The Impact of Reviews and Ratings on Local SEO

This can be further explained with the use of an example with a small business. Consider a local fish and chip shop in Bristol. The locals like the shop and the quality of the food, but they also want to know if there are any better places in the area. They will most likely look on a search engine for fish and chip shops in the local area. The shop’s objective is to be on the first page of the search results, and hopefully the first link listed. If they are able to do this, they are likely to bring in new customers who have a low risk of being unsatisfied because they are also looking for that specific product or service.

Due to the fact that local searches are getting more and more popular, local SEO is becoming even more important to small and medium-sized businesses. This is because having the first rank on the search results page is extremely beneficial to these businesses because they will get more custom and conversions. An effective way for a small or medium-sized business to get a chance at that first page is through local searches.

Nowadays, over 50% of searches are done on a mobile phone, essentially searching for local information. According to Google, people are combining phrases that include a location term, for example, a city or a postcode. When they search, over 60% are looking for a product or service. These individuals are prospective customers who are highly targeted as they are actively searching for the goods they wish to purchase and provide custom. It has also been identified that the conversion rates for local searches are very high in comparison to non-local searches.

Importance of Local SEO

If you can get your local SEO ranking in order, you will notice an increase in your organic traffic within a relatively short period of time. In the organic results, here’s a screenshot of the difference in the click-through rate of the #1 position in local results compared to the #1 position in organic results. From this, we can gather that getting listed in the local results has the potential to get a lot more traffic to your site as opposed to the organic results. This is especially important if your site is more geared toward online marketing.

Before we start on the impact of reviews and ratings on local SEO, let’s understand the importance of local SEO for a business in the first place. Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is an incredibly effective way to market your local business online, as it helps businesses promote their products and services to local customers at the exact time they’re looking for them online. This is done through a variety of methods, some of which differ greatly from what’s practiced in standard SEO, and some of which are far easier to manage using local SEO tools and can require specific changes to your website. While some of the changes that are made to a website using local SEO may be similar to standard SEO, it’s likely that the majority will be different.

Role of Reviews and Ratings

The importance of local SEO service came into focus from a web-based review firm’s study. The study showed that 20% of searches on Google were for local information. A more recent study from Yahoo and Nielsen states that 3 out of 4 online users are interested in finding local information, while 1 out of 2 users has a specific local topic in mind. But surprisingly enough, 60% of local businesses still do not have a listed address available on the web. Social networking and media sharing websites have also shown a heavy use of local information with check-ins, location-based games, and local events. This mass local information can be difficult for businesses to sort out and ‘organically’ propagate throughout the web. What it means in terms of SEO is that businesses need to be accurate and consistent with the information on their websites and throughout local directories. Developing new strategies for acquiring inbound links and positive reviews on the web from local customers will also carry more weight in this situation.

Factors Affecting Local SEO Rankings

Diversity of review sources Reviews from many different review sites can significantly improve a business’s visibility and increase the potential for the rich snippet to display. With the recent boom of local search and mobile usage, it is more important than ever to build your online presence in local search and on local review sites. This can be very beneficial since the rich snippet shows nearby places and the curated list.

Quantity and quality of reviews High quantity of reviews can improve your business from a credibility standpoint. It’s been shown that users tend to trust businesses more when they have a large number of reviews. However, the sentiment of the reviews is also considered; reviews that are high-quality, honest, and well-written often receive more useful votes, and can be highlighted by the user as such. These high-quality reviews are more valuable than the review count.

Relevance of reviews and ratings Local businesses trust reviews as much as personal recommendations. Make sure the rating is from 1 to 5 stars; this field does not support star counts (such as 4/5). Trustworthy reviews and ratings can increase visibility, build trust, and help the user make the final decision. Reviews are only valuable when they are honest and unbiased.

Relevance of Reviews and Ratings

In understanding the relevance of reviews and ratings on local search, it is important to see the process from the search engine and the searcher’s perspectives. In this case, the search engine acts as the matchmaker between the user and the best possible result. It does this by indexing an increasing amount of information on different businesses. This information is then compared to a searcher’s query, providing a list of results in order of relevancy. This can be improved by the business altering information on their site. An easier method, however, is to provide more information on different areas of the business elsewhere on the Internet. This could be accomplished by providing information on opening times, prices, events, or in the case of reviews that could give an overall impression of the business at a certain point in time. This is to entice the search engine to index more information on the business and to give the user a better idea of what to expect when visiting the business.

