Local SEO is one of the practices you want to consider when working on an SEO strategy. It entails using organic SEO tactics but tailoring them to local search engine results.
Local SEO services are more beneficial to home service businesses. With these services in place, their content and advertisements may efficiently target customers in the geographic region in which they operate. However, since the level of competition and Google’s attempts to provide the best results for its users, online customer reviews play a role.
Google reviews influence your business’s ranking as well as its growth. It is difficult to know where to focus your efforts as a local business owner. So, how can you use reviews to improve your SEO? We’ll look at leveraging customer reviews to improve your local SEO ranking in this post.
What is local SEO, and why is it important?
Local SEO is the practice that focuses on improving your local online presence to attract more business from relevant local queries. The local search results change based on the location of the person searching. Also, there are two types of local SEO factors that matter: 3-Pack and standard organic results.
The Google 3-Pack is how Google displays the top three local SERP results. It makes the search relevant to the location where the user entered the query. It includes customer reviews, photos, and a map showing your location.
For example, if you search for gyms in New York, you will see that the 3-Pack dominates the top of the search results. Below the 3-Pack is your standard organic search results.
The 3-pack accounts for 33% of all clicks on the search results page. On the other hand, ranking in organic search results is also significant because the top results attract an additional 40% of all clicks.
Local SEO can boost your location’s visibility and presence to attract more customers from local searches. Also, it helps you increase search traffic, competitive research, raise brand awareness, and dominate your market. It can help you save money on advertising because you won’t have to keep investing to reach the top.
In other words, local SEO has the potential to boost your local online business drastically. You will see an increase in sales if you have a Google My Business account and other local SEO strategies to assist more local clients in finding your business.
How can you use customer reviews for local SEO?
Google, in standard search results, does not show much detail. It displays meta descriptions, titles, and URLs. Unlike in local search results, Google reviews and ratings will be visible on the 3-Pack. So, we can confidently assert that reviews are a crucial ranking factor.
Also, Google is constantly working to provide its users with the most up-to-date reputation and credibility data. Ratings and positive reviews assist Google with telling between good and not-so-good businesses and which results it should emphasize for local searches. Consumers can use reviews to sort out the good from the bad and find the best local business for their needs.
Google employs three key categories: relevance, distance, and prominence to describe local ranking factors. Review data comes under the prominence category. Search engines such as Google will consider your review profile, including quality and quantity.
The good news is that executing a well-planned local SEO strategy will enhance both your map pack and organic rankings. So, if you want to improve your ranking, here are a few things you should do.
1. Reviews affect your Google ranking
It’s no wonder that Google reviews and SEO are tightly intertwined since they have a similar goal. They communicate trustworthiness and authority. The higher your star rating, the more credibility your business enjoys. In addition, if your business has a lot of reviews, it means that more people have tried your products or visited your store, which in turn could convince others to do the same.
Google customer reviews send critical signals to search engines indicating that your business possesses the reliability, credibility, and authority that the algorithm seeks. Consumers, on the other hand, love reviews and will often use them to confirm their decision to do business with you or not.
Reviews are an integral part of the business and influence search positions for local ranks and overall results. Google analyzes all company reviews and ratings to guarantee that online customers find the best services and products when using Google search. As a result, reviews will have an impact on your ranking.
As noted by Google:
“Google review count and score are factored into local search ranking: more reviews and positive ratings will probably improve a business’s local ranking.”
So, create a method for asking your customers to give reviews whenever possible. Also, ensure that customers have a great experience to encourage them to post a review.
One way of getting reviews from your customers is through email marketing. You can set up your email marketing software to send an email reminding your customers to visit your website and leave a review a few days after they visit your business. If your customers are happy with your service, they will be more likely to leave a good review and help you improve your Google ranking.
2. Use structured data to your advantage
In recent years, the scheme has proven itself among SEO experts as a legitimate optimization strategy to get the most crucial answer boxes and rich snippets at the zero position of the search results.
Structured data, often known as schema markup, is data or code added to the HTML of a web page. It allows you to provide a more comprehensive picture of your content to search engines. In other words, it tells the search engines what specific information your site contains and where it is located.
So, when people type in search queries, search engines will deliver accurate and relevant results. It enables search engines to give you some benefits, such as higher ranking and showing your material as rich snippets on SERP.
Rich snippets are the most crucial advantage of structured data. It’s a rich result that appears for articles, events, recipes, and various other forms of content. They provide consumers with quick access to summary information about their search results. They often display a title, image, and a significantly longer explanation of your topic. They may also contain star ratings based on reviews left by customers.
Because rich snippets contain more information than normal search results, they are more prominent visually. These elements increase the visibility of your website, encourage users to click on the link, and help your content stand out from the crowd.
For instance, searching for “houseboat rental amsterdam” yields the result below:
The search result above is the top-ranked organic page outside of ads and the 3-pack. It performs so well in searches for its target keyword because it contains a summary of its review ratings and an estimated price range. Both elements are crucial for people who are planning to go on a houseboat vacation in Amsterdam as they want to stay in top-notch accommodation at a reasonable cost.
3. Get backlinks from local authority websites
Obtaining a range of reviews from websites that are locally related to your business helps you gain authority, proximity, relevance, and prominence, all crucial elements in local rank. The more quality links and mentions of your business that search engines find on reputable sites, the more likely Google will include your company as a reliable resource in their results.
Creating localized content and generating quality local links have a tremendous influence. It makes sense to contact the most well-known local guides and request that they review your business. Request an honest review of your business from a local authority blogger or influencer. You might also inquire about writing a guest article for a local website and link back to your own site.
