Can Reviews Affect Your SEO Rankings? You already know that local SEO is the name of the game. It’s essential to send Google signals – through keyword use and other SEO techniques – that your business is local. You also want them to know who it serves and where it is.
What you might not know is this:
Your online reviews play a direct role in your business making the cut to appear in the Google local three-pack.
In case you don’t know, that’s the collection of businesses that appear at the top of Google’s SERP when someone searches a keyword. It turns out that one of the keys to landing a coveted spot in the three-pack is getting good reviews. Here’s what you need to know.
The Proof That Reviews Matter
How can we tell that reviews make a difference in SEO rankings? Google’s algorithm is proprietary and the known ranking factors (keywords, links, and Google Rankbrain, to name a few) don’t include reviews.
Local SEO experts have been saying this for a years, but it’s actually fairly easy to see that reviews are important. Google any local business category and you will get a list of results with a three-pack at the top. When you look at the businesses that made it into the three-pack, you’ll most likely see the following:
Star ratings pulled directly from online reviews of the business
Keywords in those reviews
For example, if you searched for the keyword “Spokane hair salon,” you would see reviews that related to that keyword. That’s all the proof we need to know that reviews make a difference in determining which businesses appear at the top of the SERP.
It’s also worth noting that the Local SEO Guide found that local reviews were the second most influential factor in determining search rank in their 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors study. The influence in this study appeared to be limited to reviews that specifically included the keyword searched. Customers, however, are likely to use the most commonly searched terms naturally.
In addition, LSI keywords that are related to the search term may also play a role. Try Googling your top keyword and looking at what’s highlighted in the reviews in the three-pack. You may notice that reviews that use semantically-related words show up even if they don’t use the precise term you searched.
The Reasons Google Likes Reviews for SEO Rankings
There are some concrete reasons that Google thinks reviews matter. They’re directly related to the ways that Google’s algorithm has evolved. In the early days of the internet, it was possible to get a page to rank highly on any search engine by stuffing it with keywords.
That changed because it omitted any concern for the experience of a user who clicked through to a site. After all, if you could click on a site because it ranked for a keyword only to find that it was useless to your needs, you wouldn’t revisit it. You might even resent the search engine that directed you to it in the first place.
With that in mind, here are:
The Top Three Reasons Google Likes Reviews for SEO Rankings
It trusts outside sources more than it trusts you (at least when it comes to the relevance of your site.) This first reason is related to the ongoing importance that Google places on authority backlinks. It stands to reason that it would accept mentions and references from other sources as proof that your site is relevant to certain keywords and topics.
Google uses written content as a way of determining authenticity. When customers write reviews, they describe your business. They may even include information that’s not on your website. Even if you don’t list reviews on your site, these things can help flesh out the information on your site and give Google more context for its interpretation of your site.
Click-through rates also influence Google’s ranking algorithm. That might seem obvious, but what you need to know is that a business with lots of good reviews is, inevitably, going to get more clicks and traffic than a business with a few mediocre reviews. It’s in your best interest to encourage reviews if you want to boost your Google rank.
These three things explain why reviews matter to Google. The key takeaways here is that Google takes outside resources into account to help it determine the authenticity and usefulness of your website. Users “vote” for your site by writing reviews and describing your site. Just as web users trust peer reviews to help them make buying decisions, Google trusts them to help it make recommendations of which sites are most likely to be useful for the keyword searched.
How to Make the Most of Your Reviews
Here are some quick tips to help you make the most of your reviews:
Claim your listings on all relevant review sites. This includes Yelp and Google My Business, as well as local review sites. You want to make sure that you use keywords in your listing, link to your site, and include relevant information that will help people find you.
Link to your review pages directly from your website so customers can leave reviews if they want to.
Put a reminder about reviews on your receipts or comment cards. Remember that dissatisfied customers are often motivated to leave reviews, but happy customers will do so if you make it easy for them.
Send a note to your email list with a link to your review sites and ask them to leave a review.
Reply promptly to negative reviews to try to resolve them and get the reviewer to update their review.
These things will help you dial up the impact of your reviews and help you get into the coveted local three-pack for your most important keywords.
You know that, and now you can do something about it. Organic traffic is increasingly difficult to come by but encouraging and highlighting your reviews can help you get the biggest possible bang for your marketing bucks.