This is the most fundamental area of understanding for businesses trying to procure reviews or analyzing the benefits of reviews. In the recent study by Local SEO Guide, online reviews are estimated to make up 10% of how Google and other search engines decide to rank search results. This is a result of the high value that is placed upon consumers undertaking to read and write reviews. The study also found that reviews are a main component in the relevancy factors of local search. With the top two factors being review quantity and review diversity, accounting for 15% of how search engines decide to rank results. This marks a change from the previous understanding of reviews, where review quality was the most important factor.

Quantity and Quality of Reviews

According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2017, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This means businesses cannot afford to simply brush off the importance of reviews. The quantity of reviews and the ratings of a business are strong indicators of the experience experienced by the customer. The more reviews a business has, the more likely it is to rank highly. Frequently-reviewed businesses with an average star rating of 4 or higher will rank higher in Google’s local search results. Not only is the quantity of reviews a factor in determining the search ranking of a business, but the rate at which reviews are being posted is a factor too. An ongoing, consistent stream of reviews will help businesses rank higher than those with sporadic, infrequent review posting. This is another reason why customer interaction and encouraging the community to leave reviews is an important part of a local business’s marketing strategy. As well as quantity, the quality of reviews is another important factor. Review ratings are, of course, a reflection of the customer’s experience of the business, and those that are rated highly are likely to rank above those that are not. Keywords or phrases that are frequently mentioned in reviews – such as “friendly service” or “best coffee in town” – can improve search rankings. Phrases such as these that are relevant to the business can act as keywords. This, in turn, will result in higher rankings when these keywords are searched.

Diversity of Review Sources

With an increasing amount of consumers seeking out more reviews from a wider variety of sources, attaining ratings on multiple review sites is an effective way for businesses to optimize their local search rankings.

With review and rating habits constantly evolving, it is certain that consumers will likely seek out reviews from a wide array of websites in the future. According to the Local SEO Guide’s study in 2017, high-ranking businesses are more likely to have reviews and ratings that are dispersed across different sources. This suggests that successful businesses will have their ratings spread out over many review platforms in comparison to low-ranking businesses generally having ratings on one site. The data from this study also suggested that low-ranking businesses had an average of 38 reviews/ratings while those in the top 3 positions had on average above 50. This and further data in this study signifies the importance of diversity and quantity of review sources.

After Yelp, the next most used site was Facebook with 29% of consumers visiting the social media site to seek out reviews and ratings. A study conducted earlier by Review Trackers in 2013 showed 18% of consumers used Facebook, meaning this percentage has nearly doubled. This data showing the change of customer review habits has helped shape the way local businesses attempt to optimize their reputation. With more websites displaying customer reviews, it has made it increasingly important for a business to manage their ratings across multiple platforms. This is due to the available data suggesting that consumers are often overwhelmed with review choices and will not always search for reviews at the same site that they have previously used.

A study conducted in 2014 by Review Trackers concluded that Google was the most popular site for customers to find reviews and ratings (63.6% of consumers are likely to check Google reviews before visiting a business). The same study found that Yelp was the second most popular site with 45% of consumers searching for reviews and ratings. However, the study also found that the percentage of consumers using Yelp has declined from 51% in 2016 to 45% in 2017. This change was stronger than any other site in the study. This suggests that more and more review/rating site habits are changing.

This business’s reputation will always affect consumer behaviour and potentially influence purchase decisions. According to a 2008 study by Dr. Michael Luca, reviews posted on the internet can significantly impact the revenue of restaurants. This research estimated that a one-star increase in rating leads to a 5-9 percent increase in revenue. More recently, a study by The Local SEO Guide found that the influence of the diversity of review sites has grown. Since 2011, the prominence of reviews across a multitude of websites has increased.

Strategies for Improving Reviews and Ratings

– Satisfied customers matter. Warning or incentivizing consumers who had neutral or negative experiences so that they will write reviews might backfire and result in the creation of more negative content. It might be more prudent to focus on eliciting positive reviews from satisfied customers.

