On the heels of a recent Semrush study on the importance of reviews for local rankings, I wanted to update this post on local ranking factors. It is now more important than ever to bake reviews into your process. I recommend digging into the study but it shows that the median top-ranking business had 16% more reviews in count than the business ranked number two and 25% more than those ranking third. Though score definitely matters and it is a good idea to have a score over 4 overall, the worry about getting an occasional one-star review shouldn’t prevent you from asking for them. The difference between 4.2 and 4.3 average scores matters a lot less than the difference in the number of reviews you generate relative to your competitors. In fact, the study showed that the average score for the top and second-ranked business were both the same.
I have posted many times in recent months on the importance of reviews and some of the key pieces of why they are so important for your business going forward. In fact, some of this may be a bit of a review of reviews if you have been keeping up to date with the blog. If you want to take a deeper dive, you can revisit some of those posts. This is part 3 of my series on the simplest and most important things for small businesses to focus on for their SEO in 2020. Feel free to check back on part one and two by following the links below.
Part one focused on proximity in many ways beyond your physical location.
Part two focused on gaining links to your website, which improves both your regular and local rankings.
Review Management for Small Business SEO
Today we go into how asking everyone for reviews is extremely important to your business going forward and getting beyond the average score. Though your average score is important, there are other, more nuanced values to the growing importance of review. We will go into some of those, including the average score below.
This is the one people worry about the most, but sometimes we worry for the wrong reasons. As mentioned above, the score overall means much less than the total count of reviews. If you are doing a good job, you shouldn’t be scared of asking everyone for reviews. Getting that first one-star review can be a badge of honor, as long as you handle it professionally. Users understand you can’t please everyone and the average score will reflect the job you are doing. We often get so focused on keeping that 5.0 score that we are afraid to ask for reviews that might be lower. In fact, studies have shown that a large number of reviews with a 5.0 score actually looks less trustworthy, and the sweet spot is between 4 and 5. The way you respond to that handful of negative reviews may be more valuable than having a 5.0 score.
The number of reviews is also very important, which is why studies have shown that asking everyone is more valuable than “Review Gating” and trying to cherry-pick who you ask. Not only is “review gating” against Google rules, it ends up hurting you in the long run. In all senses, these factors are all relative. Having 20 reviews in some areas is a good number, while having hundreds may be necessary for other businesses. A restaurant will have more reviews than a dentist, which will have more reviews than a divorce lawyer or psychotherapist, but everyone should ask, and bake it into your process. The number matters more than the score, so always try to get more. They will also tell Google more and more about your offerings to help you rank for more nuanced searches.
Review Frequency & Recency
A recent study showed that review recency was very important to travelers. Though this is even more important in the travel industry, it matters everywhere. This is just another reason to just bake it into the process and keep on asking for reviews. Review frequency shows Google and users that you are actively doing business and are ready to take on new customers. Recency tells Google and users that you are still doing a good job. If you have a 4.5 average score, but your average for the last year is 2.0, that may be telling a wise consumer, or Google something about the trend of your business. It should probably tell you something too.
This is becoming more and more important and yet another reason to continue to ask for, not only reviews but detailed reviews. Especially with the BERT update in 2o19. Google searches your reviews for relevance to natural language searches and detailed offerings that may not be covered by the general business category. “Pasta” is not a restaurant category, but maybe searched by someone. I am headed to rural Arkansas for a trail race. In prepping for my travels and my carb load before the race, I searched for “pasta in gamaliel ar” where I’m staying. The top two results not only don’t have a website attached to them, but they also aren’t even claimed by the business owner. They all have reviews that mention “pasta” though, which makes them relevant to the search. Check out the results in the image below. Google is relying more and more on what your reviewers say about what you offer and less on what you say. So you need to get as many reviewers telling Google more and more about what you do well. This should be of primary importance to you in 2020 and maybe the top-ranking factor in the future.
If you need help with your SEO plan, we have been doing this for years and are an A+ with the BBB, so you know we aren’t going anywhere and are a trusted resource. Please reach out to get started.