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Do Customer Reviews Really Influence Organic Rankings?

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You've already heard that a business's GMB activity, particularly customer reviews, can significantly affect local organic keyword rankings for the better. 

But is this really true?

Especially when it involves devoting precious time and resources - on an ongoing basis - to responding to all that feedback.

Making matters worse, Google is vague on the subject.

Say it with me now. Google 👏 loves 👏 secrets 😁.

If you're just getting started without a wealth of existing visibility, traffic, or conversion data to help form a conclusion - how do you know customer review management efforts will have a strategic payoff? 

You're in luck.

Reinforcing the Importance of Review Management

Each year, SearchEngineLand.com publishes a Local Ranking Factor survey comprised of opinions and perceived proof from a wide variety of digital marketing pundits, thought leaders, and overall heavy-hitters. 

Think the Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire era of baseball for the SEO world - and they know what they're talking about.

The latest annual edition is hot off the press and, as per usual, the experts did not disappoint. 

The biggest unanimous takeaway? GMB, reviews are growing, all other signals declining. 

"According to the 2020 findings, GMB and reviews are the variables that have grown the most in their perceived impact. On-page signals, local links, and citations are seen to have declined in relative influence to varying degrees."

Search Engine Land  

Credit: Search Engine Land Local Ranking Factors Survey 2020

Credit: Search Engine Land Local Ranking Factors Survey 2020

What does this mean for you and your local business? First, get your GMB information locked down. Name. Address. Categories. Services.

Just follow the steps laid out by Google and you will be good.

This information is mostly static, so once it is public your work is largely done unless something about your business changes.

Reviews are different.

What small businesses love so much about reviews is the ability to improve the positive/negative ratio over time. An ongoing review strategy is a proactive step towards bringing in more business. There is a game to be played and a game to be won. Volume, frequency, quality, and response are how it’s done.

In addition to the aforementioned signals, links, and citations, the survey also incorporates domain authority, keyword location, mobile-friendliness, link quality/diversity, and more, totaling 15. 

For GMB and reviews to be the largest current local ranking influencers in terms of growth, out of all the other factors, is a big deal and something your business must embrace to attain full visibility potential. 

Additional Survey Topics

The survey also delves into map pack/local positioning, behavioral signals, GMB conversion best practices, personalization considerations, and more. It's an insightful and fairly quick read with lots of visuals and the kind of information you can only get from true subject matter experts with large samples of proprietary metrics at their disposal. It's hard to come by so a read-through is highly recommended.  

Pudding for Everyone!

You don't have to take our (or any other vendor's) word for how mission-critical scaling and managing review responses is to your reputation management and general digital marketing in 2020. 

Google does not specifically tell the public how they rank, but the experts in this article are able to make confident assumptions about what works and what doesn’t.

It hasn't been our favorite year so far either, but at least one invaluable piece of (social) proof is now firmly in the pudding.

Your handling of response activity, and how to get more reviews, is mission-critical. Act accordingly.