Positive online reviews are a key ingredient of successful SEO, especially for local SEO campaigns. Companies are catching on to this, as you may have noticed. They send follow-up emails encouraging you to write an online review, sometimes even suggesting a site on which to write. They display positive reviews on their websites. They have brochures or signage in their stores, restaurants or offices explaining how to write a review and where to write it.

Here’s why all of these activities are worth doing.

1. Google loves online reviews.

For SEO, especially local SEO, online reviews are a major factor in where and how Google displays your company in organic search results. Positive customer reviews suggest that a company is reliable, expert and an overall great value – exactly the type of company Google wants to showcase to its search engine users! When Google sees positive reviews on sites such as Yelp, BBB and high-authority websites in your industry, your company will gain an advantage over competitors with a weaker online review profile.

It’s important not to overdo an effort to secure online reviews. Most reputable review sites (e.g., Yelp) have strict policies against paying for or otherwise incenting reviews. In addition, reviews on irrelevant or low-authority websites are ineffective or even counterproductive for SEO.

2. Online reviews drive relevant website traffic.

Many potential customers will check out online reviews before deciding whether to contact your company or visit your website. Often, a person’s next stop after reading a favorable review is to visit the company’s website and give it a serious look. These well-qualified website visitors are likely to look at multiple website pages and spend a bit of time on each one. Googlebots notice this on-site behavior, and it has a favorable impact on organic rankings.

3. Online reviews drive conversions.

The point of SEO — as some companies forget — is to drive conversions. Without sales, leads or bookings, all the high organic rankings and website traffic in the world won’t produce ROI. Online reviews definitely enhance conversions. First, as just mentioned, visitors coming to your website from online review sites are already positively disposed toward your company and are looking for a reason to convert rather than a reason not to. Second, online reviews are a strong form of social proof and establish your credibility. What satisfied customers have to say about your performance carries much more weight than your own website content.

4. You can neutralize negatives.

Of course, before launching a campaign to acquire positive customer reviews, your company must first deserve positive reviews. Just as much as positive reviews help a company, negative reviews hurt it. All companies are vulnerable to an occasional bad review and having a preponderance of them puts a company at serious risk, far beyond SEO.

With this in mind, take negative reviews constructively. Criticism can lead you to strengthen weak parts of your company, so a negative review can result in scores of positive ones! Also, on sites where it’s permissible, respond to negative reviews frankly and with concern. This shows readers you care and are trying to improve. Often, this alone will be reason enough for someone to give your company a try.

Photo credit: Pablo

Written by: Brad Shorr

Author Bio:

Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, a leader among internet marketing companies in small and midsized business SEO, PPC and website design.  

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