Google reviews and SEO have a pretty close relationship.
In fact, Moz says that online reviews make up around 10% of the criteria for how Google actually displays search results.
They’re important not only for technical SEO, but also for how people regard your business.
Whilst Google Reviews do not directly influence SEO rankings, they can indirectly since organic links with reviews might attract a higher click-through rate, and a higher CTR can be a trust signal to Google.
That means Google and real people are both affected by these reviews so they are something that you really need to focus on.
But what gets even trickier is when people deliberately leave fake Google reviews that act to hurt Google and real customers’ opinions.
Many people have tried to work out how to incorporate Google reviews into an SEO strategy, but it has happened with varying degrees of success.
But, it’s time that this became a priority because managing online reviews is a vital part of SEO and fits into the bigger need to manage your reputation online.
Interested in learning more about SEO and content writing and how they go together? We can do that too.
What are Google Reviews
As the name suggests, Google reviews are reviews left by customers on various platforms then displayed by the search engine.
Customers seek out Google reviews because they want detailed information about a particular product or service from other ‘real’ people who have actually experienced what they are planning to.
As more and more businesses move into ecommerce, the need to manage online reviews is only going to become more important.
Why are Google reviews important
Google reviews are firstly important as they boost your business in local search rankings.
We’ve talked extensively about this on the blog before, but if you’re keen to learn more about local search, get in touch with Ambire today as we are experts in all things local search.
Now, back to it.
Well, customers cannot find your business if you don’t pop up in Google when they search for something.
And, if customers cannot find you, how can they make a purchase?
The other reason Google reviews are important is because they increase trust and credibility.
There are two reasons for this and they both feed into one another in helping to increase your authenticity.
Firstly, Google itself is a trusted search engine and seen as authoritative. That means that when people see reviews on there, they are inclined to believe them as real.
Then, there are the reviews themselves. The more reviews customers come across, the more information they have about your business, and the more likely they are to be inclined to make a purchase.
It’s all about the validation.
When lots of positive reviews are left, it affirms the decision made by the customer to make a purchase.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true as well. The more negative reviews customers find, the less likely they are to take the plunge and make a purchase.
Google reviews and your SEO
The relationship between Google reviews and SEO used to be pretty hotly-contested. These days, however, it’s kind of been accepted that there is a link between them – and that it’s a pretty important one to be thinking about and focusing on.
Firstly, they drive online exposure. The more reviews there are, the more your platform is seen across the Internet – and that’s never a bad thing for SEO.
Then, there’s the local SEO aspect that we spoke about already. Driving this means getting customers through the door.
It’s a loop, right? The higher on Google you are, the more people see you, the more they come in and are encouraged to leave reviews (more on that later), and you get even higher in the rankings.
The other aspect is being able to have a Google rating advertised on your site which feeds back into that credibility and authority aspect I mentioned earlier.
The more positive reviews there are, the more likely customers are to actually click on your link. And we all know that Google rewards a high click-through-rate in the search engine rankings.
Lastly (and arguably the most important thing) is that lots of positive Google reviews help customers take the plunge and actually convert into a sale.
How do you get Google reviews
Well, you need to firstly set up a Google My Business page and start optimising it.
If you’re not already set-up, you’ll be glad to hear that it is a pretty straightforward process.
All you need to do is claim your own Google business listing, update with the correct information like opening hours and contact details, and then simply make it look attractive.
Lots of pictures help to clarify what the actual business looks like, and again helps to provide additional reassurances to potential customers as to what they are likely to encounter.
How to work Google reviews into your SEO strategy
If nobody is leaving any reviews, it’s most definitely not helping with your SEO.
The problem is, nobody leaves reviews off their own backs.
That is, not unless they have a particularly bad experience and want to rant about it online. This is clearly not what any business is after.
So, you do need to encourage customers to leave reviews as much as possible.
Asking customers to leave a review after an experience is the easiest way of doing this. It doesn’t matter whether that’s happening in person or online.
When people are asked, they tend to leave a Google review.
Follow-up for a Google review
One way is ensuring you have an appropriate follow-up strategy after an online shopping experience.
This can be done by implementing pop-ups that appear on the website itself, or alternatively, you can send follow-up emails or text messages asking people about their experience.
It’s important that you think about the timeline of sending through these requests so that you don’t seem annoying.
Most suggest leaving a day or two between a customer making a purchase and you sending through a request for a review.
It’s also advisable to send a request in the morning as it gets better response rates as opposed to sending through a request in the middle of the working day or after work in the evenings when people are busy with family and dinner.
You want to ensure that you’re obviously being polite and as unobtrusive as possible but it’s also important that you think about the kind of questions you ask.
