Customer reviews are extremely important. In fact, UK consumers find customer reviews as trustworthy as the recommendations from their friends and family. And nearly 90 percent of consumers are influenced by customer reviews during their buying decision, while almost three-quarters will only take action after reading a positive review.
But customer reviews aren’t just important in the eyes of the consumer. Google also looks at them, and that impacts your local SEO rankings for your website and your Google My Business (GMB) listing.
How do customer reviews affect local SEO? And what strategies can you use to collect more reviews for your brand and your products? Below, we’ll take you through what you need to know.
How Customer Reviews Impact Local SEO
Customer reviews actually have a direct impact on your site’s ranking in search engines. In fact, they account for almost 10 percent of your total ranking factors. There are a few ways reviews contribute to your SEO:
- Longtail keyword opportunities: The content users create about your brand and products is crawlable and increases your reach on keywords. Plus, these keywords are likely to be closer to actual phrasing of prospective customers, being that they’re written in the customers’ voice. You can also republish these reviews on your site and bolster SEO.
- Fresh content: Google rewards fresh content. When customers leave reviews, this signals to Google that your site content is continually updated, which will work in your favor.
- Google likes what people like: Google constantly undergoes updates to ranking algorithms, but always with a common goal — to better serve the people using the search engine. Much like Google prioritizes users’ needs, positive customer reviews will give Google a reason to prioritize your business over other businesses in local search queries.
See how a search for “high end backpacks in Boulder” returns local results. Along with the store name, location, category and phone number, the average star rating is listed. Notice how Topo Designs, the first listing, also has the highest star rating.
How to Get Customer Reviews: Specific Tactics
The main premise behind accumulating customer reviews is simple: Ask for them. According to a Brightlocal survey, 68 percent of consumers left a local business review when asked to do so.
When asking for reviews, make sure to do so in a timely fashion. If you ask too soon, customers may not have had a chance to experience your product, and thus be less likely to feel compelled to write a review. If you ask too long, the product and shopping experience may no longer be top-of-mind. The right timing depends on your product and customer.
Through Post-Purchase Communications
It’s always a good idea to make it easy for customers to leave reviews. You can create a direct link for customers to leave customer reviews online; include this in your post-purchase communications, especially digital. The fewer hurdles, the more likely customers are to leave a review.
Consider setting up an email automation for a post-purchase sequence. This will save you time and ensure you don’t miss an opportunity.
Provide a Way to Review In-Store
On the note that leaving reviews should be easy for customers, why not provide a way for them to do so while in-store? It could be as simple as having a tablet connected to Wi-Fi near the register, and training sales associates on how to effectively ask for reviews. While they obviously haven’t had a chance to experience your product yet, you can ask for their thoughts on their shopping experience. Not all reviews have to be tied to a specific product.
If nothing else, find a way to capture email addresses for in-store purchases so you can run those post-purchase automations.
Reviews don’t have to come from actual customers. You can give free samples to prospective customers and use that as a way to solicit reviews (as well as boost brand awareness). This works especially well in the cosmetic and beauty product industry. Remember to include a call-to-action for samplers to leave a review and provide a short-link if possible.
We saved the most controversial advice for last. There are lots of conflicting opinions on the ethics of incentivizing reviews. There are two main ways in which you can incentivize or reward reviews:
- Upfront: Tell customers if they leave a review, they will receive a discount, freebie or upgrade with their next purchase
- Covert: Reward customers who leave a review, but don’t tell them before they leave the review that you will do so
Generally, it’s best to play it safe with the latter approach. This is more authentic and can also potentially encourage word-of-mouth marketing. When customers leave a review and receive an unexpected surprise from the brand as a gesture of appreciation, this is a positive experience they’ll likely share.
Despite what you may think, consumers who have a positive experience are more likely to share with friends and family (42 percent) than those with a negative one (32 percent).
Responding to Customer Reviews
Once you’ve acquired lots of reviews and are showing up at the top of local searches, are you supposed to let the reviews site there? The short answer: no. The long answer is that you should respond to customer reviews, not only for local SEO implications but also for your brand image.
About half of customers who have left a negative review expect a response — within seven days. By responding, you’re strengthening the relationship with that customer by showing that you hear them and care about them. You’re also creating a positive impression for prospective customers who are conducting local searches, thus enticing them to choose you.
Responding to reviews impacts local SEO, too. Again, this is creating fresh, updated content and additional keyword opportunities. Google says, “High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility.” Plus, if Google is recommending you do something, it’s probably in your best interests to heed that advice.
Beyond customer reviews, there are many other ways you can improve your local SEO.