How Important Are Online Reviews For SEO?

August 7, 2017
Brendan Egan

By now, you’ve probably been told time and time again that you should be monitoring your online reviews so you can manage your brand’s reputation. But, reputation management isn’t the only reason why online reviews are important to your business. These reviews also play a role in how your pages will rank within local search results. Here’s everything you need to know:

How are consumers influenced by reviews?

Consumers often ask other people for opinions on products or services before making a purchase, and online reviews allow them to hear feedback from dozens of people with just a few clicks of the mouse. According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center, 82% of adults in the U.S. say they sometimes or always read online reviews prior to purchasing an item for the first time. If you think that this behavior is limited to one age group, you would be mistaken. Although younger people are more likely to rely on online reviews to help them make decisions, 59% of adults aged 65 and older and 75% of adults between the ages of 50-64 said they sometimes or always use reviews.

People who read online reviews tend to be more impacted by a negative review than a positive one. Fifty-four percent of adults admitted that they pay more attention to negative reviews when making a purchase decision, and only 43% put more weight on the positive reviews of a business.

Based on this study—and many others that echo the results—it’s clear that online reviews play a huge role in attracting new clients and growing your business.

Where do consumers find online reviews?

There are a number of different popular online review websites, so it’s important to understand which ones customers are looking at to learn more about your business. It’s been reported that 63% of consumers use a search engine such as Google or Bing to see online reviews, while 37% go directly to a website such as Yelp. This means if you want the majority of people to be able to find information on your business, you have to improve your local search result ranking.

How do online reviews affect your Google ranking?

Search engines are well aware of the many studies that show how heavily consumers rely on online reviews before making purchase decisions, which is why reviews play a role in determining a business’s position in local search results.

Google has stated that local search results are ranked based on three factors: relevance, distance, and prominence. Relevance refers to whether a business matches the terms used in the search query. For example, a local Mexican restaurant’s website would not be displayed if someone searches for Italian restaurants. Distance is defined as how far away the business is from the person who is performing the search. If the user does not specify a location in the search query, Google determines distance based on what the search engine knows about the user’s location.

Then, there’s prominence, which refers to how well people know the business. Big businesses that are well-known in the offline world have a slight advantage here, because Google knows that these businesses are prominent. However, another way that Google determines prominence is by looking at online reviews. The search engine looks at both the number of Google reviews for a business and the average rating of the business based on these Google reviews. The more positive reviews you have, the higher that you will rank within local search results.

How much of an impact do reviews have on your local search results? Google doesn’t go into specifics, but according to Moz, reviews play a significant role. The website found that review signals are one of the top five factors that determine whether a business will be listed in the “local pack,” which features the top 3 businesses with their basic information and ratings alongside a Google map when someone performs a local search. “Review signals” refers to the number of reviews a business has, the frequency that the business gets new reviews, and the ratings of the reviews. Moz also reports that review signals are one of the top seven factors that influence where a business will rank in organic search results.

The Moz study places review signals above social signs, which include Google, Facebook, and Twitter engagement, which gives you a better idea of how important reviews are to your ranking.

How can you increase your online reviews?

Now that you know how important online reviews are, you may be wondering how you can get more customers to write reviews about your business. If improving your local search ranking is your goal, then your first step should be to claim your business listing on Google My Business and add information about your business.

Then, begin to solicit reviews from customers. There are a number of ways that you can do this. Many businesses send follow up emails to customers who have made a recent purchase asking them to leave a review about their purchase. Other businesses solicit reviews by encouraging their followers on social media to leave a review about their experience. You should also include links to your Google My Business page and any other review sites that you manage on your website so people know exactly where to go to leave a review. Whatever you do, don’t leave fake reviews in order to improve your local search ranking. Search engines are becoming better at weeding out fake reviews, and this may end up hurting your ranking instead of improving it.

Reviews are just one of the factors that determine where you will rank within local search results. For more advice related to digital marketing and local SEO, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.





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