If you want to attract more customers to your website and make it easier for them to find you online, you should pay attention to the quantity and quality of customer reviews.
By the end of this article, you should have a better idea of the positive impact customer reviews play on your search ranking and your overall reputation management. You will walk away with some easy-to-implement tactics to boost your business’s overall SEO strategy.
Why reviews matter
Today, the marketing and sales departments are suffering from a crisis of confidence. According to a recent Hubspot survey on how much Americans trust different professions, firefighters and teachers were at the top of the list. Can you take a guess where marketers ranked? Salespeople and marketers were at the bottom with only 3% trust.
The implications of this survey are far-reaching because people won’t buy a product or service from an organization they don’t trust. A logical spin-off from this fact is that a lot of the resources that businesses pour into marketing and sales are wasted. Take this one step further and ask yourself, if your customers aren’t listening to your marketing team, who are they listening to?
The answer is that they are listening to the feedback of your other customers. The fact is that 97% of consumers search online for local businesses. 12% of consumers do so on a daily basis! While trust in sales and marketing messaging has eroded, customers still trust reviews. Let’s now look at the ways to leverage customer reviews to amplify your local SEO strategy.
Respond to reviews
The Google algorithm generally ranks businesses that receive consistent, positive reviews higher in local organic searches. However, the algorithm also takes into account how frequently the business responds to and engages with the reviews. Active and consistent engagement with your online community highlights you as an authentic business that values and responds to your customers.
Remember that your responses will be available for public viewing, so keep your tone polite and professional. Your replies should be short, sweet, and to the point. You don’t need to respond to every single review, but as a rule of thumb, respond to at least seven out of ten positive reviews. But more importantly, respond to ALL negative reviews.
While Negative reviews can hurt, it’s important not to retaliate in the heat of the moment. One bad review will not sink your business, and your prospects are looking to see how you react to and resolve negative reviews.
Look at negative reviews as an opportunity to improve your service. If the negative review mentions a specific incident, take time to investigate the situation. Start by apologizing and focusing on remedying the situation.
Use structured data
The use of structured data or "schema markup" enables search engines to display more helpful information to users. You can embed schema markup into your website by using an HTML code that gives search engines greater details regarding the content on your website.
If you don’t have coding knowledge and skills, you can embed the schema markup with the assistance of Google's Structured Data Markup Helper:
A Local Business Schema Markup enables you to embed structured data into your website. That helps the search engine algorithms to rank your business higher on the SERPs in relevant local searches. It also helps your business stand out from the competition while increasing organic conversions. Moreover, it allows you to display relevant information (including reviews) more efficiently.
To further leverage your customer reviews and increase your search engine ranking, focus on AggregateRating and Review schema properties. The aggregate rating displays an average rating score, while the latter enables you to display pre-selected snippets of positive customer reviews.
Set up your Google my business page
Google My Business works like an online business directory. It lists everything from salons and restaurants to cleaning services and more. It can contain all basic and relevant information about a local business, including:
- Your address
- Online and offline contact details
- Business hours
It also acts as a touchpoint for your customers to interact with your business. Plus, it allows customers to leave reviews on your establishment. These reviews are displayed prominently.
Google My Business page is a free service provided by Google, and it is relatively simple to set up. After setting about the account, optimize your listings by providing all the details required. For example, add contact details, working hours, physical address, website URL, high-res images, etc.
Your Google My Business page is your conduit to reach out to thousands of users in your local area. It is also an easy avenue to request and collect customer reviews for your business.
Generate UGC on review sites
UGC stands for "User Generated Contenet". Websites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and BBB are platforms where customers share their experiences with different brands based on UGC (reviews are UGC). Clients can leave reviews of the businesses they have purchased from and interacted with.
Search engine algorithms treat these reviews as UGC (User Generated Content), and they constitute an important ranking signal. Check reviews for popular words and phrases used by your customers. Those words and phrases can be used as keywords to optimize your website. SEO is about a wide bandwidth of activities that include garnering reviews. Using the right keywords and building links to your site from high domain authority sites will help you rank higher.
Gated and non-gated reviews
Don’t miss out on opportunities to improve your reputation and ranking. It’s OK to request your customers to leave reviews both on the GMB listing and the third-party review platforms, although the platforms tend to frown on asking specifically for "positive" reviews.
One way around that, that is a kind of gray area, are "gated" reviews, where you ask:
A) if the consumer had a good experience and then,
B) if they did you ask them to leave a review as a second step.
Gated reviews are also frowned upon by review platforms generally, but, well, it really works well... just sayin'.
In the end though, if you focus on providing good products and services, most customers would be willing to leave positive reviews. All you need to do is ask.
Focus on collecting in-depth reviews
Search engines like Google use reviews as a ranking marker for local SEO. The search engines want to display the most relevant and highest quality results to a search query. Reviews are a major signal to gauge the reputation of a local business and its content. Top-rated establishments with many positive and recent reviews will rank higher in the SERPs.
When you ask your customers for reviews, request them to write 3-4 sentences instead of just “good” or “excellent.” Google’s new product review algorithm is designed to reward in-depth, high-quality reviews which show expert knowledge of the product or service rather than thin, low-quality reviews. The depth of the review highlights the value that Google places both on reviews and quality content.
Positive and in-depth reviews mean better visibility for your website and hence, higher traffic and conversions. These reviews open the door for new customers to discover your business.
Search engines rely on several signals to determine which local businesses rank where. One of those signals is customer reviews. More positive customer reviews signal search engines that your business is doing something right. Responding to these reviews also shows your business cares about its customers.
That’s why you need to encourage more customers to leave reviews. And don’t just focus on the glowing ratings. Go through the negative reviews as well and offer solutions to dissatisfied customers.
You should also know that the process of acquiring customer reviews and using them for your local SEO is not a one-time activity. It is an ongoing process that will show results over time. So, keep providing excellent services, seek customer reviews, and use this guide to put those reviews to good use. Your SERP ranking and overall business performance will start improving in no time.