Respond to and manage local Google reviews to boost your business’ SEO and search engine ranking.
Word of mouth carries more weight than ever for brands in the digital age thanks to the reach and amplification of online channels. Google reviews in particular can affect your site’s position on search engine results pages (SERPs) because they influence how Google evaluates your relevance for local searches.
With the shop local movement continuing to gain momentum, it’s critical to show up in local searches so potential customers can find you.
- According to Google, 66 per cent of shoppers report they want to shop local.
- Searches for “available near me” are up more than 100 per cent in the last year, while searches with the term “at home” have grown 10 times. This is true across all categories.
Prioritizing local Google reviews in your SEO strategy will help you rank higher on SERPs.
How to improve your local ranking with Google reviews
- Encourage customers to leave reviews
- Create a strategy to respond to customer reviews
- Use reviews to build brand awareness
What is local SEO
Local SEO — or local search marketing — is a digital marketing strategy to help businesses get discovered on search engines such as Google.
The difference between local SEO and traditional SEO is the focus on improving a business’s visibility in search. This includes a geographic descriptor — such as a city, postal code or service area — or the term “near me.”
Google’s local search algorithm focuses on three key factors to determine rankings related to Google My Business listings when someone has a query with local intent. These are:
- Distance: How close a business is to the location term used in a search. The closer a business is to a searcher, the higher its ranking.
- Relevance: How well a local listing matches what someone is searching for.
- Prominence: How well-known a business is and how much online credibility it has. This is where reviews come in. The more highly reviewed a business is, the higher it ranks on Google’s SERPs.
To improve your local ranking make sure your Google My Business listing is complete, accurate and up to date, and manage and respond to reviews.
What is a local Google review?
A local review is the assessment an online user shares on Google about a business. People can add reviews by opening Google maps, searching for a business, tapping on reviews and rating it or writing a review under “Share more about your experience.”
Positive ratings/reviews are a form of free advertising. Negative reviews could keep people away. In either case, brands should look at reviews as an ongoing conversation customers are having about the business online. While you can’t control what’s being said, you can take action to help ensure people view your brand in a positive light. The goal is to generate good reviews — and a lot of them — to get the attention of Google’s local search algorithm. This is how you can improve your local SEO ranking.
Research shows about one third of customers who post a negative comment and receive a response from a business will either turn around and post a positive one or delete the original negative comment.
Why are Google reviews important?
Google reviews help build your presence, credibility and relevance — all things Google wants to see to ensure it gives users the information they want.
Here are a few facts about the influence of reviews:
- 92 per cent of consumers read at least one review before making a purchase.
- 88 per cent of consumers trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- 97 per cent of consumers say customer reviews factor into their buying decisions.
- Reviews for local businesses influence up to 10 per cent of the search ranking.
On its Google My Business support page, Google recommends businesses reply to customer reviews. Here’s why: “When you reply to reviews, it shows that you value your customers and their feedback. High-quality, positive reviews from your customers can improve your business visibility and increase the likelihood that a shopper will visit your location.”
A study by TripAdvisor reported that hotels that responded to reviews received 12 per cent more reviews and their ratings increased.
Manage Google reviews to improve your SEO ranking
Encourage customers to leave reviews
Create and share a link with customers where they can leave a review. The URL should be specific to your business. Include the link in thank you emails, on receipts and at the end of chat interactions. Make sure you read and reply to the reviews customers post. This will help build trust by showing you care about what they have to say.
Create a strategy to respond
Good or bad, be sure to respond within 24 hours. That’s when most customers expect to see some sort of reply or acknowledgment.
When addressing positive reviews, show appreciation and thank the reviewer/customer for taking the time to post a review and for sharing their positive experience with your brand. Make sure your response is specific and personal, and let them know you are looking forward to them coming back.
Handle negative reviews as quickly as possible and always in a polite and professional manner. This is not the forum to argue or engage in an ongoing conversation. Keep the response brief: apologize and thank them for the feedback and do not go into any detailed exchange. If it’s appropriate, ask to continue the conversation offline so you can understand what went wrong and figure out how to fix it.
Build brand awareness
Google reviews are also an effective tool to promote your brand. In addition to boosting your SERPs’ ranking and click-through rates, they can be repurposed as customer testimonials on your website.
Google reviews offer brands an opportunity to stand out and rank higher on SERPs. Even better, a strong Google review strategy can help build trusting relationships with customers.