Online reviews have become an integral part of the consumer decision-making process. 91% of people read reviews, and 84% trust them as much as a friend’s personal recommendation. But does responding to reviews also impact your online visibility? In this article, we will explore that, and how you can leverage online reviews to boost your website's Local SEO.
The Impact of Reviews on SEO
When it comes to SEO, search engines like Google take into account various factors to determine the relevance and authority of a website. While reviews alone are not the only determining factor for search rankings, they do play a significant role in influencing search engine algorithms.
Google Sees Reviews as a Trust Signal
Google places a high level of trust in user-generated content, including customer reviews. A recent 2023 study showed that Review Signals (first & third party reviews, review quantity, review velocity, etc.) now account for 16% of Local 3 Pack ranking factors.
The number has been gradually increasing over the previous few years and has more than doubled since 2015, demonstrating once more how good reviews signalling search engines that you are trustworthy and offer value to your customers. As a result, Google may reward your website with higher search rankings and give you better chances to appear in your Local 3 Pack.
User Engagement & Local SEO
"Google’s Quality Rater guidelines put a lot of emphasis on online reviews. Which makes sense: if people hate your business, why would Google want to show your site to more people?" Backlinko, Off-page SEO guide 2023
Search engines also consider user engagement as a ranking factor. Actively responding to reviews demonstrates that your business is engaged with its customers and values their feedback.
This level of interaction and engagement can contribute to a positive reputation, improve the overall user experience of your website, and potentially lead to higher search engine rankings.
Review Quantity/Quality & Local RankingsThe number and quality of reviews your business receives also impacts your SEO efforts. Semrush’s recent research focused on Google Maps reviews discovered that the number of reviews a business accumulates is as a powerful influencer in your local ranking, and volume is a key player.
Many good reviews significantly elevate a business’s visibility, pushing the position high in search results. However, the quality of reviews also plays a vital role. The same study shows that businesses with an average rating higher than 4.1 tend to maintain better visibility and engagement levels.
How to Optimise Your Online Visibility through Reviews
"The thinking here is that you don’t want to get a burst of 100+ reviews (eg: from an email blast) and then call it a day. A business that is continually getting reviews on a regular basis sends the right signals to Google that it is an alive and active business that the public still cares about." Whitespark, Local Search Ranking Factors
Now that we understand the impact of reviews on search engines, let's explore strategies to optimise your local marketing efforts through review responses.
1. Encourage Customers to Leave Reviews
The first step in leveraging review responses for your SEO is to actively encourage your customers to leave reviews. Make it easy for customers to leave a review by providing clear instructions and links to your business's Google profile. You can also send follow-up emails or include review prompts on your website and social media channels.
2. Respond Promptly and Professionally
Responding to customer reviews, both positive and negative, plays a big role too. Google rewards businesses that engage with their customers and respond to their feedback. Aim to respond promptly and professionally to show that you value customer opinions and are committed to addressing any concerns. Your responses should be personalised, addressing the specific points raised in the review and offering solutions or appreciation.
Try out Reputation Management Softwares like PinMeTo to automate and centralised monitoring and responding to reviews, without excessive manual effort.
3. Use Targeted Keywords
When crafting review responses, strategically incorporate your target keywords while maintaining a natural and conversational tone. Although keywords in owner responses have no direct impact on search rankings, they help your local listings appear in Google Justifications - snippets of text that Google shows in the Local Pack to help users “justify” why the business is showing up for their search query, reinforcing the relevance of your business for those specific search terms.
While they may not cause rankings, recent research from Moz shows that 57% of Local Packs feature justifications.
4. Monitor and Analyse Review Insights
Monitor and analyse your Google Business insights to gain valuable data on your review performance. Pay attention to your average rating, the number of reviews, and the sentiment expressed in the reviews.
This data will not only provide valuable information about customer preferences and the language they use when describing your products or services but also inform your SEO strategy and help you identify areas for improvement.
5. Address Negative Reviews Constructively
Negative reviews can be an opportunity for growth and improvement. Responding to negative reviews constructively and professionally will show potential customers that you take feedback seriously and are committed to resolving any issues. You also demonstrate your dedication to customer satisfaction mitigating any potential negative impact on your SEO.
Learn more on how to monitor online reviews effectively in our detailed article.
To Sum Up
Does responding to reviews help SEO? The answer is - yes, online reviews have a direct impact on your online visibility. The studies now show that quantity, quality, and recency of reviews, as well as your responses to them now account for 16% of Local 3 Pack ranking factors. Continuously monitor and respond to reviews, listen to feedback, and adapt your Local SEO strategy accordingly to strengthen your online presence, attract more customers, and ultimately drive the success of your brand.
Lily Adamyan, November 2