To learn more about how we can help generate more reviews that will positively impact your SEO rankings, fill out the form below and we will reach back out to you.
As a small business owner, you know that effective online marketing plays a significant role in the success of your company. The competition for internet users’ attention is fierce, and if you want to make your company stand out from the competition, you have to stretch your marketing budget as far as you can. You might not have the money to take out Google ads or even to pay for Facebook advertising, but that doesn’t mean that you have to accept lackluster marketing results. Content marketing is a major piece of any online marketing strategy.
“Content isn’t just words on a page, it’s everything you put out there on the web to engage your audience.”
Content marketing is the key to help your company succeed. When you make the effort to create unique and valuable content to share online, you can let what you create speak for you without having to spend a lot of money. The kind of content you create, as well as how and when you share it, are both important when it comes to spreading the word about your company. With that in mind, let’s look at 6 content marketing strategies that you can use to help increase traffic to your website and grow your business.
1. Concentrate your content creation efforts on evergreen content. Evergreen content is content that isn’t likely to feel dated anytime soon. For example, a blog post about a current event would not be considered evergreen; a post that defined some industry terms and jargon would be considered evergreen.
The key is to find topics that will interest your current and future customers for some time to come. Some examples might include how-to guides, tutorials, frequently asked questions, and posts addressing problems that are common to your customers. For example, if you own an apparel store, a post about dressing different body types could have a long life online because it will always be of concern to the people who shop at your store. You can and should re-post evergreen content periodically, and make updates as needed.
2. Concentrate your SEO efforts on getting high-quality backlinks and using local keywords. If you know anything at all about search engine optimization (SEO), you know that it’s a broad topic and one that is constantly changing. In the early days of the internet, all a webmaster had to do was stuff websites with keywords to get a high rank on Google. Today, search algorithms are very sophisticated. Keyword density is only one small piece of the puzzle.
Ranking for top keywords will be difficult, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t think about keywords. For local companies, the best option is to focus on long-tail keywords with a geographical component. Instead of aiming at a keyword like “video games,” you might decide to try to rank for “buy video games in Forest Grove.” It’s a longer keyword, but one that local customers are likely to use when looking for a local retailer. The same is true of backlinks. The number of backlinks you get is less important than the quality of your backlinks.
There are certainly sources where you can buy back links, but that’s considered a “black hat” SEO practice and is just as likely to earn you a penalty from Google as it is to bring traffic to your website. Instead, look for guest blogging opportunities on websites that are relevant to your business. Also try to get your site listed in industry directories.
3. Use social media wisely. A lot of small companies make the mistake of looking at Facebook (or Twitter or Instagram) as a way to advertise themselves. The problem with that it is that it completely leaves out the social aspects of social media. The people who follow you on social media are not doing so because they want to be at the receiving end of an endless stream of promotional messages. They do it because they want to be entertained, engaged, and informed. This is one of the most misunderstood content marketing methods.
” At least 80% of your social media content should be aimed at providing value to your followers.” That means that for every five things you post, four of them should be entertaining, relevant, and devoid of any overt sales pitches. The other one can be a direct marketing appeal, but even then, you should make sure to include something of value for your followers.
JVI Mobile uses the LENS method for social media posts. Listening (L) posts are designed to begin a conversation and create engagement (like, comment and share). Educating (E) posts are facts, trivia, do-you-know, or how-to posts designed to teach the reader. Networking (N) posts are written to share other people’s content while tagging them and building online relationships. Selling (S) posts are where you promote your products and/or services and should be used the least (20% of the time). Using the LENS method, you will develop a clear, 20/20 vision for your social media presence.
4. Encourage readers and followers to share your content. The whole point of content marketing is to bring new visitors to your website and ultimately, to your business. For that reason, it isn’t enough simply to create compelling content; you must also make that content interesting enough to share, and provide people with the means of sharing it.
To make it interesting, write a great headline – many people who write online say that they spend as much time on their headlines as they do on the rest of their content combined – that includes numbers or compelling words like tips, tricks, ways, ideas, lessons, or facts.
It’s also important to keep your headline short. No more than 65 words so that the whole title can be viewed on a list of Google search results. In terms of making it shareable, you should embed social sharing buttons on your website and blog, and actively encourage your followers to share your content. You won’t want to do it on every post, but on something that you think is especially likely to attract new customers, come right out and ask people to share what you’ve created.
