Local SEO matters.
Consumers now use search engines to find local businesses. Whether you sell products or services, visibility is absolutely key. It can mean the difference between strong revenue growth or struggling to meet overhead costs.
So you invest in a website design with professional images. You start building your social media presence. And you even bring in an SEO agency to work on your rankings. It’s certainly a great start and more than what most businesses do.
But there’s another factor that affects local rankings and even your bottom line: Online reviews.
Here we look at why online reviews form a critical aspect of your local SEO strategy. If you want higher rankings (and more conversions), you need customer reviews.
Why Customer Reviews Impact Local SEO
It starts with a search.
Then a look through the results.
But how do you possibly decide?
A survey from BrightLocal found that 92% of consumers read online reviews. And 51% indicated they were more likely to use a local business with positive customer reviews.
This makes sense.
After all how likely are you to buy a product or visit a store with multiple one star reviews? Not very likely. But if you see that average reviews for a restaurant or local business are hovering above four stars, then that will likely affect your buying decision.
Reviews are important for another reason: Google Maps.
Google made changes to its map search layout to prominently display ratings and reviews, giving users more immediate feedback. Here is an example of the local search pack for “Austin Texas pizza”:
The reviews that stand out are the ones with the star ratings. These are also the listings that are much more likely to rank higher, and attract more traffic and customers. It’s obvious which ones also have a higher click through rate.
Review signals attribute 8.4% in terms of local search engine ranking factors according to a survey conducted by Moz:
It’s clear that online reviews are critical for local SEO and boosting online conversions. But how do you get more of your customers to leave reviews for your business?
Attracting Local Reviews
It sounds obvious but it’s worth mentioning: Focus on providing a quality customer experience.
If you treat customers poorly, you can expect a torrent of negative reviews and sales to suffer as a result. But if you focus on providing a great experience to your customers (as you should be), then positive reviews will follow.
Not every customer will leave a review though so here are acquisition strategies to attain reviews:
- Ask customers: Most customers are happy to leave a review on your Google+ or Yelp page if you ask. This can be done either in person or over the phone after a transaction is complete. But never pay or offer incentives for reviews as doing so is against most review site’s guidelines including Google’s.
- Use social channels: Engage followers on your social media profiles such as Facebook and Twitter with a simple message or Tweet. But don’t spam your followers either.
- Set up a reviews page: One recommendation is to set up a new page on your site with links for customers to leave reviews. You can then use this page to link to your Google+ and Yelp pages.
- Set up signs: If you have an actual location where you regularly see customers, it doesn’t hurt to set up signs to ask for reviews.
It all adds up.
Positive online reviews for your business is incredibly beneficial. Having enough of them will display average ratings below your listing in the search results, attracting even more traffic to your site. Ideally you want to gradually accumulate reviews as a sudden influx of them looks rather suspicious.
In a perfect world, customers will always be completely satisfied. But this isn’t also the case so it’s important to respond immediately to any negative feedback whether on a review site or on social media.
As a business owner, you already have a lot of responsibilities.
You have orders to fulfill and employees to manage. But local SEO cannot be ignored if you want to stay competitive online. As consumers are easily influenced by what they read online, reviews absolutely need to be part of your internet marketing strategy