing on all relevant sites, your presence is telling Google that your business is an active participant in the local search community.
Ensure NAP and Local Data Consistency
It is critical to remember to always provide the most correct, consistent and up-to-date business information when claiming your listings.
Numerous SEO experts have published information regarding the importance of NAP (name, address, phone number) consistency. Most significantly, inconsistent information will greatly affect your local search. If business information appears to be inconsistent or unstable, search engines are less likely to give the business a high-ranking in local search results.
Add Reviews to Your Website
Online reviews are considered dynamic content, which can boost your SEO. Reviews are also able to encourage user interaction and increase shopper confidence. By incorporating reviews onto their website, businesses are able to benefit in the long term.
Share Reviews on Social Media
Social media should not be used as another billboard to shove products and services in people’s faces. Even though social media does not have the largest impact on local search, it does not mean to stop updating your social media platforms.
Customer reviews play a main role in fostering trust between businesses and consumers. According to Forrester, consumers see reviews as more trustworthy than organic search engine results and promotional posts on social media.
The next time your business receives a 5-star review on Yelp, Google or TripAdvisor share it! Posting a link to the review on Facebook or Twitter can generate more trust between your business and consumers.
Respond to Negative and Positive Reviews
By responding to negative online reviews, you are letting customers know your business is listening to their feedback. Not to mention it creates fresh content that is typically crawled by search engines and drives engagement.
It is not necessary to publicly respond to every single review, but always remember to be polite and professional. The main priority should be to address the customer’s concerns. If the review is only compliments, say thanks!
Generate Positive Reviews
It is very important to have a plan in place for generating new reviews because they have such an impact on local search.
Running a social media campaign, customer feedback survey, or email newsletter to promote posting reviews is a great way to start.
Generating new reviews has numerous benefits including:
- Creating more opportunities to increase click-through rates (CTR) through rich snippets for ratings and reviews
- Encouraging an increase in the crawl frequency of pages where the business is listed or carn be reviewed
- Building review quantity, velocity, and diversity, which correlates with better rankings and higher CTR
Search engines use online reviews as a large factor for local search rankings because consumers trust and depend on what fellow consumers think. It is possible the reason Google has assigned an increasing value on reviews because they are what its users use and click on. Even though search tactics are continuously evolving and changing, as long as your business speaks the language of your consumers it will benefit your search performance in the long term.