Harnessing the power of customer reviews

There are many ways to increase your standing in local search engine results. Businesses spend resources and time getting this right. From on-page SEO signals (like tags) to building a rich backlink profile, there’s a lot to do and it can be overwhelming to get it all up to Google snuff.

What if I told you that there’s one simple way to bring more local traffic to your site, and that your customers can do it for you?

One of the crucial factors of local search rankings is customer reviews. You’ve probably studied them to make decisions about which business to patronize, but did you know that they are also essential for local search rankings? Of the eight factors that most influence search rankings, reviews are number five, according to the experts at MOZ.

Internet users have come to rely on reviews for making decisions about where to buy products and services. According to one study, 90 percent of respondents reported that they read reviews (often four or more) before visiting a business’s site. It’s clear that in the business ecology of the Internet, reviews are playing a greater and greater role.

What does this mean for your local business? How can you enable all your satisfied customers to wax poetic about their great experience with you? Here are a few steps for building a customer review strategy that will increase your local search rankings and bring more persuaded customers to your door.

1. Determine the channels you want to focus on. Facebook and Yelp and a Google business listing are all important. You’ll want to round those out with reviews on other platforms that Google pays attention to. Think a BBB listing or a handyperson review site.  Every industry has its own particularities, so discover which sites your customers are using to get their buying advice and seek reviews there.

2. Develop a strategy for encouraging customers to leave you a review. Consider that some moments in the purchasing cycle will be better than others for this delicate review request.  Be careful not to be TOO encouraging — i.e. providing rewards for a review —  as you will likely get disingenuous reviews which aren’t useful for anyone. Maybe you want to encourage salespeople to seek a review at checkout. Maybe you show a pop up after an e-commerce transaction. Whatever strategy you choose, track and continually improve the request process.

3. Once you get some reviews, don’t stop there. Always be working on getting new reviews. And try not to get a slew at once and then go ‘crickets’! Google will find those spurts to be forced and might pick and choose amongst the ones you so earnestly sought.

Perhaps you are thinking: “I don’t want to ask for reviews because I’m afraid there will be negative ones.” Don’t worry. There is actually some good that can come from bad or lackluster reviews.

First of all, you discover what might be a problem with your offering or with your customer service. Second (and this is crucial) you get to show potential customers how you deal with complaints. Reply to bad reviews in honest and meaningful ways, addressing the problems and earnestly trying to resolve them. Doing this in the public eye makes your business stand out as a solid citizen. Third, having a mix of good and bad reviews shows people that all your reviews are all real and authentic and you haven’t rigged them. 

Reviews hold businesses accountable to customers and are an incredibly powerful tool in your SEO arsenal. With a good strategy in place, the customers do the work for you and you can focus on always giving them something to rave about.

Laurie Macomber is owner of Fort Collins-based Blue Skies Marketing. Reach her at 970-689-3000.