According to a BrightLocal survey, 98% of customers read online reviews for local businesses — and you probably do the same thing. Surprisingly, 46% also say they trust online reviews as much as they do recommendations from friends and family.
These statistics highlight the significance of Google Reviews for businesses looking to attract and retain new customers. Having a high number of reviews could increase the trustworthiness of your business, but the real question is, “Does responding to reviews help SEO?”
Let’s start at the beginning.
What Are Google Reviews?
To put it simply, Google Reviews are like online word-of-mouth for your business. They’re pieces of feedback left by customers who’ve previously had an experience with your company, and they show up on your Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business). These ratings give potential customers a glimpse into what it’s like to work with you.
Do Google Reviews Impact SEO?
At the surface level, reviews are great for building trust with potential customers. But what impact — if any — do they have on search engine results pages (SERPs)?
Are Google Reviews a Ranking Factor?
First, let’s address ranking factors. If you have a lot of positive or negative reviews, what are the chances that it will affect how well your website ranks in search results?
If you know Google, the answer won’t surprise you.
Most SEOs believe Google uses reviews as a ranking factor for local SEO searches. It appears that reviews are used more heavily to determine rankings in the local pack than in local search results, but they seem to play a role in both.
When your business has lots of positive reviews, Google takes it as a sign that you’re a reputable, trustworthy business. Ultimately, they want to connect searchers with what they’re looking for and provide them with a positive experience so they’ll come back time and time again. By highlighting businesses that others have vouched for, they believe they can connect searchers with businesses that will best meet their needs.
Google also bolds relevant keywords in reviews, making it easier for searchers to find comments that align with what they’re interested in and see how many others have remarked about that feature.
Increased Trust and Credibility With Potential Customers
People gravitate toward social proof, and nothing assures them of your authenticity more than a substantial number of positive Google Reviews. A business with numerous five-star reviews is generally considered more trustworthy, so the more you get, the more credible you’ll appear to potential customers. Since reviews showcase trust and highlight people’s experience with your business, they’re also an important EEAT signal.
Higher Click-Through Rates
People are drawn to reputable businesses, and those ratings are crucial for attracting more customers. When your business has a high average rating, users are more likely to click on your listing. And those click-throughs can actually boost your SEO because they indicate that your page matches the search intent of the keyword.
Does Responding to Google Reviews Help SEO?
What about responding to reviews? Should a local business take the time to reply to each review they get?
When you respond to a review, you’re engaging with a customer and you’re showing potential customers what it may be like to buy a product or service from you. It’s great for building rapport with your target audience. Plus, you’re also providing Google with new content that it can use to better index your pages.
To maximize their SEO value, use keywords in your review responses — especially since Google bolds them. Similarly, review snippets highlight the most mentioned keywords from your GBP reviews.
While it’s not clear whether responding to reviews is a ranking factor in and of itself, responding can help you get more reviews, which we know is a ranking factor.
How To Get More Google Reviews
Consistently getting positive reviews showcases your commitment to quality services and encourages potential customers to learn more about your business.
Claim Your Google Business Profile Listing
First things first: If you haven’t already, you need to claim your Google Business Profile (GBP) listing. This is your ticket to connecting with customers across Google Search and Maps.
Claiming your listing allows you to:
- Take control of your business info. Claiming your listing lets you update your details and ensure that everything about your business is accurate.
- Respond to reviews. When you claim your listing, you can reply to all those kind words (and address any haters, too).
- Boost online visibility. Claimed and optimized listings are much more likely to rank higher in local search results and that means more visibility for your business.
Follow these three simple steps to claim yours:
- Go to google.com/business and sign in with the Google account you want associated with your business (or create one if you’re new).
- Search for your business name or create a new entry if it does not exist.
- Verify your listing. Google will send a postcard to your business address with a verification code. Once you receive the code, enter the code into your GBP account, and voila — you’re done!
Alternatively, you can search for your business name and click “Own this business?” on the Knowledge Graph that appears on the right.
For more tips on improving your GBP listing, check out our post on How To Optimize Your Google Business Profile.
