Local searches are essential for many online businesses to thrive. Rather than focusing on a large and generic international audience from the get go, many online startups have to focus on a local customer base to find their footing.
Local searches are now an integral part of Google search results. Therefore, entrepreneurs not only have to optimize their sites for overall search results, they have to do so for local results as well.
Localized search algorithms tend to be more complicated than generic ones. Businesses have tried many tactics from using local search terms to publishing location-specific blog posts to get higher rankings on local search results.
There is, however, something else that most digital marketers overlook when it comes to improving local SEO: customer reviews and testimonials. Let’s look at exactly why reviews are paramount to local SEO:
Reviews Give Your Products Credibility Over the Competition
Let’s consider an example for a bit: You want to buy a pair of headphones online. Obviously, you would go to major online retailers like Amazon and eBay to browse products. You would see hundreds of products listed. How would you choose the one that suits you the best?
You would first look at the price, and then reviews. Ultimately, it will be the reviews posted by other users that will help you make the final decision. Likewise, when you are browsing online for services on business websites, how do you begin to trust one over the other?
By reading customer reviews and testimonials posted about that service, of course. Reviews, therefore, create social proof for products and services that customers find absolutely necessary.
The numbers support the fact that customers overwhelmingly rely on reviews to make purchasing decisions, and local customers do this even more so than the others. One survey of local consumer behavior found that a whopping 92 percent of local customers read online reviews to determine if a local business is good or not. An overwhelming number of customers in that group read reviews occasionally or regularly.
Reviews Matter for Search Algorithms
Google’s search algorithm has evolved over time to rank the most credible and trustworthy sites on top of search results, rather than the ones just stuffed with keywords. One of the recent upgrades to the Google algorithm exclusively considers local customer reviews before ranking sites.There are three main ways this happens. The first is with Google Maps results.
The Maps results are displayed by default on the right hand side of search results. Getting ranked high on Maps results is highly coveted by many businesses. Good rankings on Maps mean higher traffic as well as conversion rates. So, how does Google Maps decide which listings to rank on top? Average ratings. The more reviews there are, the higher the chance of getting on top.
After Maps come the Local Carousel results that users see as a picture banner on top of search results. Market research has very strongly suggested a reliable correlation between customer reviews and the Local Carousel listing position. The same goes with Google mobile search results. Google wants to give users the best results based on previous customer ratings.
Reviews Translate Into High Conversion Rates
Top search rankings may drive traffic to a business website, but high traffic doesn’t necessarily translates to high conversion rates. Online businesses need to establish trustworthiness in order to prompt customers to make a purchase.
Reviews play a hugely influential role in this regard. During the final phase when customers have to make a selection between two or three products on offer, it is the quality of reviews that end up being the deciding factor. As mentioned above, reviews validate online products.
Now that you know why reviews are important for local SEO, it’s time to take steps to include these in your online marketing plan. You do need a lot of good positive reviews to get all the benefits listed above, but don’t ever fake it. Don’t post deceptive reviews for your own products. It’s highly likely that you will get found out. Instead, resort to tactics such as offering free samples in return for genuine reviews. Additionally, don’t forget to include customer testimonials on your main website.
About the author:
This article is written by Mohit Tater who is a SEO and marketing expert and blogs at entrepreneurshiplife.com and mohittater.com. Apart from advising clients on SEO and marketing strategies, he also runs an investment firm BlackBook Investments that helps people invest in online businesses and digital assets. When he is not working (which is almost never!) he likes to read, travel the world and connect with other entrepreneurs.”