Do Google Reviews Help Rankings?
The answer is yes, Google Reviews do help improve local search rankings. The way that customers find and choose businesses has changed drastically in recent years. In the past, consumers would rely mainly on a business’s advertising, previous experience, or recommendations from family and friends. With more and more people turning to local search Google is even starting to automatically filter out local businesses with less than a 4-star rating.
While advertising and personal recommendations still play a role in the buyer’s journey, most consumers now typically turn to search engines and online reviews when making purchase decisions. They do this for two reasons. First, Google makes it ridiculously easy to locate businesses in your area. And second, and probably most important, online reviews help you make more informed purchase decisions than the opinion of one or two friends would.
Since Google’s Map Pack and Google reviews go hand-in-hand, businesses often wonder how much influence your reviews have on where you rank. The simple answer is, a lot. According to a recent study, online reviews are now the fifth most important factor in where a business ranks online. But the important thing to look at is where online reviews are trending. The influence online reviews carry in local search ranking increased by more than 20 percent year-over-year.
How do Google reviews help rankings?
There are a number of factors that contribute to where a business ranks in Google local search. Some of these factors your business can control and some you can’t. Businesses that rank high often have taken the time to optimize their Google listing, which gives them a leg up on the competition and increases their visibility to online searchers that are actively searching and looking to make a purchase. Below are the main factors that Google looks at when determining local search ranking.
Relevance: Google’s primary goal is to serve up the most relevant content or the most relevant business based on the consumers search terms. To ensure that your business is served up during relevant searches, you will want to make sure all of your listings are up-to-date and the information and descriptions include all of the keywords that are trending in your industry.
Distance: Where someone searches from plays a huge role in local search and is something that you can’t control. Google wants to serve up the most relevant businesses that are in close proximity to the person conducting the research.
Prominence: This final factor is where it can get a little confusing. What Google means by ‘prominence’ is how well-known a business is, particularly in the offline world. Well-known store brands are more likely to rank higher than lesser-known brands. Prominence is also determined by how much Google knows about a business from around the web, including links, articles, directory listings, and online reviews. When evaluating online reviews, Google looks at the recency, frequency, quality, and quantity of your online reviews. What that means is businesses that have a high star rating with a large number of reviews that are coming in on a regular basis will get more consideration than businesses that don’t.
Why Google Reviews are so important
Google reviews do so much more than just help you improve your local search ranking. They have an impact on the entire customer journey.
Awareness: We’ve already talked about how online reviews help businesses get found by making you more visible to online searchers. But it’s not just about getting noticed and staying top of mind, online reviews are where consumers go to learn about new products and businesses.
Consideration: Once online searchers find your business, your star rating and and number of reviews will have a huge impact on whether or not the individual will click on your listing to learn more. Businesses with a higher rating are more attractive. It’s just that simple. According to research conducted by Podium, the minimum star rating of a business the average consumer would even consider is 3.3. And I would argue that you probably want to get your rating at least to 4.5 if you want to really stand out.
Purchase: Next, online reviews play a huge role in whether or not a consumer ultimately chooses your business. In fact, 93 percent of consumers say online reviews have an impact on their purchase decision and 82 percent of consumers said that the content of a review has convinced them to make a purchase.
Post-Purchase: Finally, after the purchase is made and a review is left, your reviews give your business valuable insights into its operation. Smart businesses are using the content of reviews to help them make decisions to improve customer experience in real time.
Best practices for improving your Google ranking with reviews
Because Google reviews help local search ranking so much, businesses should place an emphasis on building a solid review presence on your Google listing. To help you get started, we’ve outlined five steps that have proven to help improve the quality and quantity of your Google reviews.
1. Determine the right timing of the Google review invitation
When your customer receives the invitation matters. The longer you wait to send an invite the less likely the customer is to leave a review. That doesn’t mean they didn’t have a good experience, but that experience is no longer top of mind. We suggest inviting your customers to leave a review as close to the transaction as possible. Businesses that see the most success are sending invites while the customer is still on site.
2. Set expectations for reviews
Once you know when in the sales process you want to send the review invitation, it’s important to start setting expectations with the customer for that invitation. Before leaving the customer, you should let them know:
When they will receive the invite
How they will receive the invite (text, email, etc.)
Why it’s important for them to respond
3. Eliminate barriers to leaving a Google review
Research has shown that more than 70 percent of consumers would be willing to leave a review if asked. If that is the case, then why does it seem so hard to get customers to follow up on invitations? The reason likely is the process you had in place makes it too hard to leave a review. Businesses that have the highest response rates are making it as easy as possible for their customers to leave a review.
4. Google review Invites via text
One of the ways you can eliminate barriers is by sending your invitations via text message. Text messages are fast becoming the preferred communication channel for many consumers and have an astonishing open rate of 99 percent with 90 percent of messages being read within three minutes.
5. Use an online review management tool
Finally, the best way to increase Google reviews to help your local search ranking is implementing an online review management tool to streamline the process. Podium’s platform can enable your business to collect 100s of new reviews on Google, which will help increase visibility, influence purchase decisions, and obtain valuable insights to drive your business forward.