5. Find ways to make your content visually compelling. The average internet user is exposed to hundreds of pieces of content per day. You can make yours stand out by adding compelling images – originals are best, since many stock photos are generic and not very exciting – infographics, or videos are even better. An infographic can be an especially good way to share a large volume of information or data. It’s easier to read and absorb than an article would be, and infographics are highly shareable, and videos are naturally more engaging for visitors than reading a lot of text.
6. Submit a Press Release. Don’t underestimate a well written PR, it’s like a news nugget that online search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing love as well as it attracts local press. It’s an easy way to boost your online visibility, and marketing your business at the same time. Once you’ve submitted your PR online – contact your local news media and ask if they would publish it too – you may be surprised!
Whether you do it yourself through directories like PR Web or PR Newswire or hire marketing agency to create and submit it on your behalf, press releases are a great content marketing strategy for any local business.
If you use these six strategies, your content will always be compelling, entertaining, and valuable to your followers. The more value you provide, the more likely it is that one-time customers will become repeat customers and that new visitors to your website will end up buying from you.
Does your business appear on Google’s first page when potential customers search for your chosen keywords? If you’re not at the top – or near the top – it can be frustrating. There is plenty of evidence to show that very few users venture beyond the first page of results when they do a Google search. In fact, they’re more likely to refine their search than to move on to the next page.
Fortunately, there are quite a few things you can do to help your website rank on the first page in 2016. Here are the top five.
It’s still important to use keywords in your webcontent, but the days when high keyword density was the key to ranking on Google are long gone. In fact, your keyword placement is not nearly as important as the overall authority of your site. Google’s algorithms are very sophisticated, and they no longer rely on keywords in a title or H1 tag to determine if a page is worth visiting. Rather, they focus on contextual meaning and look for expected words to rank pages.
For example, it used to be that if you wanted to rank for a keyword such as “Best Legal Services” you’d have to use that keyword three or four times in strategic places to have a chance of ranking. Now, if you talk about competent legal representation, Google can tell that your page is relevant to the keyword even if you don’t use it more than a couple of times in your article.
#2: Pay attention to bounce rates and the time spent on your page
Another surprising SEO development for 2016 has to do with an evaluation of whether your page is providing visitors with what they need. In addition to crawling your page for keywords and context, Google also pays attention to what people do after they leave your page as a way of determining if your page is an authoritative one or a waste of time.
For example, if a visitor searches one of your keywords and clicks on your page, Google looks at how long they stay. A visit of several minutes might indicate that a user is engaged with the content on your page and has found what they want. However, if they spend several minutes on your site, return to their list of search results via the dreaded back button, and click on another site instead, it’s a good sign that your site did not offer what they needed.
If you have a high bounce rate, a good way to improve your search ranking in 2016 is to make sure that your site provides the answers to the questions implied by your chosen keywords.
#3: Optimize your website for mobile users
In 2015, mobile searches on Google outpaced computer searches – and that trend is likely to continue. Google has placed a great deal of importance on mobile search as evidenced by their Mobilegeddon mobile-friendly update in early 2015. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, now is the time to get on board.
Fortunately, most businesses can switch to mobile-friendly or (ideally) mobile-adaptive sites with little trouble. Sometimes it’s as simple as switching the template you use for your site. For example, if you have a WordPress site, they have a huge library of templates available, many of which are mobile-adaptive. You may have to do some fine-tuning of your site to make a new template work, but it’s worth the work to get it done.
The beauty of mobile-adaptive sites is that they work by configuring to the specific mobile device being used. Mobile customers tend to be an impatient bunch, and they are unlikely to wait for a slow-loading page or scroll horizontally to read your content. If you take the time to optimize your site for mobile users, it can do more than anything else to improve your search ranking in 2016.
#4: Stay away from content that’s too short
It wasn’t that long ago that blog posts of 250 to 500 words were considered the norm. Short and snappy was the rule of the day, and the assumption that people wanted short content led to a glut of short articles that were light on value and meaning.
