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How your small business can use reviews to improve local SEO

By Alexandra Gavril - January 23, 2017

Did you know that 90% of customers’ buying decisions are influenced by online reviews? If you don’t already have a strategy in place for acquiring reviews and managing your online reputation, now’s the time to get started.

Why? Because online reviews have a great impact on:

  • Your rankings in local search engines
  • Which search results get clicked on
  • Users’ purchasing decisions

That makes online reviews vital to your local SEO strategy.

Don’t know how to get started? In this post we’ll walk you through all you need to know, from the importance of online reviews to how to acquire them and on which sites.

Let’s get started.

Why you need good reviews

Getting good reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, Foursquare, TripAdvisor or Trustpilot can entice more people to check out your business, increase conversions and help improve organic search engine rankings.

Reviews stand out in the search results. Great reviews on search engines like Google and review sites like Yelp can help attract more customers to your site, as they often feature prominently in search results. But local reviews aren’t helpful just for cafes, restaurants and hotels, they’re helpful for any local business out there.

Reviews can help improve conversions. Whether you’re looking to get people to purchase your products or services, or simply to sign up to your mailing list or to download a whitepaper, having good reviews can make people feel more comfortable about giving you their money or information.

Customers often choose highly rated businesses or businesses with lots of reviews. Some sites like Google and Yelp allow people to sort the listings by the most reviews. If your competitors have online reviews and you don’t, it means your business won’t be visible to potential customers so you’re missing out.

Why reviews matter for local SEO

Search engines love online reviews. Why? Because customers love online reviews. It helps them predict whether they can trust a business or not, whether they’ll be happy with their purchase and whether they can rely on that business to help solve their problem. Online reviews are a quick way to do this so it’s no surprise most people turn to them time and time again before making a purchase. Because of this, search engines use reviews as a factor when deciding how to rank businesses.

Additionally, according to MOZ’s Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, SEO professionals said they believe that review signals such as the quantity of reviews, review velocity, review diversity, etc., are a significant factor in local search rankings.

Here’s a pie chart they provide to visually break down the different variables:

MOZ's Local Search Ranking Factors Survey

Google has also started showing reviews by critics and customers in its local search results. This means that good reviews can help your business stand out in search even more than ever. You can learn more about these kinds of search results here.

Google My Business is a must for local SEO

Claiming your official Google My Business listing is essential for local search as the reviews from your page are the ones showing up in the local pack snippets. Claiming your Google My Business page takes just a few minutes, it’s free and one of the best things you can do to improve local SEO visibility for your business.

When setting up your page, make sure to include:

  • A unique and enticing description of your business
  • The right categories
  • Opening times
  • A local phone number, business address and email address
  • Reviews from customers

Check out our beginner’s guide to local SEO for local businesses for more information on how to set up your Google My Business page and what other details to include.

How to find other great review sites for you and your industry

While Google reviews are the most important source, that doesn’t mean you should ignore other sites. Together, they create signals and links that tell Google about the relevance of your business, which can help increase your search visibility.

Here’s how you can find other great review sites that are important for your business:

  • Search on your brand names. Run a search on your business name, with and without adding “reviews” to the search. This will show you most of the public reviews you already have. Create accounts on the sites where people are writing about your business, then respond to both the positive and negative reviews.
  • Search on brand names of your top competitors. Run a search and see which sites come up in the top results.

Based on these searches and results, create a list of the top review sites you should be focusing on. Create accounts or update your profiles on the sites where you’re already present. This ensures that customers and other users of the review sites see your updated information.

How to attract reviews

Once you’ve found your top review sites and updated your profiles, you need to encourage customers to leave glowing reviews. For that to happen, you need to ensure that you are doing everything to provide the best possible customer experience. That’s because most customers will feel compelled to leave a review when they’ve had a great experience buying from you.

Now, here are a few other things you can do to attract reviews:

  • Ask customers when they’re in your store. Hand out cards, print it on receipts or simply ask them to leave a review.
  • Email them post-purchase. If you have a mailing list with your customer’s email addresses, put it to good use. Simply send them an email thanking them for their purchase and asking them to leave a review online.
  • Make use of social media. Share an occasional Facebook post or tweet asking your customers to write a review detailing their experience with you. Just don’t do it too often.
  • Offer free samples or trial versions to get more people to try and test your product. This will increase the number of voices talking about your product.

For even more tips, check out our post to learn how to attract more reviews from customers.

Wrapping up

Now that you know how important reviews are to your customers and to your visibility online, make sure to get as many as you can, but in a natural progression over time. Getting online reviews should be a part of your ongoing business processes.

Want to know more? Check out this article on how to promote your business in your local area