– Demographics and psychographics matter. Not all satisfied customers are equal. Some are more likely to be visible contributors to your online reputation than others. For example, satisfied younger consumers might be more likely to do a review than satisfied older consumers. Think about the satisfied customers who you already communicate with most frequently, and consider asking them for reviews.

– Honesty matters. In the short term, it might be tempting to write (or pay for) fake reviews, but successful long-term strategies for both individuals and companies usually involve earning real reviews from real customers.

Before delving into specific tactics for encouraging customers to leave positive reviews, here are some general rules and concepts to consider:

The most direct way for local business owners to improve their online star ratings is to solicit more reviews, ideally more positive, and avoid submitting more negative reviews. Easier said than done, of course. But there are a variety of proactive methods to accomplish those goals.

Encouraging Customer Feedback

Customers are more likely to leave feedback when prompted to do so. Hence, asking customers for reviews is often the more effective means of acquiring them compared with waiting for an unsolicited review. There are several methods of generating reviews. The most common practices are to suggest that the customer leave a review, either verbally or through a signage, after successfully completing a service or purchase. This is the practice generally used in business to business (B2B) service industries and in business to consumer (B2C) local services. Though effective in some instances, it can be problematic as companies are asking for a positive review. This can lead to dissatisfaction if a customer leaves a negative review, or it can create biased feedback. An alternative approach would be to send a post-transactional email with a request to leave a review. This method is effective in that emails can direct customers to leave a review on the company website or a review site listing. In addition, the email can be used to pre-screen customers based on their feedback of the service. If the feedback is negative, it can be used to direct the customer to a service recovery. A more advanced approach to gathering customer feedback and reviews is the use of a customer insight platform. Though there are numerous insight tools available, specific customer feedback and review platforms are rare. Such platforms can allow the company to obtain feedback from the customer directly to the company, and then where necessary display this feedback for public viewing. The feedback shown to the public can be restricted to positive feedback only, thus not damaging the company’s reputation. However, it is often stressed that a balance of positive and negative feedback, with a good company response to the negative feedback would benefit the company most in identifying areas for improvement and convincing potential future customers. An example of this customer feedback platform would be Feefo.

Responding to Reviews

When responding to reviews, you should keep the following in mind: – Respond quickly and regularly. The quicker you respond, the more of an impact it has. It shows that you care to take action on what the customer has said, whether it be positive or negative. Regularly is a lot harder with a large number of reviews; every now and then checking is all you really need, as long as nothing is missed.

Responding to reviews means having a feedback loop that invites customers to detail their experiences. It includes monitoring review sites and social media to find out what people are saying about your business. You can also directly engage customers who have had a negative experience to convert it into a positive one. You can mention to a customer that you can make their next experience a better one. What they say is then less for the benefit of the doubt and more to provide insight into exactly what went wrong and what can be done to fix it.

Managing Online Reputation

What to do in case of bad reviews: If your business has received mainly negative reviews, you may feel the need to add more feedback to counteract the negativity. However, if customers see a business responding defensively to negative feedback with more negative comments, it only makes the business look worse. You should be polite and thank the customer for their feedback. Showing empathy and understanding can also help improve your customer opinion. Explain steps you will take to improve the situation and encourage the reviewer to return to the business. If you are successful in winning back their custom, they may consider removing/changing their negative review. Responding to negative reviews is not something that should be taken lightly and the responsibility should be given to someone who can effectively remain calm, empathetic, show understanding and can delegate the problems brought up in order to find effective solutions. Depending on the severity of the internal problems and the amount of negative feedback, some self-assessment and use of customer feedback software can help identify key areas of improvement for your business. This may be a humbling experience, but a vital step to really understand its customers and identify how to make necessary changes.

