The quick answer is yes, Google Reviews do help boost search rankings and your total SEO efforts. While there are a number of factors connected to search rankings, customer reviews could be a strong signal to search engines that demonstrates credibility and authority. In an age in which the competition has become harder for small businesses on the internet, taking care of online reviews is a way to separate your business and boost your visibility in the search results.
When you think of SEO, reviews from clients aren’t often the initial thing that enters your mind. With all the other significant SEO focus items to sort through, like content creation and link building, reviews just don’t get much notice. But they should – particularly if your business is a local one.
According to a research study conducted by Local SEO Guide, Google reviews that used the searched-for keyword were the second-most important element when checking a local business’ performance in the “Local Pack”, the box of local search and map results that is present at the top of relevant searches in Google.
You can observe this at work for the query in the screenshot above. When I looked for “roof company”, one of the factors Google used to decide on which businesses to show in the Local Pack was reviews. Specifically, look at the snippets of reviews at the bottom of each business’ space – my search terms and occasionally related or semantically-related ones, such as “adoption” are in bold, signifying Google’s determination of relevance.
Actually, the only search ranking variable that was identified to be more significant than reviews is the total amount of additional organic rankings – to put it simply, if the site is SEO-friendly and already has excellent organic rankings for several terms, the website is more likely to appear in the Local Pack.
What if you aren’t a local business? Do Google reviews still make a difference?
If your business runs in a purely ecommerce arena or has no true physical location, there’s still research that supports the value of reviews for SEO. Review management platform Yotpo examined the effect of adding customer reviews onto a sample of online businesses’ websites. Over the 9 month study, Google organic pageviews improved from somewhere close to 5.5 k a month to a shocking 8k a month. Not too shabby!
Research is great and everybody likes to see graphs of businesses receiving more traffic, but you’re undoubtedly still not sure how online reviews affect businesses’ rankings this way. There are effectively a few relatively direct explanations for why Google reviews do boost rankings.
Okay, that’s a tiny bit of an exaggeration, but the fact is that Google relies on signals to decide on whether a website deserves good rankings or not. We’ve seen this since the very first days of Google with the value of links. When your site gets a link from another appropriate site, Google sees that as a sort of recommendation of trust, and rewards you with better presence. Likewise, when a customer reviews your business (good or bad), it tells Google that not only is your business a real, legitimate company, but that other people have connected with it and can help prospective customers make choices. In other words, Google loves this type of stuff.
Like the book lover in your life, Google “reads” your website to understand the world (or in this particular case, the Internet). The more content that it has to read, the more it will understand your business. When you take advantage of customer reviews on your site for SEO, or produce them on Google My Business, Google has tons of fresh content to read and several keywords to add to its knowledge of your business.
Remember how I searched “roof company” and Google took my query out as a keyword from the businesses’ reviews? Customers will inadvertently describe your services and products to Google, and those reviews provide SEO value to your business without the customers even realizing that they’re helping you. Reviews can even help fill in the content gaps that may be present on your website, and increase your rankings and overall presence in this way.
Whether you like it or not, people trust reviews. Think of it this way – if you’re shown a Local Pack and two of them have 2-star ratings while the third has 5-star ones, which one are you most likely to click?
SEO rankings have long been known to be affected by click through rates. If a significant percentage of searches pick your website from the search results, Google thinks you’re doing things right and will reward your site with better rankings. Reviews can play a huge part with click through rates, particularly if you’re earning glowing reviews consistently. By attracting clicks with high ratings, you’ll likely see a boost in rankings, too.
The good news is, if your business is doing great work, online review management shouldn’t be TOO exhausting on your resources. There are many ways to get the best out of your reviews, but among the most significant ones is to include reviews across your site. Depending on your type of website and your business, there are plenty of tools for accomplishing this, and implementation can vary, but take a look at tools like Yotpo or Kudobuzz, which can be used to connect your website in to existing reviews, create new ones, and create trust among potential customers.
In the long run, though, you should incorporate reviews in your SEO strategy. Working with an SEO agency is a great choice for small to medium businesses wanting to build but not looking to invest in an in-house team.