The importance of online reviews for SEO: how to generate conversions and improve search engine rankings

The importance of online reviews for generating conversions and improving search engine rankings

Online reviews are becoming more and more important, and both Facebook and Google are in an arms race to get businesses to push their online review platforms. This is being achieved by making them more prominent, as well as ensuring that they have a bigger impact on things like SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) or alternative recommendations.

One such example is in March this year, when we reported that Facebook were in the process of introducing ‘City Guides’, a new feature that would enable users to get recommendations for things to do when visiting popular cities.

Using location data and Facebook’s existing ‘check-in’ capability, the new City Guides feature works by presenting users with a list of popular major cities that have already been visited by their Facebook Friends. After selecting a city, users are then given recommendations on things to do in this city (based on their Friends’ previous check-ins), as well as being able to read any reviews they’ve left.

When details of the new ‘City Guides’ feature were originally revealed in March, we predicted a slow rollout period, and it’s only recently that we’ve started to see it in action ourselves.

So, why is this so important? These recommendations are based on your Friends’ reviews, and the places other Facebook users have visited (with businesses currently being unable to place ads in this section). As Facebook have invested in this feature, but are not using it to generate revenue for themselves (at least for now), it shows the great importance of personal reviews and recommendations when influencing purchasing decisions.

According to Trustpilot, ‘word of mouth’ is still the most popular method of recommendation. However, a whopping 92% of consumers now consult online reviews. Statistics also show that 48% will visit a company’s website after reading a review, and reviews can produce an average of an 18% uplift in sales.

Additionally, 80% of people claim they trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.

As consumers place so much value on other people’s experiences and feedback, it’s becoming more vital than ever for your business to have online reviews. These can be collected on your brand’s Facebook and Google My Business pages, as well as the likes of TripAdvisor, Amazon, and Yelp. However, although reviews from all sources are valuable, managing and responding to Google reviews will improve your SEO.

The importance of online reviews

As Trustpilot explains, Moz attributed 13% of traffic value to online reviews this year, making customer feedback the 5th most important ranking factor. In terms of reviews, Moz claimed that the quantity, diversity, and velocity of the reviews were also taken into consideration, as well as the product and service keywords used in reviews.

Google also advises users to encourage reviews, as well as manage and respond to them. The Google My Business Help Page says: “high-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’ visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.” Responding to reviews will also show that you value your customers feedback, which potential customers will appreciate.

It may seem daunting, but to encourage your customers to leave a review, your best option is to just reach out to them and ask! When doing so, however, you’ll need to remember that it’s against Google’s policy to offer people an incentive to do so, and any reviews that were paid for (either by money or gifts) may be removed from your Google My Business page.

Fake reviews (real news!)

Because of their potential impact, fake reviews are becoming an increasingly large problem; it’s thought that up to 15% of online reviews are fake. In fact, in March 2017, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) fined a Los Angeles based car dealership group $3.6million for taking part in this practice.

As recently as August this year, Joe Hawkins of Search Engine Land also reported that he found an SEO company in Texas encouraging businesses to swap reviews on Google.

Joe Hawkins also points out that they’re not the only ones to be caught out; in 2013, 19 small businesses and SEO firms were fined more than $350,000 for writing and posting fake reviews.

Although it can be tempting to buy or trade fake reviews to achieve a quick win, taking part in this practice will have negative, and often long-term consequences. As well as having the fake reviews removed by Google, your current and potential customers knowing your reviews are fake could cause irreparable damage to your reputation.

In the UK, the government is cracking down on fake reviews, and as of last year, they’ve been considering making them illegal. However, as the GOV.UK website explains, if your business is posting fake reviews (or is paying someone else to do so), then you could mislead consumers. This puts you in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

If you’re found to be guilty of misleading consumers, you could be fined and face up to 2 years’ imprisonment. Therefore, you should always ensure that your Google reviews are authentic.

How to get more reviews

Now that you know the importance of online reviews, it’s time to start thinking about the best ways to encourage your customers to write them, and the way you approach this will depend largely on the type of business you run.

For a B2C (business to consumer) brand, automated emails at key points during the client lifecycle are a good option to choose, as these tend to be part of the ‘go live’ (or ‘set-up’) process. This could be after a purchase, or upgrade or a week after a delivery is made to give the best chance that customers will have engaged (hopefully positively) with the product or service.

For B2B (business to business), you may have a more personal relationship with your clients, so you can instead opt to reach out directly to those are particularly happy with their service, and ask them to leave a review. If they’re a happy customer, most will be more than happy to oblige!

For both B2B and B2C, you can also reach out to your customers on social media. A few times a month, post an update asking your followers to leave their feedback on what they like about your company, as well as any areas where you could make improvements. When people are reading reviews, having a range of reviews will look far more authentic than just having ones with 5 stars.  It also is a great opportunity for you to put things right if a customer has had a bad experience.

Finally, it’s all well and good getting these reviews from your customers, but it’s also important to remember to respond to them, as this is best practice. You should thank people for leaving good reviews, as well as those that leave ones with less positive feedback; after all, they’ve all taken time out of their day to do write a review.

If you want more great reviews and want to see how they could improve your SEO, contact the Traffic Jam Media team today.

Are there any topics you’d like covered in the future? Send us a message on social media or drop us an email to let us know!

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