Leveraging Positive Reviews

There are two main ways to leverage positive reviews for the sake of increased visibility in search engines. Businesses can seek to have the actual reviews themselves displayed in the search results for relevant keywords and phrases. This will amount to free advertising as potential customers browsing the search results see the rating and its associated positive sentiment and are thereby persuaded to click through to the business’s site. At the time of writing, Google was displaying seller ratings when it deemed fit, particularly when the searcher was expressing intent to purchase. The ratings were derived from customer reviews on third-party sites and would often be displayed for e-commerce stores with a high volume of sales. Unfortunately, this service is no longer free and businesses will have to make use of a Google partnered review service if they wish to partake. As an alternative, visit [Link] This resource outlines the type of structured data that can be included on a business’s site to give Google as much information as possible about the content of reviews, in turn making it eligible for display in the search results. This method is not guaranteed to result in review display and can be quite technical, so consideration of cost and benefit is advised. The other way to leverage positive reviews is through the use of sentiment snippets. This is the set of five review stars often accompanied by a brief sentence summarizing the reviewer’s sentiment. When these are displayed in search results, they can have a big impact on click-through rate. Granted, if the rating is poor it may have an adverse effect. The criteria are detailed at [Link] and again involves the use of structured data. The specific markup type required depends on the type of content to be reviewed. Examples are movies, books, and products. This method is more likely to result in a site link through to the page being reviewed rather than the actual review content being displayed.

Case Studies

Higher rated businesses are more likely to be viewed by their customers and are more likely to get more clicks to their website. These businesses are seen as more trustworthy and are able to convert more searchers to customers. In the chart below, you can see that as ratings increase, there are fewer and fewer businesses that get an above average amount of clicks. The cumulative clicks to a website from a search (Click Through Rate, or CTR) drops dramatically, and the Value Per Click increases with lower ratings.

Reviews on local listings are highly influential, and these findings have clear implications for businesses looking to make an impact in the market. The sample data was pulled from stores in many verticals which serve a local area. This set included 33,000 businesses with over 3 million reviews. This was coupled with a separate study looking at the cost consumers are willing to pay for different types of businesses based on their reviews.

Successful Implementation of Review Strategies

Upon doing this, Jason began to receive more and more reviews from customers as a result of working with the competitor who is a popular local painter and decorator. This was the first real time that Jason recognized the power of exchanging services with customers who have a large field of influence and that actual strategies needed to be put in place to solicit more reviews from customers. During the time Jason was doing this, he saw an average of 1-2 reviews per week coming in from past and present customers. Now with the potential power of reviews becoming clear, Jason spent the next 6 months seeking to build an internal business process that involved asking certain customers for reviews at specific touch points in their business interaction. This strategy involves identifying the customers who are pleased with the service at the end of a phone call or exchange and then following up with an email containing a direct link to his Google Places review page. This is the current review solicitation strategy to date and Jason has finished his first trial of implementing it with a customer referral who has seen the customer reviews increase.

According to the knowledge that positive reviews are able to drastically increase a business’s potential of increased sales, Jason has experimented with a few approaches to how his business solicits reviews from customers. Up to his first discovery call of the Get Visible program, he had been asking customers to leave reviews organically. This typically only brought in a handful of reviews per year. Jason recognized the potential power of reviews, knowing that a higher volume of reviews could potentially multiply the business revenue. He then hired a web developer who created a review page on his website that allowed Jason to manually enter customer comments and reviews. After implementing this strategy and tracking it over time, Jason found that reviews were still coming in minimally, about a few per year. Recognizing that a few reviews per year wasn’t going to make a significant impact, Jason had been approached by staff at the marketing company he had previously worked with (and someone he considered now to be a competitor) about trading services.

Impact on Local SEO Rankings

The study ranked local businesses in a city, taking the top 10 businesses from each industry and collecting their ratings from 1-5 stars. The industries examined included retail, hospitality, food & beverage, medical, and services. To avoid any bias that may affect the reviews, the IP addresses of the reviewers were concealed and changed to the location of the business. In addition, the researchers had local experts (i.e., people highly familiar with the city) also do the same ratings using IP addresses located at the business’ location. The reviews were then sorted and cross-referenced with the businesses’ rankings. This was done to control any possibility that the location of the reviewer could affect the search results.

With 90% of consumers reading online reviews before visiting a business, the importance of monitoring and managing your online reputation is more important than ever. The importance of reviews on rankings is a topic that has received a fair amount of attention, but there has been a dearth of research to help quantify the importance of reviews. Recently, the Local SEO Guide published results of a study they conducted on the impact of reviews on local rankings. The results are quite interesting.

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