Importance of Online Reviews for Local Business and How Local SEO is Affected
Google has recently added elements to their map search results layout that makes it easier to see your businesses customer reviews and ratings. Customers searching Google Maps for local businesses are presented with the highest ranked companies first, based on reviews and ratings.
A recent article from Bruce Clay, Inc states that “Ratings and reviews are a huge conversion factor, more influential for getting users to click through and make a purchase than business citations or most other elements of local SEO. If your search result has 4.5 stars and 18 reviews (compared to fewer for your competitors), that’s strong social proof that your product or service is trustworthy. But besides increasing users’ trust, recent search innovations have created new reasons that SEO-minded local businesses need reviews and ratings.”
They go on to explain that features such as the Google search Carousal, and Google Now for mobile devices, use reviews and ratings to assist in ranking these websites. Showing the “best” businesses first in search results leads to greater user satisfaction, so it makes sense as far as Google is concerned.
So how does this affect your local SEO efforts? Obviously you can’t control which reviews are displayed to existing or potential customers, but there are a few SEO-minded approaches you can take to help increase page rank and show up at the top of search results.
Here are a few recommendations to get local reviews in a way that is both ethical and follows SEO-approved standards.
1. Find out which review sites Google pulls from for your industry.
Do a search for your industry to see what sites Google links to repeatedly for your competitors. Focus your efforts on those review sites.
2. Never pay for reviews.
Google forbids using incentives to gain reviews and the FTC has ruled it illegal for bloggers to incentivize endorsements. It may be tempting to offer a free meal in exchange for a positive review, but don’t do it.
3. Encourage customers to write reviews.
You can, however, use a soft-sell approach to encourage happy customers to write reviews. Add a note in your newsletter or post review-site logos in your place of business.
4. Display printed-out reviews in your place of business.
Display positive reviews where people can see them. A remark on menus, specials, and other printed media lets customers know you value their reviews. Make sure you add the logo of the review site so customers know where to go to view them directly.
5. Connect with customers from the start.
Connect with your customers through social media and email campaigns. Reach out to customers and be responsive to their ideas and respond promptly to all communication.
6. Manage reviews and testimonials.
There are many software tools to help you monitor your online reputation. One such program is Google Alerts, which notifies you by email of any mentions of a search phrase you identify.
7. Have great customer service!
It goes without saying that the most important factor in getting great reviews is happy customers. Focus on customer satisfaction and do what you can to make things right. And as iSOOSi Internet Marketing Consultant, Ammon Johns says, “If your service is terrible, stay away from local SEO.”