We recently gave you our Top 3 SEO Basics for getting your small business found online when consumers search sites like Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Hopefully you took our advice, optimizing your business website with conversational copy and making it mobile friendly. Maybe you even buttoned up your business listings.

But there’s so much more where that came from. Another one of the biggest influencers of your local search engine optimization (SEO) is your online reviews.

Why Search Engines Use Online Reviews for SEO

Why do search engines rely on reviews when trying to determine your SEO?

Because consumers love online reviews.

Did you know:
  • 92% of consumers read online reviews when looking for a local business?
  • 42% of consumers won’t use a business with less than a three-star rating?
  • 68% of consumers will form an opinion about your local business after reading just 1-6 online reviews?

Search engines like Google are seeing a trend for searchers seeking out reviews for local businesses. Not only are consumers typing the keyword “reviews” within their search terms, they’re also actively clicking the reviews served up organically in search results.

Consumers also trust the reviews they find from other consumers. Much like recommendations you get from friends, online reviews give people a sense that what they’re reading is trustworthy and reliable (more trustworthy and reliable than your advertisements or the video testimonials on your website, for example).

How Online Reviews Impact Your SEO

We’ve established that online ratings and reviews are important to your SEO. But simply having online reviews isn’t enough to positively influence your SEO or search rankings.

You should also pay attention to 1) the quality of your reviews and 2) how frequently they’re being posted.

1. Improve the quality of your reviews.

Search engines like content that’s special. They like content that’s not repetitive and doesn’t look and sound like what everyone else is saying online. So you won’t earn any brownie points with reviews that give vague, run-of-the-mill feedback on your business.

Reviews that look like, “Service was fast” or “They finished the job on time” won’t cut it.

If you want your online reviews to move the SEO needle, they need to be detailed, and they need to focus on the most unique parts of your business and the products or services you provide.

Words your customers use to describe your small business might also match the search terms consumers type into search engines when trying to find you. And when content associated with your business online matches content consumers are searching, that’s about as good as SEO gets.

How do you get customers to include popular search terms in their reviews? Ask them specific questions about what they liked or didn’t like about working with you. Or, include these terms in your replies. (If you’re not responding to online reviews, you should be. Here are some templates for responding to online reviews. And with a tool like Thryv, you can respond on the spot when you see a review come in, without ever leaving the software.)

2. Get reviews more frequently.

Search engines also like content that’s up to date. So, either your reviews need to be recent, or they need to be regularly posted.

The good news: According to Bright Local, 7 in 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to.

The not-so-good news: You should never request positive reviews in exchange for anything. You can offer a small incentive (like 10% off or a free upgrade during their next service), but only as long as you ask for an honest review, not a positive one.

Here are a few ways to generate new reviews from your customers.

  • Put it on their receipt. Whether you deliver handwritten, printed or electronic receipts, always include a callout at the bottom thanking them for their business and soliciting an online review.
  • Place a button on your website or social media. Many customers who liked working with you will visit your website or social media sites to stay in touch or even purchase again. So in addition to your “Contact Us” or “Book Now” button, incorporate a second button or hyperlinked text. Call it something like “Leave Us a Review!” and direct consumers to your favorite review site.
  • Ask them in person! Nothing beats face-to-face, or even over-the-phone, interactions when it comes to customer service. When customers seem pleased with your service, use these opportunities to seal the deal and ask them to leave you a review.

Don’t forget to tell them where you want them to leave their reviews! There are so many listings sites out there, consumers may be tempted to leave a review for you on a site they’re most familiar with, instead of sites that will be more likely to influence your SEO.

For example, many consumers are familiar with Yelp for things like restaurant and even salon and spa reviews. But you won’t find quite as many reviews for lawyers on this particular site.

Not sure what those popular sites are for your industry? To get an instant presence on the listings sites we already know are most effective at influencing your SEO, consider something like Thryv.