Data Shows Engaging With Customer Reviews Improves Organic Ranking

It’s no secret that customer reviews on places like Google My Business and Facebook can impact both consumers and businesses in myriad ways, as they ultimately affect key decisions being made every second of the day by people evaluating how and where to spend their hard-earned dollars.

We’ve likely all made a key purchasing decision in the past month alone, that was significantly influenced by an online customer review.  There are major third-party platforms and business models built around customer reviews, and programs in place that encourage consumers to provide reviews of businesses that prove to be relevant and useful for future visitors.

As digital marketers, we’ve also spent a lot of time and energy at Location3 determining how reviews impact organic search performance for our multi-location clients, whether it be related to metrics like volume, average rating or response rate.

Location3’s Head of Local Search, Nick Neels, has contributed to the annual Local Search Ranking Factors report for several years, and the 2017 version identified “Review Signals” as a top five ranking factor this year.  However, much of the conversation related to reviews and their effect on business listing ranking has primarily focused on metrics associated with quantity and diversity of ratings.

While we’ve long known that responding to customer reviews as a business owner (both positive reviews and negative reviews) can potentially improve the overall user experience and highlight your dedication to quality service, we’re now beginning to see that engaging with customer reviews as a business owner has positive organic ranking implications for your business online.

Just last week, our friends at Local SEO Guide released their 2017 Local SEO Ranking Factors report, and the data they’ve published highlights the importance of responding to customer reviews as a means for improving your organic ranking:

Image source: Local SEO Guide

The report itself notes that because reviews are harder to be influenced by spam tactics and thus more authentic, Google finds them more trustworthy. This gives reviews and subsequent responses the potential to be more valuable than certain links or traditional citations when it comes to your business ranking prominently in the local pack of search results.

What’s more is that including keywords and geographic information within the reviews environment (Pro Tip: or your review response) has a “high correlation with high ranking Google My Business results”. Dan Liebson, the author of the Local SEO Guide report, puts it best:

“I think the discussion around reviews is likely to get quite interesting [as we go forward]. If I were looking to improve local search outcomes, looking directly to people’s experiences with a business seems like a great way. I would bet on reviews increasing in importance.”

Judging by the data in this latest industry report, it’s clear that your business ranking is impacted not only by the number of reviews your business receives, but whether or not you take the time to actually respond. As search engines like Google give increasing weight to whether or not a certain percentage of your business reviews have received a response, there is little doubt that allowing those reviews to go unanswered can have a negative impact on both your business listing and your business, in general.

However, it is important to note that businesses also need to make it a point to ensure a high level of authenticity when seeking and responding to reviews. For instance, Yelp recently announced they are now penalizing platforms that actively encourage users to leave reviews on third party sites like their own, as they claim it dilutes the overall integrity of reviews and leaves all businesses with essentially the same rating.

Google has a different stance, as they encourage businesses to ask for reviews, regardless of the means from which the request is going out to the consumer. No matter which industry giant you side with, both points of view underscore the importance of genuinely monitoring and responding to naturally-occurring reviews as a brand or business owner. We’ll be revisiting this topic in more detail on our blog in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for our thoughts on how to establish best practices for your business.

In the meantime, it’s also worth noting that our LOCALACT platform allows marketing teams, franchisees and business owners to seamlessly monitor, filter and respond to customer reviews in a 1-to-1 fashion on places like Google My Business and Facebook, with ease. If you’d like to learn more or schedule a live demo to see how it works, simply contact us and our team will be happy to follow up!

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