Your business’s online reputation plays a major role in determining your local search engine rankings. The more listings and positive user reviews a business has, the better it will rank.
The Local Search Algorithm is complex. It looks at a whole list of aspects including external citations, on-site optimization, social media presence, listings on local directories, reviews and so on.
Reviews are critical to every local business irrespective of whether they sell online or not.
Online reviews hold a very important place as they affect:
- Your local search engine rankings
- Consumer’s decision to buy or not buy a product
- Traffic to your website
So, this answers the question: Are online reviews an important focal point for local SEO? Yes, they are critically important!
Now, comes the other part of the question: Why are online reviews so important?
Through this post, I’ll be covering how reviews affect customer’s decision to purchase a product, why they play an important role in your Local SEO campaign, which reviews are the most important and how can you get them.
Let’s get started.
Online Reviews for Customers
Users need reassurance and verification before they buy a product or make up their mind to use a service.
Before we discuss how customers use online reviews, let’s determine which stage of the purchasing cycle reviews fall into.
By the time customers start looking for reviews, they have zeroed down on their choice (of product or service). They are probably in the middle of selecting a business and researching how your business can help them with their needs.
The gap between reading a review and deciding to buy a product or service is minuscule. Therefore, your online reputation is the deciding factor when it comes to conversions.
Nearly 88% of the consumers read online reviews to determine the quality of local business.
Also, 67% of consumers say that they read up to 6 reviews in order to convince themselves about buying a product/service from a business.
A survey by Dimensional Research revealed that 90% of customers claim that positive reviews influence their decision to buy a product while 86% feel that negative reviews affect their buying decision too.
This helps us understand the importance of reviews from consumer’s point of view; how it steers their buying decision. Now, we will have a look how online reviews fit into local SEO ranking signals.
Online Reviews for Local SEO
To begin, online local reviews account for nearly 10% of the local search engine ranking factors.
The primary reason why search engines love reviews is because they make things easy for their users. Search engines constantly work towards providing instant and accurate information to the consumers on-the-go.The quicker and more effectively they do that, the more users will come back to them time and again. Reviews help customers make quick decisions about their purchases.
Google+ Local Reviews
Google+ local reviews have a direct impact on local rankings because Google trusts these reviews more than reviews left on 3rd party websites.
Since these reviews are directly linked to the SERP, your potential customers are more likely to see them.
On the search engine results page, below the link to your website, Google displays the number of reviews that your business has. If your business has more than 10 reviews, Google shows your ratings on a scale of 1-5 (which is derived from the ratings given by your customers).
You should always aim for high reviews. However, don’t be discouraged if you receive any negative reviews. Often times, you can use negative reviews to turn your customers around and have them advocate your business. In fact, customers tend to trust businesses that have a few negative reviews more because it is more realistic.
To improve your Google+ Local review score, you can either try to get positive reviews or “flag” the reviews which you think are unfair or lower your score.
Other Sources of Reviews
While Google reviews are very important, we cannot underestimate the significance of other major reviewing platforms like Facebook, Yelp etc.
These reviews along with Google local reviews generate signals and links to Google about the authenticity, relevance, and authority of your business. Thus, improving your search visibility.
Also, reviews on these sites support the points on Google reviews. It signals users that your business hasn’t just been going around targeting reviews, but you have a business that people actually like and talk about.
Here are a few online review sites that you should target for acquiring your business/product reviews:
- Amazon Customer Reviews
- Angie’s List
- Yahoo! Local
How to go About Acquiring Reviews?
Rather than waiting for the sheer brilliance of your products and business to drive the yearned reviews, try a more proactive approach:
- Be Real
“Fake it till you make it” does not work here. If your business does not care about customer service or feedback, there is absolutely no chance you can attract positive reviews. Even if your employees, friends or family write a “nice” review, eventually the real reviews will come out.
You should understand that customers are compelled to leave a review only when they’ve had an awesome or a horrible experience. Your aim should be to capitalize on the first.
- Ask customers when they are around
Get in on receipts, give out flyers, ask them for reviews while they pay the bill. Use a soft-sell approach
- Ask for reviews via email
A follow-up email for reviews would work great. Include details on how they can add a review for your business.
- Use social media
If you have a decent fan following, you can occasionally post or tweet asking for reviews. Also, you can connect with your fans/followers/subscribers via messages.
- Always reply to negative review humbly
Respond to criticism reasonably. Try to understand the situation, reconcile it and close it on a positive note.
- Put up notices in your store or office
Give out flyers, put up notices (which show the review URL) and signs around stores. All this will work for your business.
Online Reputation Management
Before we go on to discuss how to deal with negative reviews, I’d suggest you set up alerts via tools so that you get notified every time your business is mentioned somewhere or someone leaves a review.
Local RankWatch aggregates all your reviews under one dashboard and lets you track unlimited number of reviews on a weekly basis so that you never miss out on any word from any of your customers.
This way you can take a more proactive approach to online reputation management.
There’s hardly any business that does not come across an issue with a customer. With the right approach, you can resolve things before the customers resort to warning people about your business.
What you should not do at this point is panic! You don’t have to rile up your blood pressure every time you come across a negative review.
Instead, your first action step should be to cool down a little and write private responses to each of them.
Take that negative review as a general criticism. Try to start a conversation, understand the exact situation, see how you can rectify the situation and close it on a positive note. Wherever possible, highlight the positive reviews and ratings.
Also, negative comments or reviews offer scope for improvement in your customer care or internal processes.
Let’s discuss some professional tips to manage your Online Reputation Management.
Tips to Manage Your Online Reputation
If you are getting negative feedback about a particular product/service frequently, consider those complaints seriously and audit your internal processes. Try and abide by the rule that “The customer is always right”. Be flexible and come up with creative ways to provide customers what they want.
When you know you’ve messed up, give a genuine apology. Giving a real and transparent apology can go a long way in subsiding the situation and move towards reconciliation.
Also, try to make up for the situation through some incentives like offering discounts for the next purchase, replacing the product completely, giving a free service and so on.
- Don’t get riled up in online arguments
This is an easy trap. Even if you’re right, it’s likely that at some point you might lose your temper and end up saying something harsh or unprofessional. And if you’re wrong, that would tarnish your online reputation in the long run. Instead, listen to the problem patiently and offer the best alternative to your customers – it can be a free gift hamper, a free next visit and likewise. Be the sweetest you can in online conversations so that you get a positive public evaluation. Sometimes being professional is better than being right.
Over to you!
What is your review acquisition strategy? What is your approach towards dealing with negative reviews? Let us know in the comments below!