Reviews and SEO

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Last Updated on December 11, 2020 by David Bryan

What are the Benefits of Reviews for SEO?

The online business world is constantly evolving, and SEO is evolving along with it.

Anybody in the industry is aware of Google’s ever-changing algorithm model. The days of spamming and artificially building links to gain SEO traction have long passed in favour of natural organic signals.

Now, Google places a greater emphasis on user experience. This means that reviews and SEO are more intrinsically linked than ever before.

Using reviews for SEO will help to boost overall authority, reputation and traffic quality. As such, reviews can have a positive knock-on effect where SEO and rankings are concerned, as well as improving your entire marketing strategy and credibility with potential new customers.

Do reviews improve SEO ranking? Think about E-A-T

Overlooking the impact of reviews on SEO is a big mistake.

When Google rolled out the E-A-T (Medic) algorithm in 2018, the digital game was changed – potentially forever. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness1.

These are the factors that Google investigates when determining page rankings. A part of establishing E-A-T will include the more traditional form of building and acquiring high-quality backlinks, but this also looks at other actors to help determine whether a website ticks all the right boxes as far as E-A-T is concerned.

Garnering feedback from your customers is a way to demonstrate that your offering meets these critical criteria – and don’t be under any illusion, Google can see these reviews and can relate them back to your business.

Review and SEO – positive reviews build trust

Positive reviews build trust in your brand and boost SEO accordingly

In our experience, the answer is conclusive – yes reviews do benefit SEO! When implementing a marketing strategy with SEO and reviews in mind, the results speak for themselves.

Of course, it’s no good building reviews for SEO if you ignore everything else needed, such as understanding search intent, regular planning, reviewing and measuring your efforts, building Topical Authority and optimising for website speed. But when combined, these activities can have a powerful effect on improving your overall Google ranking.

As can be seen in our SERP features guide here, when marked up correctly using schema reviews can also appear in Google search results as star ratings. This helps to further strengthen your brand and attract click-throughs over competitors that don’t show these reviews. Put your self in the mind of a potential visitor who sees these reviews – it goes a bit like this:

  1. If other users have positively reviewed this website, I can also trust them
  2. If Google has decided to show these reviews, that means I can trust them more (improves SERP presence)
  3. Other websites don’t have reviews, so I will click this one (improves Click-Throughs)
  4. I like this site and they have good reviews, so I will read more (improves Dwell Time)
  5. Everything looks good so I will make contact (improves Conversions)

Imagine that you are in the market for a new printer for your home. A generic search term like, “best printer for home use” will throw up countless results from a wide variety of retailers and manufacturers. It’s the printers with five-star reviews that will catch your eye. The same will apply to reviews for your own offering.

The whole process here plays perfectly into the hands of Google’s E-A-T algorithm and sending the right signals to help improve your SEO.

Can negative reviews harm my SEO?

Google’s algorithms are designed to pick up on certain red flags, with the more common ones being plagiarised or duplicate content, link spamming, etc.

So, it’s safe to say, the same could apply for reviews.

Customer reviews denote a level of interaction with a business. If these reviews are positive and genuine, it shows Google that you are meeting the needs of your users.

Positive reviews can have an impact on a business as they help to build trust in your offering. Google seeks to provide the best experience for their users. As a result, the search engine is only interested in pushing and promoting the finest possible resources for any search term.

It’s only logical then that negative reviews will have the opposite impact. Again, put your self in the mind of a potential visitor who sees these reviews, the whole effect will be reversed which is likely to send the wrong signals to Google.

How can I combat bad reviews?

Never simply delete or ignore negative reviews. In fact, most independent review platforms won’t allow you to delete negative reviews as it would undermine the whole process.

As the adage goes, you cannot please all of the people, all of the time. Displeasing feedback is a fact of life when doing business or selling a product.

It’s how you react to these reviews that matters most and this is likely to be on Google’s radar too. There are many types of review and many possible responses5. You must interact with users appropriately.

Seeking to scrub any trace of a negative review from your online presence will sit poorly with Google. This attempt at whitewashing is considered deceitful and an inaccurate representation of your offering. Ergo, improperly managing reviews is likely to have a negative impact on SEO. Google will cease to trust the honesty of any positive feedback that you receive and may choose to stop showing them.

I’ve heard of negative SEO for backlinks, does this apply to reviews?

If you consider a review to be false (i.e. wilful sabotage from a competitor), report it to Google so it can be investigated. Otherwise, respond in public. Older customers, in particular, are significantly influenced by negative feedback on core performance issues of a product6, so it’s essential to manage this kind of activity properly and let other visitors know.

Own any negative reviews, responding politely and efficiently in a public forum. Avoid simply apologising and asking for an email so you can investigate further. That looks like a stock response with no evidence that a resolution will be found. Instead, make it clear how and why the issue arose, and what you did to resolve it. This will impress Google, and any potential customers reading your interactions.

