User reviews play a critical role in local SEO strategies. They are one of the cornerstones for brand development and reputation management on the web. A staggering 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations, which means that every review for your business has the potential to sway potential customers one way or another. To put all of this into perspective, let’s take a look at just how user reviews impact local SEO.
From the simplest perspective possible, online reviews give people the confidence to make decisions. No one wants to be the guinea pig. If a store has 4.8 out of 5 stars and 40 reviews, people trust that it is a good store to go to. If a store has 1.2 stars out of 5, people will be hesitant to visit the store – even if there is only one review online.
This fact is particularly true for new visitors to an area. Locals may already be familiar with the best hamburger joints in town, but tourists and travelers will need some way to gauge where they spend their money. Online reviews serve as a compass for their decision making.
Run a quick search for “restaurants in Detroit, MI” and you’ll quickly see that online review sites dominate the first page of Google. Once you get past all of the Google My Business listings, you have pages from Yelp, Time Out, TripAdvisor, and other sites where customers can post reviews online. Very few actual restaurant websites will make it to the front page, if any, depending on the saturation of the market in the area.
Google has always been a consumer-minded search engine. Its job is to connect people with the most value information on the web related to their searches. As a result of that, Google has adjusted its algorithm to appeal to online review sites when it comes to local searches. People trust reviews, so Google trusts them too – and the search engine works to promote those reviews as much as possible to steer people where they really want to go.
Google My Business is by far the most influential review site for businesses. Since Google claims 75.2% of the search engine market, it’s easy to say that a majority of your customers will use Google to find your business. Since Google puts Maps listings at the top of search results, having a good position in the listings could dramatically increase your visibility online. Setting up a Google My Business account is free, but there are some steps you can take to increase your visibility there. Feel free to contact us at High Level SEO to schedule a free consultation for your Google Places optimization.
As for other review sites you may want to be a part of, that depends on the nature of your business. Most businesses can benefit from having a Yelp account, but not all businesses work well with Angie’s List, TripAdvisor, etc. Search for your type of business in your area (“plumber Detroit, MI” or “craft store Irving, TX”) and see what sort of sites come up on your search. Register for the top ones so you can be as visible as possible online.
Now that you know just how important user reviews are for local SEO, you need to think about how you’re going to get positive reviews for your business online. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind:
If someone posts a negative review about your business, be professional in your response to it. If the review is a blatant lie, you may be able to dispute it with the review site and have it removed entirely. Don’t try to do this if the story is somewhat true though, as it may give the reviewer a chance to resubmit an even worse review post-dispute.
If the bad review is partly true, post a reply that acknowledges the problem the person faced, apologizes for the inconvenience, and provides a possible solution for the future. This will not improve your rating at all, but it will show future clients that you care about your business and your customers. Do not threaten the client, call him a liar, or do anything else that will come across as hostility. Maintain your professionalism at all times.
As with any digital marketing campaign, there is no way to tell just how long it will take for user reviews to improve your local SEO. Simply creating accounts on Google My Business and other review sites will automatically boost your search results ranking, but generating solid, consistent reviews takes time. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll see results from your local SEO efforts. Contact us today at (248) 295-2720 for your free local marketing analysis from High Level SEO.