The short answer? Yes, online reviews absolutely help with SEO and help your business rank better in search results. Learn how to maximize this effect here.
Why do you need online reviews?
To give your business credibility? To make your business look popular with local consumers? To convince your customers that they're making the right choice in supporting you? To get the attention of local tastemakers like bloggers, journalists, and elite Yelpers?
Yes, online reviews can be useful for all of those reasons. But getting people to write positively about your business is really important if you're trying to achieve one crucial goal: attracting new business.
Reviews affect how you're ranked online, and those rankings have a huge effect on your bottom line.
SEO and SERP: A Primer
SEO (search engine optimization) and SERP (search engine results pages) are important terms to know when you're thinking about marketing your business.
It boils down to this: if you have a good SEO strategy, your business will rank highly in search engines.
That means that when a potential customer searches on Google (or Bing, etc) for a company that offers services like yours, your business will appear high on the list of results that customers will see on the SERP.
Reviews make up an estimated 10 percent of the factors that determine how business are ranked.
That may not sound like a lot, but it is significant - especially when you consider that you can't easily control a lot of the factors that affect rankings, like your physical location.
In the context of your online reviews, a few factors contribute to your rankings:
- Quantity: The number of reviews you receive.
- Quality: The positive or negative sentiment of the reviews you receive.
- Authority: The legitimacy of the sites on which your reviews are posted. Getting reviews on Google, Yelp, Facebook = legitimate. Getting reviews on BobsReviewBarn.com? Not so much.
- Velocity: How quickly you get reviews over time.
Here's what all this means: the best way to rank highly in searches is to get a steady stream of positive reviews on a variety of well known online review sites.
How to Get Reviews
So, yes, online reviews affect how well your business ranks online, and they provide increasing returns.
The more people who write good reviews, the more new customers you get, thus increasing your base of review writers, and the cycle continues.
But how do you get more online reviews? It's actually pretty easy.
Drumroll... Ask your customers to write reviews.
It's that simple. You don't have to offer incentives like coupons and discounts (in fact, you shouldn't do that, as it's both ethically and legally a bad idea). All you have to do is wait until the end of a positive interaction with a customer and ask the person (nicely!) to write you a review.
A recent survey found that 7 out of 10 customers will write a review when asked.
Here's an idea of how it might go:
You: "Did you find everything you needed?"
Customer: "Yes, thanks."
You: "Was there anything that we could have done better today?"
Customer: "No, everything was fine!"
You: "So glad to hear it! If you have a chance, we would love it if you would leave us a review on [review site]."
Of course, if the customer isn't happy with the experience, you would want to ask more questions, apologize and try to find a way to make the person happy. If you succeed, you can then ask for a review. If the person is leaving unsatisfied, though, it's best not to suggest it.
As for which review sites to suggest? You should have profiles on all the major sites (Yelp, Facebook, Google) as well as any sites that are specific to your field (like Healthgrades if your a doctor trying to get reviews from patients).
You should also claim and optimize your profiles on these sites, which gives you the authority to edit the profile and (on most sites) respond to customers.
It's important to vary the sites that you ask customers to review you on, because you want to have reviews on a variety of online review sites.
It's important for your rankings, and because of customer habits. Some people go directly to a favorite site when looking for a new service provider or product, so if you only have reviews on (for example) Google, potential customers who use search engines other than Google won't be able to see your excellent reviews.
A Systemized Approach
Getting positive customer reviews is a worthwhile pursuit, but it's also time-consuming, and customers might forget your request after leaving your business.
That's why using an automated system like ReputationStacker is so helpful.
All you have to do is upload an email address or phone number for your customers, and ReputationStacker will send them a single-question survey that makes it easy and convenient for them to post a review about their experience on the review sites of your choice.
SEO and SERP may not mean much to you, but they mean a lot to search engines like Google, and ultimately to anyone who uses Google to search (which is more or less everyone).
When customers search online for nearby businesses like yours, those search engines use a lot of factors to determine which businesses to put at the top of the results list, and having a steady stream of positive online reviews can help you land at the top of those search results pages.
Asking your customers to post reviews is a good starting step, but automating how to get online reviews with a system like ReputationStacker is the best way to efficiently get those reviews on a continuous basis.