Aside from that, to increase your presence, you may build trustworthy relationships in several ways, like supporting local nonprofits and events or joining a chamber of commerce. You may also use conventional backlinks to improve your organic ranking.
You can build backlinks through guest content that answer user questions or address common pain points. Backlinking can bring hundreds of new clients to your business in the local area.
4. You may need a certain number of reviews
You don’t need us to tell you that the more favorable reviews and ratings you receive, the higher your ranking will be. Local companies that rank in the top three spots in Google local have an average of 47 Google reviews, according to BrightLocal.
But, when it comes to Google, there are no hard and fast rules for the number of reviews necessary to rank. The good news is that it may not take too many reviews to rank high on local searches. According to this, you can see that you need at least five Google reviews for your star rating to appear in local searches. So, depending on your industry and level of competition, you could rank with as few as five reviews.
It is important to note that relying on reviews’ numbers to get high rankings is not enough. The diversity and quality of your reviews may be more significant than the quantity since reviews show customers the authenticity of the business.
Also, the time you get reviews is crucial. The reviews that you get from the last week or month are more significant than the reviews you got five years ago.
5. Responding to reviews
What works for customers works for search engines as well. When a business takes the time to thank pleased customers, apologize to unsatisfied customers, and resolve issues, it shows consumers and search engines that it cares about the customer experience. Also, responding to reviews makes you look more trustworthy.
The elements that rely on positive customer experience demonstrate to Google that your business is reliable. That implies you’re more likely to appear in the 3-pack results since Google aims to provide customers with the best results for their queries.
Studies show that 33% of customers who received a response from a business after leaving a negative review changed their review to a good one, while 34% erased the negative one.
People have taken the time to write a review about your company, so the absolute least you can do is respond in kind. So, make it brief, sweet, and personal.
Aside from that, trying to respond as quickly as possible indicates how grateful you are to the consumer. Suppose you leave a positive review sitting for months before replying. In that case, you risk being known as a business that does not care about its consumers, resulting in a negative customer experience.
This issue is particularly crucial in competitive niches, especially in service-based industries. For example, the Melbourne coffee scene is one of the most vibrant in the world. It’s also highly competitive. For a brand to stand out in this environment, they need to be responsive to customer reviews, particularly negative ones. Quists Coffee is a good example of a business that responds to negative feedback very well:
The owner’s response starts with an apology, followed by an explanation of what went wrong. The response ends with an invitation to try Quists Coffee again – and many dissatisfied customers do come back and end up happier than their first visit.
You can also use review responses to tell stories about your business, especially if the customer asks a question:
In the example above, the cafe owner took the opportunity to explain that Quists is a family business that tries to blend the shop’s unique character while maintaining very high standards of quality. This way, the reviewer has more information about the shop in case they decide to write or tell their friends about it.
6. Using UGC on review websites
People trust customer recommendations more than marketing messages. Also, it helps search engines obtain a highly accurate representation of the credibility of your business. So, Google may include user-generated content (UGC) when ranking pages.
User-generated content (UGC) is any content about your company made by non-affiliated people and published online or on review websites. It can include user-created sites, social media postings, images, videos, and user-to-user interactions.
Here’s one example from Focus on Force review on Indeed:
These reviews from Indeed come up for the search term, “Focus on Force Salesforce certification review US”.
Depending on your business, Google frequently incorporates reviews from other websites into your local search ranking, such as showcasing your Facebook or Indeed ratings or reviews — as seen above — among other things.
Let’s use Yelp as another example. According to statistics, Yelp ranks in the top five search results in 92% of online searches on Google.
As you can see in this image, the search term “Scooter Importer California” yields results from Yelp and Facebook after the 3-Pack. Reviews are the number one ranking factor for these results. Yelp includes review frequency, the total number of reviews, and review rating; confirming that reviews on those sites are a ranking factor.
So, whatever content your users write on trustworthy websites like Facebook, Amazon, Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, and others will often be taken into account for monetization rules and ranking purposes.
As a result, you want to focus on word-of-mouth marketing to expand your online presence and make your company seem trustworthy in Google searches. You’ll need to manage user-generated content across all platforms, maximize customer engagement, and develop strong relationships with your consumers.
It’s critical to encourage people to leave feedback on review sites. Use a review funnel landing page to provide your consumers the choice of leaving a review on the review site that is simplest and most familiar to them.
Sharing positive reviews on your social media networks can serve as social proof. It convinces potential customers that your business is trustworthy.
Google reviews and SEO are tightly intertwined. Customer reviews affect rankings. So, you should view generating reviews as a continuous process. Besides, reviews influence conversions, too.
Appearing in local search results increases brand awareness and encourages customers to connect with it, resulting in increased income. So, it’s critical to incorporate a review strategy in your local SEO approach.
You must ensure your online presence if you want to stay in the game and ahead of the competition. Set up your review request process. Once you’ve done that, Google will help you collect more reviews. To increase your chances of appearing on SERP, keep these criteria in mind while developing your local SEO strategy. You’ll reap huge rewards just by performing these Google reviews and SEO small practices, that’s for sure.
Martin Gessner is the Founder of Focus on Force. He has spent over 10 years working in various Salesforce roles including business analyst, project manager, consultant, and solutions architect. Along the way, he has earned twelve certifications, published “The Salesforce Career Playbook”, and helped Salesforce professionals learn more about Salesforce, develop their careers and prepare for certifications.