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How User Reviews Impact Local SEOUser 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.

Why Online Reviews Are So Powerful

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.

Review Sites Dominate Search Results

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.

Which Review Sites Matter Most?

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.

How To Generate Positive Online Reviews

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:

  • Ask People When They Come Through Your Business – You can print reminders on the receipts, ask customers while they’re finishing an order, hand out business cards with review information, and more. Don’t offer rewards for leaving reviews though, as that is against Google’s terms of use.
  • Gather Email Addresses – If possible, get email addresses from your customers and send out follow-up emails asking for reviews. “Tell us what you think! See what these other customers had to say about our business on Yelp…”
  • Provide A Genuinely Positive Experience – People are far more inclined to leave bad reviews than good ones. To entice them to say something positive about your business online, you need to wow them with top-quality service and support from start to finish.
  • Spread The Word On Social Media – Every once and awhile, you can reach out to your followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. asking them to leave a review for your business online. Don’t do this too often as it may turn some customers away.
  • Create A Feedback Page On Your Website – Dedicate a page of your website to online reviews with links for people to follow to submit a review for your business. You may set it up to generate the most recent review from each of the sites on the page so people can instantly see what others have said in the past.

How To Address Negative Reviews Online

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.

How Long Does It Take User Reviews To Improve Local SEO?

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) 234-4820 for your free local marketing analysis from High Level SEO.