Everything in SEO goes back to this golden tenet: Google provides users with the best experience possible. And every element that contributes to this lofty goal improves your ranking.
As such, reviews — no matter how peripheral they seem — matter. In a conventional white-hat SEO campaign, the strategies revolve around keywords and codes, and reviews may be brushed off. However, this customer-generated content helps advance your site to the top of the results page because it improves customer experience; reviews help them decide.
Reviews accomplish two goals: compel your customers to take action and fortify your Local SEO services.
For SEO: Reviews Make for Rich Results Listings
Rich results are listings on the results page that go beyond the standard blue link. They have ratings, images, carousels, and more. These were borne out of the need to help users decide whether that listing is relevant to their search.
The rule is, the more information on the listing, the easier the decision.
This applies to sites that use markup language for social proof. When Google crawls your site, it recognizes the markup for reviews, which appear as golden stars under the listing.
These golden stars instantly make your listing stand out from the results page. After all, 84 percent of shoppers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. And it doesn’t take many reviews to convince them: 68 percent of shoppers form an opinion after reading between one and six online testimonies.
Using SEO software to management and analyze higher rating (the closer to five golden stars) leads to a higher click-through rate (CTR). This amplifies your SEO efforts — analysts observed a strong correlation between CTR and search rankings. If Google sees that a lot of people are clicking your site, then your site must be providing a great experience.
More importantly, a higher CTR generates a lot more traffic, which means more opportunities to convert and close a sale.
For SEO: Customer Feedback as Fresh, Keyword-Rich Content
The more content you publish, the more Google’s crawlers will visit your site and reassess your ranking. Every time you make an update on your site, the search engine crawls it and evaluates your site. And thanks to the Freshness Algorithm, search engines prefer fresh content.
High-quality content is prized because, going back to our golden tenet, it gives users an excellent experience.
Although you did not generate the reviews, Google still sees these testimonials as fresh content. When users leave a review on your site, the search engine has something new to crawl and index. What’s more, these reviews likely contain keywords relevant to your product, service, or location, like:
- “I bought these chocolate molds”
- “The best burger I’ve had in Queens”
- “The hotel has a spectacular view of the Thames”
Though unintentional, these keywords help Google understand the nature of your business and consequently, create a better user intent match.
For Customers: Higher Brand Trust
Trust is a huge factor in conversion. Without trust, customers won’t take that leap of faith and buy from your brand. Many elements influence brand trust: the age of the company, word of mouth recommendations, and brand reputation.
In the digital space, reviews play a huge role in strengthening brand trust, especially among first-time buyers.
Looking at this 2019 Trustpilot research, we can observe that three out of the top ten factors that increase brand trust involves online reviews. About 93.7 percent of customers say they trust a brand more if they have positive customer reviews. So if people are saying good things about your products, proudly and prominently put them on your site.
Reviews are a double-edged sword, however. They can also lead to a decrease in trust when feedback puts your business in a bad light. About 88.8 percent of customers say their trust decreases if the company has negative customer reviews.
Despite this, it still pays to post reviews because the absence of social proof deters picky customers. About 81.0 percent say their trust takes a hit if the company has no customer reviews.
But no matter how tempting it may be, do not delete negative comments and reviews. A staggering 95 percent of consumers say that their trust decreases if the negative reviews are deleted. Even if you have a couple of negative reviews, hiding them may do your brand more harm than good.
Here’s how far ratings could go in driving sales: a 2018 TurnTo study reveals that, if customers were comparing two similar products with a price difference of two dollars, 73 percent would choose the pricier product with a higher rating.
For Customers: Creating Fresh Customer Interactions
So what do you do if you can’t delete negative comments? You respond to them.
Reviews are an important point of interaction between the customers and the brand. When you respond to reviews, customers feel heard, and their impression of the brand improves. There’s a good chance for you to restore their trust, even if the customer’s initial experience was negative.
Here’s a quick guide to responding to negative reviews:
- Acknowledge the problem. Begin by acknowledging that a problem occurred and that it resulted in an unpleasant experience for the customer.
- Take the high road — apologize. Even if the customer was on the wrong, offer an apology.
- Offer an explanation, not an excuse. If possible, provide more information to clarify any misunderstanding. For instance, was there a huge technical issue that delayed shipping?
- Take the conversation online. Invite the customer to talk about the problem through messaging, instead of the review page.
Taken in stock with all other elements in your digital marketing, reviews are not as valuable as site structure, user experience, keyword research, and link building when it comes to SEO. These strategies are foundational. However, your competitors are doing all that.
Once the “SEO basics” are taken care of, what will make your campaign stronger than the competition?
Your reviews offer a golden opportunity to amplify the effects of your SEO efforts — something your competitors may not realize. Reviews provide fresh, keyword-rich content for Google to crawl and enrich your site listing. More importantly, reviews convince people to choose you, which is what SEO is all about.