That has all changed. Truthfully, the trend toward lengthy web content has been happening for a while, but this year it has really become the rule rather than the exception. Research shows that web users are far more likely to engage with content that’s in the 1,000-1,500 word range than with short articles. Why? Because they want valuable information, and – with rare exception – it’s hard to convey that in just a few hundred words. Of course, you can offer a top 10 list that’s only 500 words long, but you’re not going to be able to explain why items are on the list as well as you would if you wrote a longer article or blog post.
The reason that Google is placing so much emphasis on length is that they want to make sure they are sending people to pages designed for humans, not search algorithms. If you’re worried about publishing long content, remember that you can make it more readable by breaking it up with subheadings and images.
#5: Make sure the user experience is front and center
In a way, this last point is a summary of everything that has come before it. Each one of the above points come back to one thing: user experience. Old-school SEO focused on tricking Google’s algorithms – to the point where many websites were far friendlier to computers than they were to human beings. More and more, Google is concerned about ensuring that their search results are leading users to sites that answer their questions. They want users to feel good about the search experience, something that’s unlikely to happen if they end up on a site that’s not mobile-friendly, or is packed with keywords but contains no real value.
There are many things you can do to test the user experience on your site, including split-testing individual components on your page. However, the best thing you can do is to do what you can to answer key questions that are implied by your chosen keywords and make sure that your site is easily viewable by any user, on any device.
Ranking on Google’s first page is always a challenge. Regardless of your niche, you will be facing some fierce competition. It might sound odd to say this, but the best way to rank is to forget about trying to rank. Don’t worry about algorithms and SEO tricks. Instead, focus on making your site a place where potential customers can find exactly what they need. If you do that, the search rank will follow.
At JVI Mobile, we are passionate about creating and growing awesome social relationships. Tell us how we can help! We’ve got a crack team literally at your fingertips!
If you haven’t already, check out our Digital Marketing Assistant. It’s a relatively new service we are offering where you can get expert help and ready access to the JVI team will all your digital marketing concerns and questions!
Our 7th issue of Clicks Magazine is out, and it is a good one. For those that don’t know, Clicks is a digital marketing guide that we curate and sponsor with relevant tips and tricks for small business. The articles are timely, informative, valuable and relevant for any local company. All of the strategies and tips in each issue are also things that JVI Mobile can help teach you and your staff to generate more reach, close more deals, grow a positive reputation and dominate your market!
Here are some highlights from this issue, in an infographic format:
JVI Mobile Marketing has been in the reputation management business for nearly four months. We are helping several businesses generate hundreds of reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google, Facebook and more. This is not only good for the obvious reasons, like word of mouth and building trust, it also has another huge meaning, often overlooked. Search Engine Rankings.
We don’t really talk much about offering SEOservices, but we do often let people know that by using our services, they will naturally rank higher. We are proud partners with Reputation Loop and sell their services, customize it for your business, and put it to work.
Their co-Founder wrote a great article today, and we wanted to share it. The original post can be found at:
Word of mouth is very important to a small business, especially a business that relies on the local market for sales. The most powerful signal for the local customer of your business’s ability to fulfill their needs and solve the problems of its customers are online customer reviews. Highly influential, and trusted more than personal referrals from friends and family, online reviews are consulted by nearly 90% of consumers either regularly or occasionally and 72% of those consumers stated that positive reviews make them trust a business more according to BrightLocal’s 2014 Local Consumer Review Survey.
What we are now seeing is that online customer reviews are also being seen by search engines as a powerful signal of whether or not your webpages are a good match for local search results. It is the job of your search engine to give you the best information, which is how they get you to continue to use their search engine and how they make money selling ad space. It makes sense that highly reviewed and high rated businesses would appear high in local search results as the best choices to fulfill your local buying needs. Whether it is a restaurant, mechanic, or dentist, search engines like Google have recognized that the majority of buyers are looking at reviews. And if it is important to the consumer than it is important to the search engine to give their users what they want.
How Search Engines Look at Your Customer Reviews
Local search marketing authority, MOZ, dug deep into the search engine data and found that review signals rank as high as fifth on local search engine ranking factors. So out of overall factors for local search rankings, your business’s online customer reviews were highly regarded, ranking just after My Business, NAP/Citation, On-Page Signals, and Link Signals in importance – all online factors that are largely in your control.
Review signals are the data, content and other aspects of the online customer reviews that search engines are dissecting and analyzing to determine how an overall value to your reviews. You can’t rate your own business and write customers’ reviews but with the importance of online customer reviews growing you should be putting emphasis on doing what you can to influence how often you get reviewed and how highly you are rated.
