The digital marketing industry often talks about social proof and search engine optimization in two different conversations. However, they can be great allies when combined. Google is paying more attention to how visitors interact and engage with search results and content. Social proof can give you leg up when a user is weighing the choice between your pages and a competitor’s in a search result.
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Google Reviews for Better Local SEO
In the annual State of Local SEO, industry experts put Google reviews as the second most important factor for local SEO. This isn’t too surprising and most organizations are already trying to get more reviews on Google. But how exactly do these reviews affect local SEO and how do you get more reviews?
Where the larger search industry uses the concept of expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (EAT) to guide their understanding of Google’s algorithms, local SEOs are doubling down on local business reviews as a fundamental trust factor.Moz
The Impact of Google Reviews on SEO
Google weighs a number of factors when considering reviews. Some factors, like quantity and quality of reviews, are more obvious. However, there are a few more factors to consider, like the diversity and velocity of reviews.
- Quality: Don’t sweat a few bad reviews here and there. Instead, focus on getting good reviews from the majority of your clients. Your organization’s overall rating is more important.
- Quantity and Velocity: The number of reviews an organization has definitely plays a factor, but many marketers overlook velocity. This is the rate at which reviews are being left. It can be a red flag to Google if your organization gets 100 reviews one month and then only a few each of the following months. This oftentimes happens when an organization pays its current clients (e.g. gift card) to leave reviews, which against Google’s policy. Instead, try to continually encourage reviews organically through consistent client interactions, newsletters, social media, and direct email.
- Responses: It is important to respond to both positive and negative reviews to show you value customer service. If it is a positive review, make sure your response is specific to that review and show your gratitude. If it is a negative review, acknowledge the issue, and provide the next steps on how you could help rectify the issue. Even consider including an email address so the client can reach you quicker.
- Diversity: Aim to get reviews from a wide variety of clients. Avoid trying to encourage only reviews from a specific vertical or a specific area.
- Impact on keywords: Google assesses the reviews left by users for keywords. Encouraging clients to leave more detailed reviews can give Google more content to evaluate and consider for your organization.
Get More Google Reviews
- Google My Business: Be sure to claim your Google My Business page. This will give you access to the Google Business dashboard and a number of tools. On the dashboard, click on the “share review form” to get your review link. This can be shared with clients directly through email, social media, etc.
- Email/Newsletter/CRM: Include the Google review link in your direct emails, client newsletter campaigns, and in any CRM communications with current clients.
- Website: Include the review link in your website footer or contact page. It is even better if you can use an interactive form to encourage good reviews only, as we did with DJ’s Tap House.
- Postcards: Consider sending out postcards or handing them out at your business to current clients encouraging them to leave you a review. To avoid encouraging any bad reviews, I recommend including an email with a sentence asking them to email you if their experience didn’t meet their expectations.
- Avoid Penalties: Never offer any kind of incentive in exchange for reviews. This is explicitly against Google’s review policy and may result in a penalty.
Social Proof for Website Content
There are two ways to include reviews and other social proof into your website that will help with SEO, content freshness and user experience. Keeping content fresh has been an important aspect of SEO for some time. However, it can be hard to consistently comes up with articles and larger pieces of content. Instead, try adding in smaller pieces of content, like testimonials, more frequently to avoid dead periods of no new content.
Another factor that is going to continue to grow in importance is the user experience for your website content. How does social proof help here? Well, a lot of visitors like to evaluate testimonials, reviews, credentials, etc. Including that social proof along with the most relevant content can help improve the user experience and save them time from having to search for reviews somewhere else.
Schema Markup to Show Reviews in SERP
Schema markup is a bit more advanced strategy. It allows reviews to be shown directly in the Google SERP (search engine results page). If you’re using a popular e-commerce platform, like WooCommerce, schema markup is already included in the reviews left for products. You just need to encourage customers to leave reviews for the products they purchase.
It is a bit more work to include schema reviews for other content types, like books, services, etc. Schema Pro is a great option if you’re using WordPress. It is fairly intuitive and has a wizard for setting up the schema for a variety of different content.
Otherwise, I’d recommend using the Google Search Console markup generator. It will guide you through a manual process so Google knows where to find the key pieces of information for generating your schema markup. Once set up, Google will continue to generate schema markup for newly published content of the same type (e.g. events, articles, etc.).
Frequently Asked Questions
For local search, a better Google rating does tend to correlate highly with better rankings.
No, but it definitely helps for encouraging more reviews and managing the current reviews.