It’s no secret that Google has over 200 ranking signals its algorithm considers when awarding web pages organic traffic. What is secret is exactly what the ranking signals are.
Anyone who tells you they know, is lying. Unless it’s John Mueller. He’s the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst and he hosts a regular hangout where he discusses all things search engine optimization (SEO) from Google’s point of view.
What Small Businesses and Service Providers Need to Know
When he mentioned this: “With regards to normal web search, we don’t take reviews into account…”
It was noteworthy.
If you think you were just let off the hook for review gathering, read on.
Google Reviews and Their Influence on “Normal Web Search”
When Mueller says that reviews don’t influence “normal web search” we first need to define what he means by that. Think of “normal web search” as traditional SEO. This is your long term ranking strategy. It’s the one that is based on your keyword research and covers broad search intent by prospective customers and clients.
“What is Chapter 7 bankruptcy?” is a search query that would fall into this category. Search intent here is research based. This prospect is early on in their buying process. They aren’t ready to make a hiring decision at this point.
When you think of it this way, it makes sense that reviews don’t really come into play here.
Reviews may appear as part of a Google “rich result”. But you shouldn’t expect them to increase your organic ranking on your web pages.
Mueller then went on to say that reviews might count for more on the Google My Business side of things.
Reviews absolutely drive your local SEO results because they satisfy one of three primary ranking signals Google uses to return relevant local results.
Local SEO: What Google Uses to Satisfy Local Search Intent
More and more searches are being initiated on mobile devices. As early as 2018, Google recorded a 200% increase in “near me” driven searches.
Just like with traditional search, Google’s business model and customer experience goal is to return the best results to match searcher’s intent.
Relevance and distance are pretty clear. If you search for a “bankruptcy attorney near me,” Google isn’t going to return a florist’s shop 17 miles away.
Where it gets a little trickier is prominence. Do you have plenty of content that Google can use to determine you’d be a good fit for the current query?
This is where having plenty of current reviews comes in.
Reviews Attract More Business Because They’re an Optimizer for Local SEO
Success in local search is all about tapping into Google’s desire to return the most relevant result to the query it’s customers are searching for. Google also wants to support small businesses and local service providers whenever possible.
Reviews help Google decide whether to feature your business in the “local 3-pack” at the top of a local search engine result page. The higher you appear in the search results, the more relevant you appear to searching customers.
If consistently landing on page one of local search results isn’t enough to get you excited about implementing a review strategy for your small business, the more reviews you have, the higher your star rating. Your future customers, as well as Google, pay attention to your rating. While you don’t need to be perfect, you do have to be better than average.
In local search, having a 4+ star rating can open up the opportunity to rank for coveted superlative searches like “top bankruptcy attorney near me.” When Google sees the majority of your customers and clients are highly satisfied with your products or services, you rise above the competition in local search.
And the more reviews you gather from satisfied customers, the sooner the law of averages will kick in to smooth out your star ranking should any bumps in the road appear.
How to Get More Reviews to Boost Local SEO Ranking
With nearly 80% of hyper-local searches resulting in a transaction of business within the next 24 hours, you’ll want to get started collecting reviews now from customers if you aren’t already actively asking for them.
Because online reviews do have a shelf life. Typically, reviews tend to lose their effectiveness around the three month mark.
Asking for reviews can feel awkward but we can help you make regular and targeted review requests on auto-pilot.
These reviews will feature the exact words and phrases potential customers are looking for from your past customers. We can also help you develop an appropriate response plan for reviews that turbo-charges their effectiveness and takes the edge off any neutral or negative ratings.
If you don’t know which platforms to focus on to maximize your results, we can help there too. Selecting the correct review sites and optimizing your listings will contribute favorably to your overall traditional SEO strategy. While Google reviews obviously influence Google, so do other review platforms, like Yelp! or even industry-specific sites.
It may initially feel strange having your professional services or products sharing space with the local brunch hot spots, but potential customers look for reviews where they are already leaving reviews.
And the more reviews you give Google to consider, the higher your prominence ranking and the more likely you are to see a significant increase in your local SEO rankings, overall online visibility, and business growth.
What You Need to Remember About Reviews and Traditional SEO vs. Local Search
While online reviews won’t affect your traditional SEO rankings, they do have a significant effect on your local search results. For many small to medium businesses, focusing on local search by developing a comprehensive local SEO strategy can return positive results within weeks.
If you’re looking to increase your chances of appearing in the local 3-pack or consistently appearing on page one of local search, let’s talk about how to fully implement this important element to your digital marketing strategy.