Word of mouth is a powerful referral tool for your business, regardless of your industry. Today, word-of-mouth referrals happen largely on social media, Yelp, and Google reviews. Google reviews help establish trust in your business, but they also impact your local SEO and your business’s visibility in search.
What is Local SEO?
Local SEO is search engine optimization focused on reaching nearby customers using location-specific keywords, like “chiropractor Huntsville.” Your local SEO is especially important if you operate your business from a brick-and-mortar location or within a service area.
Local SEO includes two categories:
- Optimizing your website for local organic search
- Optimizing your Google Business Profile (which includes reviews) for the Local Pack
If your target audience is within a specific geographic area, local SEO is how you reach them on the first page of search results. In the search results, your potential customers will first see paid ads, followed by the Local Pack, and then organic results.
The searcher’s location greatly impacts the results Google provides them. To test how your business performs in local search, we recommend this tool from BrightLocal. It lets you set the location from which you’d like to search.
How Google Determines Local SEO
Google says that local results are based on relevance, distance, and prominence.
- Relevance: This refers to how well your Google Business Profile (GBP) matches what someone is searching for. The more detail you add to your GBP, the easier it is for Google to understand your business and show your information in relevant searches.
- Distance: Google considers how far your business is from the location term used in the search. If the searcher doesn’t specify their location in the query, Google calculates distance based on what data it has about the searcher’s location.
- Prominence: This refers to how well-known your business is. Your Google review count and review score impact prominence. Links, articles, and directories that mention your business across the web also impact this factor.
Expert Opinions on Local SEO Factors
Besides the criteria above, Google doesn’t offer much information about factors influencing local SEO. When it comes to the Local Pack specifically, industry professionals believe reviews are the second most influential ranking factor (out of seven). A 2021 survey reported the following factors as having the most influence on Local Pack ranking:
- Google Business Profile (36%)
- Reviews (17%)
- On-page (16%)
- Links (13%)
- Behavioral (7%)
- Citations (7%)
- Personalization (4%)
If you are attempting to rank in both the Local Pack and the organic search results, Google reviews become the fourth most important factor (12%). On-page optimization (25%), links (22%), and your Google Business Profile (21%) will impact your business’s overall performance in local search results.
Google Reviews & Local SEO
As more and more customers place value on online reviews, their significance in Local Pack rankings has increased over the last few years. If your business is getting a consistent amount of positive sentiment reviews, it can impact your visibility in local rankings.
The specific aspects of Google reviews that matter most are:
- Quantity of Reviews: A higher volume of reviews gives your local customers more content to consider. They will likely read more than one review, and many customers will look for recent reviews for an up-to-date snapshot of your business.
- Velocity of Reviews: This refers to how many reviews occur over a period of time. As you consider strategies to increase your number of reviews, you should aim to recieve new reviews consistently. A high influx of reviews all at once, followed by no new reviews for several months, is not as trustworthy.
- Level of Star Ratings: Your potential customers see this rating before they even read your reviews. There’s no need to worry if you don’t have a perfect 5-star rating. Some customers might interpret this as “too good to be true.” The sweet spot for your rating would be anything near a 4.5.
- Keywords in Reviews: Customers will naturally include keywords in their reviews. These could be your business name, location, products, or services. When you reply to reviews, you also have the opportunity to use relevant keywords.
- Review Diversity: Reviews on other verified platforms like Yelp, Facebook, or Angie’s List help boost the authenticity of your business.
Do More Google Reviews Help SEO?
Yes, having more reviews and more positive ratings can help your business’s local SEO. Additionally, consistent and higher-rated reviews can drive conversions on your Google Business Profile — like calls to your business or website traffic.
With more reviews comes a higher possibility you may encounter a negative review. If you receive a negative review, you should respond to show the customer that you care and provide additional context. When possible, provide a solution and direct the conversation to phone or email instead of the review platform.
It’s okay if not all of your reviews are 5 stars. Google says that a mix of positive and negative reviews is more trustworthy. Your reviews are most useful for your customers when they’re honest and objective.
How to Ask for More Reviews
The best way to increase your number of Google reviews is to simply ask your customers. We recommend sending an email or text to your recent customers — and do this regularly. If someone recently made a purchase or received a service from your business, it’s a good practice to follow up with them and ask for a review.
You’ll want to include a link that goes directly to your Google reviews. To create a link for your business:
- Go to Google’s Place ID Finder
- Enter your business name to generate a place ID
- Add your place ID to the end of this link: https://search.google.com/local/writereview?placeid=
Sharing this link with your customers will automatically create a window prompting them to write a review.
Keep in mind, you should also respond to positive reviews about your business. Responding to all your reviews shows your current and future customers that you value their business and feedback.
More Steps to Improve Your Local SEO
Your reviews are just one tool of many to make your business more visible in local search results. Other steps you can take:
- Complete Your GBP: Set up all the relevant sections of your Google Business Profile.
- Optimize Your Website Content: Use best practices for page titles and keyword research for your content.
- Implement Paid Ads: Purchase Google ads to appear above the Local Pack and organic search results.
We’re happy to help our clients with any of the above. Connect with our digital assistants for suggestions specific to your business.