Local SEO Fundamentals – Online Reviews Impacts Your Business & Bottom Line
You need positive online reviews to rank well in Local Search
As previously discussed, there are elements of Local SEO ranking factors that fall under the ‘off-site’ category. Having covered the importance of having business listings consistency across the web, the next subject we need to address is why you need positive online reviews to rank well in local search as well.
The importance of good online reviews
It’s a well-known fact that the best marketing for a business is word of mouth recommendations. In the digital realm, this translates into the next best thing – online reviews. Online reviews are everywhere today and their importance is only growing.
They have major implications for their ability to affect:
– Consumers purchasing decisions
– Your rankings in local search engines
– Which search results actually gets clicked on
Online reviews impact customer purchasing decisions and your bottom line
Stop to consider a couple of real-world examples.
– Would you ever consider entrusting your pet to a veterinarian who has an average 3-star rating or below?
– Did you know that once an Uber driver’s average star rating drops below 4.6 they are given a warning and are placed under ‘quality review.’ If their ratings continue to stay low, they’ll be deactivated?
Not surprisingly, the research bears this out.
In their yearly Local Consumer Review Survey, Brightlocal has found:
- 87% of people say that a business needs a rating of 3-5 stars before they will consider using them.
- Only 14% of consumers would consider using a business with a 1-2 star rating.
- 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
- 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business. 68% of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1-6 reviews.
- 54% of people will visit the website after reading positive reviews.
- 73% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant.
- 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more.
- 58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important.
Understand and recognize that someone looking at reviews have already figured out what it is they need/want. How a business might satisfy that need/want and are now in the process of selecting a business that will. Keep in mind, consumers decide very quickly how they feel about a business based on its online reviews. So as a small business, your online reputation can directly influence your bottom line.
Online reviews matter for Local SEO
In light of this, it’s no wonder why Google and other search engines value and place a great deal of importance to a business’ online reputation as it pertains to SERP rankings. They are in the business of providing the best results to a consumer for their queries. It stands to reason the better and more diverse the reviews are, in all likelihood, the better the business is, and the more likely that they’re going to recommend it.
In fact, reviews play such an important role in your local search engine ranking, it is estimated to be between 10.3% -13.13% of your overall score!
The search results customers tend to select
While the most important factor to consumers is the overall star rating of that business, it is not the only variable that is considered in their decision to select them. Other important factors are the sentiment of reviews (i.e. positive or negative comments and statements), the ‘age’ of the reviews and the responses of the business to those reviews.
Basically, people try to get a more holistic view of a business’ reputation. They don’t always choose the business with the most reviews or the highest rank. They choose the business that fits their needs best.
The need for review diversification
While Google certainly favors reviews found on one’s Google My Business page, it’s not the only place that consumers look to research a business before making a decision. In fact, 59% of consumers look at 2-3 review sites before they make a decision about a business.
Nor is it the only place the search engines are looking. In fact, Google recently added review aggregates from other sites in their GMB page! Make sure your business is properly listed on the main review platforms, including the other big ones like Facebook and Yelp. If there are any relevant industry or geography-specific review sites make sure you are properly listed and set up for reviews there as well.
The diversity of reviews across different sites helps establish trust and authenticity, which helps your local SEO rankings.
However, before you start asking for reviews on any platform, make sure to familiarize yourself with its guidelines. Pay particularly close attention to the guidelines of Google and Yelp. They are both very particular and will suppress reviews if they don’t conform!
Good reviews are earned
Now that you understand the importance of getting good online reviews and how it can directly impact your bottom line, how do you go about getting these reviews? Before we discuss the process, it has to be stressed that a good review is earned. You have to be worthy of receiving that good review which means you need to meet or exceed your customer’s expectations. It goes without saying that customer service needs to be a key part of your business model. Every single person in your organization needs to be on board cultivating a customer-centric culture. If you do that the good reviews will be easier to come by!
Ask and you shall receive
Here’s the thing about online reviews. A case study by Modern Comment found that while over 90% of people use them to make a buying decision, only 6% will actually leave one! This means that the vast minority is having a disproportionate influence on what everyone thinks of your business! Think about it: If hardly anyone writes reviews, one bad review has a much bigger impact than it otherwise would! To combat this you need to drown it out with more positives reviews. That means getting people to submit them. Yet, when they asked the 1,017 people who said they rarely or never write reviews- why? The top two answers were:
#1 – Writing reviews are too tedious.
#2 – They forgot to write the review.
This means it’s imperative to devise ways to encourage and ask your customers to write the reviews in a simple and pleasant way. Trying to explain to them how and where to leave your reviews will likely only confuse & frustrate them, they’ll tune out and in the end, you’re left without a review. You’re much better off simplifying the process for them.
Seven ways to encourage customers to write online reviews
To address that, here are some really simple ways to encourage customers to write online reviews:
- Use this free “Review Handout Generator” by Whitespark and Phil Rozek to create handouts for customers that provide clear-cut instructions on how they could leave you a review on Google. For a few bucks, Phil will even customize a “3-Site Review Handout for Yelp, Google, and Facebook Reviews” for your business. This ‘zig-zag” handout guides your customers through their review options, starting with the most crucial websites you want a review on (Yelp, GMB or FB) and “zig-zagging” through available options. It’s great and worth the price! (Plus he gives a money back guarantee!)
- Add prominent links on your website where customers can review you on the review sites that matter to your industry.
- Inform customers which review sites you’re featured on and where they can find you by putting up signage in your location, such as Yelp decals. (Request a “Find us on Yelp” sticker here, if you don’t yet have one.)
- Make asking for the referral or review part of your routine. When you’ve completed a transaction with a happy customer, that’s the perfect time to ask for a recommendation or review. Or better yet, preface the exchange with a request like ” If you are happy with my work, can I count on your review?”
- Include language on receipts, restaurant checks or invoices saying something like, “Find us on Yelp” or “Leave us a review on Facebook”.
- Request feedback, testimonials and /or reviews by email
- If you really want to take it to the next level, use platforms like LocalBizGuru’s Review Generation and Monitoring Services to automate and implement a comprehensive review acquisition funnel and monitoring.
These are just a few of the tactics you can use. Brainstorm with your team and figure out other opportunities and ways to “make the ask”.
Now you’ve got a better understanding of what role online reviews play and how they influence consumer decisions. I hope this motivates you to be proactive and take your online reputation management seriously. After all, it’s your business and bottom line we’re talking about here!
To continue this conversation further, hit me up on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn! I look forward to hearing from you!
Stay tuned for our next post where we discuss the best practices of How to Respond to Online Reviews – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.