What about fake or purchased reviews?

You, like many website owners before you, might be thinking that the process of getting reviews is too risky, hard or your customers simply won’t do it. We’ve heard all of these reasons in the past but it simply isn’t true. As long as both time and effort are put into the process and the reviews are correctly managed, it will pay off in the long run.

However, the trap some website owners fall into is that they want a quick win. There are plenty of providers out there that will provide fake reviews but avoid these like the plague. They will pass their service off as “real reviews” by “real people”. In many cases, the reviews will be added by real people, but they will be fake accounts set up to simply post fake reviews. There will be no commonality to the reviews or other natural activity that a genuine user would do.

Also, Google will raise an eyebrow when it sees multiple reviews that arrive from an identical IP address. This could be completely innocent. Perhaps multiple service users from the same business were impressed with your offering and wished to leave positive feedback. All the same, it can resemble fraudulent, fake reviews and feedback. Google will notice this and take action3.

Much like other “black hat” techniques including as unnatural links (link spamming, link automation, paid links, PBNs, link farms, and so on), Google is likely to spot fake reviews and consider this as black hat.

Avoid fraudulent reviews

Google has a nose for fraudulent reviews. Ensure any feedback on your site is genuine

We’ve not seen any conclusive evidence that Google penalises fake reviews yet, but we do regularly seem reviews and star ratings being removed from search results and it’s very likely that this will cause penalties to be issued in the future if they’re not already.

Reviews and local SEO

Reviews and SEO are closely linked on a local level.

Local SEO is pivotal to attracting potential clients and customers in the primary catchment area of a business2. Many users will investigate a local service or company before broadening their search to a national or global level. Reviews play a key role in assessing whether your business will meet the user’s needs.

The more reviews your business has – ideally positive – the higher it is likely to rank.

This is especially true for Google Maps and Google My Business listings where reviews are a key aspect of determining the position of your listing, along with other factors, such as your address, contact details and business description. If you haven’t already, it is highly advisable to sign up for a Google My Business Account.

Local SEO and reviews

Reviews play a key role in ranking Google Maps and My Business listings.

Having more reviews will attract more visitors. Naturally, greater levels of traffic will also boost your page ranking.

Reviews correlate with rankings

A study by Bright Local in 2020 demonstrates how reviews and various other factors correlate with local SEO, with reviews now overtaking backlinks as being the second most important factor for Local Pack rankings:

This seems to be backed up by a previous 2018 study undertaken by Moz.com which shows a similar pattern:

Local Pack Ranking Factors

Reviews have 15.44% impact on Local Pack

Local Organic Ranking Factors

Reviews have 6.47% impact on organic rankings

Additionally, local reviews will bolster your keyword content. A user leaving a review that declares your business provides the finest offering in your location is not just free advertising. It is also ensuring that local search terms are linked to your online presence in an organic manner.

Managing reviews and SEO

Attracting reviews for SEO is just the first part of the puzzle.

To make the most of the symbiotic relationship between reviews and ranking, you should interact with the individuals leaving those reviews. Google has confirmed that interaction is a key factor in page ranking4. In the words of Google, “when you reply to reviews, it shows that you value your customers and their feedback”.

This helps to show that you are a constant, active presence on your website. It is also a quick way to regularly update content on your site or review platform, which in turn helps to increase content freshness to further boost your SEO.

By replying to reviews, you build trust in your site. Even negative reviews can be turned into a positive. As discussed, reviews and SEO benefit from positive feedback from customers. This will enhance your SEO standing, as Google want to promote the most reputable businesses possible.

Responding publicly to complaints demonstrates a willingness to go above and beyond to meet needs and expectations.

Interact with any reviews

Online correspondence is a two-way street. Interact with any reviews left on your site

Conclusion: reviews and SEO go hand-in-hand

Reviews and SEO share a close relationship to boost your page ranking. Do what you can to encourage reviews from your customers and interact with them regularly. This could be addressing a complaint, or simply thanking a user for kind words.

If you need assistance with implementing a review strategy for SEO, or perhaps you need help with SEO on a more general level, Opace are here and happy to discuss your requirements.

Feel free to get in touch to see how we can help.

References and Further Reading

  1. https://medium.com/better-marketing/the-google-e-a-t-score-what-is-it-199f889f756a
  2. https://www.reviewtrackers.com/guides/local-seo/#local
  3. https://blog.reviews.io/thinking-of-buying-google-reviews-think-again
  4. https://support.google.com/business/answer/7091?hl=en
  5. https://moz.com/blog/mastering-owner-response-quintet-google-my-business-reviews
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167923618300861

 

Image Credits:

https://pixabay.com/users/mohamed_hassan-5229782; https://pixabay.com/users/memyselfaneye-331664; https://moz.com/local-search-ranking-factors

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