The Rocket Blog

Using Online Reviews to Boost Your Local SEO Strategy
By Lindsey Butler and Tonya Thompson on Oct 30, 2015
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If you’re not harnessing the power of online reviews to promote your business, then you’re doing it wrong.

Marketing research consistently proves reviews can boost your ability to build a broader customer base and more prominent online presence. For example, a recent study conducted by Nielsen’s Smartphone Analytics Panel revealed that mobile users cite good reviews as one of the top 3 key factors in choosing which restaurants get their business.

Not convinced?

Consider this study, which finds that roughly 9 out of 10 consumers trust online reviewers as much as they do personal recommendations. Or take a look at this one, conducted by the Harvard Business School, with findings that a simple one-star increase in Yelp rating leads to a 5-9% increase in revenue for restaurants. And here’s yet another study, which shows that reading positive reviews is the final stage in the purchase path for 7 out of 10 consumers. In other words, web testimonials can make or break over half your sales nowadays.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Beyond serving as the tipping point for converting prospects to purchasers (and purchasers to promoters), online reviews can build your business by improving your SEO ranking. Translation: better visibility on Google’s search engine means increased foot traffic coming through your door. This is true for almost every industry, but it’s especially crucial for dining, tourism, service, hospitality and retail. If you operate a restaurant, run a hotel or own a clothing store (any number of retail-/service-oriented verticals, for that matter), you should assume your patrons scoped you out online before they ever darkened your doorway.

Web-savvy entrepreneurs recognize that online marketing has become a lot like online dating: you have to craft a persona, sell yourself to people you’ve never met, and make sure no one writes anything too nasty about you.

Not sure how to get started making online reviews work for you? Here are a few pointers for Yelp and Google+, two of the most-used online review platforms.

 

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Yelp

A recent article in Forbes identifies Yelp as the largest review site for local businesses, with 135 million unique monthly visitors and more than 71 million reviews. If you have a local business, especially a service-based one, you need to familiarize yourself with Yelp -- especially with how your business is being portrayed on it.

If your business isn’t on Yelp, it’s simple to get started: just go to to biz.yelp.com, and search for your business by name. This takes you to the Yelp for Business Owners website, where you can claim the page.

Once you are established, Yelp offers some helpful suggestions for encouraging customers to rate your business, but they advise business owners against offering nebulous incentives or outright requesting reviews. Here are the two strategies they endorse, according to Yelp’s support FAQs:

1.     Use a Yelp badge on your website that links back to your business listing.

If you don’t know what a badge is or how to put it on your website, don’t panic! Yelp provides the code, which takes care of all of the necessary formatting (like including the real-time average rating for your business).

2.     Display a “Find us on Yelp” sign in your place of business.  

If you’re the DIY sort and want to make one from scratch, you can follow the company’s branding guidelines. If the idea of doing that either terrifies (or bores) you, don’t panic! You can always print an official “Find us on Yelp” sign from their website.

 

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Google+ Local

Let’s talk a little more in-depth about Google and SEO. If it’s Google’s local search engine results you want to target, then you’re probably not especially surprised to learn that your platform focus should be Google+. While it may not be the social network du jour for personally connecting with friends and family, Google+ is an invaluable tool for converting your customers’ reviews and ratings into new business.

If you haven’t set up a page for your business yet, get started by verifying your business information on the Google My Business page. Read carefully before you confirm your details. After all, Moz’s 2015 Local Search Ranking Factors survey shows that using the correct address, business category, and keywords will have even greater effect on your website’s visibility when a local search is performed, so glossing over a typo or choosing the wrong category can cause you some grief in the long-run.

Now that you’re up and running, you can direct your customers to your Google+ page and ask them to leave a review. Unlike Yelp, Google+ does not have any guidelines that advise against asking for reviews, and if your business is dependent on local traffic, Google+ is the only way to integrate your reviews into Google Maps. The only potential drawback to focusing on Google+ reviews is that each reviewer must have a Google account to write one.

But that’s a lot of people, right? (Like, maybe most of them?)

Positive reviews gained on Google+ can impact your business’ placement on Google’s search engine results page, especially if your friends – who are linked to your Google+ account – are searching for businesses in the same industry. Google will also use its Maps feature to highlight your business if someone is searching for that particular vertical within a certain radius.

Whew.

You just got a pretty great tutorial on jumpstarting your digital marketing through online reviews, but SEO goes much deeper. (None of us would have jobs if we could teach you everything in a blog, right?)

If you want to take the next step from jumpstart to overdrive, you can contact our SEO experts here at RocketFuel.