A business’ reputation is a living and breathing thing, especially online.
The quantity and quality of the reviews customers publish about businesses can be very influential to potential buyers. Because a search engine’s primary job is to give online searchers what they are looking for, reviews are a significant ranking factor for local search engine optimization.
A recent study by Moz, a leading SEO company that researches the way various factors influence search engine rankings, determined that online reviews have a 13 percent influence on organic local search results.
While that is less than other factors, such as the accuracy and consistency of your business information across online listing sites, it is still a significant factor, and one it is wise for business owners to pay attention to.
Why reputation management is important
Look at reviews from a content-marketing perspective. Reviews are assets that raise your business’ online profile without the heavy lifting of in-house content creation.
When your customers write about your business, it is a signal to search engines that you are active and relevant. Reviews also add to the variety of content about your business.
Your customers will take a different tone, cover different topics, and use different language than the way you write about your own business.
This variety presents a more robust picture of your business for search engines to find.
The Moz study identified the quantity, quality, diversity, and velocity of reviews as important factors for local SEO rankings. The quality and diversity criteria are what search engines use to spot fake reviews, paid reviews, and self reviews.
The velocity criteria refers to the the speed with which reviews accumulate. It’s a red flag for search engines if reviews come in spurts. It signals that the business may be trying to dishonestly manipulate search rankings.
A consistent pace of reviews sends a better signal that you have a steady, enduring business.
A proactive approach
You can rely on the culture your business has created and its commitment to customer service to translate into positive online reviews. But there is an element of subjectiveness to customer satisfaction, and review opportunities give customers a way to voice their opinions indelibly on the web.
So it’s important to proactively monitor how your business is being reviewed online. The top review sites to monitor are Google, Yelp, and Facebook. There are dozens of other reviewable business listing sites to build a profile on. Focus on sites that are related to your type of business.
Periodically check your reviews using these methods.
- Search your business name - A Google search will turn up the listings your business has across the web and show the number of reviews.
- Set up a Google Alert for your business name - You can receive an automated email every time your business is mentioned online.
- Set up automatic notifications - When you claim your business listing on Yelp, you can set up an email notification for every time your business is reviewed on the site.
Now that you know what is being said, it’s time to respond. Thoughtful responses to both positive and negative reviews serve two purposes. They build a more robust online profile for search engines to pick up on, and signal to your customers and prospects that your business is engaged and attentive to their needs.
Prompting more reviews
While reviews follow organically from stellar customer service, there are ways to gently encourage satisfied customers to share their experiences online. Focus on the big players - Google, Facebook, and Yelp - to get the most visibility from your requests, and choose methods that fit in with your company’s culture.
- Send a thank you email to customers and include a link to your Google My Business, Facebook, or Yelp profile. Encourage satisfied customers to follow the link and share their experience.
- Design a printed card to hand out or mail to customers, thanking them and identifying the review sites where they can write a review.
- Verbally encourage customers to review your business at the point of sale. Follow up with a phone call or text message.
Keep working on encouraging, monitoring, and responding to your online reviews. A robust review profile is not only a strong signal to potential customers, it’s also a key factor in local SEO.
Thanks for reading
Breezy Hill Marketing is a Vermont web design company specializing in marketing strategy, social media marketing, and building beautiful, optimized, and mobile responsive websites. We work with clients in Vermont and throughout the United States.