Your site(s) may have a solid foundation of domain authority, with a network of backlinks, and you might have a reliable selection of keywords that you’ve painstakingly identified for use. But if you want to be successful in local SEO, there’s one more ingredient you need: You have to create and manage a steady stream of positive reviews for your business.
Why Reviews Are So Important
Ever since Google’s Pigeon update, back in 2014, local reviews have played a much larger role in ranking sites for local search. The local search algorithm employs many of the same elements as national search, of course, but your ultimate goal is to get into the “local 3-pack”: the top three entries set apart from the rest of the traditional SERP.
Both the quality and the quantity of your reviews play a role in how your business ranks. Put simply, the more high-quality reviews you have, the higher you’re going to rank (on average).
Reviews are crucial for more than just search rankings, though. Since 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from a friend or family member, a bumper crop of positive reviews might be all you need to secure the highest possible stream of traffic (and the more consistent stream of revenue that will bring).
Every new review you receive also adds to your visibility on each review platform.
Getting Reviews on a Consistent Basis
But a handful of positive reviews isn’t enough to establish your business to a permanent extent. If you want to see the best results, you’ll need a steady, consistent stream of reviews flowing in.
Consistent review streams are vital because they create a constantly refreshed portrayal of your business. A review that dates back to 2013 might highlight a service or product you no longer offer, for example. Too many “old” reviews will make your business appear outdated, as well.
A steady flow of new reviews also helps to filter out some of the negative reviews you’ll (probably inevitably) receive. Say your operation has only two reviews, and one of them casts your services in a negative light. This makes your company look bad.
If your firm has a total of 100 reviews, however, and only two of them are negative, the impact will be much lower.
Generating that consistent stream of new reviews will entail some challenges, though. Here are a few of them:
- Navigating local directory rules. First, you have to understand that local directories don’t want you to influence the reviews you attract in any way. Yelp, for example, explicitly forbids businesses from asking for reviews from their customers. If you’re caught manipulating reviews in any way—even asking for them—you could see your account get red flagged.
- Attracting positive reviews. Even if your business delivers stellar service almost 100 percent of the time, it’s usually impossible to make everyone happy. Even the best firms suffer negative reviews, which make it difficult to skew the results in your favor even when you have solid business practices.
- Ensuring consistency. It may also be hard to maintain a measure of consistency with your work. You might be able to land new reviews now and then, but the ideal situation would be to earn a reliable stream of positive new reviews.
Fortunately, you can adopt several strategies to drive more positive reviews on a consistent basis:
- Use a review builder. To start, you can use a tool like Strider SEO’s review builder. It works as an automated tool to help you recapture lost customers and encourage feedback from loyal, satisfied ones. With this tool, you’ll be able to customize an outgoing email that requests feedback on specific facets of your business, and gives customers an immediate and convenient opportunity to review your services.
- Remind your customers of your presence. Instead of asking for reviews, you can focus your efforts on letting your customers know about your business on popular review sites. Simple messages, like “check us out on Facebook,” or visual prompts, such as Yelp stickers in your storefront, will prime customers to seek you out on those platforms. These little reminders should be enough to help you generate more reviews on a steady basis.
- Ask your most loyal customers for reviews. If you’re just getting started and you aren’t sure how to attract a batch of initial reviews, it may be worthwhile to reach out personally to your most loyal customers, and ask them to leave a review. You can be fairly certain these reviews will be positive, and since you’re a small operation and you’re reaching out individually, it’s not likely that you’d trigger a red flag with a local directory.
- Incorporate reviews into the everyday customer experience. You can also ensure a steady stream of reviews by making them a part of the everyday customer experience. For example, try setting up an automated email that follows up with customers when they make a purchase, and tells them you hope they’re satisfied (with a casual mention of your company’s presence on local review sites).
- Engage with existing reviews. Finally, start engaging with customers who are already leaving reviews about your business. If they leave a positive one, thank them for their support and take note of any suggestions they make. If they leave a negative review, apologize and offer to remedy the situation. Either way, your business will appear more active and more interested in the responses you receive to your services, and that should attract more reviews in the future.
Securing a consistent inbound stream of positive customer reviews isn’t easy, especially given the restrictions imposed by local directories and review sites. But it is possible, and if you’re successful, you’ll set up your business for a massive increase in brand visibility and traffic.
If you’re interested in getting started with a professional agency on your side, contact Strider SEO today, or use one of our local SEO tools to help you secure the results you need.