Through social media and the power of reviews, the internet has given a larger voice and more influence to consumers. They are able to post their experiences and opinions of any business for the world to see. Depending on the review, this can persuade or dissuade future customers. Nearly 68% of consumers say that online reviews impact their purchasing decisions. So with online reviews able to make or break a sale, it’s extremely important that you pay attention to what your customers are saying about you online while also responding and engaging with them.

Online Reviews and SEO: How They Affect Your Ranking

Not only do reviews influence purchasing decisions, but online reviews and SEO may also influence how you rank on Google’s Search Engine Results Page (SERP). This may be especially true after Google’s most recent broad core algorithm update. Many SEO practitioners believe this update targeted the E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) of websites, which includes online reviews.

Online reviews are indicators to Google of the quality of your business, and can most likely affect your local rankings and lead to you being placed in the local pack on Google’s SERP. The local pack is a special list at the top of the page accompanied by local map listings. Google’s local pack appears when searchers are looking for something that is specific to their geographical location like restaurants or medical services. According to Google, managing and responding to reviews can help you improve your local rankings.

The higher you rank on the SERP, the more opportunity you have to drive traffic to your site. This means you need to be constantly evaluating your reviews, as well as interacting with and engaging your customers.

Evaluating Online Reviews

Once you understand the power of reviews, take a look at the feedback you have already received. Know what your customers are saying about your business and then implement a strategy to improve or maintain your reputation. When evaluating your online reviews, a few key things to look for are quantity, freshness, ratings, quality, and diversity.

  • Quantity: The more reviews you have, the better. The number of reviews signifies credibility and reputation to users and Google. To gain more reviews, you can send emails, have a “Review Us” page on your website, or ask personally for them too.
  • Freshness: Not only do you want a large number of reviews, but you also want recent reviews. Users don’t trust older reviews as much because they don’t see them as relevant.
  • Ratings: Potential customers will look at the overall rating of your business. Obviously, you want your rating to be high. If you are receiving multiple bad reviews that are pulling your ranking down, address the issue immediately by reading the reviews, responding to them, and trying to implement improvements.
  • Quality: When reading reviews, users want details. They want to understand what the business is and what it offers.
  • Diversity: Reviews that are accumulated from multiple sites are better than reviews from just one. Make sure you are engaging with reviews on sites such as Google, Yelp, Foursquare, and industry-specific sites like Trip Advisor. This will encourage other customers to leave reviews on the various sites as well.

Close up of various apps on a phone, showcasing Yelp to show review diversity.

After evaluating these factors, make a note of where you can improve. Maybe you have a large number of reviews but they are all from Yelp. Devise a strategy of gaining reviews on other sites. Or, maybe you have high-quality reviews that are across multiple sites, but your latest review is 9 months old. Make a goal and a plan to receive new reviews.

After looking at these factors, one of the most important aspects of online reviews and SEO is actually responding to them. For your business, it is critical that you are responding to negative reviews (as well as a few positive ones) because negative reviews can influence potential customers and your local ranking.

The Impact of Negative Reviews

Negative reviews can dissuade customers from using your business, so pay attention to any negative reviews you are receiving and take action. Don’t worry when you get a negative review here and there, no business is perfect! In fact, you can even benefit from negative reviews. Negative reviews increase the overall number of reviews for your business, which is good, along with actually increasing your credibility. What matters the most when you receive a negative review is when and how you respond to it.

Responding to Negative Reviews

Reading and replying to online reviews, especially when they are negative, is a great way to build customers’ trust and understand what your customers are looking for. You can gauge feedback and implement improvements for your business, and the way you respond to a bad online review can result in you retaining or losing a customer for good.

When you are responding to negative reviews, be aware of how you are responding. You want to maintain your professionalism and make the customer feel heard and understood. You never want to blame the customer or make them angry- responding to a negative review may be the last chance you have to convince them to come back. And retaining a customer costs you less money than acquiring a new one, so you will want to try and repair any relationships possible. Use these tips when responding to online reviews.

1. Keep it professional

When responding to a negative review, never make it personal- even if the reviewer has. It’s easy to feel attacked by a negative review, but instead of going on the defensive, try and evaluate the situation and understand the complaints of the customer. When you respond, use professional language and be courteous and kind.

2. Keep it short

Keep your response genuine and helpful, but don’t ramble. Long responses can overwhelm users, so stick to providing them with useful information.

3. Thank your reviewer

Thank your reviewer for the feedback. You can gain insights from any review that can help you improve your business. This will also show future customers that you are willing to listen and make improvements.

4. Empathize and offer solutions

Show the reviewer that you understand their frustration and then offer a solution. This can be a discount for their next purchase, a free item, a replacement item, or anything else. This goes a long way and could end up saving them as a future customer.

Five Stars to signify a five star rating for a business

One Last Piece of Friendly Advice

One important thing to note when talking about online reviews and SEO is to never pay for reviews or write fake reviews for your site. Google is extremely good at knowing if reviews are real or not, and paying for reviews can get you in big trouble with Google and other review sites. Don’t risk it- get your reviews honestly and fairly!

So, the power of reviews has a pretty big influence on your business. They can increase your ranking on local SERPs as well as convince consumers to purchase from you, as opposed to a competitor. Make sure you are evaluating and responding to reviews you are receiving and creating a strategy to gather new reviews from your customers. For other ways to improve your local rankings on Google, contact our SEO team today!