When people think of SEO or search engine optimization, what usually comes to mind first is the nitty-gritty of things: website programming, keywords, and the like. But what is missed is the bigger picture that SEO is more than just making your website attractive to Google and other search engines.
In fact, if that is all you will be focusing on this year, you are likely missing out on more than half of the process needed to make your website relevant to people that you want to reach out to online. Because ultimately, that is what we want to happen: for your business to be able to communicate clearly to your relevant niche.
Looking back at ten or even twenty years or so of SEO efforts globally, the SEO landscape now is so hugely different that there is almost no comparison between the then and the now. Things changed in the world of search engine optimization because people changed, and subsequently, the search engines have been trying to approximate these changes by modifying how search algorithms work.
One particular channel that people use now more than ever are online reviews platforms like Google Reviews, where people can rate businesses and leave comments about their experiences with the businesses that they approached in the past.
While many business owners feel that online reviews are just a tiny part of the larger picture, the fact remains that people are now moving toward reading online reviews first before buying anything. This applies to both online and offline purchases.
So the relationship between customers and business has changed insofar as reputation is concerned. Online reputation management, like what Netmark offers to its clients, ensures that potential customers will get a positive image of the business even before they choose to conduct business.
(Nearly) everyone relies on reviews
Upwards to 90% of Web users rely on some form of review or another to determine whether or not they want to buy something from a business or not. When we say ‘buy’ we refer not just to products, but also to services like dentistry, legal services, or even schools.
On the Internet, no business is too large or too small to review. And the impact of online reviews like Google Reviews on individual customers is huge.
So going back to our original question of whether Google Reviews has an impact on SEO, the answer would be a resounding yes – it does. It has as much weight as online citations, proper content building, off-page optimization, and on-page optimization. In short – you can’t not include it in your SEO efforts.
Essential factoids on online reviews
1. Online reviews mainly affect the decision of customers whether or not to interact with your website or online presence at all, because obviously, the reviews are going to be read on another website, and if the reviews are mostly negative, people will no longer be interested in clicking on search results that lead to your online property. According to studies, it takes an average of four reviews before people make a decision about buying something – or not.
2. Social media is definitely a top spot for people who want to know more about businesses. People spend hours on social media, and platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become mini search engines in their own rights where people expect to find more information about businesses when they perform searches there. Since these platforms thrive with shares, likes, comments, and reviews, consider all these outputs as part of the overall reputation that your business will have on these platforms.
3. Again, online reviews are not the entire picture, but they are deemed a valid ‘signal’ by Google’s RankBrain in determining the quality and relevance of a site. It has been estimated that online reviews account for ten percent of the ranking factors that affect a site. If you think about it, 10% is a huge chunk that you shouldn’t be missing out on.
Why? Because Google places weight on reviews precisely because it wants to give people what they want and what they need. And since Google can’t go around checking each website individually, Google will rely on online reviews and the diversity of places where the reviews are placed to rank a website for specific keywords. Search engine results are no longer just about matching long-tail keywords with sites. It’s about bringing relevant and trustworthy websites in front of users/customers.
4. In addition to Google Reviews, each niche will have its own highly ranked platforms or websites for online reviews. Find out which websites are suitable for your website before crafting a plan for review acquisition.
There is such a thing as a reviews ecosystem where content from review websites are sometimes syndicated to secondary websites to amplify reach. But definitely, at the top of the food chain will always be the big search engines themselves – Google, Bing, and Yahoo – because before a website can even appear before a potential user, it has to be listed by a search engine. Top places for review acquisition are Yelp, TripAdvisor, Citysearch, Google+, InsiderPages, etc.
5. It’s perfectly fine to ask customers to create genuine reviews for your website or business. In fact, you can go so far as to provide a short list of instructions as to how they can create an ideal review for you. It’s a request of course, and customers can choose to ignore your request. Providing a small incentive to leave a review might do the trick – like a small token or even a discount the next time they visit your business. Online reviews are that important and are definitely worth a small customer token or any other incentive you can offer. There are so many ways to incentivize an online review that you only have to be creative.
6. Deal with negative online reviews in a level-headed way. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you, and take the criticism as constructively as possible. While people might have a knee-jerk reaction online, you can still do plenty to create a largely positive image of your business.