How To Use Online Reviews In Your SEO Strategy

Once upon a time, online reviews were just a background feature on the web. As time has gone on, search engines such as Google have evolved – and continue to do so – to implement updates so they can present the most useful information to the user. One of these improvements is online reviews.

In 2016 Google announced that they were introducing Reviews from the web to the Local Knowledge Panel. So, when completing your searches on Google, you’ll find the customer reviews are now more prominent.

The knowledge panel contains useful information about businesses, people and more. It can be found to the right of Google search results. See below image:

Google's Knowledge Panel Example Part 2
Example of Google’s knowledge panel containing Customer Reviews for a Business.
Example of Google’s knowledge panel containing Customer Reviews for a Business.

Why Should You Take Notice Of Online Reviews?

As a business, you should not only take notice of online reviews but also, you should encourage them. With online shopping growing in popularity, showing product descriptions and images isn’t enough to persuade customers to spend their money with you.

As the in-store experience of touching the product and literally “getting a feel for it”, is taken away, you need to up your persuasion game. This is easily done through customer reviews:

  • Reviews Affect Search Engine Rankings – There are over 200 ranking factors and online reviews are just one of those. Google sees reviews as showing authority and trustworthiness.
  • Reviews Influence Customers –  They hold a huge amount of influence over your future customers when they are going through the purchase decision process.
  • Reviews Provide Insights – They allow a business to find out what your customers think of your products, services and business. Allowing you to take the right course of action.

Online Review Statistics

Sometimes it’s not enough to be told that you need customer reviews. So, here are some statistics. Bright Local carried out the ‘Local Consumer Review Survey’ in 2018 which generated some eye-opening facts when it comes to online reviews.

  • 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses (including 95% of people aged 18-34).
  • Consumers read an average of 10 online reviews before feeling able to trust a local business.
  • 40% of consumers only take into account reviews written within the past 2 weeks – up from 18% last year.
  • 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has 4 or more stars.
  • 80% of 18-34 year olds have written online reviews – compared to just 41% of consumers over 55.
  • 91% of 18-34 year old consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
  • 89% of consumers read businesses’ responses to reviews.

According to the BrightLocal survey, these are the top 10 business categories that generate the most-read reviews:

  1. Restaurants and cafes
  2. Hotels and B&Bs
  3. Medical/healthcare
  4. Clothing stores
  5. Grocery stores
  6. Automobile services
  7. Hair/beauty
  8. Dentistry
  9. Pubs and bars
  10. Car dealerships

If your business falls into one of these categories then you should definitely make sure that reviews are part of your SEO strategy.

Assess Your Current Reviews

You know you need to add customer reviews to your marketing strategy. But, what should you do next?

Firstly you should gather and assess the online reviews of your business and products. Save them on a spreadsheet where all relevant employees can access them. Get them to write notes about the review. How positive or negative is it? Are their hints within the review where processes could be improved? How easy are they to implement?

A great place to start is Google, Yelp and Facebook. These are the 3 biggest platforms that exhibit customer reviews online. It is also worth checking your presence on other review sites such as TripAdvisor, Yahoo Local, Yell.com and Thompson Local.

There are hundreds if not thousands of places on the web where a review may have been left about your business – through focussing on the three biggest as a priority. You may find more reviews on one site than another, so it’s best to focus on the one that you have a larger presence on first.

Don’t have any reviews? Speak to our experts to learn how you can start obtaining customer reviews to use them to increase your sales.

Claim Your Business

Once you know where you’re generating most of your customer reviews, you’ll want to claim your business on these sites. The process is fairly simple and easy to do for each review site, just follow their guided steps.

Once you have claimed your business, which we especially recommend you do so on Google, you can manage that profile on Google my Business. After the claim process has been completed, you’ll be able to respond to the reviews.

Respond To Reviews

Responding to customer reviews is the best thing that you can do. Whether they are good or bad, a response is much better than no response at all.

One thing that you must remember though is the reviews are left by are real people that are sharing their thoughts and opinions. You need to tread carefully when responding to ensure their feelings are put at the forefront of the response.

If a customer is upset or angry you will need to be factual and sympathetic. Be understanding. You may not always agree with what they have written but when other customers can see your response and the willing and helpful nature of your customer service, they’ll see your business in a more trustworthy, positive light.

If a customer has left a glowing review, don’t ignore it. Respond with thanks and appreciation. However, it’s not recommended to try to upsell to them as this may come across as a hard sell – something many users do not like.

Stars and Ratings

The majority of us love a rating system. Star ratings are particularly popular as they’re useful for providing a quick overview of how customers rate your business and your products overall.

‘Seller extensions’ is Google’s very own star rating system and is only used for highly-rated businesses. The ratings are shown on your Google My Business profile when users search for you, organic search results and even paid search results.

Example of Google’s star rating system in action on desktop.
Example of Google’s star rating system in action on a desktop.
Example of Google star rating system on Mobile.
Example of Google star rating system on Mobile.

Social media network, Facebook, bases its star rating system on the recommendations of its users. As a user, you can leave reviews of pages or groups on Facebook and these are then flagged on the Facebook page itself, in organic search results and more.

Example of Facebook Star rating on mobile search results.
Example of Facebook Star rating on mobile search results.

Other websites such as Yell.com, Amazon and Yelp base their star rating system on customer reviews left on their site. Users simply rate a product or service by logging into their Yell, Amazon or Yelp account and these reviews are then displayed on the company page of the review site.

Through website integrations, these ratings can also be shown on your website homepage, website product pages or in the organic search results.

Example of Yell.com star ratings in mobile search results.
Example of Yell.com star ratings in mobile search results.
Example of various review ratings in the local knowledge panel.
Example of various review ratings in the local knowledge panel.

Keeping It Real

You must remember that just because reviews have had a positive effect on your search engine rankings, this doesn’t always mean they will turn into sales.

Consumers may not trust just one review from another non-expert customer but if there are multiple reviews from non-experts then this indicates to other customers that the product is probably worth a purchase. Therefore, generating a high number of reviews is important and particularly if these products are niche products in your inventory.

Both online and offline information is used by customers to make a decision on whether to choose your business for a service or to make a purchase. Reviews are just one part of the funnel. Blogs, magazines and the parents chatting at the school gates can all play a part in the decision-making process so don’t neglect them either!

Remember: Your online reputation is important and reviews play a big part in this. Google does take this into consideration when ranking your website in SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).

Encourage Positive Reviews

One way to energise positive reviews is to push higher-priced items for reviews. These items will be harder to sell and therefore customers require more endorsement from others when it comes to purchasing decisions of these items.

Another way to gain positive reviews is to provide samples of new products. Samples can also generate repeat business is customers fall in love with the product.

By using email marketing you can include review requests in your strategy. You can thank your customers for the product they have bought or the service that they have used and ask them to leave you a review.

Just remember that you must obey GDPR rules and only contact customers if they have given you permission to do so. Discover how you can build up your email marketing list to help with this.

DO NOT pay for people to leave you reviews. This is a big no-no in Google’s eyes. You are also discouraged from leaving reviews on competitors businesses, reviewing your own business or even asking members of staff to do so.

Negative Online Reviews

It is going to happen… Negative reviews can and will be left for your product, service or business. Most customers understand that a product can’t be for everyone and accept and appreciate that there’ll always be negative reviews.

One way to deal with negative reviews is to respond to them all in a helpful, positive manner and promptly. This shows your audience that you’re trying your best to resolve the issues and helps them to trust that even if something goes wrong, you’ll do your best to fix it and satisfy them.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to including online reviews in your SEO strategy. If you require assistance with your SEO strategy Kanuka Digital are here to help.

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