Short answer: Yes, Google reviews do affect your local SEO rankings.
They’re not a game-changer that will instantly catapult you to number one in search results, but they can influence how Google evaluates your relevance for local searches.
And it boils down to one main reason: trust.
Does Google Trust Your Business?
In the same way that reviews show customers how good your business is, Google reviews suggest to Google how trustworthy and relevant your website is when people make local searches.
Positive Google reviews tell Google that:
1) Your business is real and legitimate. – There are plenty of spam websites out there. Online reviews suggest that your business is real and that people have dealt with your business before. Responding to reviews also indicates to Google that you’re engaging with your customers (like any good business should) and keeping on top of your Google My Business listing.
2) Customers trust your business. – The more trusted your business seems (i.e. more positive reviews), the more attractive it will be for people who are searching for businesses like yours. (After all, people won’t likely choose a business that other people don’t trust.)
For years, Google has been tweaking its algorithm to provide the most relevant search results to users’ search queries. And for local searches, this means listing businesses that are real and trusted.
Simply put, the more trustworthy your business (and website) appears to Google, the more likely it will appear higher in local search listings.
What Experts Have Found
Although we don’t know the full impact of Google reviews on local search rankings, we do know they’re a big factor. And by the looks of it, they will become even more important in the future for local search rankings.
An analysis of Moz’s 2018 Local Search Ranking Factors Survey, for example, showed that Review signals (i.e. review quantity, review diversity, etc.) have continued to grow as a ranking factor for local searches over the past few years. This trend was also seen in a 2018 study by BrightLocal on Google reviews, which found that top-ranking businesses tended to have higher reviews than those ranked lower in the top 10.
Even better, the role of reviews as a ranking signal was confirmed by Google’s own support page for improving local rankings. In a section about managing and responding to reviews, Google says:
“Responding to reviews shows that you value your customers and the feedback that they leave about your business. High-quality, positive reviews from your customers will improve your business’s visibility and increase the likelihood that a potential customer will visit your location.”
So, yes, even if we don’t know the full impact of Google reviews in determining your local rankings, we do know they influence it.
Get Your Reviews On!
Now that you know Google reviews can affect your SEO rankings, getting as many positive Google reviews for your business should be part of your SEO strategy. Here are some of our best tips for this:
- Sort your Google My Business listing. If you haven’t done so already, set up your Google My Business Listing and make sure to complete as much of it as you can. This will give your business a public identity and presence in Google. Here’s a quick guide for setting up your Google My Business Listing.
- Actively ask for reviews. People are more likely to write a review for negative experiences rather than positive ones, so you need to work extra hard to get your happy customers to write a review for you. Check this blog post on getting more Google reviews if you need ideas.
- Encourage your customers to mention specific services or products in their review. When asking for reviews from your customers, encourage them to mention the specific product or service you’ve provided. This can help Google associate your business with targeted unbranded keywords. It will also help make the reviews more convincing and genuine.
- Respond to reviews. When you get reviews – good or bad – don’t just leave them alone. Respond to them and let your customers know you appreciate their feedback. This does two things: First, it makes your business more approachable and attractive to other customers. (Nobody likes snobby companies!) Second, it shows Google that you’re actively engaging with your customers. Win-win!
Online Reviews Matter Now More than Ever
Not only do positive reviews help your SEO campaign, but it can also do wonders for your sales and conversions.
In a 2017 survey conducted by Podium, 93% of respondents said online reviews influenced their purchase decisions. 93%…that’s for more than nine out of ten people! Considering how much we use the Internet these days, that may not be too surprising. (If you need more convincing on the power of customer reviews, here are even more jaw-dropping statistics.)
What this all means is that proper review management (especially for those on your Google My Business Listing) should be an integral part of your SEO strategy. These days, a sound SEO campaign will be incomplete without them.
Google reviews are not magic bullets (at least not yet), but they’re undoubtedly a powerful tool for improving your local rankings.