In the past two years Google has put a much larger ranking power on customer reviews, putting them front and center in the carousel and showing snippets of reviews on search engine results pages. Getting those golden star reviews and positive online reputation to pop out in search engine results helps click-through rates and Google is all in favor of more clicks and more user engagement.
When you know what is influencing your business’s review signal you’ll know what you need to do to put your online customer reviews to work for you as part of your search engine marketing and SEO strategies.
What is influencing your review signal?
Review Quantity and Velocity
The more positive customer reviews your business has online, the more influence you have over consumer buying decisions and search engine rankings. How quickly you’re able to get those reviews (velocity) also shows how highly trust-worthy your business is and is a good indication of how naturally those reviews were collected. Both consumers and customers see your ability to impress the customer enough to post a positive reviews as a good indication of the quality of your business, and its service or product.
Third Party Traditional Reviews – Authority, Diversity & Quantity
Google reviews are great, but they are not the be-all and end-all of the review signal. It is also important to have reviews on other trusted third-party sites. Authority sites hold more influence and your business’s ability to gather high marks on a variety of authority sites really helps. Authority matters more than diversity, which means that Yelp reviews are going to be weighed heavily while reviews from BestSacramentoDentist.com will likely not matter at all in local SEO review signal, but will help with keyword search for “best Sacramento dentist”.
Getting your customer reviews into the microdata and showing up as rich snippets on search engine results pages really makes your business pop out on the page. And when there is so much competition for clicks on local search results a golden five-star ratings immediately draws the eye, gets attention and starts the process of building trust with the consumer. Businesses who use Reputation Loop to automate the customer review process and build their five-star reputation utilize a widget that creates these gold eye-popping gold star ratings in search engine results.
Content and Keywords
You don’t write your customer reviews (and if you do stop before you get in trouble) so you have very little control over the content and have to cross your fingers that keywords that matter to you and search engines can find their way in there. But obviously a two-word five-star “Love them!” review isn’t going to be as effective as a five-star “Love everything about my dentist. He’s the best in Sacramento. Wouldn’t get my kids’ braces done anywhere else.” because dentist, Sacramento, and braces are words that search engine users are searching for.
Using Customer Reviews in your SEO
There are a few other factors that make up your review signal but we are going to focus on the ones you can do something about. So here is what you can do to get your online customers review working over-time for you by making them part of your SEO strategy:
1. Have a Customer Review Plan and Process
As important as online customer reviews and high local search rankings are to your business growth and success you can’t leave this to chance. Your process should include how you will solicit reviews, how you will collect reviews, how you will handle negative reviews, as well as how and where you will post reviews.
This isn’t an overly complicated process but taking into consideration that you will want to get as many positive reviews as possible it can be time consuming. A smart option is to enlist the low-cost but highly effective online reputation services of a company like Reputation Loop whose software automates the entire process of generating customer feedback and turning positive feedback into online ratings and reviews. Customers giving positive feedback are asked to click through to leave that review on your selected review sites such as Google and Yelp. But if the feedback is negative the information is directed back to the business and away from review sites so business owners have a chance to address negative experiences before they end up online. A ton of other features all come together to make Reputation Loop an easy choice for nearly hands-free review management to build customer review quantity and velocity while building a five-star online reputation.
2. Diversify Your Review Sites
Find out where your customers are and be there. That applies to so many aspects of marketing and selling your business and online is no exception. Google is important and Yelp is important but your industry has its authority review sites. Find out what they are, establish your business profile and page, and make sure that some of your reviews are being funneled there.
3. Get Your Gold Stars on Search Engine Result Pages
Stand out and be seen by getting the average of your star reviews front and center with your business name on search engine results pages. Reputation Loop users can do this easily, but if you’re more of a DIY business owner and webmaster you can visit the Google Developers Structured Data page on Enabling Rich Snippets for Reviews and Ratings to get examples, definitions, tips and code to get your gold stars seen.
Customer reviews have a direct impact on local search results, and knowing what you can do to get more and better customer reviews on the right place online means you have an advantage over your competitors. When you can gather and post more five-star reviews and have those ratings pop out on search engine results pages you become the clear winner in the battle for the consumers’ dollars.