Recently, online reviews have increasingly become an important and non-negotiable part of a business marketing strategy. The volume and number of review websites have grown, so have the rates that customers write and refer to reviews. Essentially, reviews help customers decide about where they should buy products and services.

Online reviews are gradually becoming a key part of business, making it necessary to have effective review management. As more studies are being carried out to assess the impact of positive and negative reviews on sales, profitability, product awareness and conversion rates, initial studies have suggested that there’s more to online reviews, as they can improve local ranking and general search engine results.

What Is Local SEO?

As the name suggests, local search engine optimization (SEO) is a search engine strategy that makes your business more visible on local Google search engine results. They are best for local businesses, such as restaurants, shops, or agencies targeting the local audience. Optimizing your business for local SEO makes it easier for people to find your business online and offline.

Local SEO slightly differs from general SEO. Essentially, local SEO is a sub-discipline of general SEO. While general SEO focuses on improving your website rankings without local components, local SEO improves rankings for specific areas, such as cities or towns. That said, to rank better for local Google searches, you should go beyond optimizing your website. For this, you should begin by creating and updating all the relevant details to your Google My Business (GMB) account.

Review Management for Local SEO

Before delving into how online reviews improve local SEO, it is important to discuss online review management. Online review management is the process of analyzing, monitoring and responding to online reviews to improve your business performance and support your business’s marketing strategy.

With more than 72 percent of customers attesting that they won’t take action before reading reviews and 94 percent saying that negative reviews make them avoid businesses, review management is important both for small businesses and established businesses with multiple locations. Having highlighted the concept of review management, below are its components:

1. Create a Google My Business Page

Ranking with online reviews is impossible if you haven’t created a Google My Business Page for your local company or business. You should create a GMB page and complete your profile with detailed and accurate information to improve your local SEO. Ensure that you provide all the relevant details about your venture.

These details include describing your business, selecting the right business category, opening and closing hours, local contacts and business address. Remember to claim your GMB page so that you can begin collecting reviews.

2. Ask Customers for Reviews

Unfortunately, most businesses think online reviews will stream in organically. However, this isn’t always the case. Your review management strategy will perform better if you device effective ways to ask your customers for reviews. If you aren’t sure of how to do this, email is the best place to begin. More than 70 percent of online reviews originate from reviews requests sent from emails. However, other channels to consider include review landing pages, customer surveys, short message services (SMS) and review request automation tools.

3. Monitor Online Reviews

After asking for reviews from your customers, ensure that you monitor incoming reviews, especially on priority review sites. Monitoring your reviews allows you to mitigate the impact of negative reviews, especially how they can damage your online reputation and search engine rankings. Fortunately, monitoring tools, such as Google Alerts, make monitoring reviews a breeze.

4.  Respond to Online Reviews

Succeeding in online review management begins with committing to responding to customer reviews. You should make a habit of responding to both positive and negative customer reviews. For this, thank your customers for taking their time to share positive reviews. While doing this, ensure that you personalize your responses to enhance engagement.

On the other hand, dealing with negative reviews requires that you address valid customer concerns. Be empathetic to affected customers and show them that your business cares and takes these concerns seriously.

5.  Claim Your Business on Relevant Review Platforms

Apart from having a GMB page, don’t forget to claim your online business on other relevant review websites. Claiming your business on these platforms will enable you to control what can be posted and help improve rankings. Even though some review websites use information already available online to create business pages, others only create pages when customers review the business.

Review sites to consider are Zomato, Yelp and Trip Advisor, depending on the industry that your business falls into. Note that having reviews across multiple platforms makes it easy for search engines to establish quality and relevance before sharing with local online searchers.

6. Use Reviews as a Marketing Tool

You can integrate online review management into your marketing strategy. This is because online reviews help build trust and credibility. Therefore, integrating online reviews into your marketing strategy, be it website, search ads or Facebook page, can significantly improve your marketing results.

How Do Online Reviews Affect Local SEO?

A survey on local search engine ranking factors concluded that review signals contribute more than 16 percent of search engine’s decision-making analogy, especially local pack results ranking. According to digital marketing experts, several review metrics, such as the number, velocity and diversity of reviews, are taken into account by search engine algorithms.

That said, as a business, accumulating reviews on multiple platforms, having positive sentiments within reviews and featuring keywords, products and services within review texts are difference makers.

Positive reviews affect local SEO in the following ways:

Reviews Feed SEO Bots

When building your business website, ensure that you have detailed descriptions of your web pages for good SEO. These descriptions enable Google to recognize and crawl your site, increasing the chances of being served to online searchers. Google reviews feed SEO bots with content that you may have missed.

If your business has an excellent online reputation, you’ll definitely be gaining fresh reviews regularly. If you’ve worked with local SEO agencies or talked to SEO experts, you understand that fresh content is the backbone of SEO. This is why you are encouraged to upload blog posts, build new landing pages and focus on content marketing.

Reviews work similarly. If you acquire them regularly, online reviews provide fresh content that search engine spiders keep digesting. If your business is constantly reviewed on authoritative platforms, such as Google My Business, TrustPilot and Yelp, the better the impact.

Reviews Ticks SEO’s Quality Box

Improving your search engine rankings isn’t all about impressing automated bots. Google also has a human quality control department, which randomly reviews digital content. Human teams, better referred to as search quality raters, evaluate your website’s reputation and assess your expertise, content truth and authority.

With this, strong positive reviews are valuable SEO tools. Any content left by your clients gives your website great legitimacy and earns your site some juice from manual and automatic systems.

Reviews Build Customer Trust

SEO basically entails gaining Google’s trust. However, keep in mind that Google trusts customers more than it trusts marketers. In this sense, Google acts like a typical customer when searching for your business. Therefore, a positive online review informs Google about your business by providing third-party validation or social proof.

Reviews Improve User Experience

Before giving recommendations about a business to users, Google puts its weight and reputation behind these recommendations. Online reviews go a long way in optimizing customer experience in several ways. For starters, reviews enable you to assess how customers are reacting to your products and services.

Online reviews provide an invaluable opportunity to gauge the satisfaction levels of your audience and what you are doing right or wrong. For instance, if users raise complaints of delayed services, fixing them improves customer experience.

How To Respond to Negative Reviews

Your business can get negative reviews occasionally due to unsatisfied customers for several reasons. When it happens, use it as an opportunity to make peace and win the customer back. Unfortunately, most business owners ignore negative comments or respond to them with angry and unprofessional responses.

Instead of doing this, reach out to the customer directly to make up for their bad experience. You can do this either by replying to the comment or messaging the customer privately. By doing so, you will have identified areas in your business that need improvement and retained an otherwise former customer. Actually, you will be surprised by how customers can change tune after reaching out.

Conclusion

Online reviews are among Google’s “local three-pack.” While it may not be easy for your business to rank among the local three-pack, online reviews can make the difference. Since the local three-pack ranks above other organic search results, appearing among them highly improves your business’s organic traffic and click-through rates. However, proper online review management is necessary if you want to enjoy these benefits.





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By Margaret Blank

At the moment I am an expert-analyst in the field of search engine optimization, leading several projects and consulting on website optimization and promotion, I am actively involved in various thematic seminars and conferences.

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