Local businesses rely on reviews for success: When Google sees lots of reviews on a listing, they take note. A local business with a lot of reviews must be relevant and popular, and would be a recommendation that searchers want to see.
In fact, a Local SEO Guide study showed that reviews appeared to be more important than other factors such as keywords, linking, and posting. While this doesn’t mean you should drop everything in favor of reviews, it should tell you where you need to be focusing your efforts.
An Indispensable Asset
Reviews are highly regarded by customers and other businesses. Think about it: When you research your competition, who do you want to know the most about? You want to see who is the most popular in your area—if it’s you, fantastic; if not, you want to know what people are saying so you can up your game and be better than the best!
Content is Key
Even though reviews are valued more highly than many other ranking factors, they still have to be good quality for Google to really take notice. You’re more likely to show up at the top of the results page or in the local 3-pack if your review mentions keywords that you’re trying to rank for, or if the review mentions the city where your business is located. As with any other content, keywords and location are key to local relevance. Although you can’t control what your customers write in their reviews, you can help guide them with some information. For example:
Print reminders to leave reviews (and provide links to make things easier for your customers) on receipts or hand out a card with purchases.
Include tips such as “Please leave us a review at (URL). The best reviews help us ensure the continued delivery of great service. Include the location you visited and one way we met your expectations!” Or something similar.
You can offer incentives to encourage participation. For example, enter people in a raffle if they leave a review, or offer them 15% off their next purchase. It is important NOT to bribe people, but to simply offer a “thank you” or low-value reward to improve compliance.
Your Participation Matters, Too
It’s important that when people leave reviews, you take the time to respond to them. If they have a glowing review, thank them and let them know that you appreciate them taking the time to reach out to you. If they leave a less-than-glowing review, follow up with them and try to make things right. When other people see that you care about all your customers, it leaves a great impression. Furthermore, you may even change an irate customer’s mind. 89% of consumers could change a review based on how you, as the business owner, respond to their concerns. We have some more advice on dealing with bad reviews here if you’d like to get some more tips on this.
Interestingly, Google has also recommended that businesses respond to reviews as a way of improving ranking. So, while responses create a more professional atmosphere and a chance to make things right with upset customers, you also have the opportunity to improve your ranking. So be sure to engage customers by taking the time to acknowledge their reviews, no matter how mundane or potentially difficult it is.