Encourage Reviews From Happy Customers
Once you’ve claimed your listing, it’s time to get those reviews rolling in. Here are some tips to encourage your happy customers to share their love for your business:
- Just ask! Sometimes, all it takes is a simple request. When a customer seems excited about your service, kindly ask if they’d be willing to share their experience on Google. People love to help, and if they’re thrilled with your service, they’ll likely be excited to spread the word. Train frontline associates to ask for reviews or print review info right on your receipts or invoices.
- Make it personal: Consider sending a personalized follow up email. Use the customer’s name, mention specific details about their experience, and express genuine appreciation for their support. Make them feel special!
- Timing is everything: If possible, ask for a review right after your customer has had a positive experience. The more recent the interaction, the more likely they’ll be to leave an awesome review.
- Offer incentives (but don’t bribe): Consider offering a small incentive for customers who leave a review (like a percentage off of a future purchase). Just be sure not to bribe them for positive feedback; it’s against Google’s guidelines.
Remember, it’s all about being authentic, personal, and genuine with your customers. They’ll feel the love and, in return, share the love in their reviews.
Make It Easy for Customers To Leave Reviews
Remove barriers to leaving a review — make it simple so more people choose to leave them.
- Provide your customers with simple instructions for leaving a review. For example:
- Head over to Google and search for our business.
- Find the “Write a review” button on the right-hand side of the screen and give it a click.
- Choose a star rating, write your thoughts, and hit “Post.” Easy!
- Provide links to your Google Business Profile page. Add them to your website, emails, texts, and social media profiles. You can even add them to a bag insert with a QR code. The less work your customers have to do, the more likely they’ll be to review your business.
- Finally, send a follow-up email to your customers after they’ve used your product or service. Be sure to keep it genuine and provide a handy Google Reviews link.
Responding To Google Reviews
Whether a customer says something positive about your business or highlights a potential issue with a negative review, responding to a review will show future customers you care about their feedback. Here are some tips for managing the different types of reviews that may come your way.
Responding To Positive Reviews
Responding to reviews demonstrates you’re an engaged and attentive business owner, and it makes your customers feel valued. So, how do you respond to those positive reviews?
- Be prompt. Don’t leave them hanging! Respond as soon as you can, preferably within a day or two.
- Get personal. Use the reviewer’s name and mention specific details from their review.
- Show gratitude. A simple “Thank you” goes a long way. Let them know you appreciate their feedback.
- Invite them back. Encourage the reviewer to come back, and maybe even drop a hint about an upcoming promotion or event.
Responding To Negative Reviews
Negative reviews happen. The important thing is handling them properly. Here’s how you should consider responding to those less-than-stellar reviews:
- Keep your cool. Take a deep breath and remember that nobody’s perfect. A negative review is an opportunity to learn and grow. Stay calm and collected. You want to come across as a reasonable business owner who’s willing to make things right.
- Be prompt. Just like with positive reviews, don’t leave them hanging. Show that you take their concerns seriously.
- Address the issue. Acknowledge the problem, apologize if necessary, and offer a solution (like a refund or replacement).
- Take it offline. Provide contact info and invite the reviewer to discuss the issue further in a more private setting.
Sometimes competitors or angry customers leave fake reviews. Thankfully, you can report fake or spammy reviews and have Google remove them. Don’t report regular negative reviews, though. Google won’t take them down.
- Head to your Google Business Profile dashboard and find the review in question.
- Click on the three little dots in the corner of the review and choose “Flag as inappropriate.”
- Select why you’re reporting the review.
- Click “Submit,” and Google will review your report and take action if needed. You’ll receive an email letting you know what they decide.
Remember, only report genuine fakes or spam. It may take a little while for the review to be removed.
Learn More About Local SEO
Google Reviews are just one piece of the local SEO puzzle. To truly maximize your local online presence, you’ll want to explore the wider world of local SEO, including link building, citations, and GBP optimization. The more you know, the better you’ll be at attracting local customers and dominating the search results.
A local SEO agency can be a fantastic partner in your quest for increased SERP visibility. At Victorious, we can help you navigate the sometimes confusing world of local search and make sure your business stands out online.
Ready to boost your local SEO game? Contact us today and start your journey to the top of the local search results.