Nobody wants to sit down for hours and answer complicated (boring) questions that require a lengthy response.
But, on the other hand, you don’t want to get a simple response that doesn’t help you in any way – think one or two words.
So, keep it simple.
Ask for the positives, negatives and a simple overview.
A detailed review is always a lot better than a star rating and a simple sentence.
Follow-up the follow-up
Keep bugging (politely) if people do not initially respond to your request for a review.
A little nudge is okay.
Two follow-ups is okay. They also need to be spaced a few days apart.
Quantity of reviews is important as it helps Google rank businesses. But, people do not like leaving reviews on their own, so you have to have a rock-solid business and SEO plan in place.
Responding to reviews
When people leave good and bad reviews, some of them need responding to.
It’s actually equally as important to respond honestly to reviews as it is to gather them.
It’s also been confirmed by Google that responding to reviews plays a role in SEO.
Here is what Google had to say on the matter:
“Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback they leave about your business.”
It helps to build trust between customers and a business and also show a real ‘human’ interaction happening online.
First of all, never allow your own emotions to come into play when you are responding to reviews, and never actually take aim at the customer.
This can be hard, as people can be very frustrating – especially when they are the ‘customer from hell’.
If you are feeling emotional and still upset from the situation or encounter, just give it a couple of hours before responding,
Never forget that anything you say is public.
How to respond to a negative review:
- Always thank them for their time, no matter what they have said.
- Address the reviewer by their name.
- Try and be objective when you look at what they have said. Was there actually anything that they could have done better?
- Apologise and empathise with their experience.
- Offer to take the conversation offline.
- Provide actionable solutions to improve their experience.
You’re also within your rights to ask the customer to change their review once the situation has been resolved.
Always make sure you approach this tactfully.
Responding to positive reviews is obviously not as difficult – just thank the customer for their review and time taken to leave it, personalise your response and encourage them to return.
If they had a particularly memorable experience and you were physically present at the time, you can say you remember them or who you are.
Fake Google Reviews
This is possibly one of the trickier aspects when it comes to reviews as they are notoriously difficult to deal with.
False and defamatory reviews can be potentially damaging to your bottom line.
You can fight back, but you need to ensure that in doing so your own reputation is protected.
The best thing to do is to see if you can get the post removed before anybody sees it.
Google, like the other major review platforms, do have policies that allow them to remove posts if there is enough evidence to suggest that the review is false.
When these kinds of fake reviews do pop up, you simply flag the post and request that Google reviews it.
Depending on the content of the review, you may be able to actually respond to it.
You can try a couple of different tactics – either by politely suggesting that the reviewer may have posted the review on the wrong company profile, or simply by emphasising your commitment to customer service.
As always, offer to take the conversation offline.
It can be tricky to know when to draw the line between giving air to fake reviews and treating them like ordinary customers or just simply ignoring them.
Of course, getting the review removed is obviously better.
The best way to drown out fake reviews is to continue to attract good reviews from real customers.
Don’t try to get every negative review removed as hundreds of only glowing reviews clearly seem just as fake to customers.
There are plenty of online review platforms out there. Some, like Google, are super mainstream, while others are more niche and will focus on specific industries.
Obviously, you want to be registered on all of the major platforms such as Google reviews, Yelp and Facebook, but you’ll also want to have a bit of a think about more industry-specific examples.
When you’re thinking in terms of SEO value, it’s important to note that not all review platforms are created equal for Google.
Look into how many people use the platform, how many businesses are registered and see how the platform works to combat fake reviews.
There’s no point wasting time dealing with review platforms that aren’t going to give you bang for your buck.
Customer experience and reviews
Don’t forget that at the end of the day, the reviews you receive can feed into how you customise and improve user experience and customer experience.
When people leave reviews, don’t become angry with them. Instead, actually look at them objectively and see if there are any learnings that you can take from their feedback and implement this into your own site.
When patterns emerge in your reviews – say many people are complaining about your ‘spammy’ email marketing, you might want to clean this up and change your approach.
To wrap things up, it’s important that you do manage your Google reviews.
But apart from responding correctly to both negative and positive reviews as well as doing your best to manage and remove negative reviews – you also need to do everything you can to actually encourage customers to leave positive reviews when they have a good experience.
How you encourage this is up to you, but it does need to be thought out and part of a bigger SEO strategy.
You can also use customer reviews to improve on your own customer experience and service. Look at them as objectively as possible!
Then, there’s the issue of fake reviews. These need to be dealt with as quickly as possible.
Most of the platforms will review reviews if you flag them as fake. However, you might not get the result you’re after, so it’s best to do what you can to either respond properly or bury the negative review with lots of positive ones!