Most business owners take online reviews fairly seriously—as they should. Consumers are increasingly turning to sites like Google+, Facebook, Yelp and Angie’s List to help inform their purchasing decisions. In this consumer landscape, online reviews can carry a lot of weight, and can have a significant impact on a brand’s public perception and ultimately its bottom line. That’s not where the significance of reviews ends, however. They don’t just shape consumer behavior, but also search engine rankings. The question is how.
Understanding Google’s Aim
To get a sense of how reviews can impact search engine rankings, it’s important to take a step back. As we have noted in previous posts, Google’s ultimate aim is to provide a good product to its customers—which is to deliver relevant search engine results to search engine users. While Google’s algorithms are complex and ever-changing, they hinge on one basic thing: Google seeks to reward content that it deems to be helpful or informative to the end user.
How does Google determine whether your website is helpful? One metric that it uses is conversion rate. When people see your company website on a search results page, click through, and perhaps even call you or purchase a product, that sends a message to the search engine that your content was helpful. Clearly, if it drew consumer interest and perhaps even provoked consumer action, there’s something meaningful to it.
Now here’s where reviews come into play. If you have a five-star rating and some positive review blurbs beside your Google search listing, that can only be good for conversions; bad reviews, meanwhile, may make consumers much more reluctant to click through and visit your page. Because reviews can impact conversion rates, they can influence rankings, either positively or negatively.
Reviews can also impact a number of the other cues and signals that Google uses as it seeks to evaluate your website. One common SEO metric is backlinks; reviews on review sites, of course, provide further backlinks to your company site. As people either write reviews on Google or respond to them, that’s taken as engagement, which is another key factor in SEO. The bottom line: The more your brand is mentioned, talked about, and engaged with, the better it is for your search engine rankings—and review sites can play a big part in facilitating that engagement.
Leveraging the Power of Online Reviews
What about practical implications for all of this? As a business owner, you cannot force anyone to leave you reviews, nor can you do anything to fully protect against negative ones. (Really, the best defense against bad reviews is to provide great products and service, though even this isn’t foolproof.) One thing you can do is make your online review portals easy to find. Provide links on your website, social media pages, and even e-mail signatures, directing your customers to the places they can offer feedback. You can even provide review links on online receipts and invoices. Some companies will go a step further, offering small discounts or coupons to those who give honest appraisals. You might even directly e-mail your best, most loyal customers and ask them to help you out with a quick review; the worst they can say is no.
Reviews can and should be part of your broader online strategy. To discuss what that looks like, we encourage you to call us today.
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