By Kristy Sturgill • July 27, 2018

The Importance of Reviews for SEO

Online reviews help SEO

SEO often gets chalked up to some type of highly-complicated website concept reserved for the most experienced developers and marketing or media experts.

It’s not.

While we’re not going to be talking about the ins and outs of SEO (this time), we are going to talk about a powerful SEO strategy that can skyrocket your business to the front page of Google, especially for local searches.

A Quick Look Back

SEO has been evolving for decades. People who’ve been working in the industry since businesses began adopting online platforms to reach customers can remember a time when hiding hundreds of keywords was the most effective way to land on the front page of Google or other search engines.

 (Check out our Ultimate Guide to Online Reviews)

Search engine algorithms are immensely more advanced now than they were even a few years ago. Some of the old strategies designed to “game the system” will now more likely result in penalties.

About eight years ago, Reviews and their relationship with search engine results became a big conversation after one business claimed if it treated customers badly and got reviews from it they would have more customers because they ranked higher than their competitors on search engine result pages.

The story disturbed Google so much that the company produced an in-depth statement talking about the types of solutions they could implement to stop the problem. Per usual, they never delve into too many details about the workings of their algorithm, but they did offer solutions, one of which is the now visible Google reviews that show up on search results.

Reviews aren’t a new feature of the internet. In fact, they showed up nearly two decades ago, but now people actively seek out reviews more frequently about business, products, apartments, restaurants and other services. 

People trust reviews. In fact, a 2017 survey by podium found 93 percent of customers say online reviews affect their purchasing decisions.

 Local SEO

Reviews Affect Local Search Results

Are you looking for a good cup of Joe? Do you want to find a new apartment complex or the best place to rent a kayak? Who do you call if your sink is broken? All of these questions (and more) take people to their mobile device or laptop to look for solutions.

Local SEO is when potential customers near you start looking for products or services online, and the options that show up for them on the front page are close to them in proximity.

For example, if you’re looking for a coffee shop in Chicago, you don’t care about options in Dallas. Google knows this so it won’t provide you options in any other city but Chicago. 

The first results on Google are often local coffee shops and not only that, they are local coffee shops with the most reviews and the best reviews because Google’s mission is to provide users with the best relevant results for their inquiries.

 Reviews provide social proof

Reviews Provide Social Proof

Quality reviews send signals to search engines that your product or service is good and potential customers should be able to find it.

Google is hesitant to focus too strongly on sentiment, but regardless of rankings, negative reviews can be pretty damaging. In fact, 1-3 bad online reviews are enough to deter the majority (67%) of shoppers from purchasing a product or service

Not all reviews are equal. Search engines are weighing:

  • The velocity of reviews
  • The number of reviews
  • The keywords in the reviews
  • The authority of the review site.

 User generated content and reviews

Reviews are User-Generated Content

Customers become your most effective marketing team for your company because they are telling other prospective customers about their experience.

In an interview, Google’s John Mueller explained that user-generated content (or reviews) were a great tool for providing accurate context and more content for the search engine to analyze.

When customers are adding reviews to your site on any platform, they are generating keywords, backlinks and internal links relevant to your brand. Marketers think a lot about these details, but customers can improve your rankings by simply expressing their opinion.

Users might also generate more relevant long-tail keywords that a company or brand may not think of using. So, they are not only giving companies insight for strategy, but they are also giving search engines more keyword variations.

 How to get more reviews

How Do You Get More Reviews?

If you don’t have any reviews, then you’ll lose your advantage in competing for the front page of google search results for local options. Finding reviewers isn’t always easy, but here are a few strategies to get started.

Ask for reviews. While it seems intuitive, a lot of businesses miss opportunities because asking for a review can feel awkward or uncomfortable for some.

Create materials both printed and electronic that show customers how and where they can share their experience with your brand. Whitespark has a free tool you can use to create printable instructions for your customers.

Respond to your reviewers thanking them for their time or addressing any problems they’ve included. Taking the time to let them know they’ve been heard is a good way to inspire other customers to provide a review because they’ll know it won’t be a waste of time.

Another way to generate more reviews is outsourcing the online reputation management tasks to an outside agency with the software and manpower to tackle the work. You’ll have the benefit of being proactive on review platforms without having to invest a large amount of time managing the workload.

Learn more about online reviews with our FREE ultimate guide. It’s the next step you can take to help your business thrive online.