Lesson 6: Why Reviews are the Best Local SEO Strategy

People often say supporting local businesses is important, and the data certainly points to consumers believing in this. In a survey conducted by Intuit, 70% of respondents said they're actively working to support local businesses by shopping online or in-store. 57% said their main reason for shopping small is to keep money local.

If you're a local business, your neighbors want to help you out!

Local businesses are a major part of the lifeblood of any community and provide consumers with a more personalized customer experience. As customers look to shop locally, they usually start out with a simple Google search to find a service in their neck of the woods.

Residents, neighbors, and travelers are going to find all kinds of information about your business online, whether you share it there or not. If you want your business to stand out among the 1 trillion annual local Google searches, there are a few ways you can do this:

  • Update your business name, location, and hours.
  • Keep accurate information about your business on your (and others) websites.
  • Add video and image content about your business on Google.

"But how do reviews tie into this?" you may be asking. We'll take a look at this now.

Your First Impression

When ranking local businesses, Google uses a number of key identifiers to recommend your business page to a viewer:

  • Relevance: How well does your local business match what the searcher is looking for?
  • Distance: How close is your business to where the searcher is/the location they are entering?
  • Prominence: How well is your business known among the community?

Reviews tie into the prominence aspect of this. As we've discussed in our previous lessons, reviews help shape the first impression potential customers have of your business. Your star rating is one of the first attention-grabbing signals for potential customers, which is why you should be monitoring it closely (in addition to your reviews).

If they take the big step of browsing your services, potential customers may look over your reviews with a fine-toothed comb. This is why it's important for you to monitor the quality and frequency of the reviews you receive.

For example, if your business has only received three reviews from the past two years that are only a sentence long, that doesn't give a prospect much useable information. As a result, they will likely look elsewhere.

We've already touched on how to ask customers for reviews, but this is simply confirming the importance of doing so.

Improving SEO Visibility

Did you know that reviews are the #2 local SEO ranking factor? In a recent study, Moz determined that review quantity, diversity, and velocity were key ways Google determines its search rankings. 

Within reviews are four separate subfactors that contribute to your SEO rankings:

  • Volume: Customers typically look at a minimum of 10 reviews before trusting a business. Does your business have this many favorable reviews?
  • Rating: Your star rating not only impacts customer opinion but SEO ranking as well. For example, when a customer searches "best restaurant near me," Google will filter out any restaurant with a less than 4.0-star rating.
  • Keywords: Be sure to include relevant keywords, such as your business name, location, products and services into your reviews. Customers may naturally omit these details, but you can add them to your response.
  • Up-to-date content: Google thrives off of updated content. By asking your customers to give you reviews, your page is consistently being updated with fresh content.

Do Negative Reviews Impact My SEO?

Yes, negatively. Primarily due to the negative impact on your star rating.

We've touched on how negative reviews can act as a buffer from preventing your business from looking "too perfect" and going as far as to build trust with your customer base.

A few negative reviews can actually boost your credibility (but, to be clear, not your star rating), as it shows a local search engine that you are not practicing review gating (filtering happy and unhappy customers before asking for a review). 

That said, as you might expect providing a good service and minimizing negative feedback is preferred. Just remember to handle negative feedback with professionalism to make the most positive impression possible on prospects.