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Third-party reviews offer invaluable insight from an unbiased perspective on your business. They also instill trust with potential customers, which may help guide their decision to purchase your product or service.
In fact, nearly half (42%) of internet users in the U.S. cite reviews from other customers as a feature that would most increase their likelihood of buying a product.
When compared to first-party reviews, third-party reviews can also appear more credible to a searcher. After all, a business is unlikely to publish negative reviews on its website.
Whether you’re looking to convert searches into sales or improve your search ranking, focusing on enhancing your reviews’ search engine optimization (SEO) efforts can achieve both. Reviews are a heavily weighted local search ranking factor, accounting for 16% of the Local Pack ranking.
How can your business better showcase the sentiment found in your reviews to searchers looking for your product or service?
And, what are some proven strategies for surfacing this valuable content through SEO?
You’ll learn both in this post as we discuss five surefire tactics to boost your SEO with third-party reviews and stand out among your competitors.
1. Improve Your Review Score
The GMB help guide states that local search results “are based primarily on relevance, distance, and prominence.”
Prominence refers to how well-known a business is, which directly correlates to the number of reviews a business has as well as what customers think about the business.
The help guide also notes:
“Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking. More reviews and positive ratings can improve your business’s local ranking.”
There are several approaches to take to improve your overall review score for your business locations.
First, ask customers who have had a positive experience with your business to leave a review. Not only are they already motivated having had a positive experience with your business, but they’re also likely to leave positive feedback to help you boost your rating.
We also recommend responding to all of your reviews, positive or negative.
When a reviewer sees you’ve taken the consideration and time to respond to their praise or complaint, they’re more likely to have a favorable view of your business. This may lead to the reviewer recommending your business to family or friends.
It also allows you to control the narrative and target your sought-after keywords in your response.
Not only will your overall star rating help improve your SEO but also your sales. According to a recent study, 52% of consumers wouldn’t consider using a business with fewer than four stars and cite star rating as the most important review factor.
2. Factor in Review Velocity
Review velocity refers to how often your business receives new reviews.
Along with its SEO value, consumers prefer to read new reviews to learn more about your business.
Forty percent of consumers say they only look at reviews of local businesses written in the past two weeks. Additionally, 85% say reviews more than three months old are no longer relevant.
Encourage happy customers to leave reviews often and make it a part of your purchasing process to keep a steady stream of up-to-date reviews.
All of these tactics can solicit new reviews and fall within Google’s review guidelines:
- Send your customers an email
- Print a QR code on every sales receipt.
- Send a follow-up text after an appointment.
- Simply ask for a review during the transaction process.
3. Focus on the Volume of Your Reviews
Consider this: You’re out of town visiting a new city where you want to find a restaurant nearby for dinner. Would you prefer to go to a restaurant with 10 reviews or one with 100, both with a similar overall star rating?
More than likely, you’d opt to dine at the restaurant with more reviews as that restaurant appears to be more credible. A solid review gathering strategy can help bridge the gap of having too few reviews to encourage new business.
It can also help legitimize your business with search engines as well.
GMB’s help page states that:
“High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”
The best way to get customers to leave a review is to ask them to do so. If your customers have opted into your email or text marketing campaigns, it’s ideal to ask them to leave a review as soon as possible while your business is top of mind.
For service-based businesses that use online booking systems for their services, after the customer has completed their appointment, they should receive an automated message (text, email, etc.) that asks them to leave their honest feedback regarding their experience with a direct link to leave a Google review.
Brick-and-mortar stores may also benefit from having a QR code on receipts that directs customers to leave a Google review.
While all review platforms encourage businesses to ask customers for reviews, it’s important not to violate any policies. For example, Google states businesses can’t “selectively solicit(ing) positive reviews from customers.”
Additionally, Google also forbids:
- Reviews left by employees.
- Soliciting reviews in bulk.
- Paying customers in exchange for reviews.
- Discouraging or prohibiting negative reviews.
- Posting fake reviews for your business.
You can read more about Google’s official guidelines here. Keep in mind that every platform will have different rules and regulations and it’s important to check what each allows.
4. Respond to Positive and Negative Reviews
Responding to positive and negative reviews not only shows consumers you care about their feedback but has also been confirmed by Google to play a role in SEO.
“Respond to reviews that users leave about your business… Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback they leave about your business.”
Responding to every review may seem like a daunting task for a business that has many locations. However, a good workaround for eliminating work is creating corporate-approved templates.
These templates can be based on your brand guidelines and should adhere to your brand voice.
Your business should also have a process for escalating reviews that require a more in-depth response, as well as a point person who can respond to these reviews quickly.
If your business is just starting with your review response efforts, focus on responding to negative reviews first, especially those left within the past few months.
Recent reviews will be more prominent to searchers. Once you’ve worked through all your negative reviews, you can then move onto responding to your positive reviews.
5. Consider the Content of Your Reviews
Google continuously evolves to meet the needs of searchers. Their goal is to deliver accurate, timely results to end-users to create an optimal user experience.
Yet, in order to deliver top-tier results, they rely on business information.
Some of that information may be sourced from your review content, such as a customer mentioning the city your store is in or the street name where your business is located.
These words send powerful signals to Google helping your business improve its relevance.
Additionally, a review with positive language from a local customer signals to Google that your business is trustworthy. This applies not only to reviews left directly on your GMB listing but on other third-party platforms, as well.
Reviews left on third-party review sites increase your exposure, drive traffic to your website, and add legitimacy to your business.
Your business can’t dictate what a consumer writes about their business, however, you can ask consumers to mention the location in which they did business within their review.
These mentions can continue to help your brand achieve the authority that Google looks for in its search algorithm.
Conclusion: Why Implement a Third-Party Reviews SEO Strategy?
Consumers’ expectations are continuing to evolve with business operations in an ever-changing and unpredictable climate.
These expectations are showing up more frequently in reviews. If your business is keeping up with current trends and maintaining a solid reputation management strategy, your path towards SEO success becomes clearer.
Following the above tactics will help you improve your third-party reviews SEO efforts, and in turn, provide an exceptional experience for your customers.