Customer reviews are something pretty unique to local search. Many popular business listing sites like Google+ Local, Yelp and others allow customers to rate your business and leave a review about the experience they had. Many of these services also allow you to respond to the reviews as the site owner.
There are two important factors regarding reviews and local search: Quantity and quality. As it is now, Google places much more emphasis on the quantity of reviews your business has over the actual rating and reviews you receive. However, other sites like Yelp.com take into account the ratings you receive.
In the screenshots above, youll notice that the top ranking sites have a lot more reviews than the other businesses but the score for those reviews dont necessarily correlate to rankings.
However, review quality is very important from a conversion perspective. If you were researching two businesses and one had far superior reviews, youll naturally contact them first in most cases.
Its also believed that review quality will become more more important in Googles local search ranking algorithm. Review spam has always been a major concern but with Google now requiring you to have a Google+ Local account to leave reviews, they are more easily able to identify real users based on your overall activity from spam accounts.
How to get reviews
Getting people to actually review you can be harder than you think. Its easy to ask a few friends and family but to generate reviews long-term, you need a strategy. I also want to state that you should never have people leave you fake reviews or purchase fake reviews from a 3rd party.
In your review strategy, you want to take into account the velocity in which you receive reviews. If you go out tomorrow and get 10 reviews in one week but then receive 0 for the next 6 months, it looks suspicious and Google may remove them, even if they are truly legitimate.
So where do you start in getting reviews? Here are 3 tips to get started.
- Work your social networks These people already like you enough to follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or whatever network youre on. Contact them individually; dont just send a blast to your whole network.
- Email list if you dont collect customer emails, you should start today. One great way to use a customer email list is to ask for reviews personally and individually. Again, dont just send a huge email blast. I recommend segmenting your customer email list. For example:
- Gmail accounts send to Google+ Local
- MSN/Yahoo accounts send to Yelp
- You may also want to contact new customers within a couple days of a sale while youre fresh on their minds to get a review
- Review Us! everywhere make it easy for people to remember to reviews you. Depending on your type of business, here are a few places you could promote your review campaign:
- Flyers/Handouts in-store
- Business cards
Get creative with your business and find ways to implement a review strategy in your business. As mentioned, this isnt a one-time event but should become a common practice if youre focused on local search.
About The Author
Bryan Phelps has been involved in local search optimization since 2007 and currently manages the Local and Small Business SEO teams at SEO.com.