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How Online Reviews Affect Local SEO

Let’s try to think of one thing you consider when buying a new product. 

Wouldn’t you go and read about other people’s experiences to make a final decision? 

It’s not a secret that online reviews are one of the factors affecting consumer decisions. As a business owner, you need to be cautious of the online reviews you get, as they will either make or break your business recognition.

This article will show you how reviews affect local SEO and how they can drive leads and sales to your business.   

Fundamentals 

Local SEO

Local Ranking Factors

The Impact of Reviews on Local SEO 

Encouraging Customers to Leave Reviews

Conclusion 

Local SEO 

First of all, let us make the difference between generic SEO and local SEO clear to you. 

Most of the time, when you hear marketers or website owners talk about SEO, they refer to regular SEO; in other words, that is the optimization of the website on a broader and global level. The goal is to rank high on the SERP, no matter the searcher’s location on the globe. 

On the contrary, any business with a physical storefront or particular geographic area needs local SEO. 

With local SEO, businesses optimize their site to show in a specific location or a geographic region. Google uses separate algorithms for local results, meaning that local SEO is different from traditional SEO, and so is the optimization process. 

Before we jump into the local ranking factors, let’s check whether Google’s local algorithm applies to your business.

The easiest way is to Google some keywords connected to your business or industry and see the results. 

Assume you have a Chinese restaurant in Fayetteville. You can Google “Chinese in Fayetteville.” You will see a Google Map Pack, displaying the three most highly ranked businesses or the most relevant to the search inquiry. 

Local SEO

The three results on the local pack are Golden China, Fujo’s Chinese Restaurant, and Hong Kong. The three restaurants have been returned by Google’s local algorithm.  These businesses have signed up with Google and have a profile on Google My Business. 

Besides the local pack, local SEO also helps you target localized organic search results. Those are web pages  which show local relevance to the searcher or where the business has been mentioned. The typical examples often include directories, such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, Bing, Facebook, and others.   

Local SEO

Localized organic search results are usually displayed below Google Map Pack. 

Local Ranking Factors

One thing to note is that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for local SEO. What makes your rankings skyrocket might not be of the same relevance for other businesses. The key to success is to try and see which ones work for you best!

But you still need to consider the following factors: 

  1. Google My Business – proximity, categories, keywords, photos, and videos  
  2. Links signals – inbound anchor text, inbound links, linking domain authority, linking domain quantity 
  3. On-page signals – location and keyword optimization, consistent name, address, and phone number (NAP) information, domain authority 
  4. Social signals – engagement from Facebook, Twitter, etc. 
  5. Online directories – citations from Apple maps, Yellow pages, Foursquare, Yahoo’s Localworks 
  6. And finally REVIEWS  

The Impact of Reviews on Local SEO 

The reviews are sometimes considered the backbone of a successful business.

Many people prefer to spend some time reading reviews from strangers to make a final purchase decision. People believe these strangers because they contribute to the “social proof.” 

Look at reviews as crowdsourced data, which are essential to potential customers and Google’s local algorithm. Most reviews and ratings are likely to improve a business’s local ranking on the local pack.  

According to Google, the primary factors for local rankings are relevance, distance and prominence.

The  prominence is based on the information about the business from across the web, such as articles, directories and review sites.  

There are several key metrics about reviews, which are worth to consider because they contribute to your business’s prominence:

  1. Review quantity and quality 

The number of positive reviews is going to improve your business’s visibility. 

  1. Reviews with keywords and location 

Chances of appearing in the pack increase when your customers use keywords or mention locations in the reviews. 

  1. Review velocity 

Google also considers the freshness of the reviews. As a local business owner, you need to pay attention to the pace you generate reviews. 

It would be nice to have a natural pattern, like generating a certain number of reviews weekly. Otherwise, Google may not prioritize your business if you get many reviews within one day and don’t get any in weeks or months. 

  1. Review sites 

Google My Business is the first website for rankings and reviews. But it would be best if you also thought of claiming your business in other review sites, such as Yelp, Glassdoor, Angie’s list, Facebook or industry-specific sites. 

  1.  Engagement 

Interaction with customers is crucial to your business, since it shows that you are empathetic, grateful and simply care!

Google itself suggests that if you want to improve your rankings, you should reply to the reviews left by your customers. 

Here you can find the guide on reading and replying to reviews on Google. 

Encouraging Customers to Leave Reviews

You already know that for improved rankings, you need to generate reviews continually. Your business should have more reviews than your competitor’s. 

Usually, people are more likely to leave reviews when they are angry with something or don’t get the customer service they wish. But if you focus on customer satisfaction and solve your internal problems first, you won’t have to worry about bad reviews. 

Most of the time, you just need to ask your customers to leave feedback. It is a good idea to show appreciation for reviews on your local business’s banners or brochures. You could also train your staff and tell them to ask for a review, especially when they see the customer is pleased with the service or product.  

Another practice for review generation is collecting customers’ email addresses and following up in about two days, asking them to share their experience. 

Moreover, it should be easy for customers to leave reviews. For example, you can share all the review websites’ links in the email, where your local business is listed. The customer will choose to leave feedback on the site, where he/she feels the most comfortable. 

And finally, take your time to respond to the reviews on different sites as much as you can. Your priority should be replying to negative reviews first, by showing that you are sorry for their bad experience and have a willingness to provide some kind of compensation. 

As a business owner, you or maybe someone from your team can dedicate one day a week to reply to all reviews!

Conclusion

As you already know, reviews matter both to your consumers and to Google’s local search algorithm. Google My Business profile and other review sites are crucial local SEO components. 

Check out LinkSignal’s “Using Google Alerts for Your SEO Strategy” to learn how to keep track of customers’ negative feedback. The article will show you how to navigate your business reviews on Google Alerts. 

Don’t forget to leave a comment below and let us know what local SEO strategy you will choose for your business.

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