When it comes to improving local SEO, it can be overwhelming to figure out where to start. There are always going to be opportunities for improvement, and new methods of optimization are constantly on the rise. That said, leveraging Google Reviews to improve local search rankings continues to be a staple technique despite the dynamic nature of the SEO landscape.

What is local SEO?

Local SEO is a subcategory of traditional SEO, referring to channels specifically geared toward increasing a business’s presence within its general area of operations. Nearly half (46%) of Google’s daily 8.5 billion searches have a local intent. Geographic identifiers such as a city, zip code, and terms like “near me” and “in my area” are integral to tapping this percentage. There’s been a staggering 500% growth in mobile searches, including phrases like “can I buy” or “to buy” coupled with “near me” in the past two years. This surge underscores the importance of optimizing for local search and ensuring your business is visible in these high-intent queries.

According to Google, there are three local SEO ranking factors that you should always keep in mind:

  • Relevance: To what degree a result is tailored to a search query
  • Distance: The geographic closeness a local result is in relation to the user
  • Prominence: How widely recognized your business is

What are Google Reviews?

If you own a business that exists online in some capacity, you likely have a Google My Business Profile (GMB). GMB’s appear as an informational card on the right of the SERP when you search for the name of a specific business. This card contains a business’s website links, office location, call numbers, areas of service, and more (depending on how much the business has filled out its profile). Within this card is a reviews section that allows anyone who comes across your profile to leave a review and see other reviews that users have posted.


Why are Google Reviews important?

The number and quality of Google reviews significantly influence a business’s ranking in local search results. A higher count of reviews, coupled with positive ratings, can enhance the likelihood of improved local search rankings for a business.

SEO benefits aside, Google Reviews help establish credibility for your business, assuming that the majority of the reviews you receive are positive. On the other hand, if your reviews are overwhelmingly negative, it will have the opposite effect.

Listed below are some statistics detailing how reviews influence consumers:

  • 98% of people at least “occasionally” read online reviews for local businesses

  • 82% of consumers will research products online before going to the store to make a purchase

  • 84% of consumers have stopped trusting advertisements, meaning alternative forms of evaluating businesses are all the more important

  • 94% of online consumers say a negative online review has convinced them to avoid a business


How Google Reviews impact local SEO

In a study conducted by SEMRush, it was found that the average Google Reviews rating for businesses in the top three positions for Google Maps and local pack listing was 4.1 stars. It was also discovered that having a relatively high number of reviews positively correlated with a higher ranking. The contents of these reviews also play a role in boosting rankings as they often contain high-volume search terms related to the products or services that a business provides. Reviews are occasionally shown within local pack listings as well, providing extra incentive for users to click.

As mentioned before, distance is still a huge factor in local SEO. But, if you manage to get more high-quality reviews than your competitors, there’s a good chance that you can outrank them even if they’re geographically closer to the users in your target audience.


How to get more Google Reviews for your business

In addition to volume, users also pay attention to how recent the reviews of your business are. It’s crucial that you have a consistent flow of incoming reviews to, in effect, continually renew your business’s status and credibility.

Here are several strategies you can employ to get more reviews for your business:

  • Include a Google Reviews link in thank you emails

  • Offer incentives for providing a review

  • Use in-store signage to encourage reviews

  • Use review reminders on your website

  • Incentivize employees with rewards for getting customers to leave reviews

  • Generate a QR code for Google Reviews

  • Display existing reviews on your website via widgets

  • Promote high-quality positive feedback on social media


How to respond to Google Reviews

Responding to reviews is important because it can elevate the public perception of your business. Along with the reviews, your responses can be viewed publicly as well. Consider what you say and respond tactfully.

The general rule of thumb is to respond to most reviews within 24 to 48 hours. If you don’t have the resources to respond to both good and bad reviews, definitely focus on the negative ones. This shows that you are open to criticism and are willing to address consumer pain points in your business practices to improve the customer experience.

Responding to negative reviews

Bad reviews should always be prioritized and responded to in a timely manner. Fully understand your customer’s negative experience before responding, and when you do, apologize when necessary but do not take responsibility for things that were out of your control. If you feel it’s appropriate, offer the reviewer an email or a number to call to resolve the issue. Lastly, sign off with your initials to avoid sounding like an automated response.

Responding to positive reviews

Good reviews require much less monitoring and scrutiny as they pose no threat to your business. That said, you should still consider responding to a few good reviews, especially if they’re embellished with kind sentiments and overall positive feedback. Something as simple as, “Thanks for sharing your experience! We hope to do business with you again soon.” can go a long way.


Use Google Reviews to expand your reach

There are innumerable ways to improve your local rankings and expand your business. But, if you already have a steady stream of customers who appreciate your work, you should strongly consider implementing Google Reviews into your local SEO strategy. Encourage satisfied customers to leave reviews, provide incentives to employees, and streamline the process so that customers can readily leave reviews with little to no effort. Follow these steps and you’ll see increased reviews in no time. Just be sure to regularly monitor them and respond when necessary with courtesy and professionalism.


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